Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Learning to Suffer

Crushing a vertebrae is not the most painful experience I have had. When I was young I had terrible migraines that could last 2 days. At the end of my athletic life I totally screwed up my ankles learning that I couldn't run 80 km/hr - don't ask. That was likely the most pain I ever felt within a 24 hour window. Recovering from my ankle injury beat me; left me broken. Coupled with subsequent problems, I got fatter and fatter.

Recovering from a crushed vertebrae, and my obesity, has been the most difficult recovery of my life though. At least while my ankles were healing I could pull myself in and out of bed, lift my own weight with my arms, take care of myself. I don't even remember getting home from the hospital after my back injury. I do remember that I could barely sleep all night and was never more aware of how fat I had become.

It took monumental effort to roll 90 degrees in bed, and I kept trying one side, then my back, other side, then on my belly, to find a position where I could be comfortable enough to sleep. I found I could get a few minutes sleep on my side if I pulled my top leg up and put a pillow under my knee. With every shift, however, I realized I had to fight against my weight and that twisted my back and made me moan sorrowfully. I started to become really angry at myself for getting so damn fat.

I still didn't know how much I weighed. I wasn't able to stand when I got to the hospital so they couldn't get me on the scale. It made me sick to have to pull my belly fat out from under me as I shifted to my side. I had to pull it out though because laying over it twisted my spine.

My bed is low and that made getting up very difficult. I tried to pull myself up my cane with my right hand in order to stand and could only pull on the doorway a little with my left hand because of my broken wrist. By the time I had gotten upright to head down the hall to pee, I didn't need to pee anymore because I had already pissed myself. Try cleaning that up while wearing a back brace and having a cast on one wrist. I'm so glad I don't have carpet.

I learned that if I had to get up to pee, I had to crawl like a commando down the hall, dragging my belly along the linoleum, because I couldn't get up on my hands and knees due to the broken wrist. I just slithered along like a snake, trying not to twist too much and cause pain in my back. Once in the bathroom I would crawl half way into the tub, head first, then push myself back onto the toilet. If I forgot to drag my cane along with me then I had to crawl back the same way. Some nights I just slept on a towel in the hallway.

I didn't have any damn food in the house other than porridge because I was too much of a piggy to keep from eating everything in the cupboards. I had no idea how I would get to the grocery store. I had a corner store across the street but it mainly sold junk food and beer. I had to try though.

The hospital called and wanted me to come in for a follow-up on Friday. I also had to go get my back brace adjusted the same day. I figured if I had to go out anyway it would be a good chance to lay my hands on some food. I decided it was time to dip into the taxi fund.

I still wasn't sleeping well at all and so I started getting ready at 4 am. I was terrified of falling in the shower but I hadn't showered since the morning of the accident so I had to try; I opted to shower on my knees. It took me hours to get clean, dry, and dressed. I was beginning to really hate my wrist cast and I was embarrassed to go out in the Jewett brace but I just had to step up and deal with it.

The real terror came when I opened the door. I live in a basement suite with my own stairs up to the parking area, and the stairs were covered in ice. I shuddered and closed the door. No way. Now way. Damn it. I did NOT want to become a shut-in like after my last accident. Somehow I had to deal with it. Then I remembered that I had a bag of salt just for ice on the stairs. I covered the ice with salt until I could hear it crackling.

I put an old beer cooler bag over my shoulder and poured the rest of the salt in there. I trembled up the stairs, left hand holding as tight as it could to the railing and right hand holding my cane firm for dear life. I had to get across the street and pick up more salt and I was terrified they might not have any left, given how much ice remained on all the sidewalks and streets. I tossed salt ahead of me all the way across the street and was relieved to find out they still had more in stock.

I looked over their small grocery section and saw a few things I thought I could use but decided to come back after my appointments since the bag of street salt was about as much weight as I could carry. I decided to take the salt with me to my appointments to help me get across the icy sidewalks. I called the taxi to pick me up at the store.

That was the day I saw my weight on a scale for the first time in probably ten years. It was higher than I had imagined, even higher than I had feared possible. The doctor worked out a BMI of 45 and tried to be kind as she told me that was something I might want to address. As I said, my BMI was actually 43 because she didn't have an accurate accounting of my height - but I had eaten nothing but porridge for the past 4 days so maybe it had been as high as 45.

By the time my appointments were done I was so tired and my abs hurt so bad from taking over for my back muscles that I just wanted to go home and sleep. I noticed that it felt like some of my ribs were pressing together - a feeling I learned indicated that I no longer had the strength to keep myself upright.

As tired as I was I still couldn't sleep properly. It wasn't just my body aching and not being able to find a good position; I began to believe that the morphine was messing with my brain so that I couldn't dream. I decided to try medical marijuana and started looking up how to go about it. It was still a grey area at the time but it seemed like I was going to have to apply for a card and then find a dispensary. I decided to take a short cut so I stopped taking the morphine. It took until morning for it to get out of my system and I finally fell asleep although I was in agony.

I awoke in the afternoon and then in the evening I trembled up the stairs with my satchel of salt, and made my way across the street to the corner store. I took a cloth shopping bag with me to collect my groceries. I started out in the snack food section, browsing through very spicy corn chips; not that I ever wanted to eat anything like that again in my life, but it was where I needed to be and I hoped my plan would work.

Within fifteen minutes a couple young neds entered the store, nodding their heads to an inaudible soundtrack, and made their way to the snack food aisle. I got their attention and asked them if they could help me out, explaining that the morphine wasn't working. They looked me up and down, at my Jewett brace, my cane, and my cast and said, "Oui oui, bien sûr!" I handed them some cash and they ran out of the store. "Damn it!" I thought, "Ripped off!"

I didn't feel I had any choice but to try the next couple of neds to come in. After about ten minutes, however, I saw the first two neds running back to the store. They actually ran to get me some pain relief fast. I was so happy and as it turns out they got me some really high grade stuff. I know this because the next batch I got from a work mate wasn't nearly as effective.

So, weed in pocket, I picked up some potatoes, two cans of tomato sauce, a bag of frozen veggies, 2 cans of tuna, some 1% milk, a bag of hard candies, and a pound of butter. The butter wasn't for eating, it was for making weed tea. I'll let you google the details for yourself if you want to give it a try.

Day five after the accident and I still felt like I had been run over by a truck. The mental fatigue of not sleeping was almost as bad as the pain. Eating nothing but plain porridge without even milk had me at my wits end.

So, the first meal plan was simple. Porridge with 1% milk in the morning. Try to go as long as I can without a smoke, cup of tea, sip of water - nothing at all and then try just having a sip of water and wait 15 minutes more. I knew I wouldn't make it two hours, but I had to see how long I could go, just to break the compulsive oral stimulation behavior. If I could make it two hours with nothing, then I could have a cigarette and either a hard candy or a cup of tea. Repeat until really hungry and then have boiled potatoes with two spoonfuls of tomato sauce, boiled veggies, and a third of a can of tuna.

I boiled my potatoes as I prepared my weed tea. I got my veggies in with the potatoes and portioned out a third of a can of tuna on a plate. My meal and my tea were ready at about the same time so I retired to bed. I added no salt or pepper to my food but I gobbled that bland meal down like a plate of Chinese food. I was so hungry for something other than porridge. With a good meal in me, and my tea now cooled, I decided to see how it tasted; not that good. It wasn't terrible either, could have used a bit of sugar, but I was not going to have sugar in my home.

It took about half an hour for the tea to sink in but when it did it was like magic. I felt like I had been dipped in warm, comforting wax but my head stayed clear. I did laugh a bit easier at some videos but I wasn't sure if it was because I was high or just so relieved to be without pain. I don't remember falling asleep.

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