Since my back was broken in the fall at fifteen years of age, I have had almost twenty years of intense pain. Operations, grafts, casts, hardware, braces, physio…I have endured pain that I never would have imagined. I lead a ridiculously full life in spite of it all. At fifteen, I had a hip graft and Harstshill rectangle wired in. The next year, the hardware was taken out as it had slipped out of place. At seventeen, I had operations to save my life, as my spine had collapsed, crushing my stomach, heart and lungs. At twenty, I had surgery to remove the rods screwed alongside my spine. Nobody knew how I would cope or be able to hold myself up without them. I had further surgeries to shrink the three remaining discs after they bulged out. I went through pregnancy with metal filings and chunks of bone lodged in my spinal canal (too risky to remove), and a spine made out of old hip and rib grafts, fused from the thoracic region down. I would have endured hell itself to have this child. I went to the physio department of my local hospital regularly, and did hydrotherapy daily. Some days, the pain was disabling, and I was in a wheelchair toward the end of my pregnancy. I developed gestational diabetes and had to inject insulin, and when I went into labour, my sugar levels were uncontrolled. The obstetrician couldn’t risk a general anaesthetic, and we had to chance administering a spinal anaesthetic. I was warned that there was a risk I could be permanently paralysed, and they only had one opportunity to get it in place. I breathed deeply and didn’t move an inch, and it worked!
Throughout the next year, my spine was weaker, and as my oestrogen levels dropped-the result of medication I was taking for endometriosis- my bones weakened. I slipped over when my daughter was two, and heard a frightful snap in my back. The pain was so intense, I could hardly breathe. With no-one else around, I had to pick myself up, and take the stroller back to my car. I drove home, knowing that I had broken my spine. I certainly had, from T10-T12. For those who have injured their backs, the following will make sense to you. In my MRI report, it stated, “At C5/6 there is arthrosis bilaterally, contributing to foraminal narrowing on the right (foramina are channels where nerve roots exit the spinal cord). At C6/7 posterior broad based disc osteophyte (bone spur), protrusion is seen. In the thoracic spine, there is anterior wedging of T7 vertebral body with approximately 30% loss of height anteriorly. Subchondral bruise related to the left T6 costovertebral junction, being degenerate in nature. In the lumbar spine, posterior step deformity of L2 relative to L1 remains. Disc dessication (dried up discs), are present at L5/S1. At L4/5, there is a degree of facet arthropathy of the large ligament in back. L3/4 there is again arthropathy associated with scar tissue related to previous laminectomy, involving much of the upper lumbar spine. At L2/3 the facet arthropathy indents the posterior aspect of thecal sac (the membrane surrounding the spinal cord).”
The report above was tabled almost five years ago. Things have gotten worse. Being in early menopause has made the pain more intense and my bones more fragile. An attempted murder half a lifetime ago, and I deal with the aftermath daily. I can handle the pain, but what hurts is not being able to go horse riding with my daughter, nor skating, nor cycling. If I fell over, the damage would be catastrophic. How do I cope, and what have I learnt? I will tell you in my next blog piece.