Sunday, 12 February 2012

getting fixed?

my story begins 7 years ago, when i worked at a salad production factory, working with HGVs, fixing and loading them. one day, a wagon came in complaining of a gas leak, this wagon was full of tomatoes, so these ha to be shifted before any maintenance could begin. as i was moving a pallet (which weighed in excess of 2 tonnes), it started to tilt. me being the fool, i went to catch it, and felt a pop in my back! (for the record, i did successfully prevent the pallet from toppling).

so, my NHS adventure began that day in early june 2004. i got taken to hospital, where a "genius" doctor pronounced me as having slipped a disc in my spine. (i could have told him that). anyway, he had to do an XRAY to make sure. i was off work for a month, letting the pain subside. nothing really happened after that apart from the occasional twinge in my back.

the next year, a very similar accident occurred, again, i was taken to hospital, this time no XRAY, but still, they said slipped disc and to rest. off work again for another month.

in 2009, while working at a EMI nursing home, i bent down to pick an empty bin liner off the floor, i couldnt stand back up. i went to the hospital straight away, the immediately booked me in for an MRI scan. the scan showed that i have DDD (Disc Degeneration Disease). DDD often occurs in older people as an ageing process, most of the time no pain is felt, however, when it is caused by injury, it can become quite serious.

i was under Mr Ampat, a orthopaedic surgeon at southport and formby general hospital. as i was also starting to get strange pain in my legs, he referred me to the walton neurological centre in liverpool, for further testing.

after the tests had been completed, i was seen by a registrar, who said that the discs where causing irritation to the nerves that come out of the spinal cord. he said it will need surgery in the future, i asked will my symptoms become worse, he answered with a simple "yes". my heart sank as i new this was going to affect me for some time, and could start to ruin my life. i was off sick from my work, a job i loved. after about 6 months, my boss alan called me in, and said that they would have to let me go on grounds of incapacity. a tear came to my eye at this point. alan felt so sorry for me and said he wished there was something he could do to help, but he had done all he could. things at this point now where really starting to get to me.

so, as the days ans weeks rolled on, i found myself in ever more pain, increasing all the time, several bouts on near depression, to which the doctors wanted to put me on antidepressants, of which i said no, except one antidepressant, Amitriptyline, only because it was proven to help with nerve pain, didnt really feel much relief from that, but at that point in time i was willing to try anything.

A few months later, i went to see my GP for a regular check up, and he told me about a trial drug the NHS has been testing on patients with nerve problems, its called Pregabalin, or Lyrica. i found this drug to be much more helpful than the Amitriptyline, so i came off that and started taking Lyrica at small doses to begin with, after a week i increase the dosage up to 600mg a day, the effect where noticeable. i am still on this drug to this day. that, mixed with the Tramadol, causes me to feel quite "high", but does relieve the pain somewhat.

my story became quite the same for a while after that, i carried on taking the necessary drugs everyday, and tried my best to live life the best way i could. Then, after i moved up to lancaster with my partner, i started seeing a new GP and he wanted to send me to Chorley hospital for another MRI scan and to see the resident orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital, so after organising a lift down to Chorley from a friend, this was because i cannot lie still for 20 mins, its impossible, so i had to drug myself up, i successfully completed the MRI and an appointment was made for me  to come back for a follow up and results at a later date. 

I felt optimistic, i hoped that things were finally going to get sorted, and hopefully, this orthopaedic surgeon would be able to fix me. that was until the appointment day. i arrived on time for my appointment, sat in the waiting room until my name was called. i followed a woman into a consultation room, i thought at that time she was the surgeons receptionist and the surgeon would be along shortly. instead, she introduced herself as his physiotherapist. i was a bit puzzled at this time, but maybe he was busy and she was just going to give me the results to which he had decided. instead, it turns out that the surgeon had not looked at the MRI scan at all, instead, she decided to give me her results. this is what she said. "there appears to be a very slight misshaping of a disc, but there is nothing wrong with you". at this point i got angry and upset. i knew they did the MRI wrong when they put my legs up on a high foam cushion, i asked her, "if there is nothing wrong with me, how to you explain the symptoms that i am getting, and the fact that i have been diagnosed with DDD by 2 GP's, an Orthopaedic surgeon, and a neurosurgeon". she couldnt answer this, and looked at me with what could only be described as a look of hatred. (i guess these people don't like to be proved wrong). all she said after that is maybe there is a problem further up my spine, of maybe in my head, oh joy! does she really know what she is talking about?? im guessing not! anyway, the receptionist made me a follow up appointment and said she would ring lancaster hospital to arrange for an MRI scan, to save me having to journey all the way to Chorley. well the letter came through for the follow up, but nothing about the actual scan. i left it a bit, thought maybe lancaster was busy, so decided to give them time. the follow up was coming up fast, so i rang chorley, only to be told its not their job to ring for MRI scan appointments. i was livid!! i rang lancaster to see if there was an appointment, but there wasnt enough time. 

Right now, i had given up on the NHS, id worked all my life, and paid alot of money into national insurance to be treated like a number. i was fed up. but my girlfriend kept me going, she has been my rock through this. now i was determined to get myself fixed and get back to work, so i went back to my GP, demanding that something be done. so he referred me to a private hospital in lancaster for an epidural injection. the professor i saw there spoke the most sense to me that anyone else had in the past. he told me exactly what was wrong and exactly what was needed to fix it, surgery. unfortunately, he said no neurosurgeon would touch me until everything else had been tried first. so he made an appointment for an epidural 3 days later (i wish i could afford to go private, i would have been fixed by now). 

so the day came for my epidural, i was a bit nervous, id never had one before. i got taken into a treatment room, was told to turn onto my left. the sensation of the injection was very strange, and slightly painful. but i was discharged a few hours later and was told to rest for 24 hours and come back for a follow up. the chances of pain relief were marginal, and indeed, nothing really came of it. so i was booked in for another one. this one didn't quite go to plan, he must have hit a nerve, even though he didn't admit it. i had never felt pain like that before in my life. it felt like my leg was literally on fire. this went off after a while, and again, i was discharged and came back for a follow up. again nothing really came of the injection. that was the end of what he could do for me as he was a private professor and couldn't refer me on, but did give me the name of a neurosurgeon who he recommended. so my GP referred me on to this surgeon at the royal preston hospital. the appointment is in march.

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