Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spineSpinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and the neck.

mayoclinic.org

At five in the morning Friday, after an evening spent feasting with the same three people that I’ve been COVID quarantining with since March, them drinking champagne, me drinking water and hoping to be able to empty my bowels later (a generally empty hope as it was that night. Alcohol causes constipation, something on the avoid list for those of us who have issues with our guts) a late night spent watching television in an all-to-rare showing of familial appreciation, I was woken from a rather weird dream in which I could hear animal noises coming from a nearby set of bushes, only to discover that the weird noises were the Wife trying to get up off of the toilet and failing to be able to manage it, try as hard as she might.

Spinal stenosis has been having its way with her over the last few years, and it has caused her to become a frequent visitor to pain specialists as they try to address the various pain complaints (neck, back, feet, knees and legs) that seem to crop up at almost random times and places. The last visit to a pain doctor for treatment was a few days ago, and we thought she was heading into a more lengthy period of being free from the daily grinding pain that Spinal Stenosis inflicts on her.

With a little coaxing I was able to help her get moved into a chair in the next room, but it was clear to both of us in a very short time that we were going to have to transport her to the emergency room in order to get the problem diagnosed and addressed, because the pain that had started bothering her as she and the Daughter were preparing pies and cooking ham together was simply getting worse with time.

The problem she was having did not appear to be related to the recent treatments, but the only way to be sure was to bundle her up and take her to a doctor. So at six am amidst the Black Friday sale desperation visible at every shopping center we passed, I drove her to the ER of the hospital that we seem to be spending more and more time at these days.

With masks in place and temperature checks passed, we were ushered into a private space where the nurses and doctors popped in and out and over the next hour or so, until they finally agreed on the pain meds they wanted to try out. The problem here is that most of the pain meds that have been made available over the last few decades don’t seem to work well for the Wife, and most of them are also extremely addictive with some severe side-effects to boot. She has some preferences for older pain drugs, but those drugs are interdicted as barbiturates or some such, and so you have to pull teeth in order to get a doctor to prescribe you any of them. But those drugs do work, if you can get someone to give them to you. The emergency room doctors will not be doing this. They’ll try some other new drug, one that isn’t already deemed bad for some reason or other. It was a new drug, so we figured why not?

Then came the attempts to get an intravenous tap into the Wife’s veins. This is always a hit and miss process with her. Very few nurses seem to have the skill to get a needle in one of her veins. After a few tries the nurse dragged in an ultrasound machine specifically set up to help nurses with people like the Wife , people who don’t want to give up their secret blood supplies to interlopers like medical professionals. It was a cool gadget and with it she was able to hit a vein with the least amount of trouble I’ve ever seen in the many times I’ve watched them try to get a needle in that woman.

With the IV in place they could finally do the thing they wanted to do, and they gave her the pain medication she needed. Her blood pressure receded from the scary levels it had been at up to that point, and she finally started to doze off, only occasionally being woken by the alarms that seemed to go off every time she fell asleep. Heart rate too low, blood oxygen too low, whatever. After this had gone on for awhile, the nurses came back in and hooked her up with some oxygen and gave her a second shot, and at that point she actually slept for a bit.

Hours had passed by then. As I sat there in my mask trying not to touch anything other than my phone, I marveled at the hectic non-stop activity all around us. City hospitals are always a little busy, but I’ve never seen the kind of activity that was going on during that morning. Signs of the long pandemic we are suffering through were everywhere. Plastic sheeting hastily taped up to partition the various spaces that used to be simply curtained off. Masks, face shields and gloves were in place for every person who wandered in and out of the room, including the janitorial staff. The room next to the Wife’s was filled and vacated three times before we left there sometime around noon. Everyone looked tired and stressed, and I wondered if we really should be taking up these poor people’s times with some simple pain complaint that seemed almost trivial in that time and place.

The Wife was sleeping, which was all I really cared about. Sleeping, when she hadn’t been able to sleep at all before that point because of the constant pain. As I mentioned, they discharged her at about noon Friday. We got back to the house and got her into bed, and she promptly passed back out again. The pain doctors are all on holiday, of course. None of them will be available for consultation again until Monday. In the meantime she needs pain medication to keep the back pain to tolerable levels, and none of the pain meds that are commonly on offer do anything to help her with the pain she is experiencing. The ER doctors got her pain to recede enough that she has limited mobility again but they didn’t have any medication to send home with her.

The Wife has to be able to walk in order for her to to get around inside our house. It is an older two-story home, and it simply isn’t set up for wheelchairs or even a walker to work inside of it, even if she stays on the first floor. She can barely get around the house on crutches. Luckily we had some crutches that her father bought her after she injured her leg in high school and that we have never let go of since then. If we hadn’t had those crutches we would have had to call an ambulance to even get her to the ER in the first place, and she wouldn’t have made it back into the house when we were discharged and sent back home.

One good thing that the COVID pandemic has done is allow telemedicine to gain traction in society. Leaving the house is an invitation to get infected, and so talking to doctors via video chat makes it possible to see a doctor without having to sit next to sick people for several hours at a time. We managed to get a telemedicine appointment with or general practitioner on Saturday morning. That is the miracle of telemedicine. Seeing your GP for a few precious minutes on the weekend in order to get you some medicine that you need so that you can not be enduring constant pain for three days waiting for the specialist to get back to you about this problem that just might kill you with pain-induced stress. With the desired prescription winging its electronic way to the pharmacist, I can finally rest easy knowing that the Wife will not be in constant agony over this long weekend.

The insane war on drugs goes on, though, and its victims are people like the Wife who cannot get pain medication because every medication that works for her chronic pain is a medication that every doctor can get in trouble for prescribing too frequently. Pain doctors are the targets of convenience for these stupid government drug crackdowns because obviously you go to a pain doctor to get your pain meds. That is what a pain doctor is for. To help you alleviate your pain. Sometimes the drugs are required and when they are required that point in time has a two in seven chance of being on a day when the doctor will not be available to prescribe them, and no one is willing to go out on a limb and give pain meds to a patient that they don’t know personally, even when that person is in the kind of pain that registers as spikes in blood pressure. This situation is intolerable and has to change.

Pain management has to turn a corner and come to grips with the fact that pain meds are both required and potentially addictive, both at the same time. It is a juggling act that the medical establishment had better learn to master, and soon, if they want to head off the next oxycontin embarrassment. That debacle simply waits in the wings for the next corporation to see a chance to reap a profit from people who have pain and have the money to spend alleviating the pain. This problem is not going away because the problems with pain are not going away either. We are going to have to learn how to deal with this problem. The sooner the better.

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The Tonight ShowSheryl Crow “You Don’t Know How It Feels” Tom Petty – Nov 25, 2020

Remembering Tom Petty

I am very nearly without words today. It takes great effort to even think in words. Melodies and harmonies are all that are running through my head. I cried when we lost George Harrison. Despaired when Prince died too young. But those are just the wounds that spring to mind because they are contextual. Revived because of proximity.

Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others,While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Tom Petty was more than a musician to me. Tom Petty described my soul to me, and he didn’t just do it once. He did it over and over again through the course of my life, the course of his career. I identified with his music in ways I simply cannot describe.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers –  Even the Losers

He died doing what he wanted to do, ending a tour in support of his latest album. He went quickly and without suffering. Most of us want to be that lucky when it comes our time to go.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers  – Breakdown

I could post tracks all day long, and I did post tracks all day long on the day I learned of his death. I read about it not too long after getting up that day, but his death wasn’t officially confirmed until later.

Petty’s final show was last week, performing three sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl to conclude their 40th anniversary tour, CBS News reports.

He told Rolling Stone that he thought this would be the group’s last tour together.

“It’s very likely we’ll keep playing, but will we take on 50 shows in one tour? I don’t think so. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking this might be the last big one. We’re all on the backside of our sixties. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.”

Tom Petty obituary in The Independent

It was the day after the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. One more mass shooting in a near-infinite string of tragedies that, quite frankly, I refuse to pay attention to anymore. If anyone cared we’d actually talk about gun control in a way that might be productive. But we can’t and we don’t and so, like September 11th being my dad’s birthday, I didn’t and won’t post about another mass shooting that won’t change anything. Jim has it right. We are Bang, Bang Crazy.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – You Don’t Know How It Feels

So instead I will mourn the death of a man whose work I cherished above most others of his caliber. He lived a full life and died early. Not as early as many who had the kind of talent he had, but he also didn’t live as long as the rare few do. I’ll miss him. We all will miss him and the music he might have gone on to make.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Time to Move On

A Facebook friend and fellow fan challenged other fans to quick, give me your favorite Tom Petty lyrics. Rather than give her my favorite (which is Breakdown above) I posted the lyrics that I went to the point of actually signing up to edit that day, Learning To Fly. I signed up so as to get the correct stanza structure for the song set down properly on Lyrically. Someone had just pasted content from another website (probably) and/or didn’t understand how poetry is written and why. But that is how much I thought this was the song to remember him by on that day.

Well I started out
Down a dirty road
Started out
All alone

And the sun went down
As I crossed the hill
And the town lit up
The world got still

I’m learning to fly,
But I ain’t got wings
Coming down
Is the hardest thing

Well the good ol’ days
May not return
And the rocks might melt
And the sea may burn

I’m learning to fly
But I ain’t got wings
Coming down
Is the hardest thing

Well some say life
Will beat you down
and break your heart
Steal your crown

So I’ve started out
For God knows where
I guess I’ll know
When I get there

I’m learning to fly
Around the clouds
But what goes up
Must come down 

Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County, October 3rd, 2017
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Learning to Fly

It has now been about two weeks since the day he died, but I’m back dating this article to the day, the day, because I really don’t care if anyone reads this or not. I finished watching the documentary Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down A Dream a few days ago. Watching it brought back some memories that I really wanted to put down in this post.

Stevie Nicks – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)

His album, Hard Promises came out the year I graduated. I remember going to the Hastings record store next to the Safeway I was courtesy clerking at in 1980 and buying that cassette (vinyl was and is the purview of music collectors with money. Something I’ve never had any of) and subsequently Damn the Torpedoes. I remember not being willing to buy the first album because of the cheesy cover art, which says a lot about the importance of graphic design. The title of You’re Gonna Get it I deemed too juvenile, like Fair Warning, Van Halen’s fourth album.

If you’re poor fighting is the norm. You fight to get everything, all the time. When your stepfather is abusive, conflict is a foregone conclusion. Using the phrases of the abuser you’re gonna get it is descend to their level. I always tried to be more than that, more than the abuser was in their petty little mind. So violence was to be avoided, not encouraged. If violence is inevitable you make sure you emerge the victor, you don’t worry about methods beyond their capacity to produce desired outcomes. Hit them from behind, above, with a blunt object and keep swinging until the target stops moving. Easier to do than thinking.

Tom Petty knew how to fight and proved it repeatedly. Proved it by filing for bankruptcy to get control of his music back, winning the first case against a record company, leading the way for others who had signed usurious record contracts to also get control of their music back. His lawsuit altered the face of the music business, leading the way towards the music industry of today which exists to serve artists and not the other way around.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Mary Jane’s Last Dance The hit that almost wasn’t.

After completing his Southern Accents tour, he was one of the best-selling artists in music history. So what does he do next? He and the Heartbreakers agree to go on the road, touring with Bob Dylan as his backing band. Who else has progressed from headlining his own shows to being the backing band for another artist? Has anyone else ever done that? After a few more albums and more success, they joined Johnny Cash’s studio back up band.

“What they call country today is like bad rock groups with a fiddle”

Tom Petty
The Traveling Wilburys – The End of the Line

Roy Orbison. George Harrison. Now Tom Petty. We’re running out of Wilburys.