Hell: Not on the Map, But I Was There

Closeup of young woman suffering from back pain
Closeup of young woman suffering from back pain

I have no idea how I injured my back, but the results landed me flat out in knife-twisting agony for nearly three weeks. I've had back problems before but nothing compared to this torture -- not even back in 1985, when the medics came, hoisted me off my bedroom floor and carried me to the emergency room, where the doctor instructed me to sit up and when I said I couldn't, replied with great annoyance, "Of course you can; you just don't want the pain."

The man was brilliant.

So three weeks ago, I found myself writhing in agony, hurting too much to read, write, watch TV or eat; unable to do anything but look up at the ceiling, moan and wipe an occasional tear from my cheek.

Experimenting with new positions took on a whole new meaning.

My doctor promised relief: "I haf a proceedchure," assured Dr. Mengele. "You vill be my last patient Vendesday, so no one vill hear your screams." My friend Joanne drove and then listened to my cries and labored breathing as Dr. Mengele pummeled and kneaded. And when it was over, with sweat pouring down my face, I threatened, "You'd better be able to produce a baby."

I was given a prescription for a muscle relaxant. Instructions on the bottle warned not to drink alcohol, because it might intensify the effect of the drug. I thought, and the bad part of that would be...?

About a week into this ordeal, in a drug-induced state and still on my back, I began to discover little activities that held my interest. I examined my hands with the curiosity and wonder of an infant who's just discovered his feet. I noticed that the lifeline on my right hand is longer than that on my left and wondered if that meant it would live longer. I spent an entire day pushing my cuticles back so far, they currently reside under each first knuckle. I counted the age spots on my hands and arms which took me through days nine, ten and eleven. I watched the cobwebs on my ceiling fan circle around and around and, incredibly, never drop off. I braided my chin hairs.

I discovered that I can't drink water lying on my back, and I now understand why nobody has ever approved the manufacturing of a chest-top computer. When my pain was more severe than usual one morning, I discovered I'd been sleeping on a Kentucky Fried chicken wing my daughter had loving attempted to feed me the evening before.

My cousin Phyllis prescribed her own home remedy. "Buy a car like mine, with heated seats," she suggested. "When I had back pain problems, I spent the better part of most days driving in my car. I would have never left it, but I don't like fast food, so I had to eventually go home for meals," she continued.

I liked her idea a lot, but my HMO wouldn't approve it.

The only plus to being out of commission was a weight loss of seven pounds, but I gained it all back the first day I was able to make the trek down the hall to my refrigerator.

I'm presently up and around. I still have pain, but it's really bizarre how everything is relative. What I'm now experiencing is an incessant nagging, aching, stiffness that infringes on the quality of my every waking moment. But hey, compared to what I had before, it's Nirvana.