Okay, okay. This is not my spine, but it is the closest photo I could find to what mine looks like.
The verdict after being off for months is that it was never my shoulder to begin with. I was not a hypochondriac. We know this.
So to recap, I had protruding/ bulging discs of the C4-C5 and C5-C6 discs. And no curvature of my cervical spine. And bone spurs. And muscle spasms. The miracle treatment is supposed to be epidural steroid injections. Everyone said these were bad, but I went in with not-so-fond memories of my 17P injections during my pregnancy with Zach. If i got those bad boys in my hips every five days for months on end, and they were supposed to be excruciating, how bad could a cervical epidural steroid injection be? Plus, I had spinal anesthesia with both of my c-sections. No prob, so long as they give me a local first.
So I waited anxiously to get in with the doc, with the idea that, while a course of 3 injections 2 weeks apart is the prescribed therapy, I could very well feel better with as little as one. That was going to be me! I am going back to work next week, damn it!
A) I was wrong.
And B) I was even more wrong.
Did I mention I was wrong? P17 injections aren’t that unpleasant. They are a walk in the park on a breezy day under the cover of a fucking rainbow, while fairies hum a ditty in your ear.
Epidural steroid injections suck, and I am about to tell you all of the gory details.
The doc, though very nice, pulled me into his office and had a frank discussion about my neck MRI, explaining thoroughly why I had pain in my shoulder, that it was normal for my results. He then said he thought the injections would help, but that it is highly possible that I will still need surgery to fix it.
Excuse me? I thought I was out of the woods there. Then he opened the “informed consent” part of our little talk to say, “Well, Andrea, I have never paralyzed anyone, but it can happen.” What? No! You don’t say that right before I am about to let you stick very large needles into my spine! It’s like me walking in to stick the artery of a patient who has been a hard stick in the past. I don’t brag that I have only missed the artery about 5 times in my career (though true), because then I am sure to miss. So I immediately knocked on the wood of his desk. To which he laughed. Laugh away, pal, but you better be doing it too.
So I go in and lay face first on a table while they maneuver large equipment over me. The imaging part of it. I want them to see where they’re going. I like being able to use my limbs. And he starts. First the local. Stinging, but not bad. Then the big needle. Okay. Uncomfortable. Like spinal anesthesia, it’s a weird thing, and you feel pressure. And so I felt that and though the needle was where it needed to be. I heard him rustling around. I thought he was getting the drug. And then he said, “Okay, almost there.” What? Almost? So I can only assume he advanced it a little more. This was a little more painful. And then came the gross part. I could fucking hear it. Like tearing through gristle of a steak. Creaks and tearing and grinding sounds. And I exclaimed, “Ewwww! GROSS! I can hear that!!!!!” To which the doc said, “Oh, that was just a ligament I passed the needle through,” as he chuckled. Dude, sooooo not funny. Then more grinding and popping. Keep in mind that my affected side is my right, so they were doing this on my the back of my neck, but right of midline, so it was right under my ear. More tearing. It was the most wicked thing ever. And gross because it was my body. Had it been another patient, it would have been cool. But it seems like he said “Almost there,” followed by more advancing of the needle a gazillion times. Until I felt IT. And by “IT” I mean excruciating pain. Excruciating, horrendous pain. The worst pain I have ever felt in my life. No 17P injections, no high risk pregnancies, no contractions I have ever felt could even come close to that pain. None of it. He could tell, because my legs kicked out involuntarily, and I stopped breathing for a few. All I could do was let out this little squeak. He gave me more anesthetic then, because he’s a fricken angel. And told me we were almost there.
Almost fucking there? Really? After that? In an instant, I thought about stopping the whole thing right there. Of getting up and walking out immediately. I thought better of it, since there was, at that point, a massive needle inserting in my spine at or near my fucking spinal cord, And then more advancing. And I suddenly knew he had reached the right place. I knew, because I could not help but know, what with the huge jolt of what felt like an electric shock fire from my right shoulder to my right elbow. I couldn’t help it. I yelled out, “What the HELL was that?!?” To which I got giggles. And “Okay, I’m in the right place if you felt that! Where did you feel it?” Dude, you are messing with my nerves. Literally, not figuratively. You know where I felt it!
And he delivered the medicine. I was able to move. He showed me the images from the fluoroscopy because I told him the medical geek in me had found it hard not to look up and see what he was doing, but my love for not being paralyzed kept my impulses at bay. So he was kind enough to show me, explaining all of the structures that I remember from A&P years ago, but have not used since. And I got to see images of the needle as it passed through muscle, tendons, ligaments. I was released and told to go home immediately and ice it and take it easy, which I heard as, “Go ahead and go with John and the kids and get groceries, eat at B-Dub’s, and type all three of your papers tonight”. Well, because I am me. And I had papers due. And I deserved fucking Spicy Garlic hot wings after that. And, well, the kids have to eat, too.
Sometime within the fifteen minutes in which we were en route to the restaurant, the anesthetic wore off and I turned into a lunatic. Bracing myself with my arm on the dashboard. Completely afraid of John applying the brakes or accelerating too harshly. Afraid of traffic, because if John hit someone or someone hit us, I could not take it at that point. And I started to whimper. Then cry. The all-out sob. Because I was terrified. I could feel the pain setting in. I felt so strange. My chest was hurting. My shoulder. My ears. It wasn’t terrible yet, but I knew the anesthetic was wearing off and it was coming. We hurried and ate. Hurried and got a few groceries. ($98.69–The only time I have ever spent less than $100 in a grocery store ever!) And I got home. And it was bad. So, so bad. I took a pain pill, Percocet and my muscle relaxer, Flexeril–which usually knock me completely out. it did nothing. I felt drugged and high as a kite, but the pain was there and I did not konk out. I even managed to write my papers. In order to do this, I had to put the laptop on a stack of eight textbooks, then prop my arms with pillows because I could not bend my neck at all to look at the screen.And I cannot guarantee that the writing does not read like a crackhead wrote it. Graduate level Business Strategy through the voice of a junkie is probably very entertaining. I cannot wait to see my grades. The only redeeming factor is that I did my research for the papers while I was completely sober and coherent. I’m just hoping I included punctuation at this point.
This morning? Well this morning, it kind of feels…awful. The pain spreads from my ears to my lower back. I cannot turn my head. I cannot move my right arm at all without pain. Before, only certain movements hurt. Sitting up hurts, laying down hurts. The kids are still kids, and John is still at work, which gives me eight whole hours before I can take something. John even drove my car to work because I couldn’t drive if I had to. I am now electively allowing them to destroy the fucking kitchen because I have no power to stop them and so long as they do not get hurt, I couldn’t care less about the mess. Zach’s speech therapist comes this afternoon, and I don’t even care how the house looks. I’ll make Evan vacuum a clean space on the floor, since this is where she sits with Zach anyway. We are going for Crackhouse Chic today. Fine by me. We will definitely reach that goal.