Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Sun Also Rises

In a dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Maybe it is obvious, but things have been a little rough around the edges here of late.

There are days when I feel well, at least relatively, and I can accomplish things at a rate similar to that in which I operated before I had spinal surgery, and yet there are days when it takes everything in me to start my day. The physical limitations I am experiencing are unmatched by any that I have encountered in my young life. As often as I remind myself that it could be so much worse and there are so many battling far larger health obstacles than I am, I still get bogged down in the realizations that another spring will pass without long bike rides in the warm afternoon sun and an entire summer where my relationship with baseball will be limited to what I can watch on television. It seems so childish and even cliche to associate the warming days of the spring and the often hot days of the summer with a game I've played since I was five, but for me the springtime has always signaled the beginning of baseball season.

The first of May will mark an anniversary of sorts for me. I will have been plugging through a physical therapy routine for an entire year. It's unbelievable to me that I have been working so hard with so few results, yet even more unbelievable that a year has passed.

I've been told that those who have had the back surgery I had returned to their pre-surgery state about a year afterward. My physical therapist has told me about the probability of reinjuring my back and that within the first year post-surgery I have an eighty percent chance of reinjuring it. After the year mark my chances will decrease substantially to fifty percent and then lower as the time goes by.

It would certainly help if I knew what exactly it was I did to injure my back in the first place. However, I suspect it was a series of little things.

For the first year and a half of my college career I worked with a young man confined to a wheelchair. I spent up to eighty hours a week with this young man, someone I've learned a great deal from, taking care of him and transferring him from his wheelchair to his bed. His physical state didn't allow him to do much to help that lifting process and there I was, a nineteen year old girl at about one hundred and seventy-five pounds lifting this young man who weighed about one hundred and thirty day after day. Surely that wasn't good for my back. Just because the bigger, stronger boys who rotated out of their were able to lift him didn't necessarily mean any of us should have been.

While I've been going to physical therapy three times a week for nearly a year, I've seen plenty of patients come in that have injuries from not lifting properly. I suspect, like them, I never learned how to lift properly. If you consider the two hundred and sixty boxes that existed within the Stallings Collection when I first came to this monstrous task, I've probably lifted that many boxes dozens of times without paying any attention to how I was going about it. It all adds up, and quickly.

Because I've had a year to ponder all of the events that may have caused my back such turmoil, I've remembered the car accident I was in the winter of 2003 when I broke several ribs. The actual movement and force of that collision may have done a number on my spine as well. I spent some time on bed rest a few years ago, a constant position that didn't support my spine at all or bode well for spinal alignment.

There are so many possibilities. Our bodies aren't as durable as we may think.

Next week I will be having another series of steroid injections to assist in lessening the inflammation from the surgery and complications afterward. Next week I'll be progressing my physical therapy routine and hopefully transitioning into a two-a-week schedule instead of the three-a-week schedule I have now.

In the midst of it all, I am having problems with my left shoulder from all the compensating I've been doing when I'm sitting. I try to remind myself that for all I've been through having only one ailment associated with how I've had to live my day-to-day life with a finicky back is pretty damn good.

If we all have to learn about patience, I suppose this was the obstacle I needed to finally learn about the value and virtue of patience. Granted, I could have learned the lesson with something minor, but I'm learning it. And like I said before, it could be so much worse. I look at my grandparents, aging and frail and I remember that I am young with much life ahead of me and if I want that life to be free of pain and continued back issues I have to do what is necessary to heal now and not rush the process for what I want now, things like baseball, bike riding, and even attending next weekend's Stallings Banquet in Pocatello, at the cost of what I want in the long term--good health.

Despite the daily battle and the constant frustration of a slow process of healing, I am trying like hell to remind myself that though I dread the sunset and dread the dark hours of pain, the sun also rises.


K.C. said...

Some times we have to learn lessons the hard way though I think you are one of the more patient people I have met here. Good luck to you and keep your chin up. Give me a buzz if you want to catch lunch some time.

Darlene (Nemesis) said...

I hope things go better for you. If you have been patient and followed the advice, it seems you have learned some valuable lessons for the downtime you had.

I know chronic pain, and people think I'm so stoic (but I'm not, I'm whiny and bitchy every bit as much as you'd think) but I also know how much I endure. It seems you also endure, and that is an admirable trait, in my eyes (because I know how hard it is to do).

I plan to attend the Stallings Banquet, hopefully I'll see you there (and hopefully we're both in fine mettle for the celebration).

Be well.