I seriously thought it would be a few decades before I would ever have to say “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Nope. There I was, a few weeks ago, stuck on the floor for hours and desperate. It was really an awful experience. For all you busy moms who don’t have time to worry about your health or take care of yourself, consider the following story a public service announcement.
The lego looked harmless enough. It was on the floor, and I needed to put it away. Responsibly, I squatted down to get to it. After all, I had been having twinges of back pain and knew bending was not a smart move. Turns out, neither was squatting.
In a painful shock, I was brought down to my knees, grasping on to the kitchen counter, hoping for a break from the spasm that had overtaken my lower back. What made this terrible situation even worse was that my husband and son were outside and I had no way to let my husband know I needed help.
I eventually fell to the floor in pain and was able to slowly start scooting to the front door. After about 15 minutes of very slow scooting and a bit of writhing in pain, I managed to pull open the door and yell out to my husband. He immediately ran inside and tried to help me up, but every time he pulled or I tried to stand, I was shocked with another excruciatingly painful spasm.
I decided my best course of action was to just lay down and wait it out on the floor right by the front door. Half of me was in the dining room, half in the hallway.
No big deal. My back would calm down soon enough and I could march myself to the bed. My husband brought me pillows so I could get comfortable. The shocks subsided while I was still.
I waited. I iced.
I waited. I took ibuprofen.
I waited. I used one of those at-home electrotherapy devices.
I applied heat. I waited.
I googled for solutions. Oops. Maybe I should not have applied heat. I made a couple of phone calls, checked my emails and Facebook, thought to myself “Oh, I will be laughing about this later.”
By this point, my husband had suggested calling the paramedics several times. I stubbornly refused, believing I would recover and be up on my own in no time. The hours ticked by. My husband and son had lunch. I had no appetite. I was desperate to just get up. Around the fourth hour, I was worried and losing hope. I thought my back should have calmed down by then. Out of fear of paralysis and really having to pee, I gave in. I let my husband call the ambulance, but we were clear to the dispatcher— no sirens needed.
At least that worked out. The quiet ambulance pulled up and the paramedics had to enter through the back door because my body was blocking the front door. They used a back board to put me on the stretcher while I calmly, in the most cheerful voice I could muster, explained to my three-year-old son that I was absolutely fine and would be right back. I made it to the ER. The doctor gave me a muscle relaxer and two different pain meds. After three hours, with the help of a patient and strong male nurse, I slowly and painfully got up and walked to the car.
My husband took turns slowly, but the ride home was bumpy, oh so bumpy. I spent the next three days mostly in bed, but I could stand for a while and do short walks around the house and outside. Sitting was still too painful. Thanks to a wonderful steroid, a muscle relaxer, and a prescription pain killer, I felt like I could somewhat function after a few days. An MRI revealed good news. I did not have a major problem. The bulging discs I am fully aware I have had caused some inflammation and a ligament issue. The combination of ligament issue plus bulging disc left me with incapacitating spasms.
Hey, Mom. Your health is important, too.
Now, here’s why I am telling you this story, I figure this painful, embarrassing (neighbor outside as I’m getting hauled off on a stretcher) experience shouldn’t go to waste. I had a lot of time to think on that floor. I was thinking about how my back was bothering me the entire week before, how I had brushed it off and basically just put a band aid on it with some quick home relief. It was fine, so then I went back to my normal routine, thinking the worst had passed. I could not have been more wrong.
I’ve known since my college years that I have lower back issues caused by a brief but intense dedication to Tae Bo. (Thanks Billy Blanks.) Anyway, I usually go to my chiropractor when it acts up, get some therapy for a week or two and forget about it. I am always sent home with stretches and rules for making my workspace back-friendly, and I usually just ignore the advice or forget or get too busy because I start feeling better.
Let me tell you, from now on, I will be doing my maintenance work! I will be stretching even when I feel great, doing my strengthening exercises, and making sure I have lumbar support at the office.
If you have a nagging issue that you are supposed to be taking care of regularly, don’t be me— don’t end up on the floor blocking your front door. Don’t end up in the ER.
Do your stretches, take your vitamins, go to that dentist or doctor visit you’ve been putting off. Whatever your bulging disc is, the thing you are supposed to be taking care of regularly, consider just doing it now.
Is it digestive problems, bad knees, skin irritations? I don’t know. I do know now that your body won’t be ignored and if you don’t make time to do your maintenance work, it will make sure you pay.
So after four weeks of appointments with my chiropractor, icing, stretching, walking, not sitting for long periods, and using my back pillow in the car…. I am so much better!
I’m even slightly (ever so slightly) starting to laugh about the little moments of that whole awful experience.