I am not terribly keen on losing neuromuscular ground, but at my age, 66, one can count on it. Which is easy to say as a sort of mental pose, but in reality I intend to stay mobile forever. Quite how this can be accomplished, well, that is another matter. There is no clear route to this sprightly future. In fact, all routes appear to be exit routes. Evacuation being the order of the day. But why generalize when one can be mercilessly specific?
A pain in the butt. In a sense, that’s all it is. The origins? Well, I always joke about Perry, physiotherapy assistant, and his firm-handed approach to maintaining my range of motion. I often describe my post-Perry muscular state as shredded. Yes, after an hour on the treatment table, limbs bent this way, elongated that way, yanked here and pulled yonder, there is a certain level of residual hurt. The price of musculoskeletal progress, I tell myself. And as described in a previous blog, I can personally set that price a bit too high.
Thanks to a visit to Dan, supervising physiotherapist, I now know more or less what to do. Which is to do less. Perhaps to do nothing. That is to say, put the physiotherapy stretching on hold, return to it another day. The pain in the butt emanates from the piriformis, a minor muscle that is anatomically misplaced so that yanking on it too hard one way or another pinches the sciatic nerve. So much for the diagnosis. In fact, so much for the biomedical.
More to the point, what amounts to a minor pen stroke in one of those classic anatomy sketches…has more or less brought me to my knees. Actually, resting on my knees would be rather splendid. Except for the kneecap crushing reality – I haven’t actually kneeled in decades. In terms of posture, motions, etc., the world of the partial paralytic is a small one. Options are limited, which, of course, no one wants to admit.
But I have to admit it now, my piriformis pain – both the actual feeling and the spastic reaction it generates – at times has made it impossible for me to stand. Or very difficult. Or very scary…or some combination. And there are the variables. Having my shoes off, for example. Which tends to be the condition around bedtime. Not to mention the end of that time, vis-à-vis, arising. Last night, for example, I stood up from my wheelchair not quite as usual, but I did manage it…plopped down on the bed and somehow thought the next part, swinging legs onto the mattress…would be fairly easy.
It wasn’t. It wasn’t even possible. The only thing it was…late. Which is what happens as the day wears on. And I wear out. While patience gets thin, hope runs dry…and what is there to do but phone Jane? Who with 36 hours to go before her house of 20 years gets packed away and transported was substantially preoccupied. And in Mountain View, just far enough away to make a emergency run to Menlo Park most unattractive. And from my perspective, an admission of defeat. Surely I can still get into bed myself, on my own.
On my own being both the plague – and the elixir – of my life.
Thing is, flopping down on the bed is one of those automatic, exhausted, end-of-day things that just occurs. Plop, swing the legs into the bed, crash out for eight hours. Simply put, this is not one of those activities that one expects to see halted in midstream. No one half goes to bed. Beddy by is one of those absolute states. Pretty much an on/off proposition.
So imagine my surprise when I plopped down on the bed as per normal, tilted myself into leg swinging position…and could neither tilt nor swing my leg? I tried again. And again, of course. This being the very definition of madness. Thing is, this normal technique for getting into the bed involves dropping one thigh very close to the edge of the mattress. And it was in this position that I was stuck. Too painful to stand up. Too painful to fully lie down. Panic quickly set in. For the whole thing is perilously close to my general experience of paralysis. Not that this was so general. This was very specific…late at night, me very tired, despairing.
I had to stand up, that much was clear. Slipping off the bed being not advisable. To make a long boring story very short, I analyzed the problem. One portion of it being my lack of firm support under my legs. The carpet is slippery. So I reached over, way over, dangerously extending myself to click the wheelchair on. The rest of the control was too far to reach, so I lassoed the joystick with the strap on my iPhone. I inched the thing forward, the wheelchair tires narrowly missing my toes. Then with the metal chassis between me and the bed, my foot braced against one tire, I finally rocked myself into the vertical. I sat down further back on the mattress, more stable, kicked my working but aching leg onto the wheelchair cushion, then shoved myself more fully into bed.
The pay isn’t good, but it’s a job.