It’s “just” sciatica

Given how much I was hurting yesterday morning, I really didn’t think I’d ever refer to the cause as “just” sciatica. But it feels good to do so now.

On with the story…

So, normally my sciatica pain subsides after just a few days once I start aggressive treatment. I started aggressive treatment Tuesday and sorta thought I felt better Wednesday and Thursday. Of course, I didn’t teach Thursday, so got to take it easy.

Friday morning was a different matter. I hurt. Lots. Classes were interesting…I’d talk for a while and then have to stop mid-sentence and hold on to a table or sit down and grit my teeth as a wave of pain passed. A reasonable person would have just stopped class. But the pain always stopped in 10 seconds or so (I thought), We just have one more week of classes. I’m giving a test in one class Monday. I had to stick around campus so I could go to my radiation appointment at 2:15 (which is a nonevent in all of this). And, most obviously, I am not really a reasonable person.

When I talked to Charlie as he was driving home from Florida, I mentioned this to him. He called my primary care doctor to get me an appointment to be seen. (I didn’t think much could be done–it’s sciatica, it’ll pass. But he’ll be home all next week and didn’t need me whining about the pain.)

About 5 minutes after Charlie made an appointment, I got a call from the nurse. She’d told a doctor why I was coming in. Somehow, she also mentioned that I’d had surgery two weeks earlier. The doctor was concerned that instead of sciatica, it might be a blood clot causing the pain.

Sciatica is a big pain in the ass, literally, but blood clots are potentially fatal. (I had a 30 year old Girl Scout leader die of one when I was a kid.)

So, the nurse told me to call my surgeon. My surgeon’s answering service had the on-call surgeon call me back. The on-call surgeon didn’t have a definitive answer, but did say if it was a blood clot, it should be taken care of immediately. But, because it was a Friday afternoon, there was no way to do that except in the emergency room.

(By the way, I was asked a number of times if I was referred by a doctor to the emergency room. I told the first person that whole gory story. I told everyone else “yes.”)

I told Charlie this and he got home way too fast. He took me to the Emergency Room at MCCG and I was in triage before he got the car parked, around 6:00. Charlie knew the pain had to be bad because:

  1. I didn’t tell him going to the Emergency Room was a dumb idea.
  2. My blood pressure was more than 50 points above normal, which the nurse attributed to the pain.
  3. When asked to rate the pain on a 1 to 10 scale, I gave it a 4 to 10 (and had to hesitate, because I really wanted to go to 11, but figured they may give me a Spinal Tap if I did–in joke?). Throughout our 22 years together, he’d never heard me mention a pain of more than 7.

We then spent two hours in a private room in triage while they waited for another room to open. There was a lot of hurry up and wait, but we expected it of an ER. But MCCG is nothing like television ERs, thankfully. We had a private room with solid walls, a private bath, and a TV. (The bathroom had that special “feature” of having them come in and ask for a urine sample as soon as you flushed!) We got lots of attention when we got in. Everyone seemed to agree it was probably sciatica, but they couldn’t rule out a blood clot without an ultrasound and you just can’t get an ultrasound in Macon on a Friday night. Or Saturday or Sunday normally.

Finally, after the X-Rays didn’t show anything, around 10:30, they decided to take a blood test that would indicate if clots were likely to form. A score of 0 or below on the test is a “no” and 2 or higher is a “yes.” Around 11:00 the nurse came back to take more blood (and was shocked we didn’t scream at her–sheesh, giving blood is the least of my problems). We had a nice chat with the nurse about Katherine Harris’s joke of a campaign too. We then fell into the shift change hole for about 2 hours. Or maybe the lab was slow. Or maybe it was just doctors trying to figure out what to do with me because I got a 1 on the test.

“Fortunately,” there was a woman in a room next to ours who also had something that might be a blood clot, so they’d arranged to get ultrasound people in Saturday morning to check her out. I may as well go then too.

We got home around 2, to get up at 7 to get back to the hospital for an ultrasound at 9. The tech who was to do the ultrasound had her house hit by lightning last night (a nasty storm moved through), so was an hour late, so we had lots of time to talk to the other woman, who was just 24 and had something moving in her leg after breaking her foot a few days ago. (She also had a 1 on the blood test.) She made me feel a little less stupid about not trying to get an ultrasound Friday…she’d tried to get one that morning and was sent to the emergency room at 1:30 PM. Fortunately, she “just” had a 7 cm cyst.

And I “just” had sciatica.

Besides the peace of mind, there were other good results. I got a couple of shots last night (and in the time it took to get the blood test results back, after the shots, my blood pressure dropped about 50 points) and some more steroids to take this morning (the pharmacy at Kroger is delightfully empty at 7:45…Charlie had the prescription filled in less time than it normally takes to drop it off). I think I’m feeling better. I get to keep taking pain meds.

I think I’m feeling better. I hope I am really and it’s not just the bounceback of not having to worry about waking up dead before Monday.

Hey, I “just” have sciatica.

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1 Comment »

  1. Well, “just” sciatica is pretty crummy under normal circumstances. It’s just that right now, your circumstances aren’t quite normal. But this, too, shall pass…

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