I have a knackered spine; there's a dislocated vertebrae (spondylolisthesis), it's twisted (scoliosis) and it's got degenerative joints. Known this for years but chose to ignore the lot by tolerating and trying to reduce the pain in a stoical manner. However it gave up on me in October when it developed a "bulging disc". That pressed on a whole bunch of nerves, caused unbelievable pain and left me unable to walk.
This time I faced up to reality, got myself into hospital then listened to several experts about what they could do to sort me out. The surgeons wanted to operate, whilst a physiotherapist and neurologist felt I had a fair chance of recovering something through physiotherapy and pain relief.
The operations suggested were Lumbar Decompression or Spinal Fusion, so I Googled both to discover they're very serious and risky procedures with questionable outcomes. They're also extremely expensive and in the case of Spinal Fusion they'd want me to quit smoking for a couple of months before and after the operation.
Neither the price nor the no smoking bit appealed so as I'm retired and unencumbered time isn't an issue. Got myself into an Assisted Living / Wellness place where I feel safe and they have all the equipment needed to go the physio route. Magnetic and electro therapy dealt with the inflammation and stimulated blood flow to the damaged areas. Hydrotherapy helped get me walking again and allows the physio to perform a series of low impact manipulations of my spine while floating.
I've gone from being bed ridden and mobile only in a wheelchair to baby steps on a walking frame, then on to a walking stick until a rubbish unassisted walk that I managed about two months after my collapse. I'm far from fixed, however with physio there can be long plateaus before another advance. They'll happen when good and ready, until then I'm very grateful to be able to walk for 25 minutes without pain or that feeling of panic.
This journey has alowed me to meet so many people who have serious end of life issues. I've been in the same hospital ward where an old man died (I was there because the anti-inflamatory pills caused two stomach ulcers). That was a first, however in this place three people have died on the same part of the building as myself, all very quietly during the wee early hours of a new day.
Their death was expected at which point, whether it's a hospital or a place like this, their priority is to get their legal bits sorted, like getting a doctor to certify the death. Then it's a case of getting the body moved to the morgue, so allowing the next of kin to get on with the funeral arrangements. As soon as the body has gone any equipment is sterilized and stored while the cleaners give the room and bed a top down scrub, making it ready for the next patient - within 40 minutes in hospital. Here the room will be ready within a couple of hours to await the next patient.
It's the relatives who move me. Genuine grief can't be faked and their weeping and wails penetrate to my core. They grieve for the person they knew and loved, not for what's before them. They grieve for memories, while the professionals deal with the physical wreck he or she became.
No one wants to be fed food that's been put through a blender via a tube in their nose. No adult wants to wear a daiper, nor be entirely dependant on others for everyting, however that's what it's like for some people in places like this.
So when ASH, the charities and the medical mouthpieces urge us to live good lives so we can live to a ripe old age I have to question if they understand what that really means. There are people here who have never smoked in their lives, yet one has ear cancer, another penis cancer, one's got bone cancer while another poor sod's being eaten by a melanoma. So for those who have been suckered into believing the garbage put out by healthists, be wary because 65% of all cancers are just plain bad luck (01).
Truth is very few people reach a ripe old age fully intact, most go from one crisis to another, with each operation taking its toll and each recovery becoming progressively more difficult. And who are the saddest in these establishments? They're the ones who have lost their life partner, outlived their friends and whose children cannot, or will not, visit them.
This is what the final few months are like for many people.
Final stages of life.
Anyway that's why I have, and will continue to be, slow with my posts.