WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU……
On 12th May 2017 I woke in the early hours of the morning with a heavy, agonising pain in my right hip and spine. Thinking my Desperate Dan sized hubby had rolled onto me in the night, I executed a deftly aimed punch to his nose to encourage him to move. Unfortunately, as my fist hit the vacant pillow it quickly dawned on me that for the first time in our marriage – it wasn’t his fault!
By December that year I had permanent severe pain in both legs and a dropped foot which I found I could drag around Tesco in time to their piped version of M C Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This. Even more startling was the sudden loss of use of my left leg which sent me crashing into the display of Frosty Jacks Cider in the booze aisle. The lack of assistance from fellow shoppers who tutted loudly and shook their heads in disgust as I lay spreadeagled on the floor tiles trying desperately to contain the avalanche of tinnies, brought the stark reality home that I was now pretty much on par with the local town drunk. The only difference being, I was sober and didn’t smell.
Every day became a struggle with varying degrees of agony in my legs and the inability to carry out simple everyday tasks, have days out with my granddaughters or even walk our two doggies. Any evening ‘activities’ normally reserved for my long suffering hubby were quickly reduced to playing Monopoly or Snap which was a nightmare as he’s competitive and I cheat!
‘On a scale of 1 to 10, Mrs Kirkham, how would you describe your pain?’
‘Err…. do you have a 15 available by any chance?’ I eagerly asked the Doctor, a bit like asking for a particular raffle ticket number.
They didn’t and so began twenty minutes of bargaining. I eventually settled on a 9 as they told me nobody EVER has a 10 unless they were on death’s door.
Dragging my useless leg behind me, I burst out through the double doors of the hospital weeping loudly ‘I could be dying Johnny, how do they know I’m not a 10….. I could wake up dead tomorrow – just like that and then they’ll be sorry!’ I pouted.
He kissed the top of my head and gently comforted me whilst explaining, even by my standards of weirdness, the impossibilities of actually waking up AND being dead at exactly the same time.
Finally, after months of being poked, prodded, MRI scans and x-rays, by June this year I at last had a diagnosis and a potential remedy.
TLIF surgery and Sacroiliac Injections.
This excited me terribly.
For some reason that acronym gave me a mental image of my once pert boobies being lifted and hoisted to new heights, thus alleviating the strain on my back and in turn the pain in my legs. Wow, an all-inclusive Nellie Lift, what more could a girl want?
Oh well, I’d survived worse and I knew deep down my sense of humour would always see me through, Tits or Transforaminal notwithstanding.
Checking into my room a few weeks later, a lovely smiley nurse offered me a small pile of stuff when I arrived, a gift of sorts, a gown, wrapped paper knickers and a pair of dreadful white support stockings. Before she left me to disrobe, she gently pointed out which way round the opening of the gown should be. I snorted to myself.
As if I’d get that wrong, it was one of the oldest jokes in the book.
I sat on the end of the bed, robed and ready with the plastic bag containing the pale blue paper knickers in my hand. Unwrapping it and holding it up to the light, I came to the conclusion it was a DIY, one size-fits-all pair and as there were no leg holes, you were clearly expected to make your own to suit individual thigh size. Although I’d had a bit of a random trim of the nether regions that morning, I definitely didn’t want anything stray to slip out of the sides and waft in the thermals of the operating theatres air conditioning, so in the absence of any scissors, I diligently and carefully tore out perfect made to measure leg holes.
To say the pants were a bit tight around the girth was an understatement, but I was pretty confident very few patients had managed to rip out neater leg holes. I snapped the elastic of the stockings against my thigh sending a tsunami of wobbling flesh from knees to hips. I was totally gutted that I’d gone to the effort of shaving my legs and big toes only to have them hidden underneath the thick, dense denier of these obligatory beauts, but nevertheless, I was ready for whatever could be thrown at me.
My spirits lifted at the prospect of being pain-free, life would be good again, I was on a roll…. until halfway down to theatre when the rather handsome anaesthetist innocently asked where my hat was.
‘The paper one in the cellophane bag, it’s blue..’ he replied
‘I need to go to the toilet …’ I gasped.
Ten minutes later, lying in the anaesthesia room, I didn’t think anything could embarrass me more than being caught wearing a paper hat as a pair of knickers – until I was happily informed that I wouldn’t actually be wearing knickers for surgery anyway. Prising the handmade ‘knickers’ from my sweaty fingers, the nurse plonked them on my head. As random tufts of hair exploded through the holes, she tucked my fringe in and gave me a complicit smile.
It was at this point I dearly wished I had splashed out on a full hit Brazilian!
As the anaesthetic began to take affect, I sent a silent prayer in the hope that I would be blissfully unaware of whatever was going to droop, drop, wobble, flop or spread over the specialist operating table during the coming hours.
’I’ll see you all on the other side…’ I dramatically whispered as I fell into a deep, dark slumber.
Now, between you and me, I had already run through the most likely dreamy sequence upon my awakening in the Recovery Room. I would sigh, flutter my eyelashes and ask if it had been a success, desperate to know I hadn’t achieved one of the low statistics to become permanently paralysed from the procedure. My delicate hand would move slowly to my lips, my chest would rise and fall, as I whispered heartfelt gratitude to the nurses.
But hey ho, this is me…..
My eyes shot open as I tried to bring my hand to my head, a myriad of tubes and drips stopping its progression, my lips chapped and dry under the oxygen mask. The nurse sympathetically leant in close, desperate to hear my first words. The room fell into reverential silence just as my hoarse voice loudly rasped out…..
’Oh jeez, I haven’t still got that that bloody twat hat on me head, have I?”
On a more serious note thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your lovely messages on Facebook and Twitter and for your cards and beautiful flowers. I had to take a week or so out from it, but only because knowing my luck, high as a kite on meds I would have probably posted something outrageous. Bit like drunk texting but without the hangover!
There is a special thank you to the very lovely Mandy Molby and Ansar Mahmood who were there to listen to my worries, calm me down and give me fantastic advice. I’m sure you both know how much it meant to me.
Joking aside, I will never be able to thank my Surgeon, Mr Annis, his team, the Anaesthesia Team and all the nurses who looked after me during my stay in hospital, enough. If there is such a thing as miracles, then they have given me mine.
On Friday 3rd August 2018 I stood for the first time in 15 months, tall and without pain. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried lots of happy tears.