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The day I realized that I am officially old.
A little over a week ago, I was cooking dinner while watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. As the intro started, I started singing and dancing to the music (it’s my 5th time watching the series, so I know ALL the words), and I felt a pop in my lower back.
What did I do? The same thing that every middle-aged woman does when something hurts, but there are chores to be done- I ignored it.
The next day, I woke up to devastating pressure in my back, so severe that I couldn’t bend over and pick up my shoes. The pain had taken my breath away, and I fell to the ground, unable to lift myself back up. I couldn’t call out to my husband because he was mad at me, and I was trying to relearn how to breathe. It was precarious, as both my dogs thought I was sitting down to play with them. I tried to get Puppy Polar Bear to run off and find help like Lassy, but he just jumped on the bed and fell asleep. I asked Kool Kat Kona to get my youngest, but she just brought me a ball to throw for her.
I was beginning to think that I was stuck there forever.
But then the pain subsided, and off to work I headed, with shoes on and a deep appreciation for Life Alert.
The morning drags along, and the pain grows more intense. People at my office look at me funny because I walk like I have a wad of paper stuffed between my legs. At 1100 a.m., after numerous jokes at my expense, I arranged to see a therapist to work out the kinks.
Worse idea ever!!!!!!
The appointment felt great. He worked out all the tense muscles in my back and neck. The hours sitting at my computer editing and reformatting my book slowly disappeared. I felt like a brand-new woman. I felt 35 again.
Until I tried to stand up.
Suddenly, the kink in my back was no longer an isolated pain. It was now radiating down my ass and into my legs. Even worse, the therapist had left the room so I could get dressed, but I was stuck. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get dressed. I couldn’t even get off the table.
Talk about embarrassing! I had to call out and ask them to come to help me put on my pants. What kind people. What professionals. They helped me without breaking a smile or looking me in the eye. Almost like it had happened to them before.
I will never be able to go back there again.
But now, this was getting serious. I work almost an hour from home and an hour and a half from where my parents and husband work. I couldn’t call them to come to help me. Then I remembered that I am a big girl. So, I hobble to my truck, swan dive in because I can’t pick up my legs. I call the VA to ask for an appointment to see a doctor stat.
They gave me an appointment for March 12th.
Oh, dear God. This is how it was going to end. Me stuck on the side of the freeway, my body locked up, and left to die because no one stops to help people anymore. I prayed to every god in the world and did what any average person would do when they are losing feeling in their feet- I drove to the ER. This was an emergency. I needed to pee and couldn’t take off my pants or sit. I wasn’t even sure how I was getting out of the truck when I arrived.
After an agonizing 40-minute drive where I actually did the speed limit – I arrived at the place that was about to save me!
I hobbled in, praying that I didn’t run into anything because I couldn’t straighten myself out at this point, and I was staring at the floor. But the front desk people were amazing. So kind and understanding. So patient with me as I struggled to find my wallet in my oversized purse. They even gave me a wheelchair and an ice pack.
I know why they did that now.
Because in the scheme of emergency, tingling feet, loss of strength in your legs, and a knife shoved into your lower back is NOT seen as an emergency. Running noses? Bad cough? Seeing leprechauns because you ate bad mushrooms? Those are emergencies. Not the loss of mobility because you are getting old.
Now I don’t blame the ER. They do an incredible job, especially now that COVID has been eradicated but still exists in hospitals. But I wish they had told me at the beginning that it would be an EIGHT-hour wait to be seen. And even then- there was nothing they would do for me except say- ‘call your primary in the morning.’
I didn’t wait the EIGHT hours. After two, I saw the waiting room filling up and decided to let the staff not have to worry about me. I drove home to pee finally. And ate McDonald’s because I was in desperate need for supersized comfort food.
The next three days I spent trying to self-care, and by Sunday, I was almost at 60%. I call that a win.
What did I take away from this experience? I learned that you should NEVER dance to theme songs while cooking spaghetti. I learned that VA’s definition of stat is very different from mine. Motrin still saves the day.
And that I will never be a famous backup dancer on TikTok.