Thursday, January 31, 2013

Back to the machine

My neck - spine to be exact, has been crunching lately. Like yesterday during speech therapy, causing Debbie to prick up her ears.

We're working on attention and a little improvement makes her roll out the harder exercises. At one point the guy on the tape with the number fetish goes too fast for too long. I get behind and gave up. Debbie lectures that 'we don't give up'. But like, when I give up it means my brain is out of battery. Expired. It's not frustration, it's my brain being done.

A brain when it's done is totally silent. But a neck crunches.

The daily maintenance, some days more than others, is getting old. Dr. F.'s prices don't work with my current insurance and income ($0). So the management program is weekly yoga, twice-weekly TRX for making the muscles strong, and a tennis ball.

When you lie on a hardwood floor and roll a tennis ball over the muscles, nerves, and ligaments in your back and neck, it's almost like a massage.

Finally we are getting a medical opinion on the 'structural changes'. That is why at 8:20 I excuse myself from an intense dream conversation with a family member. Roll out of bed, fire up the Gaggia, flop open the street map of San Jose with the CalTrain schedule. To Danny, still in bed and functionally asleep I say "there is a train at 9:09 that would probably work. Speak now if you want me to do that".

"If it works for you, that would be one option..." he mumbles. Unfortunately I snap and he kind of wakes up and backpedals and says yes that is the wanted thing.

Last night he announced the Audi was going for an oil change in the morning. In preparation for the trip to Death Valley. I would take his car the other direction to Valley Medical. A car I almost never drive. A car that recently had a little issue in the middle of US 101. Leaving Danny stationary and helpless in the #3 lane, traffic flowing all around. For 20 minutes. Like a boulder in the middle of a wide, fast river.

This boulder and I have no future. Even after the $7000 repair that was covered because of a design flaw in the fuel system. The first rule of recovering from head injuries is Don't Get Another Head Injury.

And if there are any rules at all for surviving Valley Medical, Don't Go When Stressed has to be right up there.

This is how I come to be listening to Dr. Singh in an exam room at 10:45. Almost an hour late (I was on time). Having woken up on the 9:09 train. Having wound around the streets of San Jose to the sprawling county hospital.

The X-ray shows no broken vertebrae but unusual 'movement'. That's what happens when the ligaments get damaged, for example. Sometimes there is pressure on the spinal cord, the damage from which manifests itself down the road. Sometimes there are a few millimeters of space in there. Either way the odds of surgery fixing the pain are 50-50. He says that twice. So I need to get an MRI and come back in a couple of weeks. This is the way he talks, deliberately, with few words and none of them clinical.

Later I figure out he is talking about spinal fusion surgery. And the MRI is to see if anything is pressing on the spinal cord. If yes, they will cut. If no, I can go back to daily maintenance with yoga and TRX. For the rest of my life.

There is no way I could be dealing with this shit and holding down my job.


  1. So what do you do in the meantime? Too bad Valley Medical doesn't have a rule about never LEAVING stressed...
    I've had a car die on me on the freeway. It was not my very best experience ever.

    1. He says 'don't do any major exercise'. And I'm thinking, well this is springtime, so brevets and double centuries. Everyone is doing something major.'

      He says 'let pain be your guide'. So basically, if I do figure out that something hurts, don't do any more of that.

      So far sleeping on the right side really hurts. So does chopping food with a knife. Yoga helps. TRX helps (by strengthening muscles in the upper and mid back).

      Dr. F tried to make it about biking. Riding very long rides (brevets) does do something to the upper body, but it's more like congestion, swelling. Feels different, and actually goes away in a few days.

  2. You could borrow my car most days, most hours.

    1. Thanks Mary! Very sweet of you to offer... the issue is also familiarity. The boulder car is a 6-speed manual with a totally different feel than the other car. If I had to downshift on the freeway (which totally happens) I'm not at all sure where the gears are. It freaks me out. Trial and error is not my favorite thing on the freeway.

      Kinda hate that the first thing I look for now when driving a car for the first time is the button that turns on the hazard lights!