Well, How Did I Get Here?

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? – Talking Heads, 1980

It was literally a pain in the neck that got my attention. Yes, a pain in the neck always gets our attention and our ire; I’m trying to say that my neck hurt, a lot. Naturally, I ignored it. Why would I ignore such a thing? Because I am a man. That sort of behavior comes with the y chromosome.

Like people who are pains in the neck, the pain that was in my neck eventually became something I could not ignore. I was due for a physical, so I got an appointment to see my doctor. I thought I’d tell him about my neck while he was doing all the testing and maintenance work on me. I was sure he’d know what to do. He did. He referred me to a specialist.

“Why Don’t You Come With Me?”

The neck in question - mine.

So two weeks later, I was at a spine specialist. It was nice to go to a doctor and keep my pants on. He looked at some x-rays my primary doctor had ordered and pointed out where a disc in my neck looked like a problem. Something the doctor said made me think I was going to get out of there with some medication and physical therapy. I was wrong.

The doctor did a few more tests. Apparently I did not do well on them. To be fair, I did not know a test was coming and was not able to study. Based on the results, this specialist said “oh, no, no – you just bought yourself an MRI.”

I went to see the specialist after another two weeks so he could read my MRI. I sat on the examining table with my pants on, reading Woman’s Day magazine because that’s all that was available. The doctor came into the room, but not really. He just stood in the doorway and said “hi, how are you feeling?” He seemed surprised when I told him I wasn’t too bad.

The doctor just leaned on the door frame, making small talk. This struck me as a little peculiar. I thought about inviting him in, but I got hung up on the realization that even though I was in the room and he was outside it, the office was his. I really had no standing to invite anyone into the room. As it turns out, when a doctor doesn’t come into the room, there is a reason.

“Why don’t you come with me?’ he said. I went along because it took the pressure off me on that question of inviting him in.

We went to a room where he had a couple of computer screens. I noticed that he differentiated between the MRI images on the screens as “yours” and “normal”. These are not good differentiations when it comes to things like one’s spine. Among other things you don’t want to hear regarding your spine are terms like bone spurs and deterioration. The doctor distracted me from these unpleasant words by showing me my spinal cord on the screen.

I thought that was really cool. How often do you get to look at something like that? As it turns out, seeing your spinal cord is not that cool because sometimes “this is your spinal cord” is followed with “this is the damage you’ve already done to it” and “I’m referring you to a surgeon”. This pain in the neck was becoming a real pain in the neck.

“Don’t Do Anything Stupid”

While I was trying to get my head around this surgery idea I asked whatever popped into my mind, like how I will recover (very well) and what would happen if I opted out of having surgery (not good). I asked if I should restrict myself in any way given that he had also told me I was at a higher risk for serious spinal injury until the surgery was complete.


I'm not going to fight, unless some guy holds up a hoop. (Image via Wikipedia)

The doctor told me not to do things that make my head snap back. It surprised me that it was that simple. I asked for clarification. “Just don’t do anything stupid” was his clarification. I told him that I was about to celebrate my fiftieth birthday on a road trip with my friends and doing stupid things was the theme of the trip. He narrowed “stupid things” to fighting and water skiing. Given that these are things I never do, I did not feel terribly restricted.

“Why Don’t You Come With Me?” I’m Getting Sick Of Being Asked.

And so it was that later, I was sitting on an examining table in a surgeon’s office, with my pants on, reading Southern Living magazine. The surgeon opened the door, stood in the doorway and introduced himself. We talked for a few minutes and then he said “you look better than I expected you to.” It occurred to me to say something like “most people look like crap in hospital scrubs, but they look ok on you” but I opted not to. It just didn’t seem a good idea to pop off at a guy who will be in a position to kill me in my sleep.

Like the last doctor, the surgeon invited me to follow him. I wasn’t all that eager about the invitation because I didn’t like the results last time. We ended up in front of some monitors with my MRI images on them.He spoke very well of most of my spine and spinal cord, but not so well of the section the previous physician had also disparaged. He said that, based on what he saw on the MRI before meeting me, he expected my condition to be a lot worse.

We went back to the examining room, where he showed me on a toy spine what he proposed doing to my real spine to relieve the pressure on some of my nerves and restore me to being pain-free. The toy spine even had a toy titanium plate and toy “donor bone” to simulate how these would replace my deteriorating disc. He said to get back to him if I wanted to proceed with the surgery.

My current job involves using both my hands and the pain in one of my arms makes doing that difficult sometimes. Writing is now a two-handed activity as well. I’ll be pain-free and the surgeon says I’ll be able to turn my head at least as far as I do now, maybe even more. I hope I’ll be able to turn my head around like an owl by the time I finish physical therapy. The decision was easy. I was on the phone the next morning starting the arrangements for surgery.

So, that’s where things stand. This has been a bit of a distraction over the past few weeks. I am behind on reading, writing and social contacts. But it is a distraction I can see an end to. There are a lot of positives to this thing beyond the pain management.

On December 20 I get some new pieces, two days in the hospital, and a couple weeks out of the office. Hmmmm, maybe this gives me time to work on the communication book idea? I think so, but not while I’m on the heavy pain medicine. I also get a cool scar on the front of my neck and I get to grow a beard…and maybe long hair.

This is going to be alright.


45 Comments on “Well, How Did I Get Here?”

  1. You should ALWAYS write a book while under the influence of good pain meds. Always. You never know what’s inside you unless you do.

    Wishing you a speedy and complete recovery. And also the 270 degree range of motion that owls have.

  2. Todd Pack says:

    1. Sorry you need surgery. That’s never fun.
    2. Glad your prognosis is good.
    3. This is just a scam to get extra time off work at Christmas, isn’t it?
    4. You’ll be sore at first, but you’ll be taking lots of drugs, and no one will expect you to do anything, so, basically, you’re looking at one of your best vacations from work and household responsibilities ever. Seriously.
    5. While everyone else is stuffing themselves, you probably won’t have much of an appetite at first, so, not only will go back to work healthy, you’ll probably go back thinner. Win-win!

  3. We Found Him Captain! says:

    I sure hope this hospital stay does not include a drink of that barium stuff. I remember that the entire place smelled and looked like Chernobyl as I drove away and looked in the rearview mirror.

    Maybe while you are recovering at home you can write a blurt about: How doctors can pool their resources in order to finance up to date magazine subscriptions for their waiting rooms. I recently spent time in one waiting room which had three magazines. One Newsweek, a Family Circle and a Popular Mechanics. The Newsweek had the story about Nikita Khrushchev at the UN banging his shoe on the table. The Popular Mechanics had an article predicting the advent of the 27 inch TV screen.

    After your operation maybe you will have time to build a Flanski Supreme and share it with Mike. Good Luck!!

  4. Brooke says:

    Well Merry Christmas. Even though it’s a few weeks off, I’m already sending you a speedy recovery.

  5. planetross says:

    I don’t write with two hands … unless snow is involved.

    I’m sure the docs can fix you up good as new … and your head will swivel like Linda Blair.

    note: a speedy recovery and best wishes. I’ll be sending my high-powered mental rays your way on December 20th … and not playing pool, watching the Vancouver Canucks, or playing the lotto. (those things usually require all my high-powered mental rays)

  6. Gemma Sidney says:

    Ouch! Sorry to hear about all this. My guess is you won’t realise how bad your neck was until you have the surgery and feel sooo much better (although the neck pain sure hasn’t interfered with your capacity for writing witty prose). Here’s to a speedy recovery!

  7. Christy says:

    Something that could possibly be considered under the “Don’t do anything stupid” category could also be head banging. You know you hear an old rock n Roll song from your youth and you start bobbing head up and down in a rock n roll fashion. Be careful of that on your road trip.
    Also so glad where you are they are so willing to offer disc replacement as a treatment. We’re having a heck of a time finding that for my husband here in the midwest, plus, insurance doesnt like to cover it yet.

  8. AiXeLsyD13 says:

    Yeah, no watching Beavis & Butt-head any time soon. You don’t wanna rock too hard.

    Wow, this is heavy… but it seems like your medical team is confident, which is always a plus.

    I wish you well, & will be keeping tabs!

  9. shoutabyss says:

    I really liked the way you told this story. I can say one thing with certainty: No doctor has ever told me, “I expected your condition to be a lot worse.” That’s never a good sign.

    Ask to keep the old ones. They make excellent Frisbees. I know because I squirt mine out of back and zing them off walls and stuff.

    Pain can illuminate things that need fixing? Who knew! Not me, since I religiously avoid doctors. I do not want to know what they might find. Sight unseen is fine with me.

    I know it will go well. See you on the flip side! (A little Frisbee joke.)

  10. I’m stuck on “I’m a man so I ignore things.” Is this typical behavior that I wasn’t told about? Generally I am informed of every single cut, scrape, bruise, twinge, etc. that occurs to my precious husband and to my knowledge my sister and my BFF experience the same thing. You are a true wonder, Oma.

    For the record, I hear this surgery is a MIRACLE worker. Where do I hear this, you ask? My mom. SHE IS HEALED I TELL YA!

    Good luck, but you’ll do great.

    • omawarisan says:

      I am optimistic, ive heard a lot of stories like your mom’s. Glad she’s doing well!

      We ignore things until we decide we are in agony…then all hell breaks loose.

  11. Amy says:

    I’m no doctor, but when I saw your x-ray I noted the warped-looking spinal cord and knew that it shouldn’t look that way. I got that “here is a normal spine and here is your spine” talk from a doctor once, too. It made me feel quilty, like I had done something wrong. I wanted to apologize and say, “I’ll try harder next time!”
    It’s a good thing that the doctor defined “stupid.” That leaves so much room for interpretation. I probably wouldn’t leave my house.
    Living with pain makes everything in life harder. It really drains you. I hope that the surgery goes off without a hitch and you are pain-free very soon!

    • omawarisan says:

      I’ve been putting up with this a bit. It has been a strain and I’m glad to be getting rid of it.

      I was really concerned about the stupid thing. Stupid really was the point of the trip. Just not fighting and waterski stupid.

  12. Wendi says:

    So Oma, would it be inappropriate to send you Operation as an early Christmas gift? Hope the recovery is speedy.

    PS, The Jolie must somehow be responsible for this.

  13. “Why Don’t You Come With Me?” I’m Getting Sick Of Being Asked.—At least they’re not asking you to take your pants off.

  14. Good luck–I’m sure everything will be fine–bring us along on the journey!

  15. Pie says:

    Sorry to hear about your neck, but at least you know what you’re dealing with now. Sounds like your prognosis is good and you have a good team, so I’m confident you’ll do well. Whether you’ll be high on the meds or on your own supply, take very good care of yourself.

  16. Katybeth says:

    This surgery won’t in anyway effect your ability to be a pain in the neck will it? Not that you are or I would know if you were (except by guessing)…but I do think it’s a question worth asking…I’m mean creatively speaking this skill might be important.

    Glad the prognosis is good (thanks Pie ^for providing the spelling for prognosis), and when anyone annoys you by stepping over one of your policies… do take advantage of your condition by gently putting your hand on your neck and moaning just load enough…

  17. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Oh, Oma! Well, you’ve gone and done it. You’re now on your way to becoming bionic man. Some people just can’t leave Mother Nature’s work alone.

    Be well. I know you will. Absence of that pain will seem like a new lease on life.

    Take a rest, relax. We’ll all be here when you return.

  18. Lenore Diane says:

    “… doing stupid things was the theme of the trip.” Funny, funny.

    Nice to know that after several trips to the doctor, while keeping your pants on and enjoying a collection of ladies magazines, you now have a diagnosis and plan of action. Here’s to a new year without the pain in the neck! (Does this mean you’ll be setting off the metal detectors soon? Great party trick!)

  19. Laura says:

    I also have to be careful of snapping my head back (something I’ve discovered I do much more often than I’d realized). I wear glasses, and when I’m not using them, I flip them so that the lenses are on top of my head — and if I snap my head back, they go flying off. This may not be exactly the same as your situation.

    Good luck with the surgery. Have you planned the all-important post-surgical entertainment? You’ll want lots of light reading, videos (I watched the entire series of Arrested Development while recovering from knee surgery), and music. You might even want to get some audiobooks just in case you have trouble finding a comfortable reading position.

    Oh, and don’t forget to work on some really dramatic “how I got my neck scar” stories.

    • omawarisan says:

      I like the Arrested Development idea. I’ve got the series at home but haven’t watched it all strung together.

      Neck scar stories…like when I saved that baby from that explosion?

  20. Blogdramedy says:

    Good luck with the surgery. While you’re there, if they offer you the green jello, just say no.

    More importantly…being that close to so many surgeons…what a great opportunity to sharpen your carving skills for next Hallowe’en! 🙂

  21. Debbie says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your upcoming surgery, but I’m glad it’s expected to relieve your pain. I’ll add you to my prayer list, okay?

  22. […] you might guess, I have my upcoming surgery on my mind. Not the boss of me. (image via […]

  23. Anonymous says:

    I feel awful for not seeing this sooner.

    I’m glad you’ll have the holidays off but that’s a heck of a way to get the down time.

    Are you going to go for the Joaquin Phoenix look?

    Best wishes for a just-speedy-enough-to-feel-better-but-not-so-speedy-that-you-have-to-go-back-to-work recovery.

  24. […] few years back, I found out that my neck was a mess. My vertebrae weren’t all they were meant to be and they were damaging my spinal cord. I was […]

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