I broke my back

So, I broke my back.

*record scratch*

*freeze frame*

Yup, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. LOL

On Sunday my son Zach had a birthday party to go to at the new skating rink in the old CompUSA in Regency. Since Amber has bad knees, and I used to skate a lot when I was younger, I decided I would take him.

We rented our skates, got them laced up and headed out on the floor. Since it was Zach‘s first time in rollerskates, it took him a while to get accustomed to them. For me, it only took about three laps around the floor to get my legs under me. 

I noticed that Zach was still on the carpeted area, heading over to where the party was, and he was hugging the rail the whole time. I decided to take a break, and go walk him over to the party. 

When I got to the exit, I grabbed ahold of the rail, but my feet went out from under me, and my legs flew under the rail. I landed on my butt hard, and I screamed as I felt a pain in my back like I’d never felt before. It was like someone had hit me in the back with a sledgehammer.

I was immediately afraid I had done damage to my back and/or spinal cord, so I laid down and didn’t move until someone called 911 and an ambulance arrived to take me to the hospital. 

The kind folks at the skating rink got me my stuff and a mom from the party took care of my son until Amber got there. 

They took X-rays and CT scans, and I was told it’s a compression fracture of the L1 vertebrae. It’s only about 20% and it’s on the opposite side of the spinal cord, so fortunately I won’t need surgery. They fit me with a brace and are giving me pain meds.

I thought ok, awesome, easy breezy. Ha ha ha. Not exactly. It’s like I’m relearning how to walk. The “brace” is more like a full body cast that covers my entire torso from neck to nether region. Fortunately I don’t wear it when I’m laying down. 

I’m hoping to go home today, but it’s gonna be a lot. It’s really starting to hit me emotionally just everything I’m not going to be able to do. I’m not going to be able to finish installing the dishwasher. I’m not going to be able to install the lights in my kitchen. I’m not going to be able to clear my side yard and plant a garden this spring. And that’s just the fun extra things I wanted to get done over the next few months. 

On top of that, I don’t even know how much this whole stay is gonna cost. Anyway, I’m doing ok, but I’m not good. Love y’all!

I broke my back

Mixed Emotions

You know that scene in “Inside Out” when Riley has a core memory that is full of sadness and joy? That’s how I’ve felt for the past few days. 

I’m incredibly happy and thankful that I wasn’t hurt worse than I was. I was so relieved when they told me there was no spinal cord damage indicated. I’m so grateful it’s “just a broken back.” But I’m so sad about how incredibly hard my Amber has to work to take care of me. I know exhaustion was an exit she passed 60 miles ago, but she’s still going. 

I’m sad for the things I’m not getting done at work and my little side hustles. But I’m so thankful for my coworkers who have stepped up to take the load. I’m sad about the projects around the house that I’m won’t be able to work on for months, but I’m so thankful for the folks who have offered to help out. 

I was downright exuberantly gleeful that I could stand up long enough to make a cup of coffee this morning! But I was heartbroken when my boys gave me a hug this morning and my littlest said “I can’t hug you. I don’t want to break you more.”

I know this is only a season, and honestly I’m not taking this too hard. I’m just coming to accept this will be a season with a mix of joy and sadness, and that’s ok. 

T-86 days.

I broke my back

Time for a goofy picture.

The hot flashes. The hot flashes are so stupid and awful. I feel like I have early onset menopause! Every 30 to 60 minutes somebody turns the heat up to 90 degrees. I haven’t gone full Pedro from “Napoleon Dynamite” and shaved my head bald and beard off, but I’ve contemplated it many times. 

The Gabapentin is the one giving me the heat waves. The Methocarbomal gives me the dizzy spells. But they’re keeping the pain at bay, so I can’t complain too much. Other then those, I’m taking Extra Strength Tylenol. I have Oxycodone but I’m trying to only take it if the pain is so much I can’t handle it anymore. 

T-85 days…

I broke my back

Peaks and valleys

Yesterday started off really great, went deep into the pits of hell, but came out good in the end. I managed to walk out onto the front porch to drink my coffee yesterday which was amazing. It helped restore a tiny sense of normalcy to my life.

Then, just a few short minutes later, I started a huge fight with Amber over a really simple miscommunication.

After a lot of regretful behavior on my part, Amber took to the kids to spend the night at some friends and family, which we already had planned, and then she came back and we worked through what had happened. 

After talking through everything, I came to realize that my anger was really misplaced and compounded fear. I was hysterically paranoid that she was being dishonest with me over something that was plainly and clearly a tiny miscommunication. I let all my fear, anxiety and exhaustion from everything that happened the entire week boil over and explode at Amber.

I apologized profusely to Amber, and we talked about everything we had just gone though and how it had affected us. We even discovered the root causes of some of our conflicts that have plagued us our entire marriage. In the end, it was very cathartic and healing. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m so glad I’m in it with her. 

T-84 days.

I broke my back

I’m a trapped turtle

Today was so exhausting. I worked as much as I could, but just sitting at the table poking keys on my laptop for several hours is as tiresome as chopping down trees all day. 

I feel trapped. I can’t even get out of bed at all without putting on the damn turtle shell. It’s a 5-10 minute process every time I put it on, and Amber has to help me roll into it. 

I can’t wait to just get out of bed. Just decide to get out of bed — and be able to sit up and get out of bed.

T-82 days

I broke my back

Today was better

Today was better. Not great, but definitely a LOT better. It was all partly due to a really, really simple solution to a problem I didn’t realize I was having:

I wasn’t putting my back brace on high enough. It was about an inch too low. 

So, as a result, it was squeezing my hips instead of crushing my intestines. 🤣

Ironically, the latter is what I want right now. The core pressure keeps my vertebrae aligned and relieves the weight of my upper body from my spine. When it was just a little tiny bit lower, it allowed my back to move just ever slightly, which caused my muscles to engage and spasm every time I moved. Now that I am in the brace’s python death grip, I feel immensely better. I feel way more secure and safe.

I’ve been able to get much more work done today too, which is wonderful. Tomorrow I think I’m gonna try working down in my office again. I went downstairs and sat in my office chair. It was a lot easier to get in and out of than the kitchen chair and our folding chairs. And, the setup down there is much more ergonomic than our kitchen table. 

T-81 days.

I broke my back

It’s not from IKEA, but it might as well

This was me last night, sitting up in my brace — for way too long according to Amber — putting together a bedside desk that finally arrived yesterday, even though I tried to order it on Sunday when I fell. 

I sat on the couch while Zach and Will handed me each piece, and I put them together. It was nice getting to do something with my hands even though just sitting there was exhausting. Turning the wrench wore me out even faster. I can’t lift anything over 10 lbs. (Hmm, I wonder that that translates into wrench torque? Fortunately all the nuts in the kit were fairly easy to tighten.)

The sad irony was that I ended up spending most of today in bed. I’ll share that story tomorrow.

T-80 days.

I broke my back

Yesterday, I almost blacked out in the shower

The doctors told me that I should be able take a brief shower standing up without the brace by this week. I carefully climbed in the shower, and Amber washed my legs. Then, I gently removed my brace and stood perfectly still while Amber helped me wash the rest of me.

I was doing great right up until I started washing my hair. The combination of standing, holding my hands over my head and the tingle of the Head and Shoulders was apparently too much to handle. I started to pass out. My ears started to ring, my knees went limp, the room got dark and my vision started tunneling. I held onto the top of the shower rail while Amber sprayed me down with cold water to help me recover. Then she got me back in the brace and walked me to bed. 

My hair and beard were still covered in shampoo, so after I stabilized, Amber helped me back to the shower, and this time she insisted that I sit in the chair. She rinsed and dried me off, and got me back in my brace. The whole ordeal was terrifying for me and Amber. It will be a while before I try that again, and I’m sure I’ll be in the chair to start next time. 

I was so worn out, I spent most of the rest of the day in bed and did several conference calls from my pillow. My coworkers have all seen my bedroom now! Fortunately, most of Amber’s fluffy pillows were out of the scene. 

T-79 days.

P.S. I’m terrible at accepting help, but a lot of folks have offered, and I am immensely grateful. A couple of our friends, Tom Braun and Melissa Aiuppy, have set up accounts on GoFundMe and Meal Train if that’s something you would like to do. 

https://gofund.me/12e6322d

https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/oqrz21

I’m so grateful for all of you.

I broke my back

Transitions suck

Walking around is relatively easy to do these days. I use the walker about half the time. Standing still is fine. Sitting still is fine. Laying in bed is mostly painless. But, transitioning between any of those things is agony.

Getting out of and into bed is probably the worst of it. We’ve managed to get the process down to about a 5 minute routine if everything goes perfect. But usually it’s about 10-15 minutes of log rolling onto my belly with my face shoved into the mattress, pulling out pillows, putting the back part of the brace on, log rolling into the brace, adjusting it, putting the front part on, getting it aligned, strapping it together, readjusting it, and then finally cinching it down. Then I log-roll upright, and sit there for a few minutes while the room stops spinning. Then I do this frog-leg, plié looking maneuver with my legs so that I keep my back perfectly straight while I stand up, just in case my brace isn’t on perfectly.

My muscles are all having to work in ways they have never worked before. My torso is on full lockdown inside the turtle shell. It does not contribute any effort at all — unless my brace is on even slightly too high or too low or slightly crooked, then a ripple of pain rolls across my body as it tries to engage, and then we have to readjust the brace again.

My legs are suddenly responsible for all of my body movement and stability, and they are not excited about it. My calfs, thighs and glutes are ready to go on strike.

My neck is constantly aching from being at funky angles in bed and from over stretching when I am in the brace because I can’t turn my body at all to look at someone or something in the room. The muscles in my upper back and shoulders are so tense if you hit them with little hammers you could play them like a dulcimer!

Heat helps relax my disloyal and tense muscles before they start a rebellion. I try to stretch as much as I can, but obviously there are limitations.

The irony is that I usually need to transition right about the time when my pain medicine has worn out, like early in the morning or late at night.

Of course, staying in one position for too long starts to hurt too. And, it turns out though that transitions are really important to the healing process. Building strength in my arms and legs helps my body recover from the injury and helps stimulate bone growth.

So, as much as it sucks, I am trying to transition more often. This whole thing is a transition. And apparently it’s a bunch of sucky little transitions along the way.

T-78 days.

You know what isn’t sucky though? All of the support that we have received on the GoFundMe that my friend Tom set up!

I cannot express how thankful I am to everyone who has contributed. There are literally not words to convey how it makes me feel. ❤️❤️❤️

Even if we hit the goal it’s not going to cover everything, but it will be such a huge help.

Thank you so much to everyone who has made a gift.