Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yo, Pain

I've been out of commission for a few days now, from writing and from life.  I took a ridiculous fall over the weekend, the kind of fall that you couldn't pull off if you were trying.  I feel like I should carry around a diagram to explain to people how it happened, because it's actually not as outlandish as it sounds if you can visualize my front stoop and know a bit about physics.  Anyway, I ran up my steps, slipped on the ice on the stoop, slid into the rail, and then flipped right over the top of it and landed on my head and shoulder.

As a result, I ended up in the hospital for three days with some minor brain bleeding, a giant gash in my head (which is now closed with seventeen staples), and some wicked shoulder injuries.  I'm home now, and on the long road to recovery.  Seriously, long.  I believe the orthopedic surgeon's quote was, "You should be reasonably mobile in a month or two, but it will hurt like hell in the meantime.  Come see me again if you don't see any improvement in three weeks."  If I still feel like this in three weeks, I'll need to go see a psychiatrist as well for my insanity.

I have had broken bones and sprained ankles and such before, so it's not like I've never experienced pain before, even prolonged pain.  But I have never experienced pain like this before.  Excruciating, debilitating, can't go even one minute without being reminded of it pain.  Granted, it is not as bad as it was for the first few days.  The AC joint that had been separated popped back into place, magically shifting my pain level from "arm being ripped out of the socket and taking the lungs with it" down to "large pointy objects embedded in shoulder muscles."  For five days, I couldn't get even the slightest relief no matter what position I was in or what drugs they gave me, and anytime I moved or even breathed deeply, the pain seared my entire body and left me crippled and gasping.  I couldn't put any weight on my right arm at all, and had about a one-inch range of motion before screaming set in.  

So, I'm pretty glad to be in the condition I am now.  I have a baseline of pain that is continuous.  On the "pain scale" they're always talking about at the hospital, let's put that at about a 4/5.  Then there are the small spikes of pain from typing too long (need to get off of the computer soon, speaking of), accidentally reaching for something without thinking, or sitting still too long and getting stiff - somewhere in the 6/7 territory.  Getting up in the morning or getting myself to bed at night bring on about an 8.  There's just a lot of maneuvering involved that can't really be helped.  It's either waking up stiff muscles that have been in one position all night (there's only one position I can sleep in now: flat on my back with my head and shoulders slightly raised), or moving around when the muscles are already maxed out from the day.  I'm kind of taking this opportunity to gripe about how much I hurt, but I'm also really grateful that these pain levels are no longer testing the limits of that 10 on the pain scale.

Sitting at home is getting really old, so I've been trying to figure out how to phase back into life.  However, I made a 10-15 minute trip to the office yesterday that disabused me of any delusions I had about going back to work in any normal capacity for a while.  One of my colleagues complimented my excellent sense of my own limitations and my self-care.  I laughed.  This is not really a choice.  If I could choose, I would be back at work today.  There are meetings tonight that I want to attend.  But I can't walk even moderate distances without jostling my shoulder.  I can't drive my car.  I can barely shower, let alone get myself presentable for a professional setting.  And I know that I could sit in a meeting for maybe a half hour before sitting upright in one of those chairs would be killing me.  There are things that pain forces you to do and not do.  It's annoying.    

I have many things to say, about the experience of being in seemingly endless pain, about what it's teaching me about people who are in chronic pain, about the complete idiocy of my hospital stay and the medical system in general.  But, alas, typing this, even with breaks, has made my shoulder start throbbing again.  So, it's back to the rest and ice for now.

1 comment:

  1. Stacy, I am so, so sorry for what you are going through. It sounds like sheer hell. Keeping you in my prayers.