On the Circumstances Prior to My Recent Back Surgery (Part 1 of 4)
It began innocently enough: a mild ache in my lower back. At my age (mid forties) lower backaches aren't unusual. In fact, at my age if something isn't hurting, I'm inclined to think that there's a serious problem somewhere. Anyway, this backache began as a tightening right in the midpoint of my lower back, an uncomfortable, insistent, low-grade pain that made standing or walking a bit unpleasant. I wasn't in a great deal of pain, I just felt uncomfortable.
When these pains began, I dosed myself with BC powders. Down here in the Deep South, the BC powder is considered a "sovereign remedy for any ache or pain you might have." If a BC can't fix you, you're in bad shape and when I was at the point where I was taking 4 or 5 BC's a day without any results, I had to concede defeat.
Now down here, when you have a backache that a BC won't fix, your next step is to visit your friendly neighborhood chiropractor. My chiropractor is a little grey haired man with thick wire-rimmed glasses who runs his office out of his house. He's an ex-airplane mechanic who is obsessed with Vietnam, Star Trek and smoking. Yep, smoking. It's not unusual for him to fire up a Marlborough while he's working on me. He mashes and pummels my body as smoke twists around the both of us like low flying cumulus clouds, and all the while he's regaling me with tales of his airplane-mechanic adventures in Vietnam. It makes chiropractor visits seem as surreal as a Picasso painting.
After several visits during which I was twisted, pushed, pulled, and choked with cigarette smoke, I had to admit defeat once again. My pain, if anything, was much worse. The low-grade pain in my back had increased dramatically, had shifted to my lower left back, and was beginning to radiate down my left leg. I was now at the point where I couldn't walk or stand for longer than a minute or two without excruciating pain in my back and leg. Now it was time for the next phase: a visit to the local MD.
A visit to my doctor's office is an exercise in patience, tolerance and understanding. If you have an appointment for 8:00, you will sit in the waiting room until at least 9:30. At that point, you'll be called into a back room where a nurse will take your temperature, blood pressure and weight. Aha, you think. Now I'm about to see the doc.
Nope, no way. Now you go into a holding room where the average wait is from 30 minutes to 1-1/2 hours. At least in the waiting room you have the opportunity to watch Judge Judy or Oprah and read two year-old issues of Time and Newsweek. In the holding room, all you can do is stare at the 4 walls and hope they don't forget that you're there.
After a total visit time of 3-1/2 hours, I finally was allowed to see my physician. He pushed and pulled on my legs, prodded on my back, chatted with me for a few minutes about nothing in particular, and ordered x-rays on my lower back. I was hustled off to the x-ray room, where a willowy technician who looked like a supermodel and acted like a member of the royal family ordered me to take off my shirt, drop my pants to my knees and get on the x-ray table. I sighed and did as ordered. A doctor's visit is, if nothing else, something that levels the ego, and there's nothing more ego-leveling than to strip down in front of a supermodel who is bored to tears with being in the same room as you. I almost felt like apologizing for wasting her time.
After a series of x-rays, I was taken back to a holding room where I waited for an additional half hour. By this time, my pain had intensified. Sweat was rolling off my forehead, and what I really wanted was to go home, take a mega-dose of BC and flop down on my couch for the remainder of the day. The doctor bustled in, squinted at my x-rays for a moment, and informed me that he was referring me to a neurosurgeon. He scribbled on his prescription pad, bid me a cheerful "good luck", and a moment later I was in the room all by myself, a prescription for pain killers in my hand, and my pants dangling forlornly around my knees. Neurosurgeon? Did this mean I was heading for surgery?