Monday, September 16, 2013

Wait Ten Minutes

That's what they say about Colorado weather...if you don't like it, wait ten minutes. It'll change.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Denver and the Front Range were seeing record-breaking temperatures nearing 100º. School districts were closing some schools early or altogether as the attempts to keep old buildings without air conditioning relatively cool against the oppressive heat failed miserably. Everyone in this neck of the woods has heard of that glorious unexpected holiday known as a "Snow Day". No one, to my knowledge, can recall schools closing for a "Hot as Hell Day". It was unprecedented.

I think most of us have been waiting, anxiously, for that first hint of autumn. That first morning we step outside of our houses and feel that first bit of a chill signifying its inevitable approach. This summer started much like the last with fires raging - devastating communities, destroying homes, contributing, psychologically, to the unbearable heat. It felt hotter than normal - at least, to me. Maybe that's because I was moving in the middle of it. I don't know. Regardless, I don't believe I'm in alone in saying that, last weekend, when the powers that be began forecasting cool temperatures and rain for several days in a row, I let out a ginormous sigh of relief. AT LAST!


About that...

Tuesday, September 10
After a long day at work and an extra long, intense acupuncture treatment for tennis elbow (apparently from all that, um, tennis I play) I sat out on my patio in the gloaming, enjoying an adult beverage, when the wind kicked up and I realized I was sitting outside and I was cold and not really in a good way. There's a difference between a crisp chill in the air and a cold wind stirring the leaves ominously. I shivered. I went inside and grabbed a sweater. 

It began to rain.

Wednesday, September 11
It was lightly raining as I made my way to work. It didn't seem unusual or even particularly heavy. Just, you know, the rain that rains in Seattle a good portion of the time. It had rained off and on throughout the night. Occasionally, very occasionally, that happens around here. I had an umbrella. I left it in the car. That's what most Coloradans do...cuz, you know, why carry an umbrella when, in ten minutes, the weather will change?

It rained pretty steadily all day but was, all in all, uneventful. I went home. I slept well. The rain was such a nice change from the weeks of blistering heat.

Thursday, September 12
Morning dawned. It was raining still. Light and steady most of the time but punctuated every once in awhile with a hard shower. I thought nothing of it beyond how annoying morning rain is when it impacts my ability to enjoy my morning cuppa joe out on the patio.

A couple of hours later, when Acr0nym rolled into work, he IM'd me and said, "This shite is crazy!" I made some comment about how this was just like Seattle so what's the big deal. And that's when he told me about Boulder.

Boulder was flooding. Boulder was, in effect, closed. 

Huh? Boulder's closed because it's RAINING?! That's almost as ridiculous as Denver Public Schools closing buildings because it's hot.

And that's when I thought to tune into the news.


It wasn't just Boulder. By then, Lyons and Jamestown had been completely cut off - no way in or out. Reports of houses collapsing and being washed away in Nederland. And then Longmont, home to TC and Mrs. TC and Mr. & Mrs. Acr0nym Senior - his whole family, cut in half by the St. Vrain River and impending evacuation orders issued. 

Both of us sat, mesmerized, horrified. 

Highway 7 12 miles west of Lyons, CO from the Camping in Colorado Facebook page

Parts of Commerce City, near Denhac, evacuated. Pictures rolling in, stories of wide-spread havoc and devastation from Colorado Springs to the south all the way up practically to the Wyoming border 100 miles away.

And then I saw this picture on the 9 News website...

Utah Park, Aurora, Colorado 
Utah Park is approximately a mile from my house. My NEW house.

And then I saw this picture also on the 9 News website...

This is a picture of an apartment complex right up the street from my house.

And all of a sudden I just really really wanted to go home. Because those pictures, while not nearly so devastating, were much closer to the little world I've carved out for myself, for Lex, for Vinny.

I canceled my chiropractic appointment (my back had been whacked for weeks) for that afternoon, sounding to my doctor, I'm sure, like a helicopter parent who has left her child at daycare for the first time. He told me to go home. He told me he was at a conference all weekend but, if I needed him, to call his cell. I assured him I would be OK. I told him I'd see him on Monday. Ha. Hindsight. 20/20.

My house was just fine. We were snug as bugs in our little nest. While the streets and neighborhoods around me were inundated with flood water, hail, and torrential rain, my little neighborhood's roads didn't have so much as one puddle. I counted my blessings. I worried about my friends, family, loved ones who pepper the communities hit hardest. I went to bed.

Friday, September 13
My back hurt.


Badder than it had hurt since I had a strained sacral ligament and spasms in my piriformis muscle back in February and spent weeks and several hundreds of dollars on acupuncture and chiropractic care getting put back to rights.

I took an ice pack with me to work. It got worse. I started to re-think the wisdom of canceling the appointment with my personal wizard, Dr. Sid, the day before. 

I crossed my fingers and just hoped I could muscle through (ha ha) the pain until Monday. I doubled down on the Aleve. I iced. I rooted around my recently unpacked medicine chest and found an old prescription of Robaxin...just in case1.

It was still raining.

I barely noticed.

I posted to Facebook: "Oh hai, Back Spasm. Been expecting you. Why you gotta land on a Friday when Dr. Sid is busy at a conference all weekend is beyond me. Regardless, I see a weekend fueled by Robaxin and the haze that goes with it. Also? Friday night couture should not include ice packs in the pants. Pretty much ever."

I went to bed.

Saturday, September 14
I guess it was about 1:30 a.m. when I awoke with excruciating pain radiating down my left leg.

"Oh my gawd. What fresh hell is this?" I thought to myself as I grabbed for the Robaxin and then stumbled downstairs to retrieve a fresh ice pack.

But I already knew. Sciatica. An affliction that, in 1988, landed Betsy, the Mom, flat on her back for days and on prescription strength painkillers ever since. An affliction that's plagued several people in my life...Acr0nym (who, if he is even a few minutes late taking his evening anti-inflammatory, gets a little panicky), Beasley, my boss to name a few...for years.

I cannot possibly describe the pain. There aren't words. Only if you have experienced nerve pain can you truly understand. All I can tell you - those of you who have never had the pleasure and by pleasure I mean suckage of the Dyson kind - is that the pain was so intense, so horrible - the worst I've ever experienced - that amputation, if offered, would have come as a welcome relief.


It was that bad.

I confess. I cried. The ugly cry. Several times.

The muscle-relaxer/sedative fog descended. Still...I couldn't sleep. The pain was the worst if I sat or stood still for just a few seconds. Even lying flat on my back hurt. The only thing that remotely helped was to keep moving. Walking and ice. I paced. And paced. And paced. I shoved ice packs down my pants2 quite possibly more than was prudent. I paced until my spasming back screamed shrilly in protest and I was forced back to my bed, tears streaming, begging some unknown and unbelieved in deity to please Please PLEASE just make it stop.

It didn't stop.

I took deep breaths and considered my options.

While dying was preferable, it wasn't forthcoming. That was plan A. Plan B was to make it until Monday when I was scheduled to see Sid. Considering a moment felt like an hour, that didn't seem survivable - especially knowing I'd have to sit at my work desk for a full 8 hours before my scheduled appointment. Plan C was the ER. However, knowing what I know about sciatica, muscle spasms, and western medicine in general I knew Plan C would result in either a cursory examination and a handful of prescriptions for crap that wouldn't do much of anything that the Aleve and Robaxin I was already taking weren't doing or a bunch of ridiculously expensive tests and an even more expensive reservation in a surgical suite for an epidural. That left me with Plan D...seriously inconveniencing the 2 people I count on the most in these kinds of situations on a acupuncturist and my chiropractor.

Luckily, my acupuncturist, the lovely St. Jude, was due at my house that day around 2 for a leisurely afternoon on my patio. So, you know, I kinda knew her schedule was already blocked out for me. I called her. I left a tearful message. "I need you. Help me." The call to Dr. Sid, even though he'd told me to call if I needed him, was harder. He was busy doing continuing education-type chiropractor things. It's hard enough to interrupt a friend for professional reasons on a weekend. It's way worse to interrupt when they've paid money to attend a conference you're going to rudely circumvent after you needlessly (as it turns out) canceled your appointment at the very last minute because you can't seem to control your out-of-control anxiety and helicopter homeownershiphood.

Still...I made the call. He answered. After listening to my tearful, plaintive plea, he said, "Call me at 9 a.m. tomorrow and I'll see you in the morning. Unless Jude can't help you today. In that case, call me this afternoon after 3."

St. Jude, however, came to my house prepared, carrying an old fashioned doctor's bag filled with needles and a heart full of healing gold. She laid me out on my bed, stuck me full of needles, and then we talked. We talked about my diet. About diarrhea. About yogurt. About wine. I don't know why. The pain was alleviated...a little. There was little she could really do until the root of the problem - that pesky sacrum and piriformis - was resolved.

It wasn't raining. I hardly noticed.

Afterward, I took her out on my patio. I took Vinny (harnessed and leashed) out on my patio. The sky above was broiling with angry, black storm clouds. Within ten minutes (wait ten minutes), we heard no less than 3 emergency sirens going off in several directions. "Tornado?" I said. "Flood," she said.


I invited her into my living room - the living room whose accommodations include one ratty old couch and boxes of stuff we don't know what to do with and haven't unpacked. She sat on the couch. I laid on the floor. I got up. I took a muscle relaxer. I laid back down. We turned our heads toward the picture window and talked not looking at each other - one of us more coherent than the other - as we watched the hail and the torrential rains pelt the world outside.

Jesus. Is this ever going to stop?

In my head, I was questioning my I talking about the rain or the pain?


She left a couple of hours later with me issuing grateful promises to gladly have her back in a couple of weeks when I was functioning and able to host her appropriately. 

I retreated to my room. I tried to sleep. No go.

Sunday, September 15
The hours between the wee sma's and 9 a.m. were spent pacing, pacing, pacing intermittently spattered with futile attempts to sleep in my bed and then the guest bed - a bed that, while certainly lacking in lavish comfort, is lower to the floor and easier to enter and exit - and excursions to the freezer for more ice and to the patio for a smoke.

At 9:05, I called. 

"Help," I said.

"OK. How soon can you be here?" he asked.

"Now," I said.

20 minutes later, I found myself lying on my stomach, the e-stim machine attached and scritching away at my back, stimulating the muscles, in hopes that they would relent and allow Dr. Sid to provide me with full release from my agony.

He gave me an extra long time on the machine in order to "cook" he explained.

I took deep breaths in time with the machine.

"I hope this works," I said.

"It will. You'll be OK," he said.

The machine beeped as it stopped.

"Take a deep breath. Now let it out," he said.

And I did.




My spine.

"Turn over on your side," he said. "I've got you," he said.


My hip.

"Turn over on your other side," he said. "No really. I've got you. I've got you! It's OK, I've got you," he said.


My other hip.

Immediate relief. No pain. Just sore. The muscles and the sciatic nerve retreating in defeat.

"Don't lift anything heavy. I'll see you tomorrow," he said.

"Thank you. I can't even tell you how much," I said.

I drove home. I slept deeply. I watched the last 6 episodes of Homeland season 1. I no longer hurt.

It wasn't raining.

I didn't care.

Monday, September 16 
It was so beautiful today! Blue sky, low 70's. Colorado in September. My adopted home of 20+ years that I love so much. I relished my new lease on life without pain. I'd forgotten about the floods.

As I drove to work on dry roads, relishing the tasks that laid ahead, the sun shining, listening to Colorado Public Radio, there was a story about the floods. A girl - 15, I think - describing how she and her mother, each carrying a cat, escaped from the devastation of Lyons, CO. just a few short miles from my little nest. "They're saying we won't be able to go home for, at least, 2 to 3 months at the soonest," she said.


Acr0nym, later, said, "Jane. Lyons is basically gone."


The gravity hit me again. Floods. Devastating floods. Lyons is gone? The pinball museum? The original Oskar Blues? What about the commune where my darling, Nykki, lived for a time? Gone?

They are calling it a 1,000 year flood. 30+ bridges washed out. The rescue effort the largest since hurricane Katrina. Towns - towns I know intimately, towns whose citizens are friends - devastated, no water, no sewer treatment, no electricity.

All of a sudden I understood...

Ten minutes is a lifetime.

When it's ten minutes of pain. When it's ten minutes of devastation.

Ten minutes can feel like infinity when it's your life.

Wait ten minutes and everything can change...for better. For worse.

1. I really hate taking drugs period. But I especially hate taking drugs whose potential side effects include jaundice because that means the liver is compromised and, well, if I'm going to compromise my liver, I'd at least like to enjoy it. 

2. FYI: Every ice pack in my house has now been shoved down the backside of my underpants several times. Just know that, in the event you need an ice pack while at my house, you are one degree of separation from my ass. You're welcome.


RxWiki said...

Hi Jane, Nice blog post.

Just wanted to let you know about an alternate resource for medication information. Here is the link for Robaxint.

Frances D said...

Now that my dear was one helluva a catch up. I had a lot of good luck with back combining chiropractic care with acupuncture back in the 90's. I can remember 80% of my pain being gone after just a couple of "cracks" - God Bless you Dr. S. The flooding scenes broke my heart. Last year I lost quite a few possessions to a bit of a localized disaster in my former apartment building. Such is life. Sending you, Lex and The Vin Man my best. Keep posting.

Frances D said...

Now that my dear was one helluva a catch up. I had a lot of good luck with back combining chiropractic care with acupuncture back in the 90's. I can remember 80% of my pain being gone after just a couple of "cracks" - God Bless you Dr. S. The flooding scenes broke my heart. Last year I lost quite a few possessions to a bit of a localized disaster in my former apartment building. Such is life. Sending you, Lex and The Vin Man my best. Keep posting.

Masked Mom said...

Powerful post altogether--and that ending packed a particularly powerful punch. The road to recovery for those in the worst-hit areas of the flood will no doubt be long and difficult. Hoping your own personal pain has eased somewhat.