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Friday, 7 June 2013

How the NHS failed me - Long standing issues with my back...

8 or 9 years ago I was in the warehouse where I worked and the last half hour of that day for me was shit and scary as I didn’t know what had happened.
It was getting to the end of the day and my workmate at the time was messing about while I was working, he then ran from one end of the warehouse to the end where I was. He ran and jumped on my back in a ‘piggy back’ position when I was expecting it. It didn’t really work out as my I suddenly got the worst pain I’ve ever felt and my legs buckled from beneath me, I have to hold onto some shelving to keep myself from falling to the ground. I couldn’t use my legs for was seemed like forever but really It was more like 20-30 seconds. The inability to stand and the intense feeling of pain was what scared me.
I thought he’d broke my back!

I didn’t have the time to get angry as I was more focused on the agony I was feeling.
After I could hold myself up again I called my boss on the phone who worked about a mile or so down the road in the offices. He got there pretty quickly and I was taken to  A+E. Now I know to expect a long wait to be seen by a doctor at A+E from a previous time I had sprained my wrist and had to wait about 6 hours to be seen or the time when I couldn’t breathe very well (nearly stopped) due to a bad chest infection and my asthma flared up (which hadn’t been a problem in years) but that was also about a 3 hour wait, So yeah…I expected the wait.

When you’ve registered at the desk you go to the waiting room and wait to be called through for the initial talk…I think they’re trying to figure out who’s worse off so they prioritize patients. It was about a 1 hour 30min wait just for this. Speaking to the nurse, I told her what had happened and how my back felt so she gave me a couple of strong painkillers and sent me back to the waiting room.
After another few hours I was called back through to see a doctor, by this point the painkillers had really kicked in and relaxed me to the point of no pain and my head was floating. I was sent home after being told I had pulled my back and to rest it for a few days.

So I did what the doc said and surely enough within the week I felt normal again and life was great.

For a about a year or two I had no real problems, the occasional ache but nothing that worried me,   that was until one day at my new job I was sat counting steel nails to put in boxes of 100 (…seriously!) Lunch time was close so I thought I’d go put the kettle on ready for a coffee, as I went to stand up I felt a twinge in my back and I dropped back to the seat…as you can imagine…I was pissed off! The pain was back and inevitably I was off work for a couple of weeks.
I went to my local doctors practice explained everything and I was sent away with the information that I had pulled my back and just need to rest it along with 100 x 30/500 Cocodomol and 100 50mg Diclofenac.

Yet again the doctors advice and drugs worked and I was great again for a few months and then…I don’t know what I did but my back went again and I was straight back to the doctors again coming away with the same information and the same prescription.
This was routine for the next couple of years before one day the prescription became a repeat prescription so I didn’t always have to go speak to the doctor about what was up with me.

Here’s a funny one though…one of my visits to the doctors went like this…
(after explaining my history)
Dr: So how tall are you?
Me: 6ft – 6ft 1
Dr: ah well because you’re quite tall and you have quite a long body which makes your back longer, it will be weaker so more prone to a disc slipping. You never see a short man with a bad back.
I went away from that conversation thinking well this is great…early twenties and my back is knackered forever.

About 2-3 years ago I got a letter from my doctors practice saying they will be stopping giving me the anti-inflammatory Diclofenac as long term use has been known to cause heart problems.
From there I thought they would just replace the ant-inflammatory with another one but nope…they just increased my painkillers to 200 x 30/500 Cocodomol.
By this point I had already developed quite a dependence to the painkillers, when it hurt I took them and when It didn’t hurt I figured it’s a good idea to take them incase it started to hurt through the day. I was going through my 200 within a couple of weeks and at one point for a while I was taking my days worth (8) in an hour.

In 2011 I got married to my amazing and beautiful wife Sarah, after our honeymoon we woke up in the morning for our first day back at work, she had brought me a coffee and toast up to me as I sat up in the bed my back popped and I felt crippled in pain again. For the next 2 months I was using a walking stick to help prop me up, I was in and out of the doctors and A+E because my back kept failing me so throughout the early half the year the doctors were trying me on different painkillers to try and ease the nerve pain in my bum and leg.




This is a list of what I had taken by July 2011
Cocodomol
Diclofenac
Amitriptyline
Diazepam
Dihydrocodeine
Tramadol

Back to the doctors again…better result though…it took 7 years for them to use their heads but this could help me…they referred me for physio! I was excited at the prospect that I might be able to control my back problems with specific exercises.
Truth be told I was in the physio’s for maybe 15mins and 10 of that was me filling in a form and explaining what I had done.
I was given two exercises on a sheet of paper and sent away.

One day I had finally had enough, I got booked in to my doctors in an evening clinic to basically say I need surgery cos the drugs aren’t working and the physio was useless. As luck would have it…it was a different doctor to normal, this man was kind of standing in to cover him and because of this within a month I was sent for an MRI and referred to a spinal surgeon in Hull (York don’t do spinal surgery).
The MRI showed that my disc between L4 & L5 was very prolapsed and pinching nerves. It was a relief just to know what was going on with my spine.
Their first attempt at sorting it was with a nerve block injection into my back…the pain went…..for maybe the length of time of the car ride home.

Next it was a Discogram…..which is an extra diagnostic (that I wish never existed lol) to find out how damaged the disc is, they simulate your pain.
They do this with a BIG needle, they put the needle into the damaged disc and fill it with a liquid (actually a special dye that will show up on xray) little did I know how well they could get the pain identical…it kinda felt like someone had hit me in the lower back with an axe haha but as quickly as it came…it went.
Such a strange experience!

The results from this all came back saying the disc was prolapsed on both sides, The surgeon ended up asking if I would like surgery and I jumped at the chance.

Within a few months it was done! I had a bi-lateral lumbar discectomy (basically slice the sides of the discs that protrude off then sew it back up)
The recovery time was 6 weeks before I was back at work and it was easy, I remember saying I’d have the surgery again just to get the time off from work haha.

After I had technically recovered it was amazing…occasional stiffness but no major discomfort up until about 3 months ago….in the last 3 months I’ve pulled it 3 times.
  1. Standing up from a dining room chair.
  2. pulling my trousers up whilst getting dressed
  3. sneezing whilst brushing my teeth

All quite amusing ways I thing you’ll agree, especially the sneeze. So far the odd painkiller now and then (I did manage to break the dependence) seems to keep it at ease. I did try to make an appointment to see a doctor and explain I think I need to be referred to see my surgeon again but there’s a 3 week wait just to get into see my local doctor.

My point with all of this is…if I was sent to a good physio when it first happened there is a large possibility that my back wouldn’t have got worse and I wouldn’t have been taking so many painkillers but nope…it took 7 years to see a physio and also to get an MRI.
In my mind, how drastic this got for me could’ve been avoided if I wasn’t fobbed off with drugs every time I saw a doctor.

Although this is quite a long blogpost it’s just a fraction of what that 8-9 years have felt like.


My message to anyone going to a doctors and if you feel your being sent away with no real answer be more abrupt, say what you want if you feel the doctor is being negligent ask to see someone else. If your in pain or really worried about something don’t take no for an answer. They aren’t always right in their decisions the first 4 doctors I saw sent me away with drugs the 5th sent me away with drugs and MRI referral and hope.

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