In May of last year I slipped a disc. I won’t tell you how I think I did it, but suffice to say my handsome sailor had just come home after being away for two months.
Having a slipped or prolapsed disc is, as far as I’m concerned, more painful than childbirth, a paper cut, a stubbing of a toe and a genital waxing all rolled into one. It felt like my lower spine, bum and left leg had been beaten with a baseball bat and set fire to. I actually cried with pain, and I’m a warrior, I don’t usually cry with pain – I embrace it, chew it up and spit it out laughing like The Joker on Batman (Adam West and Burt Ward version 1966-68. The Joker was played by Cesar Romero. I very specifically laugh like that).
After the initial 2 weeks hobbling around like a penguin in a full nappy, rattling with painkillers and anti-inflammatories and prodding my numb left leg as if it were some Jambon hanging in the window of a boucherie, the pain subsided enough for me to be able to return to my beloved kung fu and get back into the swimming pool. I couldn’t climb, and I couldn’t run because my left foot flopped onto the floor when I walked like a flipper. If I tried to run I ended up loping like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1936 version – Charles Laughton played Quasimodo – I loped very specifically like that).
I couldn’t kick with my left leg as the nerve damage made it as weak as a newborn foal’s, and it was still numb – so although able to practise about 50% of my kung fu, I prayed that if anyone did see fit to attack me in the street they would have the common courtesy to attack me from the left so I could kick them with my right leg. Assailants are rarely so accommodating, so I went back to the doctor and expressed a strong desire to have the use of my left leg back. Helpfully he booked me in with a physiotherapist, organised an MRI scan and looked attractive.
The MRI scan was an unerving experience. I expected to see a sleek, white and chrome capsule with a few glowing LED lights and some etheral music playing (maybe a bit of ‘Air’ or ‘Cinematic Orchestra‘ – ‘Zero 7‘ at a push). It was however a large box which looked like it had been nailed together out of plywood in 1953 for the set of The Quatermass Experiment. I lay in it, motionless for about 20 minutes while it banged and clunked and thudded (which happily improved the cheesy dance music on ‘Heart FM’ in my headphones by making it sound a bit ravey). Many weeks later I was with the consultant in hospital looking at the results of this bizarre activity. On the screen in front of me was a very clear image of my spine and I noticed with no small amount of anxiety that between two rather important, weight-bearing vertebrae, where there should have been happy little discs like mini shock-absorbers, there was black, empty space. ‘We can offer you a nerve root block, involving an injection into your spine, or possibly an operation to fuse your spine…’ said the consultant a bit doubtfully.
‘What does that entail?’
‘We put screws into your vertebrae here and…’
‘I don’t want screws in my spine.’
‘No, I wouldn’t recommend it.’
‘I’ll have the injection please’
‘Fine. I’ll book you in.’
I didn’t really want an injection in my spine either to be honest.
So eight months since the day I woke up and wept like a snivelling child over the pain in my leg I still have a numb thigh and big toe, my leg is still weak and I still suffer from what I now refer to as ‘Quasimodo foot’. But at the end of January I am hoping to finally get to lie in a swish, space-age capsule as I undergo a Fluroscopically guided lumbar transoraminal epidural steroid injection. It’s going to hurt. I am trying to be brave about having a needle in my spine. One can’t be a wimp about these things. I hope it works. I hope by Valentine’s Day that I will be able to back-flip into my kung fu lesson, perform a flying kick and run around the hall with the reassuring stomp of human feet. And I hope that if approached from the right by any would-be attacker I will be able to kick them to the other side of the universe with my left leg. I will keep you posted…