I’m a frequent faller. I have fallen on my knees about a million times. I’m a klutz, nothing more. My mother used to say, “You could even trip over the flowers in the carpet.” In my adult life, I have had an MRI of my brain so I know nothing medical is causing this problem, other than my forgetting to chant “Heel, toe, heel, toe,” as I walk so I remember not to drag my feet over some diabolical unevenness in the sidewalk waiting to trip me. I don’t like falling, but the usual effects are nothing more than skinning my knees and feeling embarrassed.
So a couple of weeks ago, I was walking to my car in Hartford, and did not see/sense/feel that there was a curb coming up. I stepped down too hard and too fast and lost my balance, entering into one of those lengthy klutz ballets where I try desperately to prevent myself from falling but instead lurch across the ground for seemingly hours before I inevitably end up on my knees. I was very aware of a large truck to my right, and I was hoping not to be run over. Luckily, I was not.
I got up, feeling stupid and kind of shaken up. I did not even tear the knee of my jeans. There were a couple of boo-boos on my hands, but that’s it.
That was a Tuesday. On Wednesday, I was fine. On Thursday, I had a burning pain in my back. No problem, this happens from time to time, and I have a great book about myofascial pain that shows how to massage the trigger points causing the pain by rubbing against the wall with a tennis ball to do the deep massaging.
But on Friday, the pain wasn’t in my back any more. It was in my lower front, where organs are located. I got concerned and went to the doctor. She ordered a CAT scan. The doctor called later that day to tell me I had multiple gallstones, and that was likely causing the pain. They told me to make an appointment with a surgeon. The surgeon’s first appointment was December 4th. I explained that I was in debilitating pain, but the appointment scheduler was unmoved.
I called back my doc’s office, and the on call doctor told me to go to the hospital because they would have to remove my gallbladder in order to end the pain. This really upset me (fear of death). Wasn’t there anything else that could be done? I decided to wait until Saturday to go to the ER, hoping I would feel better. I didn’t, and off to the hospital I went.
The admitting nurse asked me about the pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, with “10 being childbirth.” Oh yeah, I remember that. So I had to admit my current pain was only an 8 on that scale. I wonder what they ask men.
Even in my distress, I was able to do research online via my phone, and something didn’t sound right about the gallbladder theory. As it turned out, when the doctor in the ER examined me, he did the test I read about, which involves pushing on a certain part of the abdomen where the gallbladder hangs out in order to elicit a sudden increase in pain. He did not get that result, and ruled out the gallstones (which still exist, but are “silent” – the term of art for gallstones that don’t cause pain).
I had a bunch of tests, trying to see if it was an ovarian cyst or a broken or cracked hip bone. The medical professionals at this hospital were wonderful. They took me seriously, they were considerate about the fact that I was hurting, and I never had to wait in the hall for these diagnostic tests (something I have often experienced in other hospitals). Best of all, they gave me pain medicine. Ahhhhh. What a difference that made.
I chose this hospital because I had had a spinal tap there a few years ago, an experience I hope no one ever has to have. The pain level was 11 (oh come on, some of you must remember that movie!) and I started to shake and feel faint. The nurse in the procedure room took me in her arms and held me like a baby. I have never experienced that in any medical setting. So I knew the people there were extra special.
The ER doc decided to admit me for pain management, while they tried to figure out what was going on (or so I thought). The hospital nurses were just amazing. They were very sympathetic and, at the same time, upbeat and cheery.
Even the woman who came in to clean the floors was adorable. She told me she was having a hip replacement in a few months, and she was so scared. I wanted to give her a hug.
The only thing I found strange was the total absence of doctors, once I was admitted. Apparently no one was trying to figure out what was causing the pain. Pain management is simply that – just controlling the pain, not fixing it.
The next morning, I wanted to go home. The pain had subsided considerably but it was still there. Back to the internet I went.
I discovered a condition called Mainges Syndrome, which involves the sacroiliac. Certain nerves that come out of the spine wrap around one’s back to the front, and the illustrations of where the pain was likely to occur were exactly in synch with my pain progression. So I called the chiropractor, which I had been reluctant to do. I don’t like it when he snaps my neck. However, I was a desperate person.
Unlike the surgeon, the chiro saw me in a few MINUTES. He said the seemingly innocuous fall in front of the truck had wreaked havoc on my back, twisting me into a pretzel of pain. He did snap my neck and did some other things.
Since then there has been much progress. I was able to spend Friday with my grandson, after missing the previous week! I went back to work today for the first time today, and of course I overdid it. Now I’m hurting but nothing like last week.
Aside from feeling the compulsion to tell a long story about my medical problems, as all senior citizens MUST DO, my purpose in writing this is to let people know the following:
- Even if your front hurts, it could be your back!
- The hospitals in New Haven are all run by Yale New Haven now, but the one named after a saint is most definitely staffed by saints. What a wonderful place.
- Nurses are the heroes of the medical world. My respect for them has increased exponentially, even as my respect for doctors has proportionately waned. I hate when I am reminded that they have no answers, only educated guesses. I’ve watched too many episodes of “House” to have any illusions about that.
Be careful and watch out for those nasty curbs!