Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Frenchy's Follies... Ahhh ahh chooo!

I have a bad back. I started having problems with it in middle school actually. I turned the wrong way and BAM! I was bed ridden for a week. On and off I had the same problem through my teens and into adulthood. The older I got, the shorter the time in between the next time it would go out. Finally my primary care doctor decided to refer me to an orthopedic surgeon that specializes in the spine.

I had an MRI done and it was determined that I have Degenerative Disc Disease and a bulging disc at level L4/L5. The disc would get inflamed and touch the nerve when I did too much and it caused my back to ache or give out. The doctor recommended that I have surgery to shave down the disc. I refused to do it because I had heard of  way too many people that had back surgery and regretted it for one reason or another.

Boy was that a mistake.

I ended up opting to have epidural steroid injections into my spine instead. And yes, they are just as painful as they sound. Actually they were even worse than having a real epidural because the disk was so inflamed that when they would inject the liquid the pressure was so great that it caused me to spew obscenities from my mouth like a sailor. That poor doctor. I alternated between these shots and trigger point injections and neither seemed to help for very long. I was on and off narcotics and muscles relaxers for several years. Until THAT DAY. The day my life changed forever.

It was a Saturday night. I was getting ready to go to my birthday party that some of my friends had put together for me at a local restaurant. I was so excited! My last birthday party had been ruined by a snow storm the year before so I kinda felt a little gypped and this year we were gonna make up for it. I couldn't wait! I had just gotten dressed and I walked into the bathroom and I felt a tickle in my nose.

I sneezed.

And it changed my life forever.

I fell instantly to my knees. A pain shot down my leg that was so bad I almost projectile vomited. I screamed for my boyfriend. He came running in and picked me up off the floor (no easy task, let me tell you). Thankfully I had some Vicodin left from the last time my back had gone out. I took it and swore no matter what, I'm going to my goddamn birthday party. Nothing is going to fuck this up. So, somehow I managed to get myself ok enough to make it to the party. I had dinner, and then had to leave because I was hurting so bad. I took another pill, got my pj's on and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, a H U G E cramp in my calf and foot woke me up out of a dead sleep, I screamed at the top of my lungs and could not stop wailing and screaming. My foot was all bent up like peoples hands get when they have a stroke. I cannot even put into words how bad this pain was. Doody (my bf) jumped clear out of bed to help me as I'm puking and puking and puking. Somehow he managed to get me down the stairs. I couldn't stop throwing up. In between heaves I begged him to call 9-1-1. He wouldn't do it at first. So I went all Exorcist head spinning crazy and said
 "DO IT" in some kinda satanic voice that I've never before and never again heard come out of my mouth. He knew I meant business. He called and the ambulance was there in minutes.

They get me to the ER and what happened to me is what happens to so many people and this really pisses me off. They drugged me up. Refused to do any tests and said that it was just sciatica and sent me home, not even able to walk. They practically THREW me into the car and sent me on my way.

I did ok that night. Probably because of the huge amounts of morphine they gave me in my IV. But that next morning, I was dying in pain AGAIN! And I noticed that I couldn't move my right foot anymore and it was kinda dragging behind me. My mom picked me up and took me back to the hospital. By the time we got there I was screaming, SCREAMING at the top of my lungs. The pain in my back, leg and foot was absolutely unbearable. I scared the ever-living shit out of everyone in the waiting room. They took me back and I demanded an MRI. "Something is not right", I told the doctor. "I'm not leaving here until you do an MRI". So they did.

That bulging disc in my back had ruptured. It happened from A SNEEZE. That damn sneeze on the night of my party. There was a piece of that disc sitting on the nerve in my back that controls my right leg and foot. This is why I couldn't feel the skin on my leg, and why my foot wasn't working. They had to move fast. This could cripple me.

They contacted my orthopedic surgeon that I had been seeing because I wanted him to do whatever needed to be done. He talked to me and told me that he would have to fuse the two vertebrae above and below the ruptured disc. He took me into surgery and put me back together. The surgeon said that he had never seen such a large piece of disc hit a nerve like that without severing it. I don't remember a whole lot of the hospital stay, but I do remember waking up in recovery and hearing him going around and showing everyone the piece of my disc he took out of the nerve canal. I was in a drug haze the entire 5 days I spent in the hospital. My crazy ass boyfriend took several videos of me talking to the kids (they weren't there), bitching at him to do the laundry, telling him he stunk (I'm pretty sure it was me, I wasn't allowed to shower!). So yeah, thanks Doody for taking that footage and showing me and everyone we know when I looked like shit and my hair wasn't done!

After the surgery I went through rehabilitation, took lots of drugs, did physical therapy, and still, I was in severe pain. And I couldn't feel the side of my leg and the top of my foot. I had a slight limp, and if I overexerted myself my foot would drag slightly. Needless to say, no way this girl was going back to do hair anytime soon. Thank god my employees kept on working and doing their job so I could still get a paycheck and support my family!

After 6 months I still wasn't getting any better. I went to work one day to do an order and one of my stylists introduced me to her client whose husband basically provides stem cell patches that are being used in a new spinal fusion surgery. He actually is in the operating room and at the end of the fusion, before they sew you up, he wraps this cloth around the two vertebrae and that cloth has stem cells on it and the cells turn into BONE!! So basically the bone grows over top of the metal plate they put in to replace the disc. This wonderful client makes a call and gets me into this genius neurosurgeon's office to look at my films to find out what the hell is going on.

Because I have Degenerative Disc Disease,  the doctor explained that the disc below my fusion had worn down so much that the two vertebra's were actually touching. When I would lay down to go to bed and try to get back up to pee or whatever, my back would totally lock up, causing excruciating pain and I couldn't even move. It would take forever for it to ease up enough to finally get out of bed. I became terrified of nighttime knowing that this would happen. I had bouts with insomnia because of that fear. The neurosurgeon told me that he would have to fuse that level as well. So here I go again. Another fusion, less than a year apart! I couldn't even freak out at this point I was numb and depressed. Being unable to play with my kids and do the job that I love so much was tearing me apart. I felt like my life had gotten ripped out from under me.

I had the second fusion about a year ago. Although it has helped stop my back from locking up, I still have pain that would probably kill a horse. They have determined that the nerve damage that has caused atrophy in my leg and numbness in my leg and foot is permanent. It will never get better. I will never be able to do hair for a living again. I cannot stand or sit or even lay down for long periods without excruciating pain. I can't lift anything, and when I drop something, if I squat down I have a hell of a time getting up.
 This is my back. Just call me the Bionic Woman!

I battled depression. I couldn't believe that I could not take care of my clients. Or ride a roller coaster. Even having sex would cause my back to hurt so bad that I would pay for it for days after. I had to turn my thinking around and learn how to tolerate the pain and push it as far back in my mind as I could. I had to look at the bright side and be thankful that I can walk. I can't tell you how many doctors and therapists have looked at my chart and told me how very LUCKY I am to not be crippled. I have learned to appreciate that and everything else wonderful in my life, my man, my beautiful kids. The salon and my peeps there that work so hard for me to be able to provide for my boys. I am so grateful for all of that. Clearly you can see that I fought the depression AND I WON. (I'm proud of myself for that)

I am currently in pain management. They want to put a spinal cord stimulator in my back to help block the pain message to my brain. I had an appointment set up to have it surgically implanted on April 3rd and I cancelled it today. Honestly, I need a break from surgery. They have me on meds that are helping enough to get me through right now. And the thought of a battery pack being implanted under the skin of my butt cheek isn't real appealing to me, quite frankly. I was worrying myself to death over it and I feel relieved to know that I'm not getting it done now. The option to have it is always there and I know it. Just not right now.

I still cannot believe that A SNEEZE fucked my life up like this. But it did.

Bet I know what you will think of next time you feel that tickle in your nose!

*Disclaimer... Clearly I know people have had way worse shit happen to them. This blog is just the story of my life's twists and turns and how they have molded me in to who I am.


  1. Oh my good grief! This is an incredible amount of crap to try to contend with. That you're able to write about it so coherently and engagingly is a true testament to your strength of character. Kudos to you.

  2. Way to go! Grab life by the balls and ride it hard. That is a perfect picture of what I do with my pain- the fatigue is harder to push away, but I'm getting there.

  3. Holy shit woman! I could not live with pain like that. You are so brave and so strong.