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3 posts from November 2015

November 24, 2015

And the verdict is....

I will be in the DC area until at least December 10th after discussions with the powers that be (doctors, MED, etc.). I can say that I while I was initially nervous and stressed about the medevac, I think after yesterday's doctor's appointment, I feel much better about staying in the area a bit longer.  

Granted, yesterday's appointment was not one I will forget soon.  After a very thorough work-up with both a PA and a doctor at the Spine Center, I had the first epidural (steroid) injection.  The hope is that this treatment will calm everything down (particularly the nerve that's being compressed) which will in turn relieve the pain and hopefully all of the numbness.  The good thing is I can tell when there is less pressure, and the numbness naturally decreases. This gives me hope that with the second injection, things will calm down even more and I should get even more back to normal. 

I was initially a bit nervous about the appointment yesterday, as I had no idea what to expect. I wasn't sure if I would have to just throw myself down and become a pincushion or if there would be a bit of discussion first. Thankfully, there was a lot of discussion and both the PA and doctor were very quick to confirm that the injection was the best route to try, and more importantly, that it would be best to try a set of two.  Despite my fears of needles near my spine, I felt better knowing I would have more recovery and assessment time from the first, and even better (in some respects) a second one to ensure that I leave in the best possible shape.

I will leave out a description of the event, other than to write that I am amazed I still have hair (very nearly pulled it out while screeching in pain yesterday), and grateful for patient and understanding doctors and nurses.  Let's just say when the nerve that is being compressed is touched...well, yes, there is a bit of (extreme) pain. 

So, while I am sad to be missing events in Managua, I am happy to be here, happy to have been able to get a second opinion, and feel like I am getting a tiny bit better each day.  I've had a chance to catch up with many friends (and hope to meet up with more), get into the city a bit, and will have Thanksgiving here at the Salty Dog 'stead...guaranteed to be a good time!



In hindsight, my visit to the botanical gardens was a bit much. While I ended up getting a lot of steps, my leg really wasn't in good shape for so much walking.  So, trying to scale down my trips out a bit so I don't end up with my leg in an enormous amount of pain while only halfway up the extremely long escalator in the Rosslyn Metro Station....


I've even had a chance to do a bit of Christmas shopping. Peter, what was it you said about wanting a drum set this year? I'm thinking this would be a fantastic addition to your office!



And with that, Happy Thanksgiving to all!


November 19, 2015



So, I'm back.  Well, here in the DC area on medevac.  As mentioned previously, I've had a back issue since October 3rd (that went haywire on October 12th) and I'm here trying to figure the whole thing out.

I should not be depressed or stressed, but this has been a bit frustrating. I am grateful that I was flown out, that I've been able to see a good doctor, and that open back surgery was not suggested. In fact, no surgery has been suggested at this time. I think that is part of my frustration, as I was seeing that as perhaps an easy fix (still complicated, but easy in some respects).  Given that my pain level has been going down (it still exists, but is getting better) and my ruptured disk isn't that bad (which is good news), surgery is not the first option.

Instead, we are going to try epidural injections. The only issue is that these generally are 2-3 weeks apart, done in a set of three. To do the full set would require at least 6 weeks here. I'm slated to try one on Monday, and see how that goes.  I think part of the problem for me is that despite my somewhat relaxed attitude at times, I do like having timelines and deadlines. I realize I just work better that way.  So, having to have a 'wait and see' attitude while being so far from home is more stressful than I imagined. In fact, it's nearly as stressful as that thing that happened five years ago.  In many ways, somewhat similar, as I didn't know how that would turn out either.  I also have a ticket home a week from Saturday, which can be changed, but I guess I'd just like someone to say, "This will work or it won't..." A rather silly expectation, really, but...

I'm also overwhelmed by choice. I've bought zero Christmas gifts so far, and have been so busy with work that I haven't even thought about Christmas cards (and I'm missing the holiday fair...my favorite event of the year).  So, if anyone is offended by a New Year's card this year....

Then I watch the news occasionally and feel like an idiot for complaining about anything. Yes, I have a bad back and a bum leg because of that.  However, my husband's employer cares enough about my health that they flew me back here to get it looked at. I'm in safe lodging, have too much food around me, clean water from the tap, and a car to drive me anywhere thanks to friends who care for it while we are out of the country.


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Thanks so much to my friend, Carolyn, who gave me a last-minute invite to a Cheryl Strayed event at 6th and I. Good to get out, and the discussion was fascinating.

I also have friends who care enough to meet me at the airport, take me out to dinner, house me, call me up and invite me to events, and meet me for lunches.  So, really I just need to get out of my comfy direct-billed housing on this gray day (which is actually okay...I miss cooler weather!)  and just go do something...meanwhile being very hopeful after reviewing the spine center's website that the injections will help and I will be home soon...feeling much more like my old self.

November 07, 2015

Usually around this time of year

I am regaling one with tales of yet another fantastic trip to Somoto Canyon.  We discovered it for the first time in early November of 2013, and had a return trip last November.  Being that it is officially Nick's favorite place in Nicaragua, I naturally assumed we would all head there together this year (maybe even getting Cait to go along, too!).

Sadly, any hopes of me going started to fade around October 12th, and truly faded when I was told I couldn't go for fear of making a bad health issue worse. I was actually quite relieved to be told I had to stay home, as while I felt like I should try and push forward, I knew deep down inside I could end up in even more pain.  What could be so awful?

Back pain, pure and simple. I don't know what exactly happened, but started having lower back pain (tailbone pain, to be exact) in late September. I figured it would fade, but then it seemed to turn to sciatica. Painful, but tolerable. On the morning of October 12th, instead of enjoying a day off work with a hike and breakfast at a favorite cafe, I ended up in excruciating pain by doing nothing more than bending a knee. A terrible pain shot down the other leg, and it felt like I was walking/standing/lying down on a nerve that was now on fire in my left leg.

Thanks to a bit of ibuprofen and a lot of time on a heating pad, the pain eased up so I could hobble around the house.  I ended up at the Health Unit the next day (so love having that right at work), and made an appointment to see a top orthopedic surgeon at the hospital here as soon as possible. A visit to him, x-rays, an appointment w/the head of PT, several PT appointments, an MRI, and a follow-up visit later (not to mention several trips to the Health Unit), I have an answer:  a ruptured disk.  Basically, that disk is just sitting on the nerve, hence the pain and uncomfortably numb feeling I have had for the past month.

Yes, numbness. While I can generally handle the pain, the numbness in my leg and foot has been making me crazy. By last week, the constant sensation of pins and needles in my left foot, the weakness in my left leg that is a result of me not being able to walk/exercise enough, and the overall pain had me extremely stressed out (not to mention making my job far more difficult). In fact, when the surgeon reviewed my MRI, and announced I would need surgery, I was almost relieved, as I had been sure that was in the offing, and it seemed like a giant (if likely painful) step in the right direction.

So, with all of that, Somoto Canyon was completely out. As it is, I have probably been doing way too much, but given that have fewer only 8 months left in Nicaragua, we are rather frantically trying to get to all of those places we haven't yet visited...while Cait works on college applications and deals with the general exhaustion of senior year, while Kelsey enjoys her final year of middle school, while Nick tries not to think about moving (he has decided he does not want to leave Nicaragua) and while Peter and I are just a bit busy with work.  The back issue that I had hoped would just go away on its own has not, and now I'm left with only one option: medevac.

Not all of the details are completely hammered out, but it looks like I am definitely headed back to the U.S. for a few weeks.  I will likely have to have a microdisctectomy to fix the issue with my spine, possibly therapy and other follow-up before I return to Nicaragua.  I can hope to only be back for 2 weeks, but in all likelihood, I think my stay will be a bit longer.  Not something I wanted, but given it's right now my only option for a return to a normal walking ability, I will take what I can get.

So, no Somoto for me. While Peter and Nick enjoyed hiking, swimming, jumping (Nick assures me he jumped from serious heights this year), and an extremely fun day in Somoto, Cait, Kelsey and I had a girls' day out. Lunch for all three of us and then Cait, one of her friends, and I caught a movie.  I've realized I've got to take advantage of these times, given that Cait will head off to college next year (no news yet as to where). 

Sadly, I don't even have any photos (yet)...well, except this one of the extremely zonked LG.  Poor little dude sat down in his comfy chair to eat his baked potato, and fell asleep before he could take two bites.



Despite the back issues, and the limitations on my movements (and activities), life here is quite good. The closer we come to the end of the tour, the more I think about our lifestyle, and give thanks for these exhausting and fun opportunities, whether or not we all join in or simply admire from the (very far away) sidelines.  Now, to only guess where we might be headed next...?