My first ever major back-problem

The events in this posting took place commencing around 23rd May 2007 – can’t remember exactly when.

We have had workmen around a lot over the last few months updating the kitchen and then building an en-suite in the master bedroom. One of the things that really irritates me is when workmen leave ladders lying around the place. I imagine an opportunistic burglar is just around the corner waiting for the first opportunity to use such a convenient slip to get into the house though and upstairs window.

I was especially annoyed to see some of the builders had borrowed my own ladders from the garage and left them out at the front of the house so just before we went out for the day, I ran downstairs and grabbed them. Or at least I tried to. It turned out that they were not our light-weight aluminium ladders but very similar looking very very heavy-duty builders steel ladders. I discovered the mistake when my hasty attempt to upright the ladder from a flat position to an upright on one side position ready to grab them properly to carry them to the garage instead resulted in me being jerked towards the floor. It is so rare for us humans to misjudge the amount of force required for every-day tasks that when we do get it wrong it is a big shock. In this case, I felt things happening in my back that should not have happened.

I stretched for a while and then we headed off as planned. Some hours later, sitting on a simple bench out-side of a pub awaiting delivery of my Sunday-dinner, I started to feel a lot more pain and have some difficulty moving. I also developed considerable pains in my right leg.

Getting home proved very painful and difficult. After lying down for a while at home, I found I had to go to the toilet. This proved to be extremely difficult and painful and I found I could not complete the task so to speak. I managed to get off the loo but my back locked with me at about 45 degrees and I was unable to pull my trousers up. Most embarrassing.

With help from my wife, I eventually got decently dressed and upstairs to bed. I was convinced that after some rest I would be fine. I understood that the advice was generally to take pain killers and, with due care and attention, to keep going.

I was due in York he following day. There was no way I could face it in the morning so I made arrangements to travel up later that day. One car journey, two train trips, and one taxi later I made it to my hotel and gratefully sank onto my kingsize bed.

The following day I was very stiff and still in a significant amount of pain. I made it to the office and got on with my work. The pain got worse and worse during the day and I chaired a critical meeting in near agony. I wrote up notes from the meeting afterwards and have since been told that I chaired the meeting well and that my notes were very good. I have no recollection of the meeting or what I wrote.

A colleague helped me to get back to my hotel. I tried to relax and do movements that I was sure helped relieve the pain. Night time became absolute hell. There was one point where I had taken over half-an-hour to get down onto the floor (I had been taught that lying face-down with arms by your side helped relieve pressures on the back) but then found myself stuck. The pain got worse but moving in any direction was excruciating. In fact, I fainted a couple of times.

After hours, I managed to get some control over the pain and began to move again. I had considered calling for an ambulance during the night but had not been able to reach a phone. Now I just wanted to get home. I checked out of the hotel about 4am in the morning. They could not get a taxi for me so I walked (yes, walked) to the station – only about 10 minutes away normally – towing by suitcase. In some ways it helped but it was difficult and took me over an hour.

I got the first train from York to Manchester and there found an open pharmacy in the station and the pharmacist, with due consideration for my general health, dosed me up with a range of pain killers and muscle reliefs that I could use in combination to allow me to get home. I took a train from Manchester to Stafford and then drove home (none of the drugs made be drowsy – on reflection though I was probably not safe to drive; I just wanted to get home).

I did see a doctor the following day. He was concerned. Ultimately though plenty of pain-killers, a really good physiotherapist and lots of very specific exercise as well as 6 weeks off work (longest ever break from work for me – the Doctor was very reluctant to sign me fit for work at the end but I was going stir crazy) sorted me out.

Unless I have an operation (which is risky) I shall probably always have some pain now and I have to be very careful.

The first week of my sick leave was rough. I could not do anything or stay in any one position for more than about 15 minutes (day or night).

It scared me.

My birthday arrived during the early part of my sick leave. Not a great event.

Several weeks later, we celebrated my wife’s 40th birthday in an exclusive castle-hotel but I was unable to take part in most of the celebration because I was still not properly mobile.

I returned to work gratefully and although I had to be extremely careful over the first month or so (and got tired very easily because of the discomfort) and managed to get my work done without further mishap.

Now, many months later, I find that I am pretty much back to normal although with a constant background pain that I have to live with and a degree of paranoia about anything that could hurt my back. For example, I recently switched from driving to the office of my current client (a 3 to 6 hours drive – depending on the traffic) to travelling by train. Train travel is worse because I have to take two bags with me: a suitcase I can tow and a backpack with my computer and key documents. Every now and then I get a reminder twinge to be careful. Gulp.

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