As I sit and write this, my back pain in flaring up. Just sitting in a computer chair makes it feel like my back is on fire. Let me explain about my back: I have two pinched nerves in my neck, mild degenerative disc disease in my thoracic spine and a bulging and herniated disc in my lumbar spine. So when I say my back hurts, I mean my entire back.
After years of putting up with this pain, I finally found an amazing pain management doctor who suggested getting an epidural for my lower back pain. An anesthesiologist sedates you for the procedure so you have to get a ride home from the hospital. I’m not sure why, but I hate asking people for rides. Because I live with chronic pain, I fight to stay as independent as possible. Asking for rides reminds me there are times when I absolutely have to depend on other people to help me.
After my first epidural I decided to do some research to see if there was a way to avoid the sedation. During my research, I discovered sedation could be optional for my next procedure. I was so excited when I read that. As a person who doesn’t like to ask for rides or get sedated I thought maybe I could avoid both. When it came time for my next epidural, I asked my doctor if I could try the procedure without sedation and he agreed. I was familiar with the procedure because I had it done before, but I was concerned about the amount of pain I would be in. Along with the epidural I was also receiving trigger point injections for my neck.
On procedure day, I was still a little nervous about the pain. They had me lie on my stomach, and they put an oxygen mask in my nose. Between the staff’s calm voices, the oxygen and knowing some pain relief would be coming soon, I really started to relax.
Once they confirmed with me I wasn’t getting sedation, the procedure started. There was no turning back now. As the epidural needle went into my lower back, I felt the medicine being pushed in – a weird sensation I would describe as liquid being forced into your body. But there was no pain. At all. Just the prick of the needle. I got really quiet and the nurses kept asking me if I was OK. Between the oxygen and the sensation of the needles, I was actually calm. They took my blood pressure during the procedure and it was lower than when I got there. That is how relaxed I was. The nurses started telling me I was so brave. Someone also said there are grown men who skip sedation and are screaming in pain during the epidural. I loved hearing all this encouragement. Once the epidural was over, my doctor moved onto trigger point injections. Even after multiple needle sticks, it was a very peaceful experience.
The entire staff in the procedure room was kind and supportive. Then came the words I will never forget. One of the nurses, Julie, said to me, “You’re an Amazon woman.” It was in reference to the fact that I didn’t get sedation and made it through the procedure without complaining. Having had chronic pain for almost seven years makes me feel weak. On my worst days, just getting out of bed seems like a monumental task. It is also frustrating when my mind says, “Go” but my body says “Oh, heck no.” Having Julie say those words to me was so empowering.
Now when I think I can’t do something or am struggling with even a simple task, I say to myself, “You are an Amazon woman,” and it gives me the drive to push myself. Julie changed my life that day. To have a total stranger see I am strong despite my unrelenting pain made me want to be an example to others – to tell them “Yes, the pain does suck, but you are so capable of being strong.” I try to encourage others the same way Julie encouraged me.
And let me just take a minute to mention how awesome my pain management doctor is. It took me years to find such a kind and caring doctor who believed I was in pain. I know many people who had to search for years like I did to find the right doctor. If you are still searching for that great doctor, don’t give up!
I have the same procedure done every three months to help with my back pain. I actually look forward to going because I know pain relief is coming. But I also get to see Julie and the amazing staff in the procedure room who tell me how strong I am – a reminder that I am an Amazon woman!
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