There was a time when our children were small, it seems so long ago now, and yet…
…and I used to carry them everywhere, we had all of the buggys and carry-chairs and other good stuff but I enjoyed carrying them everywhere, even as they grew to be toddlers, when they’d moan that they couldn’t walk any further I’d pick them up rather than put them in a buggy.
And slowly, something started to happen in my lower back…
It didn’t just happen one day, rather it got increasingly more difficult to straighten up after bending down to put them in their child seats in the car, and then one night the pain was so bad that I couldn’t sleep in a bed and had to spend the night on the floor.
Went to the doctor who went through various tests and declared that I had “crushed a disc” in my spine, as I understood it the spongy cartilage discs between the bones of the spine can under some circumstances be compressed and squash out of shape causing pressure on nerves and other good stuff, nett result, pain, lots of it, that is only relieved slightly by lying on a hard surface.
And so I took up residence on the floor of our living room, me and Sam our German Shepherd Dog, she’d lay next to me slightly bemused at why I had suddenly stopped walking about and prefered to spend my time lying on the floor 24 hours a day watching TV, when Suzanne threw a quilt over me every evening Sam would trot over and lie on it and I’d have to shift her several times through the night – a big dog will shuffle and scuffle around during the night until she occupies the whole of the comfy area, shift her and she’ll walk away, then sneak back when you have drifted off into a sort of sleep again.
I took pain killers, lots of them, taking pain killers was the only way I could find sleep some nights, it was noted very quickly that the pain killers I was prescribed were the same ones that my mother was taking during her cancer treatment, so I had a ready top-up to the ones that my doctor had subscribed for me – when the box said to never exceed the stated dose of two tablets every four hours I scoffed for the pain relief would only ever work for two hours at a time, so for several weeks I took double the dose just to stay sane.
I once, rather stupidly, attended a rugby match just to ease the insanity of laying on your living room floor for 24 hours a day and Rod the Medic, my small best mate from schooldays came along too, he took one look at my eyes and asked me what the hell I was on, I told him, but I didn’t tell him that in order to stand upright and come to the game I’d tripled the dose that afternoon – he wasn’t very impressed as he didn’t need me to tell him that I was a junkie now – I went back to laying on the floor and fighting with the dog for use of the quilt through the night.
My doctor sent me for physiotherapy at our local hospital which meant more double dosing just to stand upright and drive my car the short distance. Physio consisted of lots of stretching exercises and when they didn’t appear to be working all that well I was summoned one day to a small room behind the Physio Dept gym where a medieval torture machine awaited me.
I was asked to lay on my side on an elevated bed where an infra-red heat lamp was applied to my back for fifteen or so minutes, then I was turned onto my back and a wide leather strap fastened tightly across my legs and another across my chest.
A short explanation followed, this was to stretch my spine I was told, it won’t hurt I was told, it would be very gentle I was told, I was given a small button to press if the pain became too much I was told, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt I remarked but she’d gone by then.
There was a low rumble and suddenly the top half od the bed, the bit that my chest was strapped firmly to, started to move northwards whilst simultaneously the bottom half of the bed along with my legs started to move to the south.
It seemed like an age before the two halves stopped moving asunder and then slowly retracted back to their original positions, only to start the process over again, and again, and repeat for half an hour.
It hurt, it hurt when the two halves were at their furthest apart but it also hurt when they were closed back together again – I guessed that maybe that was my injured disc squeezing back and forth like an accordion, I guessed that maybe it was doing me some good and I wished I’d brought my pain killers with me.
I laughed while I laid there, laughed like a lunatic as he sits in his padded cell picking the wings off flies and then eating them, I laughed at the thought of pressing the panic button and then as the nurses rushed to my aid shouting out in delirium that it was me who had planted all that gunpowder under the House of Commons in 1605 and not the unfortunate Guy Fawkes who had indeed succumbed to this very method of persuasion all of the centuries ago.
Ultimately it probably worked, I say ultimately because I don’t know which of the treatments over a period of around eight weeks finally started to ease the pain sufficient for me to stand unaided for 15 minutes, then 30 minutes at a time – I do know that I was left with some modicum of nerve damage to my left leg and a large expanse of my left thigh had no feeling in it at all for three or so years, it could have been worse of course, I could still be sharing a quilt with a big dog in the living room every night.