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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

A Leap of Faith, A New Dog Park, and Spinal Surgery

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 12/5/2023
Occurred: 4/13/2022
Page Views: 560
Topics: #LumbarSpinalStenosis
A quarter-century-old mistake comes back to bite me in the spine. Also, dog photos.

Many of the health issues aging has brought me are of unknown origin. For example, I have no idea why my Achilles tendons suddenly became so inflamed when I was living on Maui. However, I just found out I have Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, and, as it happens, I know exactly when and where my own actions caused it.

It was Memorial Day, 1996. I was still grieving the loss of my boyfriend over a year earlier, and was going out of my way to distract myself. So I accepted a friend's invitation to spend Memorial Day with his family and mutual friends…at Lake Raymond in Maine.

During the course of a day spent on the lake, I spotted a most picturesque cliff—and when I saw someone jump from it, I became obsessed with the idea of doing it myself. (I just learned tonight its name is Frye's Leap.)

It was an easy climb from the water, only about fifty feet; and the cap of the cliff was a nice, flat area allowing for an easy run to get well out into the water.

I was wearing my sandals for the climb to the top. And I should have taken them off; but I had completely forgotten I was wearing them. And then I was overwhelmed by the falling sensation. Damn, I thought as I fell. This is why I don't skydive. I hate this feeling! And, consequently preoccupied, I a) Forgot I was still wearing my sandals, and b) forgot to point my toes and bend my knees. Consequently, I made contact with the surface of the water at about 39 miles per hour, flat-footed and straight kneed.

I felt it instantly, before my head was even in the water. It felt like a knife jabbing up my spine. I couldn't kick to assist my ascent to the surface; I had to do it all with arm strokes. The moment I surfaced, my friends in the boat asked if I were okay. "Oh, yeah!" I gasped, doing my best to look like I wasn't in agony. "It was great! You should do it!"

I knew none of them would. So I sat quietly on the back of the boat and stifled groans each time my friend's motor boat leapt across some other boat's wake.

It was years later that I discovered a simple visit to a chiropractor the next day would have spared me years of back pain. But I didn't know about chiropractic in 1996. (When I did finally get to one, he commented, on hearing this story, that if I had just gone bungee jumping the next day, that, too, would have decompressed my spine.

However, lacking a time machine, there wasn't much I could do.

Anyway, so, yesterday, I had my doctor appointment to go over my various lab tests and scans. And she remarked that, according to my records, I had been diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis back in 2016, and—

"Wait, what? I don't recall anyone actually telling me that."

She held up the tablet with her notes. "I can't help what you were told, but a CT scan in 2016 found that you have a stenotic narrowing of the spine between L2 and L4. That means the nerves that use the spine as a conduit are being compressed, and that's causing you pain."

"Is there anything that can be done? Besides drugs, I mean? —Not that I'm against the drugs."

So Dr. Warner explained about an operation called a laminectomy, in which the damaged portion of spine would literally be removed, so it no longer jabbed at the tender nerves. However, this was not something Dr. Warner, my primary care physician and a gerontologist by specialty, would be doing herself. Instead, she sent a referral in to a spinal surgeon who would get back to me with an appointment.

And now it's today, and I haven't any appointments to go to. It's a little cool today to go to the lake park, so I brought the dogs to a new park I found, the Dog Park at Crossroads. At first it wasn't too busy; then a few people and dogs came drfiting in.

The dogs were starting to get bored and I was about to leave when another fellow who looked to be about my age came in through the gate and asked if I minded if he shared my park bench. Of course I said I didn't mind, but then I had to stay awhile so he wouldn't think I left because I really didn't want to share the bench after all. So we wound up chatting; and since my spinal stenosis was at the top of my mind, I told him about that.

"I had the same thing!" he exclaimed when I let him get a word in. "They did this opperation, it's called a laminectomy, and I have to tell you it's like night and day. It took almost a year to recover from, and I still don't really think I could run, though to be honest I didn't run before, either. But I sure am grateful for that surgery, I'll tell you that!"

I'm a big believer in following synchronicities, and this seemed like a big one. So it looks like surgery might be in my near future.