Most of the time, we wake up, maybe read the news paper or a bible verse, drink some coffee, and wake our spouses and/ or children and get the day started. We don't think about the little things that happen throughout our day. We just take them in stride and go about our merry way. Little things like a missed appointment, or a missed email, even trouble with the car, are annoying, but not life changing events. Most of us may have a hard time even pin pointing an event that we would remember as life changing.
Sometimes, in the course of that day, we may have a fleeting thought that rushes in, then rushes right back out in the blink of an eye. Some would say their most life changing event was their wedding. The birth of their first child. The loss of a loved one. But, I view these as life adding events. They're happy, sometimes sad,but they added spice to our life all the same. Life altering events can be times that are planned, but more often they are unforeseen events. They are a split second in time when something happens, that one can't always control. When we think about these times, we usually think of an accident. Some event that completely changes the way we live. The way we do the everyday things in our lives. It changes all the things we so often take for granted. It drops us to our knees, without warning, and with out any way to prepare ourselves for the what the new normal may be.
On October 9, 2012, I had one of those life changing accidents. At the time, I thought it was just going to be an inconvenience. Something that might have me down for a week or two, then I would be up and right back at the same old grind. This time however, I was totally unprepared for the events that have since taken place.
I went to work at 5:00 A.M., the same way I do five days a week. Clocked in, and started putting merchandise on the shelves, just like I do every day at work. I'm part of the morning stock crew in the electrical department. I stock everything from lights and light bulbs, fuses and panel boxes, electric wire and wiring tools. We have PVC and Conduit pipe in all shapes and sizes. We stock everything, anyone might need to wire new construction or fix an old lamp. On this day, my life would change, probably for ever, but at the time I had no idea what was about to happen.
While putting away ten foot sections of conduit (conduit is pipe that is used to bury wires under ground. They weigh about 18 lbs. each), I felt a lightening strike pain in my lower back, with burning, and what felt like pulled muscles. I took a few minutes to catch my breath, and returned to work. After about three hours, the pain was so bad, I had to stop. Walking was becoming difficult and much too painful. I reported the accident and went to the emergency room, where I was told that it was pulled muscles, given some pain medication along with some anti inflammatory meds, and was sent home to rest for the week. The following Monday, I was back at work. I returned on Monday, but I wasn't any better. I managed to get through my four hour shift, but I was in tears by the time it was over. I tried to work through the pain again on Tuesday, but I didn't make it through my shift. I called off on Wednesday and tried to get in to see my doctor, but he was booked. I was given an appointment for Thursday. After seeing my doctor, I was given a letter that stated I would be off work for the remainder of the month, and would have physical therapy during that time, to help heel the "pulled muscles". During this time, I had not been given any Xray's nor MRI's. The only way the diagnosis was made, was from my description of the pain and the location of that pain. Physical therapy was started, and by the end of the four weeks I was worse than when I started. That's when my brain kicked in and I demanded an Xray and an MRI. I had no idea what they were going to show. I only knew that something more serious was wrong with my back. This wasn't just pulled muscles.
A week later, I was told that the ligaments that attach the long muscle in right side of my back, to the bone had all been torn away from the bone. There is no surgery or magic fix. Only time would heal this type of injury. Problem is, the four weeks I spent stretching my back in therapy, only made things worse. I need to grow scar tissue that will re-attach the ligaments to the bone. Problem number two. Bone doesn't grow scar tissue, and with out a signal from my body, like a cut or surgery, the unattached ligament's don't know to grow scar tissue either. I was told it could take over a year, for my back to heal. As if that wasn't a big enough blow, the company I work for wasn't paying my workmans' compensation. So, I'm not only seriously injured, but my family is going down in flames due to the loss of my income.
We finally got the money worked out, after several phone calls and the threat of a court battle. At this time I'm living in that little bubble that keeps you thinking that every thing will be fine. I have good days, and bad days. I'm very limited on what I can do, but I was hoping for progress and good news at one of the December doctor's appointments. I hadn't had that moment when everything stops, dead still for a moment while you catch your breath. The doctor wrote another letter, stating that I was still unable to return to work. Three months, and I'm still not growing scar tissue.
I was required to fill out medical leave papers for my employer. I took the form to the doctor's office on December 14th. I got them back on December 23rd. That is when I realized that my life had been changed, possibly forever. There it was, in black and white. the first line on the page that asked the question "How long will the employee be affected by this injury?" The answer took my breath away. "Possibly lifelong." My brain went numb. It's almost Christmas. I'm supposed to happy, and filled with joy. But, instead I was devastated. How can this be?
Throughout my injury, I've been restricted on what I can and can't do. Along with the usual "no lifting", I've been restricted on everything from the amount of walking I'm allowed, to no standing to cook, do dishes, no bending, no doing laundry. No climbing stairs (this is truly hard since our shower is located up stairs). The normal, everyday things that we don't think about, are difficult at best. I never thought about how much the muscles in your back, impact everything we do. I've had disc problems in the past, and am well aware of the restrictions that causes. But, even a cold with coughing, becomes almost unbearable when there is a serious problem with detached ligaments and muscles.
There are just too many thoughts for me to process at once. Since I read the report on the paper work, I haven't been able to sleep. What does this mean? Where will I work? Will I be able to work? How will we pay the bills? I just can't shut my brain off at night. Most nights I fight the bed because of pain. But now, even with a pain pill, I can't relax. Sleep and I, are just not finding each other. Now I have headaches nearly everyday. I'm depressed I think. I don't know what depression feels like, but I'm not happy. I have cried, alone, several times in the past three weeks. Partly due to pain, but mostly due to worry. I'm praying for strength and guidance, but I'm still so lost. I don't talk to anyone about how I feel. I would only be met with those looks that say "stop whining. Really, how bad can you feel? You get to sit around all day. You get a check every week. Yea, you really have a reason to be depressed." I know this is the kind of injury that makes people question the seriousness of what I'm going through. Others can't see it. They can't feel it. Even Tom, is having trouble understanding why it hurts to stand at the stove for 20 minutes cooking. He was sitting right next to me when the orthopedic specialist said "no lifting, no doing normal chores like cooking, washing dishes, gathering eggs, doing laundry, bending, and being on your feet."
I know this is that life changing moment. It feels like I'm on a merry -go- round, with no way to get off, and no way to stop reliving those flash back moments. The moment I was injured plays like a bad movie every night when I lay down and close my eyes. That slow motion stop in time when I read the paper work before signing it. I see the doctors hand writing. The black ink on the stark white paper, "Possible lifelong". I hear the words that he said during my last visit. "You'll just have to wait and see what happens. It may be 2014 before you can go back to work. There just isn't anyway to make this heal quickly." That day was the first and only time, in my adult life, that I have cried in front of a doctor. Even in 1988, when they told me I had Renal cancer and would have to have a kidney removed, I didn't cry in front of anyone. Being diagnosed with Fibromyaliga and knowing I would always be in pain, didn't hit me like this. At least with Fibromyaliga, I can still work, walk, do chores, ride my horse, garden, play with my grand kids and live a normal life. But this, has shaken me to the core. Everything has come to a grinding, earth shattering halt. I hate it! I'm not in control, and I can't deal with that damn it!
While most of us may still have a hard time pinning down that life changing moment, my moment haunts me every minute, of every day. It's too hard to take things one day at a time, when all the days run together in a blur of pain and sadness. I feel like I'm trapped in someone else's life, but I feel the pain. What I wouldn't give to go back in time. Back to a time, to the point where I hadn't had my first life changing moment.