Almost 2 months to the day, I was in the engine room of Whisky Business changing the oil. While pouring one of the 5 gallon jugs each engine takes I sorta tweaked/torqued my back. Next day while walking my left leg began to hurt. Assumed a catcher’s crouch for a minute or so, felt fine and continued on. Like all men, I just assumed it would go away. Not to be. Last Wednesday it was bothering me a bit more so I laid down to take a nap with an ice pack under my lower back. Woke up in quite a bit of pain. We were in this real little town of Britt, Ontario. The marina loaned us a courtesy car and we went to the Canadian equivalent of an American Emergency Care Unit. It was staffed by a Practical Nurse and a Nurse in training. Never got to see the Practical Nurse. The Nurse in Training looked at pictures on a computer screen as I described my pain. She prescribed a muscle relaxer and a lil’ sumthin for the pain.
On Thursday of last week I made arrangements to come home to get proper care. I had this customer in my Party Mart days that was/is a back doc of some repute. Dr. John Johnson is the type of back doc that rebuilds wrecked backs and holds a number of patents on devices used in back surgery. Not the kind of surgeon I need but a really good guy to know. On Friday I texted him, asked him if he remembered me and if he could see me. Immediately, he responded with a 9AM appointment on Tuesday. Wow.
By Saturday I am in serious discomfort. Go to the Norton Hospital Emergency Room. They take a CAT scan and prescribe a steroid, muscle relaxer and a relatively mild pain killer. Began the prescribed meds on Sunday and by Monday felt some relief. Heck I could even stand up straight for a bit. So at this point I am thinking I am on the improve and I could get back to the boat in short order.
See Dr. J on Tuesday morning at which time he orders a MRI for that afternoon. By 3:30 Debbie and I are driving home after the MRI when Dr. J calls and sez “Turn around and come back right now, I want you to see a surgeon before he leaves today.”
After reviewing the MRI this is what Dr. J tells me is the problem. There is a 12 millimeter (about 1/2 inch) space in our vertebrae that acts as a conduit for the nerves running down our backs. My “herniated disc” has closed that conduit considerably between my L4 and L5 vertebrae. If the space was down to 8 or 9 MM he would have recommended a series of epidurals and I would probably not see him again. Unfortunately the gap in my vertebrae is down to 5 MM.
He directs me to see Dr. Chris Sheilds in his building. We get to his office and are led to an exam room. Dr. Shields walks in and says “Who the hell ARE you?” John Johnson has called me 8 times in the last 30 minutes to make sure I see you TODAY! He goes on to give me my options.
Option 1. Get an epidural and see if I get any relief. If it does work I can get back to the boat and continue the voyage. He is not optimistic with regard to the success of this option. AND, if anything goes wrong while on the boat I will be at the mercy of the Canadian health care system. Would I even be able to see a doctor up there? We decide to go with this option.
Option 2. Schedule the surgery and get it over with.
On the way home (remember, this is still Tuesday) Dr. J calls me and tells me, no matter what I choose, I’m still going to require the surgery. If you were a family member I would tell you to have the surgery and be back on your feet in 30 days. Hell, you’ll be walking the day after surgery! Gonna take his advice.
On Wednesday while having lunch with my boating buddies Dave Heilman and Bob Shircliff, Dr. Sheilds calls and asks me when do I want to have the procedure. Sooner the better I reply. How ’bout Friday he responds.
In the span of 4 days I have seen 2 back docs, scheduled and undergone surgery.
I can be back on the boat in 3-4 weeks to finish the Loop.
Frankly I love our healthcare system.