Now I Understand...
Basically, M and I were on a motorcycle trip and on the last morning I woke up and my back hurt. Took some pain pills and lay down for an extra hour and then woke up to shower. Lifted my right leg and it went numb. We decided that a 900 pound bike with a 175 pound passenger and 100 pounds of luggage plus me on a numb leg and having to stop a minimum of 12 times (we counted them) was unlikely to work well. SO, we called Enterprise (they pick you up) and left the motorcycle at the motel who was quite gracious and let us park it immediately under a light in full view of the front desk. M drove me and our luggage to the hospital in Columbus where I had back surgery about 9 months previously and told them what had happened. They drugged me up and kept me for observation for three days. I saw a neurosurgeon and another, went for a bunch of tests and they decided that all of my sacral and lumbar vertebra had collapsed and the only thing they could do to fix it was to fuse my entire spine. Of course doing so would mean I couldn’t dress myself or care for myself, so I had two other options. Drug therapy (which at this point I was already well on the way to with dilaudid, percocet and flexeril every 4 hours) or a spinal stimulator. I asked about the drug therapy and they said they basically put you on a methadone pump and you go off into lala land. My reply was “gee, can’t I start on heroin? At least that way I could have an aspirational drug. Methadone is what they give recovering heroin addicts isn’t it? Doctors often look at me like I have three heads. Anyway, I now have a spinal stimulator. I’m good as gold for about 4 to 6 hours at a time, then I have to lie down for a couple of hours and then I’m good for another 4 to 6 hours and repeat as necessary.
SO, the whole time (6 months) I’ve been on disability from work and because I am who I am I work as many hours as I physically can and the rest of the time I lie in bed. The company allows me to do that and the insurance is glad they don’t have to pay 100% of my salary so they are happy too. The company has tried very hard to find a full time position that I can do within my work criteria, but honestly there aren’t a whole lot of jobs for a person who can sit for 4 hours and then has to lie down for 2 hours before they can sit for 4 more hours. My company doesn’t allow for work from home anymore, so that’s out as well (they used to but we’ve had a management change and everyone has to have a supervisor within view unless they are on the road traveling which was my previous job). SO, it appears that I’m going to be on long term (read permanent since with my disks continuing to disintegrate I’m not going to get any better) disability for the rest of my working career. I was initially really sad about it because I truly enjoy working but my boss pointed out “think of it as early retirement with a really good pension”. And yes, it is basically going to end up that way. I have many projects to finish and I will have the time (but only half the ability) to finish so it’s going to take me a long time to finish them. My wife wants to move down south, so we’re going to start a migration. And I have the ability to do some consulting work within my abilities. My mind isn’t dead, just my back. It’s not the end of my life, just the beginning of another chapter. I just have to be a bit smarter financially to make sure I spend efficiently and buy only what I need, not what I want. I’m not the least bit bitter or sad or even disappointed. I wish it would have been different. I don’t think anyone graduates high school or college and says “boy, I sure hope I become disabled” but as I have told several people that I’ve helped over the years, think of it as differently abled. You’re not dead, you have different abilities than other people do, you just have to find them and capitalize on them. I’ve said it so many times now that I believe it and I’m starting to do it.
A friend with MS that I used to date used to tell be before dates that she didn’t do anything all day that day because she had to conserve energy for the date. I never understood it until now. I wrote her on Facebook last month and told her I now understood what conserving energy was all about. She said she was sad for me. She hoped I would never have to understand that.
A Rest Stop along Disability Road where voyagers get an opportunity to read about other travelers from their perspective and in their words.