The Chronicles of Back Surgery - Part II: Every man wants to hear "you're too big!"

After the longest 15 minute ride of my life, the paramedics wheeled me into the emergency room and handed me off to the ER docs. The people in the ER asked me a bunch of questions, took more vital signs and finally got around to getting me something to dull the pain. They injected a cocktail of pain medication and Valium into my IV and told me that I’d soon be heading upstairs to have an MRI. After a few more minutes of excruciating pain, the drugs began to effect and take the edge off. I was still in a helluva lot of pain, but at least I could breathe without screaming.

A procession of doctors, nurses and admissions people paraded through the examination room before the MRI Tech got there to haul me upstairs. He took one look at me, shook his head and said that I was too big to fit in their machine. Now, I realize, even embrace the fact that I’m a big, fat, overgrown cow-bellied bastard, but what the hell? I wouldn’t fit in the machine? When I asked him about what kind of half-assed MRI starter kit they had, he informed me that he didn’t think my chest and shoulders would fit through the opening in the tube. About that time, a doctor walked in. The two of them discussed sending me to Ft. Worth to a larger MRI and whether or not a CT Scan would work. They ignored me as they talked, as if I was merely a piece of furniture in the room and I couldn’t hear a word they were saying.

I think I pissed them off when I suggested, “How ‘bout you find a fucking tape measure, get some dimensions and figure out if my fat ass will fit in the machine you’ve got here?”

They both left the room, and then the MRI guy came back with a plastic ruler. He made a half-hearted attempt at measuring the width of my shoulders, and then went upstairs to measure the opening of his machine. Forty-five minutes later I was headed upstairs to get the MRI.

Normally, the patient would be inserted into the machine head first, but because I was a square peg being fit into a round hole, the rocket scientists on duty in the MRI lab were going to do it differently. They loaded me onto the conveyor table feet first and ran me into the machine until my shoulders hit the sides of the opening. The MRI guy told me to lay still while he left the room to see if enough of my back was in the tube to get a good picture. Once he was satisfied that it would work, he fired up the machine and we got started. The MRI took about 30 minutes to complete, then he backed me out of the hole and helped me get into the wheelchair so I could go back down to the ER. I asked him when the doctor would be able to look at the film and was told that it had already been e-mailed to the on-call surgeon for review.

By the time I got back to the ER, the pain shot had worn off and I was hurting pretty bad again. The nurse gave me another injection to ease the pain and said that they’d be moving me upstairs to a room pretty quickly. The Valium relaxed me, but for some reason the pain medication didn’t seem to work as well this time. I was still in a great deal of pain an hour later when they came to take me upstairs to my room.

As luck would have it, Weatherford Regional Medical Center is undergoing a big expansion project and the whole place is torn up with the ongoing construction. The nurse told me that, due to the construction, there was a shortage of private rooms. I would be placed in a semi-private room with another patient until a private room was available. At that point, I could give a shit less where they put me, as long as I could get another shot to extinguish the molten lava running down my legs. When I got to my room, I met the nurse, Crystal, and asked her to give me another shot for pain. This time, the shot did absolutely nothing. Before, the Valium at least relaxed me a bit but this time; nothing… I waited about an hour and called Crystal back down to my room to tell her that the shot didn’t work. She said that I was under a different doctor’s orders now and that he hadn’t prescribed Valium and was giving me a different pain killer. The doctor was on the floor making rounds, so she said that she’d talk to him about increasing my medication. About 20 minutes later, Crystal came back with a syringe full of heaven…

Dilaudid is like synthetic morphine, and the good doctor prescribed me a healthy friggin dose. He also prescribed double the amount of Valium that I was getting in the emergency room. Relief was on the way! Crystal injected the syringe into my IV, then “pushed” it with some saline. No sooner than she took the saline syringe out of the IV, a warm, peaceful wave of sweet relief rolled throughout my entire body. I was blanketed in a fluffy, warm comfort that I can only describe by comparing it with what junkies on TV look like when they shoot heroin. Just like when a junkie sticks that spike in his vein and releases the rubber band strapped around his arm, my eyes rolled back into my head and I drifted off into blissful euphoria. Also like a junkie, I slept so hard that I didn’t even realize that I’d pissed all over myself.