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This is a true story
James G Skinner
March 2003, María Teresa, a perfectly healthy Spanish sixty
year old, was diagnosed by a leading orthopaedist, Doctor Domingo
Rueda of Povisa Hospital in Vigo, with Spinal Stenosis, a disorder
of the spinal duct caused by Primary Osteoarthritis. In laymans
terms, because of ageing, the pathology is due to bone growth
inside the duct that ends up by pressurizing the spinal cord causing
not only extreme pain but, in Marias case the gradual disability
of her right leg.
The following months of medical consultation, numerous tests from X-rays
to MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and subsequent treatment by
prescription of a plethora of medication ranging from anti-inflammatory
pills to pain killing drugs, with fruitless results lead to an inevitable
visit to the operating table in search of a solution to the problem. During
the period between these medical efforts, Maria was subjected from the
sublime to the ridiculous, ranging from astronautic nerve stimulators
to spa baths, from ozone therapy to Korean chiropractic beds. No stone
was left unturned.
Although her ordeal is far from over, her condition at the time of writing
has improved considerably. The use of her leg has returned to normal and
the original stabbing pain has all but disappeared. However, the story
is a compelling record of the trauma and suffering due to a far from uncommon
ailment in elderly persons. Her experience as well as her thorough investigation
of back ailments in general has lead to the conclusion that the world
medical profession is far from resolving what will become one of the most
sort after cures for senior citizens facing the XXI century.
It is written with sorrow, anger, humour and above all hope. It is dedicated
not only to the many Spinal Stenosis sufferers around the world but to
all those involved in the medical profession that deal with spine disorders
to close the text books and look into the patients eyes for an answer
to this particular human nightmare.
Maria was pouring the hot water from the electric kettle for our
usual morning tea when a sudden sharp pain in her left buttock that
ran down her leg caused her to drop the contraption into the kitchen
sink and scream for help. Within seconds I had rushed out of the bathroom,
bubbles of toothpaste oozing from my mouth as I stuttered, what
the hell? She was sprawled out on the floor, still holding an
empty tea pot and unable to move an inch. A trickle of steam seamed
to be slowly disappearing into thin air from her left arm as a red blotch
appeared where she had accidentally burnt her self with boiling water.
I cant move, she shouted, the pain
I thought she was about to pass out. Instinctively I reached for a cloth
to dampen with cold water when Maria reacted violently, its
my leg! I stood motionless for a couple of seconds. She continued,
the pain, its all down my leg, as she grasped at it
with both her hands, tears dripping down both cheeks.
I cant recall the next couple of hours. I think I called an ambulance
or maybe the police. It happened so quickly. The next thing I knew was
that I saw Maria being wheeled on a stretcher, through a couple of large
plastic swing doors into the outpatients section of the hospital, whilst
I sat patiently in the waiting room amongst a similar collection of
forlorn relatives or friends awaiting news of their loved ones that
had been sucked into the vowels of the hospital. Minutes seem like hours.
More patients arrived, some already bandaged, others hobbling with crutches
and the odd elderly seemingly fast asleep in a wheelchair. In all our
lives, neither of us had ever been subjected to emergency treatment
without warning. Most hospital visits or internments had been through
planning without rush or hassle and after thorough consultation with
proper medical advice. This was totally different and alien. My mind
wandered. My thoughts didnt make sense. Was her leg in danger?
Would they operate right away? I continued to look towards the
large hall area that leads onto the street. More ambulances arrived
with more mangled humans. It was definitely a busy morning.
Suddenly she appeared. She was walking, without crutches. She had both
her legs! I still hadnt recovered. Its OK, she
said as she hugged me, Doctor has given me an injection to calm
the pain and told me to make an appointment with a specialist for a
further check up. Marias pain had subsided as we walked
along the pavement to the taxi rank. I was still feeling nauseated as
I opened the back door of the cab. He said I had a sciatica attack.
Quite normal for my age.
A week later we were in Doctor Domingo Ruedas surgery, a veteran
orthopaedic surgeon at the same hospital.
My first impression was that it was Christmas and I was seated in front
of Santa Claus. Dr. Rueda was the splitting image of Edmund Gwen, plucked
straight out of the heart jerking movie, Miracle on 34th St.
I could just picture him giving my wife some sweets and wishing her
well in the years to come. He was certainly the same age, well into
his sixties. My dear, tell me all about it, he said as my
wife who was still suffering from pains in her buttock began to unravel
her ordeal. It was Gwen all right! His gentle smile, his drooping eyes
and that air of understanding that only miracle makers could exude was
all packed into this more than experienced medical professional.
Come back in two weeks with the results and see how we get on,
my dear, said the doctor as he ushered us out. After some fifteen
minutes we were on our way with a prescription for a treatment with
painkillers made up of a set of anti-inflammatory injections and analgesic
pills, plus a note for the radiologist section to carry out the usual
x-rays and magnetic resonance test of her spine. María seemed
calm. I was still not convinced.
For years I had heard of people complain about sciatica attacks, pinched
nerves, slipped disks and many other back ailments, but when it actually
happens to someone close to you, the whole scene changes. Neither of
us knew anything about the functions of our skeleton. We had never had
any serious injury such as a broken leg or arm, and yet somehow, Santa
Claus gave me the impression that he was looking at yet another case
of someone in trouble.
Two weeks later we had the x-rays and the MRIs, as they are known and
were sitting patiently outside the doctors surgery.
I was right. This time, Santa Claus was dead serious. Without even asking
how Maria felt, or whether the medicines had had any effect, he went
straight to the point.
You suffer form scoliosis and spinal stenosis!
Maria and I looked at each other with the same thought on our minds.
What the hell is he talking about?
© James G. Skinner. January 2007
Goa File Author: James G. Skinner
395) ISBN: 978-81-8253-079-9
Availability: In Stock (Ships within 1 to 2 days)
Publisher: Cyberwit.net, Allahabad, India
Pub. Date: Jan 2007
James G. Skinner, as he is know to his friends in Vigo, Spain
was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a retired telecommunications
expert who has travelled the world over having worked for some
of the greatest of todayıs conglomerates such as Cable & Wireless,
US Sprint and British Telecom. Having lived in many different
and disparate countries spread across several continents, his
knowledge of and experience with people from different ethnic
groups and social backgrounds is second to none. He is a regular
writer in Spanish in the local papers of Galicia and is currently
the Honorary British Consul in the region.
a Chapter extract of The Goa File here on Hackwriters
and the nukes
James Skinner - is nuclear option inevitable?
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