Saturday, April 13, 2013

That Time I Almost Died Part I

No decent man talks of his maladies.

--Turgenev, The Diary of a Superfluous Man

I'm dying, and at the point of death I really think one may be excused a desire to find out what sort of a queer fish one really was after all.

--Turgenev, The Diary of a Superfluous Man

I posted two old blogs on here about my June 2008 move to London. While there, I wrote some MySpace blogs about all the nonsense that was slapping me upside the head. During my time in Blighty (funny, when I moved away I expected it to be permanent) I became mysteriously and seriously ill, so the blog switched from wacky ranting to a kind of deathwatch. I have been going through the bits of it I could find, and have decided to post what I didn't delete. Some of it is mawkish, but whatever, it was a reflection of my frame of mind, and anyway, the majority of it still strikes me as entertaining. I have done some slight editing, and have clipped some parts that couldn't possibly be of interest. I hope you will also find it entertaining (clears throat)... 

Sometime in 2008...

There’s no doubt I came to London with reluctance. But still, there was an undercurrent of excitement to the move. New surroundings, new start; all the trappings of a soft rock hit without the synthesized sax solo. Quite soon however, I came crashing down like a dropped crowd surfer.

Just before journeying to the land of drizzle and drunks, I was diagnosed with a disc bulge in my lower back. It was painful, but the pain wasn’t constant and wasn’t interfering with my life. I was still going to the gym and doing most of the things I normally do. But immediately after arriving in my new digs, the pain began to escalate.

For the first few days, it was just random attacks of pain; just enough to freeze me in my tracks, but not enough to keep me there for any length of time. Within a week, the pain had not only gone into overdrive; it had oozed to my right shoulder. As with my back, in the early goings, the right shoulder suffered intermittent blips of pain, sometimes acute, but not crippling. Had it remained at that level, you would be reading the thoughts of a much different man.

By about week three in London, I could no longer lift my right arm about the shoulder, and my left arm was getting in on the action. The left was stiff and weak, but because it was still fairly fluid, it became my default limb (I doubt the left arm problems were helped by my favoring it so much). As month one concluded, my right arm was frozen to the point where I could barely use it to shave or brush my teeth.

Sometime in July, I put up my pulldown bed, only to discover I couldn’t lower it again. I simply couldn’t get either arm to perform the task. This left me with two options; hard floor or hard leather loveseat. Picky thing that I am, I went with the loveseat. As it wasn’t even long enough for a dainty sapling like me, you can imagine the kind of contortion act I was doing in my sleep each night. Perfect for someone with hellish aches and pains!

Coinciding with my back/shoulder agonies was another ticklish matter; the unpredictable dizzy spells that accompanied my relocation to London. Initially, I figured it was due to the change in climate, timezone, and food (eating eggs that taste like Satan’s earwax has been known to cause all kinds of problems. Whoever decided the English were going to be known for their breakfasts was either a sadist or the world’s first prop comic). I decided to up my fruit-veggie intake to seven servings a day. No effect. The dizziness continued.

Let’s make sure we're on the same page. Monstrous back pain, a right arm mostly immobile above shoulder level, and a left arm that was rapidly weakening and donating plenty of its own pain to the cause. Obviously, an upper body weak in all the wrong places wasn’t exactly well equipped to deal with the literal fall out of a dizzy, swimming head. Steps, or rather not falling down them, soon became an issue. For those who don’t follow the latest medical developments, using barely functioning shoulders to catch yourself on cement steps is so 1773!

What about treatment? Well, it took about six weeks to establish my NHS ("universal healthcare") GP. My London colleagues were surprised by the expediency. In the meantime, a coworker recommended I hit a private GP she knew who worked with my firm’s private insurance company and supposedly knew how to get things done. "They just refer you to this physio place, backdate it, and the insurance company eventually pays it." Multiple people I consulted seemed to be using this private GP for that reason, so I figured, WHEN IN ROME...

I went to see him and was mostly just told, "Hopefully, you don't have to have surgery." There were no tests and not much advice, but he did refer me to a physical therapist. I visited the clinic he recommended. Turns out, they don't participate with my insurance or anyone else’s, and it's about $116 per session. I was already there, so I figured "Who knows when I'll be able to see someone again, so let me at least get this guy's thoughts."

He didn't seem to have any. He had me touch my toes and gave me a stretch or two to try. That was it. His general advice was along the lines of "Try not to lift any safes for a few months." I went to the suggestion box and suggested they rename the clinic The Apathy and the Atrophy.

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