Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Becoming Public Property

Each morning my attire is chosen, with painstaking deliberation, to cover my branding brace. If the corset is concealed, the illness is invisible, or so the theory goes. Yet, however ingenious the amalgamation of apparel, the disguise always fails and spine-suffering Sophie surfaces. It is the small transitional movements that betray me, revealing the difficulty I have manoeuvring my body. Levering myself into a sitting position causes eyes to swivel and stare, and arising is even worse, it provokes expressions of pity!  For some mysterious reason, having a visible physical difficulty makes you public property. Strangers on the street will approach and ask personal, health-related questions.

“Ah, a back problem?” says a self-righteous unknown. I reply with a feeble mumble in the affirmative, whilst attempting to dampen my desire to absquatulate. Even at this early stage, I can prognosticate with surprising accuracy the continuation of the conversation.  “Oh, I know what that feels like” they continue. Inside, a well-rehearsed response is about to erupt. How can this impertinent individual claim empathy with no knowledge of my spinal history or symptoms? I bottle up the vapours of anger and annoyance and listen, feigning interest, to their entire medical history. It is evident that their intent is to offer solace and provide hope. However, unfortunately these passersby vocalise my fears, they remind me of how far I still have to traverse on my road to recovery.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Think Osteoblast Thoughts

At present my future lies in the hands of a bunch of microscopic osteoblasts. These osteoid secreting, bone-forming cells must awaken from their slumber and become work obsessive-compulsive machines to form a brand new bone, a stable bridge between my vertebrae and my sacrum. My surgeon has implanted the core materials and it is up to these immature cells to build this vital link in my spine. In a small percentage of people, the osteoblasts are work shy or incompetent, or have some other character trait renders them ineffective at building this feat of engineering. I am determined not to be included within this minority and must therefore find methods of encouraging the proletariat of my cells. Without the incentives of pensions, healthcare or free gym membership, I have resorted to calcium payments. Who knows if calcium is even the right currency? With no scientific certainties to hand, I must just think osteoblast thoughts!

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Report

Butterflies of apprehension fluttered as I furiously knitted in the hospital waiting room. The clicking of my needles, the ticking of the clock, the tapping of a keyboard, these regular sounds reverberating at an exasperating intensity in my head. Until this morning, I could truthfully announce that I was a champion at recovery from anterior lumbar interbody fusion and disc replacement. This statement, rather than being deducted using statistical evidence, was purely based on the facts that I am now walking and also know no other post-operative patients to compare myself to. Each week I have been able to revel in palpable improvements, be they monumental or minuscule. However, today my whole being was to be evaluated by an objective, knowledgeable man who knew me literally inside out. Attempts to inveigle my surgeon would be fruitless. Excellent, very good, satisfactory, poor or lost cause, how would I be ranked?

I strutted down the catwalk towards my designer’s office, flaunting one back from his recent collection. Once inside, I was confronted with images of myself from all angles. Using these rather flattering X-rays, it was explained that the positioning of the metal cage, bone graft, triangular plate, and all the other elements of the intricate, bionic woman design, were as hoped. It seemed the design was perfect, my nerves simply had to adjust and accept this drastic makeover. However, my nerves are unfortunately stubborn, old-fashioned things, who due to their wary, reluctant ways are only recovering at a satisfactory rate. Will they rise to the challenge and escape their caged existence or return to their old painful ways? 

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Children’s Exodus

Whilst cautiously edging towards the steps, eyes transfixed on the water hazard of a floor and spine attempting balance in its unfused, unsupported state, my brain had little space to take note of the squealing, squelching, splashing, and screaming that my auditory system was desperately attempting to relay. Boisterous babies and troublesome tots littered the pool. Interspersed in this mayhem were the praising parents who cooed and crowed at their child’s leg kicking and arm splaying. As I reached the steps, the realisation that there was no position that would avoid either a stomach or back attack, by a small, movement flaunting toddler, seated in my mind.  The main area of the swimming pool had become a claustrophobic cage of bodies, and in order to reach the safe haven of the adult only slow lane, I would have to manoeuvre my way through this wriggling, writhing obstacle course without so much as a foot in my stomach. Impossible it did but seem.

After prolonged hesitation on my part, my mother (Moses) stepped into cool, crowded waters and the sea of red armbands began to part. Hastily following, in the newly formed clearing, I reached the safety of the swimming lanes without so much as bruise or blemish. I began to walk, each step placing the enslavement, by my corrupt spine, further into the past. At one o’clock, a mass exodus of children took place. It was as if the Pied Piper had arrived and lured them away with his magic pipe. A stream of miniature swimsuits skipped out of sight. Peace and quiet reigned over the remaining fully grown individuals and it was clear that I was not alone in my opinion of silence, after an encounter with a multitude of minors, being one of the highest desiderata. 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


This morning during my constitutional walk on the Heath, I came to the realisation that to be accepted in the world of daytime strolls in the boondocks of London, a dog is a necessity. The inclusion of a lead in your attire provides a valid explanation, to the weekday women who frequent the great outdoors, as to why you are there.  The breed, size or age is of little consequence, as you possess the key unlocking the door to the secret garden of the dog walking, puppy loving and canine obsessed. Within these walls people are known by the name, breed and personality of their dog, and judged accordingly.

It is hard enough to shuffle down the path devoid of a barking companion and a poop-a-scoop, let alone have a back break on a brown bench. Today I was ever so tempted to call out to my imaginary dog, to provide the required justification for my regular presence on the Heath. A short cry to Buster my lost dog and all would be forgiven. I would be welcomed into this strange social network, no longer awkward and out of place sitting on a park bench or ambling along the avenue. Find me my lost dog!

The Miracle Of Walking In Water

A pool in North-West London may not have the same mythical resonances or be viewed with the same awe as the Sea of Galilee; however today I survived the smooth, slippery surfaces of the poolside, braced the goose-pimpleing, teeth chattering and lip discolouring temperatures and walked in water. People’s inquisitive stares, whether real or simply a figment of my imagination, required more determination and control to stride through, than the dense, undulating, chlorinated water.  Despite gravity’s endeavours to keep me rooted in one position, four fabulous lengths were achieved, thus creating a buoyant mood to accompany my buoyancy.

It is so dreadfully easy to only remember the trials and tribulations, the pain and the exhaustion, of a day. Clouds of but a few water droplets can roll in at a moments notice and block the rays of sunshine from view. This afternoon’s low stratiform clouds of neuropathic pain not only obscured this morning’s accomplishments, but also were so low as to form an all-encompassing fog. Pregabalin or Oxynorm, Pregabalin or Oxynorm, I vacillated between the two. Which of these two most powerful potions would clear the storm clouds? Unable to reach a decision, both were consumed. Within the hour, the winds turned, the weather forecasters were proved wrong, the skies cleared and my miracle of walking in water shone forth.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Recovery Of My Ravenous Requirements

Recovery is a frustrating and often disheartening expedition. The goal is known and believed to be attainable, but the timescale is long and highly variable. Some days the achievements are obvious, champagne-celebrating events, such as the first walk around the block, the first shower unaided or the first time my clothes were self-applied. From this viewpoint I am a thriving woman, constantly improving, constantly progressing and constantly having cause to celebrate. Unfortunately, I am disgracefully impatient and although able to recognise these acts as stepping-stones towards my dream, I am horrendously, mind-numbingly and irritatingly bored. An estimated three to six months is a dreadfully long time for one’s whole purpose, one’s whole existence, one’s whole life to be focussed on “getting better”. I would love my actions to be according to Immanuel Kant’s words,

So act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world.”

The principle of action behind my daily routine of exercise, food and then rest repeated three times could safely be made law. It does not offend, does not require money, and is considered most healthy by medical professionals. My sole intentions have been physical progress and this would form a most uninteresting decree, neither ameliorating nor damaging the world. My ravenous requirements have recently recovered, I now long and desire for more than the right of return of my legs. I need new ambitions and projects that are achievable in the interim between ill health and health, mental as well as physical stimulation. The recovery of my former life is the new hurdle.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


My latest online discovery is a fabulous, fantastical website with the power of the TARDIS. It can transport through time and space at the click of a button, whilst toying with emotions with a sublime subtlety. The TARDIS I describe is the Google Art Project and the Doctor this morning was no longer David Tennant or even Matt Smith, it was Sophie Adler.

Traversing through the Pre-Raphaelite works, I stumbled upon Millais’s Ophelia, an enthralling depiction still mesmerising from a 13” laptop. Poignant, pretty and poetic flowers surround Ophelia. Her emotions are exposed, each lying in a different state of life or dormancy. Nettles growing around willow branches to symbolise pain, the presence of forget-me-nots, sorrow expressed in a floating pheasant’s eye, each perfectly painted for a purpose. The nettles still had an ability to sting me despite their brushstroke existence. With no dock leaf to hand, I was forced to endure the plague of agitation caused by an injection of histamine by team of trichromes. Perhaps my emotions are just as discernable as Ophelia’s and the problem is my inability to identify the flowers. No knowledge of the name or genus and the flower or the feeling is impossible to classify, nurture or prune. If I were a horticulturalist would I still find other’s flowers more manageable and beautiful than my own untamed, undistinguishable collection? 

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


I believe that there are two types of competitive people in the world. The first category includes the individuals with a manic motivation to outcompete others. Compelled to conquer, vigilant until victorious, these merciless mortals are driven by need, want and wish to succeed, and success is defined in relation to fellow hominids. The second category is those hapless humans with an unquenchable thirst to achieve. This craving is insatiable as its source is the realisation of the permanent undernourishment and underuse of their own potential. In fact, there are many people who perhaps have elements from both classes within their character, and switch according to situation. I, however, most frequently frequent the latter class. Never interested, stimulated or personally propelled by inclusion in team sports or team anything for that matter, my goad has always been competition against my only truly fair opponent, me. This most probably originated due to abysmal ability and horrendous humiliation in the world of primary school netball, and was further cultivated by carefully contrived excuses to then avoid group games. Presently my competitive nature is restless and impatient and has resorted to manifesting itself in the most peculiar ways.

Throughout my hospitalization, my arterial blood was lazy, lackadaisical and lethargic, resulting in frustratingly low systolic blood pressures. This hypotension was most inconvenient, as every attempt to mobilize was impeded by a temporary rush of heat, loss of hearing and feeling of faintness. The new competition, the new desperation, the new focus was for my blood to just be aggressive enough to exceed a systolic pressure of 100mmHg. Each time the cuff was wrapped around my diminutive bicep, I would silently plead for my desired result. I am proud to announce that the most recently recorded blood pressure was a whopping 104/54. My blood is once again winning one of my internal races. It is applying enough force as it leaves my heart to prevent the onset of a series of unpleasant symptoms. Now that blood has been dealt with, the question is, will muscle, gut or skin be the organ of my next challenge?