Three Weeks in Rehab – Day Three

Three Weeks in Rehab – Day Three

I wake up feeling wrecked. Despite having slept, I feel like I shouldn’t have bothered. After a breakfast of cold, hard toast, we have a Stretch session.  The physio that normally leads it is off sick, so it’s led by Marta, who normally runs the Arts and Crafts.  She had made a girl in the ward cry the day before. She has never led one before – she’s very hesitant and a bit patronising at times, explaining things to a ridiculous degree.

Almost straight after we have Handling and Lifting, which looks at lots of ways to manage around the house. I really begin to flag, and I get a massive attack of noise sensitivity, particularly due to some of the loud voices in the group, but it’s hard to explain to people, so I just try and concentrate on getting through.  We got lots of tips to help with housework and around the house.  We learnt never to bend over to pick something up, or to get something from a low cupboard, but instead to stand as if your feet are in a box, with one foot on the top right of the box, and the other foot on the bottom left.  This gives you a stable base, and improves balance.  When you go to bend, you should lunge forward on your front knee.  This takes the pressure off your spine.

We also learnt that the spine is in the shape of a lazy s, and the most delicate part of your spine is the top.  Your lower lumber area has much thicker bones/discs, and is where all your weight should be, and why you should carry objects close to this part of your body.

Straight after that I have my Occupational Therapist. She sees me looking pale and rubbish, and asks if I need to lay down. I am so grateful, and she takes me to the OT bedroom. (They have each room, a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom to show you aids and adaptations to help.) I stay there for ten minutes to try and recover, then she goes through some adaptations she thinks will help me.

I have just under an hour before lunch, and I’m really feeling rough by the time I get back to the ward. I collapse in bed and have a sleep.  This helps a lot.  I don’t like sleeping during the day, as it impacts on night sleeping, but at the moment which such a new routine, that’s very active, I need to do what I can to keep going.

Lunch is another salad – we’ve all agreed it’s the only safe choice on the menu! Everything else is utter crap. We have decided to have pizza night on Thursday as a treat.

I have my physio session. We work on building up strength in my shoulders, my core and improving my balance, and I enjoy it.  My left shoulder is particularly weak, and we spend a lot of time trying to build it up.  Weirdly, the right shoulder then spends the rest of the night hurting, which is confusing!  My physio is really nice and explains everything she does, and why she’s doing it.  Others don’t have quite such good relationships with their physio, but I feel it’s really important.

The exercise balls in the physiotherapy room.  Apologies for the fuzziness!

The exercise balls in the physiotherapy room. Apologies for the fuzziness!

My final session of the day is Sports. They lay on badminton, short tennis, table tennis and bowling. They show us how to adapt sports to our needs – so whether it’s using wheelchairs, or perching stalls. I am as terrible at table tennis as I was at school when I was okay, so I have no excuse!  I do quite well on bowling. We all then start a game of catch. It sounds simple, but it was very fun, with all the trainee physio playing, and the ball going everywhere and anywhere. I can feel my shoulders burn, but hopefully it built some strength up!

Afterwards, I find a porter, as my wheelchair is flashing to say it’s out of battery.  He said he would be able to charge it, but he’d need it overnight.  They take it, and I have to wait about twenty minutes for a porter to take me back (which is why I really appreciate my chair!).  Someone who has been using the porter every day moans she can’t be bothered to wait for him to come back, so she’ll walk back to the ward.  I think it’s interesting she can suddenly walk when faced with a bit of a wait.  When I get back, she’s fine, so it didn’t even seem to impact her.

I spent the rest of the evening chilling out.  We watch a film, and I get some jewellery orders – even from a guy on the male ward! It’s one of the girl’s birthdays on Friday, so the ward is clubbing together to buy some jewellery bits from me, as she keeps saying she wishes she had some money to get more than the one bracelet she did buy.

Overall, I think it was a bit too much physical activity in one day, although I enjoyed it at the same time.

Trying to Step onto the Spinal Pathway

Trying to Step onto the Spinal Pathway

This month makes it a year since I was finally diagnosed, and brings me up to nine and a half years since my symptoms began.

My lower back has been getting worse and worse, and I believe is the cause for me not being able to stand up long. I went to see my GP and said that I would like to have an updated MRI. My previous MRI in 2009 showed three or four slipped discs, facet degeneration and arthritis. And at that point I could be on my feet for about 15 minutes. I’m now down to under a minute (or so, depending on the day. Sometimes it’s far less, sometimes a bit more if I push myself and ignore the pain.)

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-woman-lower-back-pain-image10394552

My GP said she didn’t have the power to order an MRI unless I was having an operation or something.  She asked me when the last time I saw a spinal specialist was, and I said i hadn’t ever.  I’ve seen plenty of Rheumatologists and Pain Consultants, but that’s it.  She said there was an NHS scheme set up called the Spinal Pathway, and she rolled her eyes and said what a ridiculous name it was.  It was for people who had long-term back pain, who hadn’t been able to be helped by their GP.  They would assess me – probably by a physiotherapist, and then hopefully send me on for an MRI or to the consultant. Well, that was the plan.

To be honest, as soon as she said a physio was assessing me my heart sunk.  I don’t mean to be negative about a whole profession – I know there are good ones out there.  It’s just I personally haven’t had a beneficial relationship with one, and I’ve seen many.  A physiotherapist was the first person I was sent to when my neck pain started when I was 15. My experience with her was poor.  She strapped me up with one of those long brown rolls of plaster you would normally cut to the size of you wound, you know the ones? She cut two strips, long enough to make a massive cross on my back. Her theory was my problems were all due to posture, and when I didn’t sit up straight the plaster would pull and ‘remind me’.  After three hellish days, I’d had enough. You know that pain when you pull a plaster off your knee? You either ease it off and make it last longer, or be brave and rip it off.  Have you ever had to pull plasters off the length of your back?

I have seen senior physiotherapists, and junior. Spinal Scope ones, and Rheumatological experts.  All have given me similar exercise sheets, sometimes done a bit of ultrasound – then when I hadn’t improved in a few visits sent me away saying there is nothing more they can do.

So, when my GP says I need to see yet another physiotherapist in order to see a Spinal Specialist Consultant, I’m not particularly hopeful.  In the assessment with the Physio says he doesn’t think it’s that bad as the pain isn’t constant.  This isn’t true. I’m just told him it has been constant for nine and a half years.  He decides if it was disc problems, the pain would go down my legs.  I then ask him for an MRI as we’re not quite sure what the problem is, but he says an MRI should only back up what is found in a physical exam.  I fully admit I’m not a doctor – but I guess I just don’t see what looking at me tells him.  I then ask about the injections and he declares that I don’t seem to be screaming out in pain for them.  This pretty much guts me – who an earth can you possibly tell the amount of pain someone is in?  To be frank – I’m offended, and upset.

So I ask if I can see the consultant, and he responds that only 3% of people on the Pathway get to see the consultant. He then puts forward his plan of action.  Can you guess?

Physiotherapy.

I’m going into Stanmore for three weeks in January which will include working with a physiotherapist, so I turned his kind offer down.  I think I’m going to submit a letter of complaint about his experience.  His whole attitude screamed dismissal from the moment I stepped in, and saying I wasn’t screaming out in pain so wasn’t going to offer treatment?  It just makes me want to cry.