I have two rules that I live by. Number one… God never gives you more than you can handle… Number two… Always ask for your pain pill one hour before you need it! These two rules have seen me through some pretty difficult times over the years. People say that they are going to have an operation or radiation treatments are having a difficult pregnancy… I think…”BEEN THERE…DONE THAT”!!!
Now I suppose you’re wondering just what’s wrong with me that I should live by such rules. I am a quadropareses, which means in plain English, paralyzed in all four limbs. It all goes back to 1982. I was twenty-nine years old and pregnant with my oldest daughter, Lindsay. I began having severe pains in my back, shoulders and neck and weaknesses in my hands and arms. One doctor said that I had a trigger spot that would keep spasoming. We could try Cortisone shots in my shoulder. Get lots of rest and when you have the baby it will all go away. One doctor said that physical therapy would help ease the pain. (Thank God we didn’t listen to him or my baby and I wouldn’t have made it.) One doctor said the pain was caused by my baby pushing on a nerve or something and for me not to worry. Easy for him to say!
Therapists gave me a contraption that hangs over a door, with water weights on one side and a chin strap on the other connected to a pulley. This would stretch my neck and relieve the pressure, thus helping me deal with the pain. Many nights in the wee hours you could find me ‘hanging myself.’ Heat therapy was tried, along with ultra sound, but nothing seemed to dull the pain. Being pregnant, I couldn’t take any drugs to help me through all this…not even an aspirin. Most of the time I was ‘heating and hanging’, but the pain just kept getting worse. I spent several agonizing months not knowing what in the world was wrong with me. Prayer and my faith in God, along with the promise of having a wonderful little baby, kept me going.
Finally I went to my old family doctor who had treated me since I was a kid. He didn’t agree that the baby was pressing on a nerve so he sent me to a Physical Medicine Physician who at first tried manipulation techniques and exercises. But when my condition worsened he made arrangements for me to have an electro-encephlogram. In a nutshell, this is a test in which they stick needles in your back and they can read the responses sent back from your spinal column. (Actually, I thought it was a test where they would stick needles in my back and then I could tell them just how much it hurt)! The doctors said they have never seen a read-out like the one they received from my test. In the years to come I would lose count of how many times I heard that remark and from how many doctors. Since the results were so strange, I was sent to a Neuro-surgeon and it was through him that the real diagnosis began.
After his initial examination he told me I had a tumor, and if I were not pregnant, he would have me on the operating table that very night. He said that all of this would be very expensive and asked about my insurance. I told him that we were on the Kaiser program. He knew of the two excellent Neoru-surgeons that were currently working at Kaiser in Fontana, and he was confident that he could turn the case over to them. He spent over an hour trying to cut through all the red tape and get me to an appointment with the doctors at Kaiser. It was a nightmare, but he finally managed to get an appointment set up for the following Saturday.
First I saw the neurologist who confirmed that I definitely had a tumor and he wanted me to have a mylogram right away. But the specialist who did them would not be available until Thursday. So I would check into the hospital on Wednesday evening and the mylogram was scheduled for the next morning. I was currently working as a Remedial Reading Specialist at Norco High School and I remember thinking, good that will give me three days to prepare lesson plans for the substitute. (I was still stuck on me trying to lead a normal life and continue my career). As I left the office and was driving home, the tears started to flow and I remember praying out loud, Dear God, PLEASE DON’T TAKE MY BABY! Actually it was probably a blessing in disguise that I was pregnant when all this was happening. I did not feel as concerned about what might be happening to me, as I feared for my baby. All my thoughts were for and about my unborn child. I was thinking about how some women deliver their babies successfully during their seventh month and maybe I could do that, but the doctors said there was too much risk involved.
Thursday morning arrived and found me in a fairly good mood. I had been praying so hard and thankfully Lord had given me peace and strength enough to be ready for this test. As in any complex medical procedure, the papers they have you fill out would put the fear of God in any sane person. Half the time I was thinking, you really want me to sign this? I questioned my sanity but like a good girl, I signed. My last chance for any food, just before the procedure, was offered at midnight and the choice was Jell-O or pudding. Being pregnant I was hungry all the time and wasn’t sure when I would be offered food again, so I said, couldn’t I have both? As it turned out, I went a much longer time without sustenance that was ever anticipated.
Finally, I was put on a gurney and wheeled to the special x-ray room where the mylograms are performed. They put me on a long table and strapped me down until I felt somewhat like Frankenstein must have felt before they zapped life into him! My chest and stomach were covered with a special lead apron ‘protective shield’, but then…everyone left the room. I thought…Well! Just how safe is this procedure anyway, since everyone’s leaving? So I just started praying…OK, Lord, you’re in charge!