I am writing this post in a way I’ve never written any other blog posting. Flat on my back, using something called a ball-point pen and a Stuart Hall spiral notebook. It’s very awkward.
The reason I’m in bed and not hunched over my laptop is that I suffered a lower back strain on Sunday. As I was hanging shirts up in my closet, I made a slight pivot and felt a twinge of pain that within hours had blossomed into a full-blown back attack. It was the same pain I felt when I first developed disk problems 30 years ago — except instead of lunging to reach a drop shot on the tennis court, I was now injuring myself doing laundry.
And now the handwriting is becoming increasingly illegible and the pen is starting to fail. My back might be flat against the mattress and temporarily compliant, but everything else is growing strained.
Ouch! Screw this. I’m getting my computer.
Hey, these little netbooks are pretty handy for use in bed. I can still lay on my back and set the thing on my lower abdomen, and type with relative ease. And the radiation is soothing too — maybe it’ll work it’s way through to my back.
So anyway, I got through the rest of the day Sunday without too much trouble, then spent the night tossing and turning and moaning and groaning, and not in a good way. Exclamations of agony followed every turn, and by the time morning had rolled around, my wife was insisting that I get to a doctor or a hotel.
First I had to call my office to inform them I was taking a sick day. Not really a sick day, per se, because we don’t have those. Like many businesses tired of hearing contrived excuses from lazy employees looking to catch up on their daytime dramas, we’ve lumped vacation days and sick days into one neat package called “paid time off.” Whether you’ve had an ischemic stroke or decided to take a three-day weekend in Paris, it’s all the same to them. All they want to know when I call in is “with or without?” in reference to whether or not I want to be paid for the missed day. Yes, I want to be paid but no, not if you’re going to consider a day at the doctor’s office the same as a day at the beach.
Yow! This netbook-in-bed thing is just not working after all. I’m taking it out to the kitchen counter, and hoping that sitting erect on a stool will have some positive effect.
Okay, everything is back to vertical now and, though it’s a little tiring, it feels much more proper than to be blogging horizontally.
So I get to the doctor’s office, and the place is filled with the sorriest collection of humans this side of Guantanamo Bay. Coughing and sneezing and wretching, they’re making me very uncomfortable, so I’m glad I finally get called back to the inner sanctum. When the doctor shows up, I tell my story, explain how I was x-rayed for disk problems years ago and now have these periodic flare-ups, practically diagnosing myself. He insists, however, on conducting an “exam,” during which he asks me to move my arms and legs. I thought that was his job.
He gives me a thoughtful look, and announces that he disagrees with my assessment, proposing that instead it’s a muscular problem. I’m pretty sure I know better, but he’s the one with the prescription pad, so whatever. He suggests some new age-y vegan therapies — putting frozen peas on the small of my back and stretching — and dashes off a couple of scripts, one for an anti-inflammatory and one a muscle relaxer. These should knock me out enough to allow me to spend the rest of the day in bed, which is just the rest my bothersome spine needs.
Ah, jeez, this sitting up at the counter isn’t working either. Let me stuff those peas in my pants, elevate my lower legs onto a coffee table, and try suspending my computer from the ceiling with snow chains.
I take a shower when I get home from the pharmacy, and it’s quite the ordeal. The thing about back problems is that you never know which subtle and otherwise harmless movement is going to provoke lightning bolts of pain. Getting into the car for my drive home was not too bad, since I took it slowly. But once I’m situated in the driver’s seat, I forget that I have to reach out to close the door and Christ that hurts like a mother. I maneuver myself through the bath, deciding that foot-washing will best be left for another time, perhaps during a Catholic ritual. Now I emerge wet onto the bathmat, and have to figure whether it’s really worth the trouble to dry the lower half of my body. I make the attempt, but not with a lot of muffled yips and involuntary gasps.
I swallow the prescribed meds and head for bed. I need a little light reading material to help me doze off, so I grab the patient information leaflet that accompanied my drugs. I’m taking methacarbamol, 750 milligrams, one or two tablets by mouth every eight hours as needed for muscle spasm. It’s a white, oblong pill, stamped for some reason with the imprint “Westward 292,” and should be kept in a dark, cool, dry place. Possible side effects include lightheadedness, drowsiness, pendular eye movement, slowness of heartbeat, and the possibility of blog-writing being both painful and not especially funny.
Maybe it’ll turn out better in my dreams.