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About The Procedure

How do I tell this further? I have the timeline jumbled. The details of doctors and Xray and MRI are not essential. So let’s just skip all that. 

1. Doctor Ben

First of all, about my brother…

He was always there. He called. He texted. He asked how I felt. He gave advice based on experience with his patients. He pushed hard to make sure we understood that I might need to go to the ER even in this time of COVID-19. I felt his hand on my shoulder from far away, his presence by the bed. Day and night, he was there, helping us, reassuring us. There were really three of us in the house.

Thank you, Ben. I love you.

2. The Pain Clinic

“The MRI shows that you have a massive lumbar disk herniation,” my doctor said. Surgery was a possibility, but to start he referred me to a pain clinic for a lumbar steroid injection.

There were three people sitting outside the clinic in hazmat suits and goggles and masks. They asked the usual questions about COVID-19 and took my temperature. They looked confused when I said I could not sit in the chair they pointed to. They were helpless when I said the same about the wheelchair.

“He cannot sit,” Trudy told them again. “He needs to lie down. We called ahead to let you know.”

One of them started to push the wheelchair against me from behind. But another took me to a waiting room with a bed where I laid down and the pain subsided. 

When the doctor came in, he had me sit up, and the cramping pain instantly returned. He told me to push my knee against his hands, which I was unable to do. His eyes widened. He jumped back and threw his hands up.

“Oh,” he said. “You need surgery.” 

It sounded as if he was saying that he wouldn’t do the injection, but I must have misinterpreted, because they led me to the procedure room.

3. The Injection Procedure

There was Lidocaine. And there was the steroid injection into my spine which the doctor guided with the help of a fluoroscope. None of that hurt much. Ok… not true. The cramping was much, much worse. Still, in less than a minute, the Lidocaine was numbing things a bit, and I was able to slowly roll over and sit up. As I sat there, the doctor rattled off observations and instructions and next steps. 

Having absorbed nothing, I asked, “Can you talk to my wife? She’s outside.”

“Sure,” he said.

He turned and walked away. In the event, his discussion to her did not include the certainty of surgery, which was a relief to us. Meanwhile, it wasn’t clear how I was going to stand up. Or walk. Or get to the car.  

4. Sign This First

I stood and slowly walked a few steps. The staff were holding me by each arm.

“I need to lie down,” I said at the doorway.

I expected them to take me to a waiting room. Instead, left me standing at the counter of the nurses’ station.

“I really need to lie down,” I said.

“You need to sign this,” they said. They handed me eight sheets of paper and a pen. My vision was getting fuzzy.

“I need to lie down, now.” 

“Sign this first.”

I turned around, and walked to the nearest waiting room, the flustered staff scrambling after me, one of them pushing a wheelchair into me from behind. I crawled onto the bed and laid back. The pain was instantly gone.

Trudy came in. Cue angels singing. I handed her the papers and explained what we had to do.

Eight sheets of paper. Ten paragraphs on each. A blank space beside each that I was to initial. It took a long time. Trudy would read each paragraph and hand the papers to me. I would sign, and then ink in the upside-down pen would stop flowing.

Did I tell you? Ten paragraphs per page. Eight pages. So yeah — it took a long time. At some point, one of the staff came in. 

“It’s sure good that we brought snacks, because you’re keeping us from lunch,” she announced and then left.