"Happiness is a Choice." quote taken from an interview of Drew Barrymore by Kevin Sessums

Monday, July 26, 2010

This Left Leg and Ankle Does Not Belong to Me

Mom and Dad have gone home now to California and the boys are back to school after enjoying immensely their winter break. I continue to have aching, burning, and pins and needles pain throughout my body. My shoulders are tight, my elbows and wrists ache and my hands keep falling asleep. The middle of my back burns and aches, my entire low back aches and is stiff and both hips continue to feel like firecrackers. My entire left leg, ankle and foot burn, ache and tingle. I obsessively continue to look at my bare left foot and ankle and compare it to my bare right foot and ankle. Have you ever had the feeling that a part of you no longer belongs to you, like a foreign limb has attached itself to your body to replace your limb that was once there? That’s how I continue to feel about my left leg and ankle. They no longer match my right foot and ankle in color or size. It looks like my ankle swallowed a golf ball and it appears my left foot is thinking I’m pregnant, all swollen like a muffin top. My toes on my left side are strangely positioned on my foot. Rather than lining up straight and together, my big toe has a big gap between it and the rest of the toes and half of the toe nail is changing in texture and is turning yellow. The next two toes are straight and almost on top of one another. The second toe’s nail is completely yellow, hard and crusty. My fourth and fifth toes look like they are spooning, tilting to the right. The pinky toe continues to keep its bruised look and the nail has not grown since the accident in July. The pinky continues to burn on all sides, at its base and in-between the fourth toe. I look at this foot and ankle and feel no connection to it other than pain. If it is possible to divorce yourself from a body part, that’s what I’ve done with this part of me. I care for it for the sake of the rest of me but do I love it? No.

I have read various early reports of RSD and how some doctors “treated” the syndrome. Some doctors amputated the affected area, thinking it was as simple as that, not realizing that the pain only continued and for many, it got only worse throughout other parts of the body. Some doctors amputated the affected area on the insistence of their patient and many times the same outcome occurred. It seems such a foreign concept to want to amputate a part of you, but now I can understand and accept the decision by looking at this foreign object that once was my left foot and ankle.

My new appointment for Elizabeth is set for January 20th and I know that the main topic of conversation will be my pain levels and the dorsal column stimulator. Unfortunately Elizabeth does not implant them herself, but she understands how they work and the potential benefits patients can receive from them. After discussing my case with some of the other doctors, they all concur with the decision. However there is also an insistence that I also have some extensive blood work done as well. If she didn’t order it, then it would be ordered by the surgeon anyway. I have no idea what labs she plans to order; obviously there are things that these doctors look for.

Before my parents left, we discussed this July accident and wonder if indeed there was another accident that could have gotten this RSD ball rolling. Two accidents stand out in our minds. The first is a hamstring accident that occurred in April 2005. Michael and I had literally just purchased a condo and on moving day, as normal course, I tend to clean as items are brought into the house. I was washing the kitchen floor before our refrigerator was delivered. As I moved on the wet floor, my left leg slipped on the floor and suddenly I was on the floor in the splits position. I heard several things pop and tear in my left leg when I went down and the pain was horrific. My boys came running and they called for Michael. Michael immediately wanted to lift me off the floor by pulling me up from under my arms, but I wouldn’t let him. I knew that if the pull was not complete, the injury would get worse. With a great deal of sheer will power and a large breath of air, I was able to move my left leg enough to no longer be doing the splits. When Michael then moved me, the popping and tearing was heard by all and, of course, I hollered from the pain. Michael moved me to a captain’s chair and gently guided my left leg up to another chair. Within five minutes, I realized that I would not be able to move from the chair. We made the decision to call an ambulance and at the hospital they told me that indeed I tore my hamstring plus other ligaments. Without any physical therapy other than swimming, the leg healed completely in one year.

Then in 2007, I hurt my left leg again while at the playground with the boys. It was after school and several of us moms decided to take our children to the “green park” nearby. By “green” I mean that the floor of the playground itself was made from recycled materials like tires. So I was standing and talking to a bunch of moms while our kids were playing when my oldest asked if I would push him on the swing. When I moved around, my left foot was at the concrete block that surrounded the playground and I literally fell over it. When I got up, I had a pretty nasty gash on the front of my left leg, just above my ankle. Although it was bleeding and burning, I’ve always been a tomboy and ignored the injury so I could push my oldest on the swing. When I got home less than two hours later, I thoroughly cleaned it and put a dressing on it. Within two days, however, I had to go to the doctor because it was hugely infected. When my internist saw it and asked me what in the world I did to myself, I told him this story. We both realized then the “green” floor of the playground contains latex and since I’m allergic to latex, I not only had an infected leg but I was also experiencing a latex reaction to the materials. After two weeks of antibiotics, follow-up doctor visits and showering with my left leg in a garbage bag, my leg healed, leaving a pale half-dollar sized scar.

So as I wait for my next appointment with Elizabeth, I know that I need to tell her these stories so that she understands that both leg injuries within the last several years have been to the left leg earlier. Is it possible that a torn hamstring or a stupid playground injury set the RSD ball into action?

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