Thursday, January 21, 2010

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled "Young and Hip" Post to Join this Pity Party in Full Swing

After my mom's SmartCar abruptly quit in the middle of the highway, mechanics weren't sure what was wrong. They ran every test in the book, took the SmartCar out to try to replicate the problem but found nothing. The mechanic called us and said that they might not ever know what went wrong, but sometimes "these things happen" (yeah, and when they happen I nearly get crushed by a semi) and they would keep looking. To me, this was a worst-case scenario. I was not about to get in a car that, for reasons unknown, had nearly killed me and could do so again. I was therefore actually happy when they discovered that rats had been making a spaghetti dinner out of the car's electrical wires. Even if it meant that the car would be in the shop for weeks, even if it meant picturing dirty, dirty rodents crawling around my vehicle, knowing is better than not knowing.

It's the same thing with my hip. Yesterday, I went to see a new neurologist. I had originally planned on canceling the appointment, since I've been stuffed with more electrified needles than a robot porcupine and no one's found anything interesting. A. convinced me, however, that I should never turn down an appointment, so off I went to get up on the needle table, lie back and take it like a man (well, you know what I mean).

Which is what I did: first, the strength tests, second, this weird cattle-prod thing that basically does the same thing as the needles, only less needle-y and more zappy, third, the needles, done by a neurologist in training under the supervision of an older, more experience neurologist. You know what's worse than getting electrified needles in your sore hip? Having those needles put in by a rookie while the expert leans over saying, "Give it a little more effort. Sometimes those nerves are really deep in there."

At the end of the test, (surprise, surprise), the result was the same: nothing showed up. No evidence of nerve damage. No evidence of anything. This neurologist (who has actually fairly nice) took it one step further from the usual "we don't know what's wrong." The verdict: I've got a case of the crazies. Clearly, I don't want my new hip to work. I'm putting up mental blocks to keep myself limping like the queen of the polio zombies because it drives all the boys wild. After all, a hip replacement can be "pretty traumatizing" (not to the 8.5 million old people who shuffle on in there every year) and stressful and if I would just take an anti-depressant, I might "feel less anxious about the hip replacement" (no, I would feel less anxious about my hip replacement if I could, you know, walk on it) and "sleep better" (I'm sleeping fine) and maybe this would convince my crazy self to walk better.

Sitting on the hospital bed in that ridiculous hospital gown with pen marks all over my body from where they'd marked the cattle-prod trigger points, it was all I could do not to burst into tears. It's not like I haven't heard this before. When I was 11, my leg kept collapsing after the surgery to repair my slipped growth plate and they told me it was all in my head. In reality, a screw had come loose and was poking up in my hip socket, causing avascular necrosis. Chances are that if some surgeon hadn't been so quick to dismiss me as crazy, I would be able-bodied right now. When I couldn't work my abductors post-hip-replacement, they told me I was crazy and I just needed to "reconnect with my body" because my mind was shutting off my hip. And while they were blaming me, my gluteus medius was detached. Who knows what would have happened if they'd discovered that the week after the surgery, as opposed to six months later? When I complained that my hip had become more painful as opposed to less during my hip-replacement recovery, my surgeon told me it was nothing to worry about. And now the socket is probably loose. You can therefore see why I'm skeptical about this latest diagnosis.

I just don't know what more I can do. I just don't know how I can want to walk any more. Before the hip replacement, I was fully confident that it would go well. I did 6 months of hip-strengthening exercises pre-surgery and was bragging that I would be doing laps around the oldsters in the hospital within a day. I even offered to do my mom's friend's birthday cake a week after the operation. When the surgery happened, I stayed awake because I wanted to see the hip after it was taken out. I wasn't traumatized, wasn't even particularly worried (the sedatives helped with that). I was just chilling beyond the little curtain they put up so you can't see, singing John Cale's "Half Past France" inside my head, higher than a Romantic poet after an opium binge.

So when the epidural wore off and I realized that I couldn't move my leg, no one was more surprised than I was. Since then, I've done every physio exercise that anyone has asked me to do. I've swam, I've biked on the stationary bike until my ass was literally worn raw, I've ran on the elliptical machine, I've done weights, I've gone for walks, I've done core training, I've had electrified needles stuck in my hip, I've had someone stick a long needle into my hip socket to inject freezing there, I've tried to think good thoughts, I've done absolutely everything. None of it has done any good. From the moment I woke up, I knew that something was wrong and something is still wrong and, if the doctors are right and it's "all in my head," something will be wrong forever because I don't know what more I can do.

These past 8 months, my damaged hip replacement has cost me nearly everything I cared about (except for family and a few friends, who I'm grateful for). It cost me my last year in Champaign. I can't stay in the country past July and I will never get back those lost months. Because of my hip, I'll be deported if I don't move back to Canada on my own free will. I've lost most of my friends who have (understandably) moved on with their busy lives, or who are tired of the constant medical drama surrounding my life and want out. I've lost my athletic career. I've lost my creative spark. I've lost 8 months when I could have been dating. I'm living at home with my parents, (who I love and my grateful for), sponging off them at 27 years old. After a four-month respite in Champaign, I'm going back to Vancouver for more surgeries, surgeries that have fairly bad odds, and I'll have to stay there.

After the appointment (where my socks somehow disappeared after the technician took them off), I pulled myself together enough to go back to work for a few hours. Then I sobbed all the way home in the car, and for a few hours thereafter. Because this neurologist appointment means that nothing will get better. If I am crazy, then my mind's rejected my hip. I don't know what else I can try and even the surgery (though it will reattach the hip, fix the socket and raise my leg length) won't make me walk better. If I'm not crazy, however, then it means that the doctors have stopped looking. I mean, damn, they put my mom's SmartCar through more rigorous testing to determine what's wrong with it and you can get out of a SmartCar.


  1. (((hugs))) I'm not sure what to say except that I know that you're not crazy. If there's anyone who wants to move and do and walk and run, it's you, and I can't believe that your mind would be blocking that on any level. I only had about a year of this kind of treatment from the doctors, telling me my back was fine and to get over it, and misdiagnosis (lumbar region looks perfect in the xray!), and even those doctors who had given up (aside from surgery, we'll just inject you with needles as often as we can, nothing else can be done, why are you even upset?). It was incredibly frustrating and it's only a small portion of what you're dealing with, so I have a little tiny inkling of how it can be. I'm hoping that all it will take is one doctor, one appointment, to begin to recognize what's really going on. I'm glad you're blogging this because you are not crazy. That I know for sure. We can't wait to have you back in CU.

  2. I am so, so sorry but you must not give up and never, ever believe that things can't get better. This is really unnerving for those of us who live in a country where we desperately need to reform health care and are using Canada as a model for how great it can be. Yikes!

  3. I know we've already talked about it but it doesn't hurt to say it again:
    You're not crazy. Doctors make mistakes. I will be here for you no matter what!
    Love, love, love.

  4. Arley, I wish there was something I could do or say to make this any better. Nobody deserves to have all of this resolved, to be able-bodied and able to walk correctly, more than you do. And it's definitely not your fault that you're not. Everyone who knows you knows that you're not crazy. This is going to sound dumb, but it's not over yet, which means that it's not hopeless. Get back here to Chambana so we can shower you with cupcakes and affection.

  5. You're not crazy. And don't feel bad about having a pity party. They are certainly okay when you've been going through all of this. Honestly I'm so impressed that you are so positive all the time! But even though I don't know you, you have to know that your blog is an inspiration to all of us out there dealing with hip issues like you, and that its refreshing to know that there is someone out there dealing with similar feelings to mine. So really, you're allowed a pity party. In fact, you're allowed quite a few. And if it's any consolation, you're a trooper. :)