So I guess I finally want to put this in writing so that I can see it, read it, try to learn from it, grasp it, come to peace with it. I need to do this, I've needed to for a while. I want this to be something I can read in a year and say, wow, I've progressed. I've healed.
*********Warning: If you're going to be immature about this, please remove yourself from my friends list NOW. This is by far the most important thing I've ever gone through and I wish this task on no one, not even my worst enemies. I fight depression/anxiety and fears that nobody should ever face due to this. There are things in this note/blog that are very personal, and I share them with you all so you can learn what I've gone through and what I fight daily. Thank you in advance. *********
I broke my back, fractured it in L4 and L5 to be accurate. I didn't know this until June 1st of 2009. The day before that, May 31st, I went to the ER because my back had hurt for about a week straight. I was given the usual, prescription for hydrocodine and a double shot of morphine to send me on my way. I went home that evening feeling great, I can remember doing the dishes and hanging out with BreAnna. It was a very peaceful evening. And that was the last time I walked on my own free will.
I woke up the next morning at 4:30ish, my entire right leg felt like it was being dipped in lava repeatedly. The pain was so excruciating. I hopped into the living room, turned on the TV and X-box hoping a game of Madden would get the pain off my mind. If I could make it to work, Melissa could fill the prescription and I'd be fine. I was supposed to be at work by 8:00 am. I remember finally screaming at Melissa for her to wake up, I had to go to the ER again, 2 days in a row. The health-care here is anything but health-care. Doctors are over-worked, plain and simple. When BreAnna was born, the Dr. was asleep at the nurse's station.
We went to the ER, but the trip there is almost where my memory of the day stops. It's funny how the mind will force you to do stuff to get to help. I could no longer feel my leg, the pain had become so intense that my mind blocked out anything but the faintest pain. I crawled to the car, dragging my leg behind me. I pulled myself up using the frame of the door and the car door itself. The ride to the hospital was hell on earth. I ended up leaving my boss a message stating I was on my way to the ER, so I wouldn't get fired. If that was even a sampling of what the hell fire and brimstone is like, I do not want anymore ever!
Upon getting to the hospital, we found out they were out of wheelchairs that morning. So again I have to force myself from the parking lot to the ER waiting room. ER Waiting Room, if it's an emergency, why's there a waiting room for it? I got to the ER and the pain was mind numbingly horrible. I can remember vaguely getting upset because a person (I can't remember gender at this point) was seen before me because their stomach was upset. Having an ER that's first come first serve is a joke and an indecency. That being said, a wheelchair was finally brought out. Luckily the triage nurse was one that new Melissa and I, she was in the room when BreAnna was born. She was very polite, as usual, and asked all the same questions I was asked the day before. What pain level is it, etc. If 10 is near death I felt like I was near a 15. The pain was now spreading from just the one leg, to both. I wanted so bad at that moment to give up on life itself and ask for a shot of euthanasia.
I was wheeled into examination room 4 (it's amazing what your mind can recall). I was wheeled up to the gurney, I attempted to stand and literally just fell onto the gurney. The pain was so intense I blacked out, partially from the 4 10mg shots of morphine they pumped into my system. I can remember tossing and turning on the gurney, trying to find some way to "get comfortable" with all the pain. The doctor from the previous day was still on duty. I finally found a comfortable spot, tummy to the gurney, arms over the back of it, chin on top of it, like a stick figure. It alleviated the pressure on my lower back not completely. My wife recalls that the position was the one that allotted me the least amount of pain. I remember different nurses coming in and checking in on me. I was finally asked for a urine sample, and that's when we found out that my bladder was no longer functioning under my will power. I had on a pair of black jogging pants, they were soaked with urine. The feeling of incontinence is a horrible thing for a grown man/woman to go through. My legs were numb to the point where I did not know I had gone.
Upon seeing this, the nurse escalated my situation. To my astonishment, even today, their way of escalating this was to hit up Web MD. The doctor from the previous day came in at some point during all this apologizing for not catching this the previous day, or any of my other previous visits. We were frequent visitors to the ER during my 3 years here in Taos at that time. The doctor for the first time EVER wanted an X-ray. I was told I had been to big to have one previously. I was taken into a part of the small hospital I didn't know existed - an X-ray room. I was transferred onto the X-ray bed, or docking station as I like to think of it; and told not to move, no matter how much it hurt. It hurt like Hell! Laying flat on my back on a glass table, flat, non giving, glass table. The next few minutes passed by like hours. They took 3 X-rays in total. 15 minutes for the X-rays and transport time combined and if this 15 minutes would have been done previously, I may not be writing this now. Funny how God has plans for us isn't it.
The x-rays came back, and that's when the bad news got worse. I had a fracture in both L4 and L5. When I initially hurt my back in 2002, it was never given a chance to heal. Over time, the stress on the back had worn out the cushioning around the spinal cord making everything I did a liability, a possibility of injuring it worse; which I think I did. So all that being said, the "Dr." came in proclaiming that I had Cuada Equina syndrome. Cuada Equina (CES) is where the nerve endings in the lower lumbar region splay out like a horses tail. How they got this conclusion is still beyond me. After a few minutes of profusely apologizing to me, the doctor started to try to get me into a hospital that could help me.
3 hours after this I'm informed they're transporting me to Albuquerque to UNM Hospital. Dr. Yanos agreed over the phone to take my case thinking it was CES. We had to wait about a half an hour for the ambulance to get there. At this point I'm pretty doped up and almost out of pain, it's "tolerable" at this point. Still no feeling in my legs though. I remember telling my wife, at some point, that as long as 2 or more are gathered in His name, there He is also; so we prayed for this to come to fruition, for the pain to go away, for us to be able to get on with our lives. The ambulance showed up, the crew was like something out of a movie, or maybe I was just really doped up. The trip from Taos to Albuquerque is usually a 3 hour trip. I remember it only taking a few minutes (2 hours total), but I was conscious this whole time. The only thing I truly remember is them constantly checking my pulse, and asking if I needed more pain meds. I do seem to vaguely remember being pleased that I made more money per hour than them after asking them their salaries, rude as that was. We arrived at 7 pm to UNM.
I don't remember going into the UNM emergency room, I remember waking up. There were doctors everywhere; IV's were ran, confusion set in, fear, true fear set in. The worst part was my wife couldn't be with me. I was truly alone. Melissa had to stay in Taos to get money together, to take care of BreAnna. It was 3 am and they were wheeling me downstairs for a CT Scan. This was a very frightening experience. The staff on hand was amazing, they were nice and respectful. Professional is the best word to describe them.
A man very carefully helped me onto the CT scanning bed. This device, if you've never had the experience (and I hope you don't), this device is motorized and moves you into the CT tunnel. They attempted it once with me on my back. That was unsuccessful. I was asked to turn over. And here comes the pain again! I turned over, very gingerly. I was told to not move, it was life or death. If they couldn't see the nerves this time, they were going to have to inject fluid into the spinal fluid sac. This involves a really large needle being inserted via remote control through use of a robotic arm. If they missed the sac and hit nerves, paralysis would be inevitable. I could not move period. All pain medicine wears off quickly when faced with dilemma. I lay perfectly still, they could not see the nerves, so here comes the needle. You take a breathe and pray it's not your last, being deathly afraid of needles becomes a whole new level of fear, not just a phobia, but a frantic mind racing experience where all you can do is think of things going wrong, AIDS comes to mind, other diseases, some of which I"m sure weren't real, EBOLA being on the end of the needle, worst fears come to life, all in the shiny, ink filled needle tip now being lowered by a robotic arm. I'm in a horror movie, and can't wake up. You feel a pinch, and then you know you can't move, you simply can't. It's like your whole body has a new pivot point and the fear that the needle won't stop and will protrude through you, impalement by robotic arm and ink filled needle is a horrible way to go, and I"m pretty sure it'd be very slow bleeding out. But that was all fear. Inside the tunnel is a speaker and a mic, so you can communicate with the operator if need be. The man came over the speaker and said the needle would now contract. And bam, there's a small burn while the needle injects the fluid and then it pulls out of your back and you feel the same pinch as it removes itself from your back. Ah, the ability to breath again.
I was wheeled in my gurney back to the ICU room I was in. I don't remember this, but I'm sure it happened cause that's where I woke up at. Upon waking up, everything was foggy, or maybe that's how my mind wants to remember it. The room was very clean. In front of me was a nurses station, 2 chairs were at it and upon me waking up the nurses came rushing in. These ladies were very nice, motherly puts it best. They started checking my vitals and asking if I was OK etc. I mumbled and went back to sleep.
The next time I was brought out of my drug induced slumber I was surrounded by a team of doctors. I don't remember any of their names other than Dr. Yanos, an older Neurosurgeon, highly recommended in the state of NM. He had me look to my right where there was a dry erase board. He proceeded in his best attempt, to show me my spine on the dry erase board. Keep in mind that Neurosurgeons go through very intense training for their profession and they generally lose human interaction skills. Along with this loss of people skills is the loss of art talent, lol. He explained that your spine is made up of vertebrae, and that my lower vertebrae where very damaged. The cavity in your vertebrae where the nerves "dangle" had narrowed and was pinching my nerves. This was in L4 and L5. The CT scan ruled out CES by itself. It's pretty amazing, I got to see the printout from the CT Scan where it evaluated what it saw and made it's own prognosis. Anyway, the new diagnosis is Lower Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. The surgery that I have to undergo is to remove the Lamina from the L4 and L5 vertebrae. The Lamina is the part of the spine that sticks out like a hook. In skinny people, when you bend over and stretch towards your toes, you can see the Lamina's push against your skin. I agree to the surgery at this time. Melissa was still stuck in Taos and frantically waiting for any update she could get.
I was wheeled down to a room that looked like it was from a Stephen King dream world. A place where Freddy Krueger would "hang out". There were tools hanging on the wall, those tools I still don't want to know how they were used. The anesthesiologist met us down there and he asked me what I'm allergic to etc. I don't remember talking to him much cause well, he put me under.
After the surgery, Dr. Yanos and his staff came into the room once they saw me stirring. Yanos asked if I could feel certain things. He used a "poking pen" and poked the inner thighs of my legs and asked if I could feel it. I shook my head no. He touched my knees and asked if I could feel that. Again, I said no. He asked if I could move my legs. No. I could not feel, nor move my legs from my hips down. He took my hand and asked if I could feel his hand. I could. I had feeling in my body, just the upper, not the lower. A fear came over me, a very intense fear. I was paralyzed. He stepped outside the room and had a conference with his team. He re-entered the room and said they'd do another CT scan and proceed from there. He also informed me that someone would be in touch with my wife to update her. All this was on June 2nd.
Later that evening I was transported back down to the CT Lab for a follow-up CT scan. This time, there really was no fear. The fear of paralysis outweighed everything in my mind. I vaguely remember anything at this point. It seems like I fell asleep actually. I came to and Melissa was there, minutes before my next surgery. Dr. Yanos said they were going to perform the same surgery, this time on the L3 lamina to remove more stress. This was done in the hopes of giving me some portion of my lower body back to me. This time I don't even remember the anesthesiologist being there, or leaving the room even.
When I came to, the nurses again rushed into the room, this time one of the resident doctors came in as well, they told me not to be afraid, and not to move (which then makes you more afraid). They showed me two pans, one on each side of me, both with a whitish substance in them. I was told that the fluid was drainage from my spine, then I noticed that there were hoses ran to each pan, my eyesight followed the hoses and I realized they were "plugged" into my back. The doctor informed me that along with the hoses there was a rather nice "opening" going down my lower back, staples and stitches holding it closed together.
Dr. Yanos shortly thereafter entered the room and asked how I was doing. I mumbled something still being "out of it". He then pulled out the poking pen and began the physical examination of my legs again. This time I could feel certain things, things that weren't there the day before, like my knees, I felt when he touched them. I had the sense of feeling in my thighs, knees, and upper portion of my lower legs. Then he got to my feet and he asked me to wiggle my toes. I stared in disbelief as I attempted this over and over again, but nothing happened. My mind telling me that they were moving, but nothing was happening. Yanos had his hand under my foot and said he felt no force at all from my foot. I noticed something then, that still happens now. When I try to move my toes, my fingers respond as if they're receiving the signal from my brain. If I try to move my big toe on my right foot, my thumb on my right hand responds to that signal. My wiring seems "messed up", and unlike a computer, I have no idea how to fix this.
It was a few days later and the hoses were removed from my back. My curiosity by then had been swelling and I had to ask (due to the wrestling and violent background)... if I were to receive a blow to my lower back, what's there to protect my nerves since the Lamina's were removed. Dr. Yanos stated that they took the muscles in my lower back, pulled and stretched them over my spine and then sewed them together inside me with dissolving stitches so that they wouldn't have to go back into my back to remove the stitches. I also had to make an appointment for 30 days from then to go and have the stitching and staples removed from my back.
I spent 7 days in the NICU (Neuro Intensive Care Unit), then I was moved to a regular room in the hospital. The next portion of this memory is not a good one, hygiene wise included. I realized I hadn't hardly eaten in the 7 days in NICU, nor had I once had a bowel movement. The human body is a very routine entity, you eat usually around the same time each day; you urinate a couple of hours after you drink something, so on so forth. Part of that routine is bowel movements. When you don't have a bowel movement over a period of time, your body becomes toxic to itself. I would be brought a plate of food in the morning and not even be able to smell the food without wanting to vomit (mind you, it wasn't because the food is bad). The thought of anything new entering my system sent shockwaves through my mind. I shared this information with the RN on duty and again, my situation became escalated. They started me off on small things, like warm Dr. Pepper (yes, it is a laxative). Then I got moved up to prune juice, a mixture of prune juice and Dr. Pepper together. Then came the worst thing I have ever smelt or tasted. A substance called Magnesium Citrate was introduced to me.
Here is what Wikipedia says about Magnesium Citrate.
Magnesium citrate, a magnesium salt of citric acid, is a chemical agent used medicinally as a saline laxative and to completely empty the bowel prior to a major surgery or colonoscopy. It is available without a prescription, both as a generic brand or under the brand name Citromag or Citroma. It is also used as a magnesium supplement in pills. The magnesium content of magnesium citrate corresponds to about 11% by mass.
Magnesium citrate works by attracting water through the tissues by a process known as osmosis. Once in the intestine, it can attract enough water into the intestine to induce defecation. The additional water helps to create more feces, which naturally stimulates bowel motility. This means it can also be used to treat rectal and colon problems. Magnesium citrate functions best on an empty stomach, and should always be followed with a full (eight ounce) glass of water or juice to help the magnesium citrate absorb properly and help prevent any complications. Magnesium citrate is generally not a harmful substance, but care should be taken to consult with a health professional if any adverse health problems are suspected or felt.
I know that is gross, but it weighs on your mind that your body is not functioning correctly. The taste of MagCite as I called it, instantly makes your stomach knot up and it basically feels as though your body is shutting down. I remember spending about 36 hours forcing myself to get the toxicity out of me, either by throwing up or by bowel movement... I am not going to share more about this, but know that it was very stressful, draining, and I slept very well when it was done. This also proved that my bowels were also in a state of comatose to accompany my bladder being in a coma.
Now during my time in a regular room, there were positives. I had a few roommates in my 3-5 days in the regular room and I had a specific young man that was a nurse tech and RN in training, his name was Robert. He was amazing, he'd stop by the room every chance he could and he'd help me stretch my legs, trying to wake them up. He'd come in and say prayers with me as well. My faith during this time in my life was at the highest ever in my life. I compared and still compare myself to Job. I admit that I never, even to this day, have questioned God in why I'm in this situation. God wanted me to see this, to overcome this, to use this to strengthen my testimony. I know some of my friends reading this may not be the most religious, and that's fine, just know that my faith is like a rock and through that faith I will overcome this obstacle in my life. I met a couple, an older couple that were amazing as well. Christine and Mario, if you are by some miracle reading this, you have touched my life along with Melissa's. Christine took Melissa to church on a Sunday morning that Melissa was there to visit me. Mario was formerly in the Marines or Navy, I apologize for not remembering correctly, but it's been 2 years, please forgive me! Mario was there while I was going through the Magnesium Citrate spell and basically told me to do what I gotta do to live through this. I've done that, thank you Mario!
There were also some other things that happened... occupational therapists came in from time to time bringing me "tools" to assist with common daily things you do, like a "grabber stick" to help me pull my shoes on etc. I mean no offense at all to anyone who needs/uses such items, but to me, changing my style of life to fit this "thing" that happened to me, was a defeat. If you adapt and accept what has happened, then you have given up. You have to live your life, if you want to put your shoes on with your own hands, then fight to do so. God made the earth, sky, heavens, oceans, in 6 days and then took a rest. I think I can fight for 6 days and then rest one, then back to it. If you desire something that is life altering, then fight for it, don't give in to the temptations that come along. I know, easier said than done, but it's your life, your fight, you can't expect someone else to do it for you. You can't expect God to just "make it happen"... anything in life worth fighting for is just that, worth fighting for, if you want it, go get it! Nike nailed this on the head with "Just do it" and yes, I'm stealing that. The one thing that the OT's did that made me truly feel progress, was to get me out of the bed and standing for the first time in 10 days. Guess what, more bad news, my hips and "sense of balance" in a coma. All I have are my quads, knees, and part of my calf muscles. But here's the good news, I have my quads, knees, and part of my calf muscles! Take that!
So on day 11 I get the news, I'm being transferred to HealthSouth rehabilitation center. I also made more money than those EMT's that transported me, not bragging, just letting you know what we talked about lol. I was truly scared that due to missing work I would lose my job and was thinking of what to do next. Helping people seemed like a great thing to do given my current situation.
I get to HealthSouth late at night, around 7 or 8 PM. I was met by 3 nurses, 1 of which was absolutely an inspiration. Josey was a shorter Cuban woman that had a very thick accent that was a mix of Cuban and New York. She immediately told me I'd walk again, to never give up. One of the other nurses (she was moved to a different HealthSouth in the US a week later so I do not remember her name) asked me what I wanted to do the next day. She asked if I wanted a shower, and I remembered I hadn't had one of those in over a week. OMG Yes! A shower, such a simple thing, but such an amazing thing at the same time! The next day came along and sure enough, I took a shower. Now I can't tell you it was a normal shower, you go in, clean up, and get out. I had a mental breakdown. The realization that I couldn't stand in the shower, turn and wash my back, lean down and wash my hair, etc... things I couldn't do hit me hard. The best thing about a shower, it washes away your tears.
I was given a schedule, I'd do occupational therapy, physical therapy, then more occupational therapy, then more physical therapy. I was put on an 1800 calorie diet and told to relax on the weekends. I put my time in, my work in, I lost 60 lbs in a month. There were people that God brought into my life at this time that were there to show me that I didn't have it that bad. One man was brought in, he was paralyzed from his neck down after a gunshot wound had severed his spine. I talked with him and shared Christ with him. If he accepted him or not is his decision. I talked to him about things he could still do, about amazing stories of people in similar situations who became artists, musicians, etc. I hope I was a spark for him to still do something great in his life. I did have my good days, and I had some bad days. I won't lie, I had one horrible night where I fell. I fell on a male nurses lower leg and a whole group of nurses and PT's came in to help me. I was able to get up with only the help of one person and in the 2 years since then, I have fallen twice, both times I got up on my own.
There is a memory that means so much to me. I had started using the balance beams and walking within my first week at HS, and Melissa and BreAnna were coming up to see me. I told the therapists this and what I wanted to do. As they walked into the "gym" I walked... my daughter got to see her Daddy walk, that meant so much to me and my heart for her to see daddy doing something normal. Not in the wheelchair. That little girl is motivation in a bottle. I used everything I had to go home literally on her birthday. Thirty-six days away from home; away from my daughter.
That's what I went through/am going through. I am still in a wheelchair. I use the walker as much as possible. My bowels have become less comatose but my bladder refuses to wake up. I have Electric Stimulation (E-stim) done to my legs periodically were they try to "shock" the nerves into waking up. I have my hamstrings back now, my hips seem to be waking up, but it's slow.
I was told by 4 out of 5 doctors that I could recover fully from this but it may take 20 years or more. The nerves heal at a rate of 1/8 a cm a month roughly or a millimeter a week; depending on your bodies healing rate. One of these days I will destroy this wheelchair, I will destroy the walker, and I will walk around and nobody will know anything ever happened. Until that day, I work for that day. Thank you for reading this. I know it was long, and I could have gone on and told of other trials and victories, but I've been working on this for months, recalling memories etc.
Thank you for reading this.