One of the great blessings of being human is that we walk upright. I don’t think it’s something that evolved over any length of time; we just started doing it. As a result the human back is kind of thrown together. Or maybe if somebody designed us, they were too busy with other things or at war or whatever, and just didn’t get the back done right.
So along comes Whitley Strieber. happily unaware of what is about to happen. Last Sunday, I spent the morning biking with my wife, planning to take in Looper in the afternoon. I go to the store to pick up a couple of things, stroll out feeling like a million bucks–and my back explodes. In my left hand I was carrying maybe a two pound bag of groceries. I was wearing good shoes. I am in good shape, well exercised and not overweight.
The pain was so terrible that it was actually kind of fascinating. The right side of my back from my thigh to my mid-back seemed to have burst into flames. I actually hollered and lurched, just like I would if my pants had caught fire. In a split second, I went from a state of normal well-being to being a total basket case.
I shuffled slowly to my car, actually hallucinating strange red flashes as I crammed myself in. One great thing about a Prius is that it has superb seats, so I leaned it back as far as I could and still manage to see, and crept slowly home. The lumbar support was a real godsend.
I managed to get to bed with Anne’s help, and there began the saga that is just now showing signs of ending. I got hold of my doctor on Sunday, who prescribed hydrocodone. I rarely take any drugs at all, so this really knocked me for a loop, but didn’t help the pain. Finally, I just embraced it. I opened myself to it and let myself be grateful for the challenge it was bringing me. It responded by dancing on my back with golf shoes.
On Monday, a masseuse came and got lots of good motion going. Then came Tuesday and the trip to the MRI scan. My son drove us, and it turned out that the passenger seat of the car was even more comfortable than bed. That is to say, I got a little sleep in the car, instead of the sweating, stabbing, burning nightmare I had been enduring. I decided to just live in the Prius. I could go to drive ins for food. But, of course, this is far from practical.
My problem was that I couldn’t really lie down, sit up, stand or walk. So what’s left? Living OBE? The people at the MRI place were great. They had a wheelchair. Halls too tight for a gurney. (This was not in a hospital). Sat down in it for a second. Might as well have been sitting in a campfire. So I ended up where we all started, which was on all fours, crawling through the medical establishment like a dog.
It was fine at the MRI lab. Not too many people around. My wife and son there to run interference. A nice nap in the incredibly comfortable MRI scanner. Usually, they’re scary because they’re so narrow and noisy. I asked the guy, ‘could I stay in here for life?’ He said over the intercom, ‘not a problem. That’ll be ten million dollars.’ So, home we went.
Yesterday, time to see the orthopedist. She read the MRI and said, “you have a good back.” I said, “What are you talking about?” She said, “It’s going to be fine.” She explained that I had a couple of nerves that were swollen, and prescribed a course of treatment.
Then it came time to go home. I tried the wheelchair again, but it was bonfire time, so I gave up and crawled out of the office and into the lobby. So far so good. Just me and Anne. We got in the elevator.
We were on the ninth floor. It stopped on eight. People got in. Nobody said anything. I considered explaining that I was looking for something. On seven, more people got it. A few murmurs. A few snickers. Six, five, four, more, more, more. Was it the only working elevator in the building? In west Los Angeles? In all of California?
I decided that we’d stumbled into an elevator riders’ convention.
People were shuffling around. I was taking up way too much room. Then came three. The doors opened. There was a woman with a loaded double stroller and a five year old in hand. We are face to face. He yells out, “that lady’s dog looks like a gorilla!” The doors close.
For a couple of seconds, there is strained silence. I know that I have to say something. I come out with, “Does anybody have a dog biscuit?” Finally, the strain is gone and the elevator roars.
We get to the lobby. For a while, I lie down. Anne waits for our ride outside. I use my cane as a sort of flag. I am pretty miserable. Half the people stepping around me are doctors. They keep asking, ‘did you fall?’ I reply, ‘I’m a back,’ and they go on their way. They’ve seen backs before, obviously.
Finally, our ride, in the person of a healer called Phil Marcus, appears. I crawl out to my Prius of blessed seat design and we inch home through the usual carmageddon.
Phil is worth a whole journal entry of his own. More. Today he took me very, very deep in a healing that is going to have a powerful place in my life and remembrance, no matter if it helps my back or not.
I am in pain now. I am in great pain. I have been in the house of pain since Sunday. What do I do with my pain? We love each other, we laugh together, we join heart to heart, me and my pain.
So be it.