Saturday, 6 March 2010

Wait times

So... I know in the past, somewhere back in the mess of words on this blog, I've made mention of the fact that my back is buggered.

Three years ago this month I got bucked off a horse. No... I did not 'fall off'... I know how to ride, and I ride well. (Or at least I used to... I don't ride at all anymore.) He wasn't one of mine. He was at a friend's for his annual spring tune up. (She's a horse trainer and I know the horse's owner.) I had ridden him before on several occasions and never had any issues. And in March, in Canada, there are no insects to bother a horse. There was only my friend and myself. And the two horses we were riding, of course. In an indoor arena, with four walls and a roof, so there was no wind either.

There was no indication that anything was bugging him. I wasn't even asking him for anything particularly strenuous. We were just loping around at a nice, comfortable pace, toodling about the arena.

And then he blew. No warning. No getting pissy or antsy, acting up and giving me a sign that he wasn't happy about something. Nothing. He went from quietly loping along to rodeo in one stride.

It was just one buck. One very large buck. One buck huge enough that he launched me into the air, where I flew ass over tea kettle and landed on the sand of the arena floor about 25 feet ahead of him. Landed on the small of my back. Did you know that sand becomes hard as concrete if you hit it suddenly?

My lower back did not appreciate that landing. The flying through the air was no problem whatsoever. But the landing was rather abrupt. My friend was at the far end of the arena and saw my airborne antics but there was absolutely nothing she could do except watch in horror.

I didn't get the wind knocked out of me, because I didn't land on my upper back first. And I didn't break anything, although I certainly wish I had. And as I lay there in the sand, unable to move my legs, trying to breathe through the intense burning pain that was searing through my pelvis, that damn horse had the audacity to wander up to me and look at me as if to say, 'what are you doing down there?'

I wanted to kick him in the nose as hard as I could.

But I couldn't move my legs at that moment. I was hyperventilating through the pain. I told him to fuck off and die right there on the spot, the bastard. He ignored me. The bastard.

So once I could get up off the ground, I put ice packs on my back and drove off to the physiotherapist's clinic. I could move. I could twist. I knew nothing was broken. But it was swelling and burning and it hurt like hell.

I became lovely shades of dark purple and black and looked like I had a fannypack attached permanently to my rear end from all the soft tissue damage and swelling.

Over the past three years, I have had physiotherapy, traction, massages, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, drugs, CT scans and last November, an MRI. I finally got a referral to a neurosurgeon to see if there is anything that can be done to fix my back.

Because I have three herniated disks. I have difficulty sitting for any length of time. Standing in one spot is also an issue. (Guess what I do at my job?) And bending forward slightly for longer than 10 seconds or so can send me to my knees. I get sciatica in one leg or both. I've had my whole right leg and foot tingle the entire day. Nothing like walking on pins and needles... I have now had steroid injections twice in my back done by a physiatrist (physical medicine doc) and have been told I get one more in August and that's it. No more. It helps a bit (although not when he's sticking the needle in until he touches the bone and then withdraws it slightly to make sure he's injecting the right spot.... there is nothing to describe that kind of hurt, and even though I have a very high pain tolerance, that has me hyperventilating and fighting very hard to hold still). He also told me he'd bet dollars to donuts that the neurosurgeon will recommend surgery because one of the herniations is impinging on a nerve root.

But here's the rub. I had to have the MRI first, the neuro office told me. Then the surgeon would review my MRI and determine if I need surgery. And then he'd see me. So, over three months after the MRI, I'd still not heard from the surgeon's office, so I gave them a call. Oh yes, the girl said, your name is here. I'll put you on the waiting list. Waiting list for what? I asked. For an appointment, she said. You have a waiting list for an appointment? I asked incredulously. Yes, she said. And just how long of a wait is it to get an appointment? I asked. Well, she said, we have people on the list going back to 2008...

You have got to be kidding me, I said. No, was all she said.

I hate our medical system for this. The government is all about speeding up wait times to see doctors and they even put some of it on their website. Especially things like hip replacements, heart surgeries, that kind of thing.

Neurosurgery doesn't make that list. I guess it's not that news worthy an item.

If I had $30K I could head down to the USA and get it done rather expediently. I don't even have that much equity in my house. It ain't gonna happen.

I've found a spine doctor in Vancouver (you'll remember that place from all the Olympic hoopla recently) online and have sent him my info to see what his opinion is. He's in the private medical sector. He's also 3000 kms away. But I have a cousin in Vancouver and could probably make arrangements with her if I need to go there for anything. But again, I need to know the cost.

We supposedly have universal healthcare here in Canada, so getting my back taken care of shouldn't cost me anything out of pocket. I pay enough taxes that I shouldn't even have to think about forking out cash for care.

I guess having a fucked up back just isn't fashionable enough to warrant media attention and shorter wait times. I just may call up the local paper and my MLA to see if I can get things sped up a tad.


  1. Ugh, back pain is so debilitating. I hope you can find a way to get relief sooner.

    Friends in Australia report waiting time like that, even for painful things.

    Obama wants us to have a system like that too!

  2. Yes been there done that, in the end I paid for my MRI and I paid to see the surgeon. It was the only way it was going to happen without waiting probably a year. I then had to wait for surgery on the NHS because I couldn't afford that privately - the wait was about 24 weeks in the end. However, if I had had it done privately I might not be here. The private hospital has no ITU and limited crash facilities. I don't yet know if I will be able to ride again so I'm keeping my horses in the interim although they are being cared for by someone else. I just can't bare the thought of parting with them, I think you were extremely brave. I hope you get to see your surgeon soon. I guess you will have to have surgery because it sounds a similar injury to mine - I really wish you good luck! xxx

  3. That comment turned out to be about me and was supposed to be support for you! I only meant I feel your pain and know what it's like! I wish there was something I could do for you.

  4. (((Pon))) <--- Hugs to you, Pon - and while my story isn't as dramatic, I can totally get the pain you are going through. I fell (actually, I slid) down a flight of stairs, and have two herniated discs. Years of pain is not fun, and while I no longer have that level of pain, I definitely have mobility issues!

    I really hope you can get some medical attention soon - as a tax-payer you definitely deserve to get something done about it all! xx

  5. XL: It's not so much that the system is horrible; here it is that there are not enough doctors, and definitely not enough specialists. There are things about private healthcare that I really like, but affordability is a big issue too. There really needs to be a way to merge the two... somehow.

    zIggI: I know you completely understand. Paying to see a surgeon isn't an option here. If I had the money, I would go across the border to the US. That would be fast but costs huge money that I just don't have, nor do I have access to that kind of cash. But thanks for the support!

    Helga: Oh my! You never got things fixed? Thanks for the hugs... xoxo

  6. I can't even imagine how you stand and walk for hours on end with that kind of pain. (Probably because you need the money to eat and stuff like that.)

    All I can say is that my heart goes out to you and that hopefully you'll get the info you need from Vancouver.

    Go ahead and take a (hug)--they're free.

  7. What a strange horse! I am very sorry to hear that you have to suffer from this accident constantly. I had some accidents over the years but the perspective always was clear: SOme day the payne would end, go away, it would heal. So they told you to wait another year? Cool ... it isn't their back ...

  8. So... to cut such a heart warming, charming story short, you got drunk, you mounted something too big for you, was chucked aside, got hurt, and now lament ever having straddled such a Canadian beast?

    Don't get me wrong hen, you know how close you are to my heart, but for the love of all things horsey... Adding lines like this one:

    " And bending forward slightly for longer than 10 seconds or so can send me to my knees." is never gonnae help the situation to hand.

    In a nutshell... you need sex. Sex, body massage, a man to warm away the pain with his huge hands.

    I'll see how my calender looks for the month of May.

    As for the horse... I look forward to seeing him laying next to a good salad and spuds.

  9. LMAO @ what Jimmy said! :D

    Nope, never got anything fixed. All I've had is a spinal block, because surgery was not guaranteed to fix me - in fact, the surgeon said the odds were only 10%, and the length of time I would have been off my feet would have crippled me mentally!

  10. Wow, have a hug, a cold compress and a comfy place to sit.

    Hubby has back problems: his friend once supposedly "fixed" the mounts on a tree stand they hunted from. Only hubby got to the top and it came tumbling down, 40 feet to the ground. I'm still amazed he didn't break his back.

    He has a couple of discs which malfunction and sciatica too. But he's stubborn and refuses to do more.

    I'm sorry your Health System is as crappy as ours. Perhaps we can get Map to do a Singing Gig in your honor, like a Telethon, to raise money to fix what ails you. :) Can't stand the thought of you hurting for so long!

  11. Sounds dreadful. I have sciatica and thought that was bad enough, but this sounds way worse. Really hope you get this sorted soon.

  12. That is terrible pain you're experiencing! You're much more incredible and stronger than I thought, especially given the nature of your vital but very demanding field!

    Back pain really sucks! Esp. lower back pain! Ouch. I hope things work out faster and better for you. Nobody should have to endure pain that long! And I hope you get much better real soon.

    Take Care, Ponita.

  13. Hi Ponita,

    I herniated a disk several years ago and I totally get that you're in pain. I have nothing to describe that pain; only drugs alleviated my pain. I hope that your options provide you with relief.

    Good thoughts for you always,


  14. Back pain is so awful, and often even surgery does not alleviate the pain.

    Even here in the good ole USA we often have to wait to get in to see the doctor, particularly specialists. I don't know what you pay in taxes but our insurance premium cost $1,200/month, a third of our income and more than our house payment. It is expected to go up 15 to 20% next year. Insurance only pays 85% of the cost, we have to pay the remainder on top of premiums. There may be things you don't like about your Canadian health care, but my guess is you wouldn't want to trade me right now.


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