Busted, Pt 3.

Wow, I’m like the Peter Jackson of back injury stories. If you’re interested in the film rights, call me.

Part 1

Part 2

Interludes here and here


So it’s now Thursday afternoon and we’re back at RNS Emergency. About 2.5hrs were spent waiting in triage during which time my admiration of triage nurses grew exponentially. Seriously, I’d be stabbing people.

This time when I’m called in the acute section of the ED. “Made it to acute, poppet, the MAIN ARENA,” Chef said quietly as we were ushered in. Monday had us in the “fast track” section. “Fast track” is code for “we don’t believe you” and “you’re wasting our time”. I also call it “If I didn’t have other medical professionals looking out for me I’d be permanently paralysed now”.

Steve’s referral had obviously had an effect. I was moved into ED at around 3. No one, NO ONE, until the orthopaedic registrar came and looked at me until around 10pm. Nothing is more an admission of guilt than silence.

We had a chat. I couldn’t feel him touching the outside of my left leg. I couldn’t pull my left toes towards my head.

He left, reviewed the films from my MRI at the nurses centre stage in the main arena. Chef was watching him through a gap in the curtains and gave me a commentary about what unfolded. The ability of someone to make you laugh when you are terrified was not something I was actively looking for in my life partner but BY GOD it’s a good value add.

Ortho dude returned and Chef now says he knew everything was about to be ratcheted up several degrees.

He gave me a lovely analogy about how our backbone works and that our vertebrae were like bricks but all I can really remember is that I found it irritating he didn’t call the discs the cement (he called them a jelly like substance which sure, is probably WAY more medically appropriate but then let’s just call them vertebrae and ditch the brick shit). Then he started talking about the curtains of bone that protect them and that added to my irritation because if we were going with a building analogy then surely we weren’t up to interior design, these were still part of the structure so wouldn’t it be better to have called them flying buttresses? Also: Fear + Endone.

Then this: You’re going to need surgery to fix it.

Me: Oh. When?

Him: I have you on the emergency list tomorrow.

Me: Oh. So do I go home now and come back? (Also: Fear+ Endone)

Him: No, I’ve admitted you to hospital. When did you last eat?

Me: About 1pm.

(Time check: 11:40pm)

Him: Well, let’s get you some food because from midnight you’ll be fasting and then we’ll get you up to the ward.

And I ate the most delicious hospital tomato and cheese sandwich EVER washed down with one of those little tubs of orange juice my kids think are AWESOME. And cried.

Chef went home, by this stage it had just all unfolded and the boys, who had been at his parents’ place, ended up staying the night.

He came back the next day and waited with me. I was first on the list but RNS is the largest trauma hospital in the State? Country? Southern hemisphere? so Ortho dude had warned me I might have a long way.

It was around midday that Chef’s mum finally ‘fessed up that Oscar was sick. I handed the phone back to Chef and asked him to ask her to check his legs. Was either of them red? hot? swollen?

And yes, indeed, the left one was. Again. So Chef left me to take Oscar to hospital with cellulitis in his left leg for the third time in 12 months. He comes home from hospital today. I’m trying NOT to think about the unavoidable surgeries he’s going to have to have this year to take the hardware that’s in his feet and the likely cause of the cellulitis, even though all the bone scans show otherwise.

So on Friday, February 18 2013, I had an emergency decompression laminectomy at L4/L5 due to “a very large central disc protrusion causing severe central canal stenosis and complete obliteration of the thecal sac. There is severe bilateral recess stenosis at this level.” as Oscar was admitted to hospital with cellulitis and two weeks out from Mum’s emergency knee replacement.

When I woke up in recovery I looked at the theatre nurse watching my obs and said, “I just had spinal surgery” to which she smiled and said I had indeed.

And for some reason as I type this I am crying all over again.


Onward, very slowly onward.


I know the story of how I got to here is all over the shop, back to front, upside down and inside out but sometimes the best way to write it is how it falls and at the moment I feel broken. And scared.

This morning started with the grossest of panic attacks. I woke in a sweat, feeling swallowed by the bed, my wound site feels like a mountain, a pit in my stomach and wave after wave of feeling hopeless and worthless and a fraud and broken. With the occasional dumper of an impenetrable sense of something bad about to happen.  I was brittle and weak, hopeless and scared. Not again, not now, not again, not now. I shake my hands constantly when I’m like this, like the emotion has to come out somewhere.

I fly off a FB message to my Personal Physician Steve who I’m sure LOVED waking up on a Saturday morning to his cousin’s wife freaking out on his FB.

I woke up Chef. Dear GOD that man must be developing a phobia about being woken up by me. I had a shower, went for a walk. The whole way around the block! 500 metres! Goddammit if this is going to beat me.

My left leg feels three times the size of my right and I don’t really have a sense of where it ends. I almost tripped twice and stubbed my big toe once. Apparently this is called peripheral neuropathy. I love how the medical term makes something that’s really fucked sound cool.

Personal Physician Steve and I worked out a plan of action to get me through until my GP visit on Tuesday (we think it’s a drug they introduced for the nerve pain that is interacting with my other head meds and basically hit ground zero this morning). I cried on Chef that I’m broken and scared and this wasn’t how the year was meant to start and we had been travelling so well and I’m so so sorry. He of course, held me close, told me we would so get back to great. That I would not be broken forever and look how much better I am than three weeks ago and that he loved me and that it would all be OK. How did I ever score such a beautiful man?

I checked in to FB hoping some of you beautiful people had posted some witty, silly things to make me laugh through tears, the best of emotions. Jane had posted this. Just this. It’s Australia Day here, a day growing increasingly uncomfortable in our skin – someone wrote an article somewhere saying most countries celebrate the day they were freed of colonial rule and yet we celebrate the day it started. Growing up is hard.

So valium (when my back went from debilitating and excruciatingly painful to holy crap Personal Physician Steve sent me a text saying “No reiki guru shakra chiro iridologist would be able to do anything for you … when it comes to the serious shit western medicine is the way to go”. He’s right), knowing I’m loved and knowing such big battles have been fought makes me know its worth it to keep fighting the demons, no matter their size.


Onward folks, onward.


Busted, Part 2

Those MRI tubes are remarkably like The Fifth Element. The white tunnel (my cousin the doctor calls it The Tube of Truth), all the buzzing, whirring, clicking and clinical feel of it. It’s not spacious I’ll grant you that and it creates quite the sensory confusion with the cold air blowing over the top of you while the underneath of you heats up.

I realised that the last post was way too bigger jump from this post for those of you not following the story on instagram, Facebook, Twitter or any other channel I could find to absorb my need to over-share.

Monday morning I woke up in ridiculous pain, still and was basically scared out of my pants. It was a whole new pain. A totally different pain. The sciatica was gone! The sciatica I had been enduring for more than three months, that had been increasingly incapacitating me, making me snap at my children as the pain absorbed my whole being. Gone! It was a miracle!

Of course, in its place was the fact I couldn’t feel my left leg and both my legs felt they couldn’t bear my weight. I mean, who could blame them.

I expressed my fear on Facebook – as you do – and my Personal Physician Thoracic Specialist Also Happens To Be Chef’s Cousin, let’s call him Steve – told me to go to “a good hospital” as in Royal North Shore Emergency. Which we did. Unfortunately that plan came a bit unstuck with handsome but clearly stupid ER doctor. He told me I wasn’t bad enough to go for an MRI and that if he DID send me the head of radiography would “chew his head off” about wasting his time. Instead he called in a rheumatologist. Because clearly, somewhere along the path of excruciating back pain I developed a nasty case of arthritis.

The rheumatologist referred me to a clinic the following Tuesday, so in just over a week’s time and organised an “emergency” MRI for that Wednesday. In the meantime it was paracetamol, ibuprofen and endone for “breakthrough” pain.

I have no real recollection of time from that Monday morning at ER to the MRI on Wednesday afternoon.


Not right
Not right


On seeing the scan Thursday, or maybe Wednesday night, Steve called bullshit, the rheumatology referral – “they might as well have booked you in for a haircut” I believe was the phrase, got the report from the imaging and wrote me the most kick-arse referral I’ve ever read.

So back to RNS Emergency we went.



In the early hours of Sunday morning I tried to get up to go too the bathroom. Considering I’d been almost totally incapacitated for two days it was always going to be a challenge. I woke chef, and we tried to get my up in one sweeping fast manoeuvre. A grand plan indeed, it was just the execution of it which failed with the spectacularity of fireworks off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And spectularity is so a word.

The sudden, seething, freezing, boiling, blinding yellow pain that ricocheted through my body at that precise moment is something I never ever want to experience again thank you very much. After screaming loud enough to summon apocalyptic horsemen I fell back on the bed stuck in a contorted position like those you see at Pompeii. My right leg, the one wracked with crippling sciatic pain for three months was in the air and bent hard at the knee. My left was bent but the foot at least on the bed.

Shock set in as my whole body shook, teeth chattering and a level of pain convincing me I was either going to die of shock or pass out. I was willing myself to faint but, again, my body wouldn’t comply.

It was time to call an ambulance.

I had posted a photo on instagram a few days earlier saying I felt I was heading towards something cataclysmic with my back and not in a “oh my go I’m cured!” Kind of way.

An adjustment by my chiropractor on Wednesday had sent me back to the worst my back had been. I don’t blame him, I think it was just the timing of adjusting T6 as the time bomb at L4 and L5 going off.

As each day passed my mobility lessened in perfect unison with my pain increasing. Panadeine, ibuprofen and the occasional endone were not even touching the sides and at the epicentre of all this was fear.

Fear trumps pain like an avalanche swallowing everything in its path – reason, logic and calm tumble over each other, clawing for oxygen, desperate for oxygen but instead tumbled over and over until they can fight no more.

The ambulance probably took 10 minutes but it may well have been an hour. If I’d had access to sharp implements the level of self harm to alleviate the pain would have been spectacular.

12.5mg of morphine and the green whistle of awesome (it contains an anaesthethic drug which you inhale and is the bomb) did little to stop the spasming in my right leg and so plans were made on how the get me out of the house as walking was not an option.

Hospital added endone, Valium and an injection of anti-inflammatory and still the spasming rolled on. Endone brought sleep which was welcome as I hadn’t has any that night and then there was 7.5mg of fentanyl (sp?) Which finally got me on my feet.