Thursday, 12 May 2016

Treatment - there may be an alternative.

OK Houston, we have a problem. The brain tells us that something is wrong. The brain feels the symptoms. The body can only know that it is in pain because we have a brain. So really there is no such thing as pain. It is all in the mind, isn't it?

Let me elaborate.  On Sunday 29th September 1991 at around 4pm, I left my parents and my husband to look after my son and I walked to the hospital. My daughter was due to arrive that day and they were all watching the Ryder Cup golf on TV, my Dad being a keen golfer. There was to be a play off.  I didn't want to disturb them but even though I was not experiencing any pain, I knew that I was going to have my baby within an hour or two.

I was wearing a TENS machine on my lower back: a device that interrupts the flow of pain signals to the brain. I was well dilated when I arrived at the hospital, in full labour and in absolutely no pain. I had a warm bath, went into delivery suite and then the midwife decided that she wanted to monitor baby's heartbeat.  To do this, she had to take off the TENS machine. I had no slow steady build up of contractions: I went from zero to ... in three seconds. My daughter was delivered twenty minutes later. QED.

The experience taught me so much. Five years later, I began having visual disturbances at work.  I went to an optician.  Everything was OK. I spoke to the GP.  I was referred to hospital.  They did the usual tests: ECG, bloods, urine and an EEC.  They found some EEG activity and immediately declared that I was epileptic. The GP wanted my Driving Licence. I had never had any kind of fit in my life. I had two small children, a full time job, two elderly parents and a husband who was a self-employed builder. I asked for a second opinion and my father paid privately for me to see a Professor of Neurology at Manchester University Hospital. I was there a full day. Neurological tests, CT scans, intelligence tests, reaction tests, strobe tests.  At the end of it all she refuted the epilepsy diagnosis and said that she thought I should see an Orthopaedic Surgeon. After 6 months on a waiting list and a simple x-ray on my neck, they diagnosed an upper neck problem.

It would be a further 7 years before they found the root cause of the problem. A spinal curvature that allowed the upper discs to pop out of place at random and wear out.  The same registrar also investigated my lower back and found it severely twisted.  On referral, two consultant Neuro-surgeons both agreed that surgery was possible but my family were still very young and the risk of quadriplegia too great.  The wonderful Mrs Donaldson-Hugh told me in her beautiful Barbadian lilt, "Until you lose power in your legs, you will just have to keep smiling.  When that day comes, I will see you again."

I knew that I had to keep moving, keep living and make the best of a bad job. I have spent the last twenty years doing exactly that. The treatment?  Botox injections into the muscles to stop them being in spasm but mainly the treatment is the determination to live life to the full: no matter what.

Living with Arthur

It took several years of testing,
despite their expertise,
‘till they pronounced upon the source
of what had brought me to my knees.
“The symptoms you’re describing,”
they were proud to diagnose,
“is cervical spondylosis
of the upper vertabroes.
It’s the trapping of the nerves
that’s causing tingling in your toes.  

“What’s the treatment doc?” I asked him,
as I looked him in the eye,
relieved at the announcement.
and determined not to cry.
“In certain of these cases,
we can graft a little bone,
but on you, we cannot operate,”
in sympathetic tone. Then
pointing to a plastic skeleton,
pronounced the problem zone. 

“The damage is is high-seated,
in the discs from one to six,
We think you may be paralysed:
We cannot take the risk.
I’ll be prescribing two of these
and one of those at night.
There’s no more I can do for you,
You’ll never be quite right.
I’m sure you’ll come to terms with it.
You are extremely bright.”

I asked for an alternative
to lab-produced painkillers.
The ones he had prescribed ,I knew
could knock down huge gorillas!
“Well I’ll put down for physio,
I’ve got a waiting list.”
He handed me a collar,
and instructed, “Not to twist,”
then like a child, dismissed me,
with a flicking of his wrist.

And so I took the tablets,
religiously each day,
waiting for the healing hands
to take the pain away.
“We need to keep it mobile
And you’ll need to exercise.”
“I already do, I told her,
I do Tums, and Bums and Thighs.”
“I was thinking more of neck my dear,”
she said and rolled her eyes.

She pounded and she prodded.
She manipulated well.
It eased away the stiffness
and reduced the constant swell
but like the penny in proverb
pain returned and so I ran,
and he doled out more prescriptions,
the important ‘doctor man.’
If only they delivered what
they told you on the can.

The nightmares and the headaches:
the ulcerated lips,
and losing weight so fast
the clothes were hanging off my hips.
Pins and needles down my spine
that made me cringe and shiver,
‘till I came to the conclusion
this was just an Indian giver,
the side effects were causing
a dysfunction of my liver.

“Enough, enough,” I vowed,
“no more chemicals for me!”
Here’s for what it’s worth,
is my advice and all for free.
To keep the cogs from grinding
lubricate with oily fish,
cut out all the wheat,
have Scottish porridge in your dish,
stay away from draughts.
Keep warm. Avoid the specialist.

Arnica Montana gel
reduces inflammation.
Acupuncture’s great,
I recommend it to the Nation,
When I need an ear,
I simply talk to my GP,
Now I take two rosehip capsules,
exercise Tai Chi,
Stay alkaline, not acid.
Stick with camomile for tea.

Slurping lots of H2O,
a life changing solution,
ticks the engine over:
regulates the constitution.
I tell myself, "Slow down, relax,
for life is not a race,"
Still I walk along the prom
to get some me ozone in my face,
I even dance a bit
though not at ‘Strictly Ballroom’ pace.

Once trapped inside a broken body,
racked with pointless pain,
I stopped my power sliding
down the never-ending drain.
I am driven by my intellect,
to exercise my brain
and to share this for posterity.
In case I go insane.
Thanks for reading.  Adele