Oh Doctor! Please Help Me. I’m Damaged.

I finally decided to stop trying to heal myself and go to a pain specialist, a physiatrist. His office is about 200 yards from my house as the crow flies. I, not being a crow, had to take the roads which made it 1/2 mile. I debated on whether to drive there which would entail getting in and out of the car. Given the fact that I was standing like Quasimodo, I thought it would be less painful to ride Big Nellie, my recumbent. It was less painful getting there but parking the damn thing nearly did me in. I had to find a street sign which was in a landscaped berm on a hill in the parking lot. (This is Fairfax County Virginia. We don’t do bike parking.)

Once in thedoctor’s office I filled out a stack of forms while sitting next to some pretty sorry looking patients. None of us was having much in the way of fun.

At exactly 10 am, my scheduled appointment time, I was taken through the door of relief. As the nurse weighed me she set the heavy weight on 150. I moved it to 200. She was surprised. I guess my skinny bikey legs threw her off. I weighed 212 pounds. Yes, I have gained some weight but I was wearing clothing and had pockets full of stuff and had just eaten breakfast and was still carrying dinner around. (Icky alert: back pain often causes constipation.) So on a good day I figure I’m in the 205 neighborhood which is to say 2 long bike rides from the Mendosa line. Vain? Moi?

The doctor came in stinking of gin.

Well, no. He was sober. He asked me what was going on and took extensive notes. Then he pushed and pulled on my legs and systematically examined my back one vertebra at a time. He spent well over 1/2 hour with me. He wrote down four possible diagnoses based on my story and my symptoms. Each has an associated treatment, Each treatment involves injecting something into the problem area. One of the diagnoses was for lumbago. I cracked up. The last time I heard the word lumbago was during an Alan King routine on Ed Sullivan. (“My lumbago is acting up.”)

The good doctor prescribed muscle relaxants and pain killers with tummy medicine so that I don’t end up making an offering to the porcelain god. He then sent me to the hospital for seven x-rays of my back. And submitted a request for approval of an MRI to my insurance company. This doctor is pressing all the right buttons with me.

I climbed on Big Nellie and rode around the corner to Mount Vernon Hospital. (Helpful real estate hint: if you have orthopedic issues buy a house 1/2 mile from an orthopedic hospital.) Miraculously I found a bike rack next to the emergency entrance. After locking up and going inside I discovered that radiology was on the other side of the building. So I hobbled through the corridors which helpfully are lined with rails for pathetic creatures just like me.

The registration clerk was a helpful 30-something guy who referred to me quaintly as “Buddy.” If I had a cane I would have clubbed the young whippesnapper. (Actually, he was saying it tongue in cheek so it was pretty funny.)

The radiology tech had me put on a gown. The first one came down to just below my personal area. She got a good laugh out of it. Not wanting to awe my hospital peeps with my awesome bikey legs I switched to a long gown and was taken immediately to the x-ray machine. (From bike to scan in ten minutes. Not bad!)

The tech was gentle and made sure I was in minimal discomfort. Having digital x-rays is great because the tech can tell if the picture is usable. We had to take 2 repeats probably because I spasmed during the exposure.

Ten minutes later I was on my way to the Hollin Hall drug store. The ride was two miles and it was not a lot of fun. My back was getting sorer by the minute. I had to wait ten minutes while Eun the pharmacist called the doctorand my insuranc company to cleared up some problems with my prescription. She was so good on the phone. (“He’s in a lot of pain.”) Thanks, Eun.

Back on the bike I rode back past the hospital to Sherwood Hall Gourmet to buy lunch. I didn’t have to order. They know I always have a Gary’s Lunchbox roast beef sammich. I rode home and celebrated five whole miles of biking. Then I told my boss that I wasn’t coming into the office. I would spend the day writing a paper for work at home. (To my surprise I actually knocked off a pretty good first draft.)

I can’t tell if the medicine is working but I can tell that I still can’t come close to standing upright. The weather is perfect for bike riding and I am sitting here on my deck wanting sooo much to go for a spin.

@bobbieshaftoe just tweeted “Who’s riding this weekend?”


I wanna cry.


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