What the hell happened to me? (or why I’ve been screaming in pain for the past 3-ish months)

I’ve been absent from the world and extremely grumpy since November 2011. Being in the sort of pain where industrial strength painkillers have absolutely no effect does that to you. Some of you out there have asked me what happened. Well, this is for you (and maybe some of you who just happened to wander in out of curiosity)

This all started back in late October. My foot suffered a minor pinched nerve. I was used to this sort of injury from badminton and running. It was the type of injury that just a needed a couple of days rest. A couple of days rest later, it stayed on but didn’t really get worse. So I started walking around again and doing normal everyday things. NORMAL in this case means no strenuous activity. No gym, no badminton, no running, no physical activity whatsoever. NOTHING!

It got a little worse again, with some irritation crawling up the leg to the knee. Rested a bit again. It was getting better when I got forced to go to the doctor to have it checked.  The drive. The long walk from the parking lot to the doctor’s office. The standing around waiting for the doctor. The long walk back to the parking lot. The drive back. My leg was throbbing but not painful after this trip. Two days later, SUFFERING 1.0 began. What was a minor pain in the foot became what felt like small nails being pounded in the foot and the knee.

A trip to the doctor’s office made it worse. Ironic, isn’t it?

Anyway, complete rest for about a week and again, it was getting better. Felt well enough to allow myself to get dragged to mass. Got there late. There were no seats. Stood up for the whole mass. And two days later, SUFFERING 2.0 began.

When you wake up and you find that your knee is locked into position neither being able to be straightened or bended , be afraid. When every little movement feels like bigger nails from SUFFERING 1.0 being hammered into the back of your knee, be VERY afraid.  After a week, the pain dissipated enough for me to go to a doctor (not the one from SUFFERING 1.0). My knee remained locked at about a 170° so I was walking really oddly. While staying still and making small movement, there was really no pain but walking was another story. Every step would cause said nails to be pounded into the leg.

The visit to this doctor did not go well. The doctor was 2 hours late. I was really not happy with the consultation. As I was telling the whole sordid story, the doctor interrupted me to examine the leg. He tried to push the leg down to straighten it. The knee wouldn’t budge and wouldn’t straighten into place. So the doctor started saying some really scary words like MRI… Torn Ligament… Torn Miniscus… ACL… After leaving, I immediately decided to look for a second opinion.

Now, I USED to live a pretty active life. I play badminton. I go to the gym. I run. And if this injury happened a couple of days, heck, after a week of doing these. I’d really understand. But this happened as I was living a sedentary lifestyle. That is, recuperating from a “minor” foot nerve pinch. I admit it could have been a result of the continuous strain these activities due to my being gravity-friendly and all. But I digress…

Anyway, towards the last part of November,  I heard about INTERCARE. This really good, but somewhat expensive, sports medicine clinic in Makati. They took a look at the injury. The doctor listened to the whole sordid story and proceeded with treatment. Treatment was a daily 2-hour session of intense pain. The affected areas (which turned out to be the entire back the leg from the foot, up to the calves and the hamstring)  were  so sensitive that even light rubbing would make the entire leg spasm and would summon the dreaded nails. A week later, treatments were down to three times a week. The leg was straightening out really slowly, though the pain during treatment was still 11 out of 10. To add to my misery, the treatments were not covered by my HMO. Did I mention that the clinic was somewhat expensive?

What did the doctor say? The muscles of the back of the leg tensed up and could not relax. Which is why when the doctors tried to push the knee down, it never straightened and all it was to cause a lot of pain. During the first week of treatment, the fear of an ACL and/or torn miniscus was still lingering. The really weird thing (though reassuring) was that while there was pain, and the locked leg, there was no swelling and lessened the probability that it was a torn ligament. To the doctor’s credit, they decided to try therapy before asking me to go for an MRI. (Side note: I didn’t need an MRI).  As to WHY and HOW this happened? That’s something the doctor couldn’t even answer.

By the way, though somewhat expensive, I cannot recommend INTERCARE enough for anyone with this sort of injury. Besides getting better, the constant reassurance that I didn’t need an operation was very comforting. The doctors and therapists really know what they’re doing. Check them out http://www.intercare-centers.com.

And now back to your regularly scheduled program…

This was my December 2012 story. Crutches, pain, painkillers, Muscle Relaxants, therapy, rinse, repeat. I couldn’t even sit down for long periods or else the leg would lock back into the bended position and undo the progress from therapy. So no computer games, no work (primarily though because of pain the painkillers I was taking were making me really woozy), no Christmas parties. These days were spent with  hot compresses and weight spread over the leg to push down and straighten it. Not comfortable at all and in varying degrees of pain.

Towards the end of December, things were getting better. I traded the crutches for a cane. I really thought I’d have fully recovered by New Year’s Eve. I was wrong.

Up ’til now, I could use a cane but extending the leg is still painful and the knee has a tendency to buckle. Just last week, the doctor said I could just have a home therapist go to the house every couple of days. And these sessions are still really painful. Stairs are still an obstacle. Walking long distances cause knee pain and sometimes tighten up the loosened muscles. I still can’t drive because the leg can’t move fast enough to use the brake and gas safely, in traffic. Hopefully, I’ll be fully up and at ’em by late January. At least, I can sit down without fear of the leg locking again. Trying to avoid painkillers as much as possible. I’m sure I’ve ingested enough from November and December to need major detox when I get out and about.

This ordeal was no joke. Besides the constant excruciating pain, I was constantly on the verge of getting really depressed. On several levels, It wasn’t really a good 2011 for me. Being alone and in pain, gave me scratch that, forced me to really think about several things that have to be done and have to be removed purged exorcised (and I don’t use that term lightly). It made me rethink relationships and friendships. Of Whys, Why Nots, What-Coulda-Beens and Thank God-That’s-Bloody-Over. There were several bits of sunshine (one coming from an unlikely, though very welcome source) that seeped through the clouds, and to those bits of light, you have my gratitude and it is a privilege for me to call you friend.

After this, I’ll never look at a flight of steps in the same way ever again. Heck, I won’t take walking for granted ever again. Besides the “insult” of being severely injured while being sedentary, there was another “insult” which I’ll share if ever we bump into each other. If you’re still reading and got to the end of this tale, I really pray that nothing this bad will ever happen to you.

Listening to my 15k running playlist as I finish this off. See y’all when I see you.