I really was unsure, should I keep this personal, it is after all quite invasive surgery, my Bulgarian teacher said ‘your books are very personal perhaps you should share this too.’
Sam Manicom suggested posting on my behalf, I was reluctant, I’m not a fan of sympathy seeking posts “hugs hon, thinking of ya’’ I do remember when I posted a photo of myself hooked up to a drip last year with kidney stones the response was overwhelming I could see how someone could get addicted to such things.
But in a moment of morphine fuelled spontaneity I gave Sam the go ahead.
What can I say, it’s absolutely mind-blowing ,the response has been truly emotional, my fingers shake above the keyboard and a lump comes to my throat just trying to find the words to express what I received in the way of best wishes, love, advice, encouragement and offers of help. Stunning.
I want to reply to everyone, it’s so impersonal not to, and I will try to, but that may take a while and in a now reduced state of pain killers I decided a brief explanation and update was the way forward. As I can now sit up and type, albeit in short bursts.
So briefly what happened was, and I’ll try and keep it short as there is nothing as boring as someone going on about their ailments
About 18 months ago, shortly after I came to Bulgaria I moved a big rock, with Stonehenge equipment but less man power. It was back breaking work, apparently literally.
I continued to work on my house and get contradictory advice as to the cause and cure of my problems, over the course of that time I attended wheelie school, rode twice to Romania, did The Iron Butt Challenge, and built a shed and an upstairs bathroom among other things.
The sciatic pain started last July and a CT scan revealed that the L4 vertebra was 11mm out of place, I had a slipped disc, disk hernia and a trapped nerve, exercise would sort it but again I was paralysed by contradiction as to which exercise.
Then with the big snow last month I got out the snowboard and took the pain to a new level. It was time for some more advice. The recommended chiropractor in the capital sent me to a surgeon on the Friday. I rode the Triumph, it’s faster, cheaper and easier to park than my truck, plus with the snows melting it was the first ride of the year. I saw the surgeon at 11am and was in the MRI machine ten minutes later, by 4pm he told me of all the issues I was already aware of and also that the 11mm displacement was now 17mm and ended his synopsis with a casual ‘and there is a fracture’.
‘Did you say a fracture?’
‘Yes and if you don’t get it sorted soon you will not be able to walk, you should think about surgery.
‘OK, when will you decide?’
‘I have, OK, I’ll have surgery, what’s to think about?’
He said ‘well it’s not urgent, so come in Wednesday’
I was in shock and rode back home like there was no future, what the fuck, I’m already broken.
I spent the weekend goggling him, the operation and asking a lot of questions, there was a 90% success rate, 5% of the failure was not illuminating the pain and the other 5%? ‘Well you know what that is’ he’d said, in a way that made me not want to ask.
Talk about a tough decision, if this goes wrong I would long for this limited mobility and manageable pain I have right now but that is not going to last.
I made my decision and drove myself to hospital on the Wednesday. I was led to various places to check I was in operable condition, heart – multiple breaks, blood- intoxicated, x-ray – transparent.
Thursday morning I got up and shaved, like a man going to the death sentence, I thought of the Johnny Cash song 25 minutes to go
What about the 10% chance of failure? There is maybe a 10% chance I will sway the girl I currently have a crush on, and in her case I like those odds, it’s worth persevering, in that context 10% is optimistic, but in a failure rate?
I signed forms I couldn’t read and at 8am was gathered up with the other operatees to go up to the floor of fixing.
I have a new definition of scary, not setting off to ride half way round the world alone, not even riding into Iraq on my own or standing up in front of an audience to speak, now it’s this: Laying on an operating table in my underwear, in a land I barely speak or understand the language, with a mask being held over my face by an anaesthetist, knowing that I’m about the loose consciousness and be cut open to have 6 screws and 2 rods put into my lower spine. In an operation that is to last 4 hours.
‘The operation was a success’ I hear when I’m woken, the light reflecting on the door was low, what time was it? 5pm. The operation had lasted 7 hours, there found multiple fractures, and they had removed bone and cartilage, and freed up a very damaged nerve.
I was laying on my back as full consciousness occurred the pain was immense. I was sedated and spent an endless night in ICU. Not knowing the time was a greater torment than having a woman in the bed each side of me and not being able to move, another threesome opportunity missed, there was a lot of pain in that room and we were all very subdued.
When it finally got light, beds were manoeuvred and I was first out, pushed buy a toothless woman who clearly doesn’t drive or even understand the basic physics of movement and steering. I was bumped to the CT scanner, my back was used to lever the bed around a 90 degree corner and then the agony of the transfer onto the CT table, utter pain. But once back in my room the relief was immense.
I was made to stand, and in a feverish sweat I made it to my feet before nearly fainting and laying down again. Pathetic; however there was no sciatic pain and there is no bigger motivator to gain mobile independence than having a catheter in. And the next day it was removed, although I may get one for those lazy winter weekends when you just want to stay in bed.
I walk like Ozzy Osborn in slo-mo, the pace of life is definitely going to drop several gears for a while, the perfect time to watch springs daily changes to the countryside.
Yesterday evening, long after I imagined he would have been off duty my surgeon came in my room with two photo copied x-rays, a before and after. I think he is quite proud of what he managed to do to my back, it is realined, he has every right to be. He said, glancing at his phone ‘I have been looking at your books; box set’ hint or what?
Sir, it would be my pleasure.
It was suggested I keep one book back, just in case I need another visit.
My posture is perfect I stand straight and tall, taller than before in fact I think the next time I see him it will be because I hit my head on something I used to walk under.
And that is the story so far.