I know there’s nothing so boring as an “organ recital” about ill health, so brace yourself: here goes.
Sciatica came calling on April 29, when I bent over to get dressed. I felt a pop in my lower back.
Within four days, I had taken my first ambulance ride to the E.R. where I had my first cat scan, received my first steroid injection and dose of morphine. I’d also had an x-ray and two IV drips. I also met my health insurance deductible.
I’m sure there are ailments more painful than severe sciatica, but I don’t want to find out what they are.
The intake nurse at the emergency room asked me to rate my pain from 1 to 10.
“How about 10 plus?” I panted.
“Have you ever had thoughts of harming yourself?”
Not until today, I wanted to say. The sciatic pain felt like a knife in my hip. No, make that two knives.
Five days into this torment, I’d had enough. I was frustrated at maneuvering a walker around furniture and doorways. Between sciatic attacks, I planned trips through the house. One foray upstairs was like a trip to town, crawling up 16 steps with a list in my pocket to remind me what needed to be picked up or “done” before I returned to “home base.”
Pretty soon the word got out. Well-meaning folks called and dropped by. Some brought food, offered to do chores, shop for groceries and so on. I was grateful for all that, but at the same time, I’m the impatient, independent sort who has a hard time accepting help. I watched weeds grow by the foot while the dust and cobwebs accumulated in every corner. I reluctantly hired a cleaning service.
Four weeks into this ordeal, I’m happy to report that the pain has diminished. I’m thankful for concerned friends and family, and a spouse who put up with my grumbling and pushed the wheelchair through Walmart one day with me holding a gallon of milk, a bunch of bananas and other odds and ends that needed buying. I caught the eye of other handicapped shoppers, most of them in electrified carts, gingerly maneuvering past me, the weenie in the loaner wheelchair, juggling merchandise like an amateur.
Sciatica made my world shrink and my awareness grow. Until then, I’d never given much thought to the slope of sidewalks, moving around aisle displays, reaching merchandise on top shelves or how to use a credit card terminal positioned several inches above my head.
I had never considered how it is to use a motorized cart. Once you’re done with it, how does it get back inside the store? I hadn’t thought about the inconvenience of getting in and out of a wheelchair in the rain or how clumsy it is to cook a meal while sitting down.
Sciatica has brought several things to my life, among them a wake-up call that this “old-person’s ailment” is part of my here and now. And like a lot of things that pop up in life, it’s not something we want; it’s what we get.