Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Fruitless Frustration

Frustration, a feeling of dissatisfaction resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems, has unfortunately become my predominant state of mind. This agitation, which began to dominate my thought processes, seems somewhat ridiculous and ill timed. Now is the period of mobility, now is the time of physical progress, so why should now be the epoch of internal struggle? My attempts to debar these introspections failed miserably, and fruitless frustration continued to perturb my consciousness. It seemed embarrassing and humiliating to admit this weakness when I had formerly accepted family, friends, acquaintances and stranger’s blandishments regarding my strength and supposed lack of self-pity. Outsiders visit and visualize with voluptuous pleasure that I am now vertical. Yet, I view the virile visitor, and am reminded of my restrictions and restricted lifestyle.

Six months was my allowance, the time I had allocated as a health write off, no plans, no firm expectations and therefore minimal disappointment, or such was the theory. Yet, six months is three weeks away and I am far from exciting excursions and expeditions. On the day of my surgery, as electrodes were being forcefully glued onto head, furious phone calls to Wyndham’s theatre were distracting or diverting my attention. A hospital gown, white stockings and electrodes, causing my lustrous locks to be restyled into the coiffure of a mad scientist, were the perfect persuasive tools for my mother to buy tickets to see David Tennant and Catherine Tate in the Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing. Yet, now the witty sparring between Benedick and Beatrice seems further away than Messina. I find my despondency over something as insignificant, in the scale of my life, as a theatre ticket, beyond ludicrous. I am sure that my surgeon would describe me as na├»ve and unrealistic to have set six months in stone and therefore in the words of Dogberry,

O that he were here to write me down an ass! But masters, remember that I am an ass. Though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass.”

Thursday, 10 March 2011

90 Minutes/Days Of Agony

Last night was a rollercoaster of emotions, Spurs vs AC Milan, the match to secure Tottenham’s place in the last eight of the Champion’s League. I was expecting attack, excitement and goals to revel in. I was anticipating cheering and chanting.  I was prepared for action, activity and to see unexpected agility. Instead a tense, testing time elapsed, pushing the team in an unexpected direction, defence. Defence lacks the thrill and adventure of attack. Rather than pushing forward, we are forced to protect what we hold dear, and hope that it is enough to progress in the competition.

Like Spurs last night, defence is, at present, my only form of attack. Recovery has not been filled with goals or reasons to jump for joy, even if that were physically possible. It is instead a game of perseverance, a game requiring the back to stay strong, literally. The muscle cramps have set in, but in my game there are no substitutes. I am in the 52nd day of the match. At 90 days, the first twelve weeks are over and I qualify for the quarterfinals! Who knows what my players will have to face in the future, but Harry Redknapp, my rubicund manager, speaks for all the team when he says,

It's been a great adventure and we want more of it. We want to see if we can go all the way."

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!