Spinal Crap

Well this has been quite the interesting week for me. Due to my herniated disc, I’ve been pretty much disabled, living in agony on my living room floor, unable to do the most basic tasks for myself. I have a new appreciation for the difficult lives of people with debilitating diseases. At times, the pain has been unbearable, almost driving me to tears. The strongest drugs at my disposal have done nothing, and some hours there wasn’t a single position that was pain free.

I had to proctor three exams this past week, and did each while lying on the floor of the exam room, my lower back supported by either my acuball or a hot water pad. Not exactly pain free, but manageable. Actually getting to the exam room was the issue, as I limped along in blinding agony. Here are some photos I took on my cell phone while lying on the floor:

And here’s a self portrait of my creepy mug trying hard not to grimace in pain while lying on the floor of the exam room:

Last night, the pain was so intense that I decided to go to the Emergency Room and request an epidural steroid. Putting on my shoes took half an hour, and was so tiring that I had to lie down to rest. Well, I was so exhausted that I fell asleep right there on the floor by my door, and never made it to the hospital. This is a good thing, since all I was looking for was a good night’s sleep.

I woke up with a modicum less pain, but it was still a nightmare getting to my feet and down the street to pick up my vrtucar. See, I had to give a presentation this morning to a group of medical students going abroad. I wrote the bloody thing, in agony, while lying on the floor the night before. Luckily, I’d given several similar presentations over the past 2 years, so it was only a matter of plucking slides from existing sets.

Once again, I had to do the presentation alternating between standing, sitting, leaning, and lying on both a table and the floor. Sort of like William Shatner on The Family Guy:

Then I even managed to do a recording for a radio interview in my office, again while lying on the floor and coked up on pain killers. This horizontality is becoming my thing, I think.

By the time I got home, the drugs had all but knocked me out. I took a nap, half hanging off my bed, and awoke to…. painlessness. More or less. There are still twinges, but hallelujah, I’m no longer cursing in 4 languages and mixing narcotics. Only one way to celebrate: more narcotics!

In Other News…

A little late on the draw, but Janet Jagan, one of the people responsible for the independence of Guyana, and President of the country of my birth from 1997 to 1999, died on March 28. Some love her and some hate her, but there’s no denying that she was a giant figure in the history of a tiny South American nation most people have never heard of.

Mrs. Jagan was a nice Jewish girl from Chicago. Amazingly, she found herself in a scandalous interracial marriage with Guyanese freedom hero Cheddi Jagan, a man of my racial extraction. It’s a remarkable thing that this unremarkable suburban woman found herself kneedeep in the political intrigue of this hot country, eventually facing the warships of Winston Churchill, sent from Britain to topple their embryonic, Marxist government.

The movie, Thunder In Guyana, was based on her life. Frankly, I’m surprised big-money Hollywood types haven’t latched onto this story.

I met Mrs. Jagan back in 2000, when she was briefly my “handler” when I was awarded a Guyana Prize for Sweet Like Saltwater. I was so nervous at the time that I didn’t recognize her, and was vaguely annoyed that this old woman was trying to talk to me about her Canadian grandchildren while I was frantically trying to formulate a speech in my head.

When I realized who she was, I was quickly abashed and humbled. Now that she has passed, I am proud to have spent those few moments as her escort in the theatre. Here’s the one photo I have of us:

RIP Janet Jagan, October 20, 1920 – March 28, 2009.