When I left ya’ll I was hobbling out of a certain hospital in a certain city in NW Ohio.
I felt better than I had in… quite a long time. I think that the fact that I had been so severely anemic for so long had me believing that how I felt on a day to day basis was normal. And normal for me really wasn’t that bad. That being said I felt like I could run a marathon now, I was practically bionic. Well, minus the bad back, but certainly that would be resolved easily enough. A little ice, a little heat, some muscle relaxers and a few days off.
I followed the directions I was given, determined to behave and stop being such a damn pain in the ass to all of my caregivers and limped into my Doctors office the next day.
He walked into the exam room holding my folder. My Doc normally has a permanent “worry wrinkle” on his forehead, it’s part of his charm, and today was no different. He dropped the folder down on the counter top and looked me over. ”You’ve had a rough few days, eh?”
“Yeah. You could say.”
“Epi, I’m not going to sugar coat this. You need to find another job.”
Blink. Blink. Blink. I had no response. Internally, I was screaming. He did NOT just tell me that I can’t work as a Paramedic. Not after everything that I’ve been through to get to this point, what the HELL? My heart dropped.
Doc pulled my MRI results out of the manila folder.
I was screwed.
L4-L5, and L5-S1. Both herniated. I broke down and cried in the office. Right in front of the doctor. I cried as I checked out, I cried all the way to the car, and the entire drive home. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. He had written me off work for an entire month, which I knew wasn’t going to sit well with management. Hell, it was probably going to get me fired.
The next day, I was let go from the best service I had ever worked for. And after only getting to work for 6 weeks. To say that I was devastated would have been the understatement of the freaking century. That was January 11th. Three weeks later and I’m still absolutely heartbroken.
As time went on the pain in my back wasn’t getting any better. It moved from severe muscular lower back pain to severe muscular lower back pain with continuous spasms and sciatica. If you haven’t ever had issues with your sciatic nerve, consider yourself very fortunate. If you have, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s brutal. The fire-like pain that was shooting down my left leg (and eventually my right leg as well) was more than I could mentally deal with. I started to think that I was really losing it. I was absolutely inconsolable. I lost my job, I was in constant debilitating pain, I couldn’t take care of myself, let alone my children or any potential patients…
Good God, I was a train wreck. I started pulling away from my friends and family locally, and finally my online family. My family doctor had been keeping a close eye on my blood count, which thank God was stable (albeit a tad on the low side still at 10), but was ultimately worried about my level of pain. I was reluctant to take any narcotics, and dead set against surgical interventions. After two straight weeks of agony, I relented. He wrote me a script for some high dose percocet and referred me to a pain clinic and a surgeon.
A pain clinic? He wants me to go to a pain clinic? I take PATIENTS to a pain clinic.
I began to become paranoid that I’d be perceived as a drug seeker. Vicodin wasn’t helping with my pain at all. Percocet was just knocking me out. Two days before my pain clinic appointment I found myself in my doctors office yet again. Again in tears. Humiliated. Defeated. Begging for some relief. Pleading for some way to get just a few minutes of time where I wasn’t so consumed by the constant searing pain in my back and legs. I remember sitting in that office truly believing that I was losing my mind. My life was no longer my own. I was no longer in the position of being a caregiver, I was practically an invalid. Incapable of doing something as simple as rolling over in bed without crying out in pain.
Breaking point, meet Epijunky.
My family Doc was out of town that day and I was seeing the office Nurse Practitioner. He had worked as an RN, a Paramedic, and an EMT. He was my people. He was my people when I really… truly needed people to talk me down off the cliff that I was teetering on. ”Epi… I’m not going to tell you that you should continue to work as a Medic. But I’m not going to tell you that you can’t. Let’s get you through some of this pain. Let’s get your head clear, and we can explore the rest of it after that. Go to your pain clinic appointment. Get that epidural done with the steroids, and see where you are after that. One step at a time, ya know?”
I nodded. I wanted to have some hope. That was all.
“Epi… I have friends who have worse back injuries than yours. They’re still working. Keep your chin up.” He patted me on the back as I walked out of the exam room.
I could have tackled him, had I been physically able. It just took a simple statement from a caregiver to pull me out of a state of mind that was so low I couldn’t even wrap my head around it. Just two minutes. No drugs, no interventions at all. Just a little dialog between two people. I hobbled out of the office yet again. The difference was, this time I wasn’t in tears. I had a little bit of hope.
That was four days ago. Yesterday was my pain clinic appointment. I wont bore you with the details of a caudal epidural, all I’ll say is that it’s not the most pleasant experience. It’s one that I hope to never repeat, actually. But if that’s what it takes to get me back on a truck, I’ll do it. I’ll do anything. I’ll even have the surgery done. I just want to be back.
And sadly, I really don’t know when I’ll be able to get back.
Right now I’m praying that continued steroid treatments and building up my core muscles will keep me from repeating this injury. I’m praying that I can get back, very soon, in any capacity, and resume my role as a fixer.
No longer a patient.
I guess what I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t just a patient through this battle. I was a fixer still. I just had to fix myself.
Thanks to those of you who stuck around to read my story… I realize that it wasn’t a guts and glory EMS post, but it was important to me. Never ever forget that just the simplest of statements can help your patient more than you can imagine. Sometimes words can work miracles.
Be safe out there,