Job update and physical therapy

I had my first physical therapy appointment today.  More accurately, I had my first post-ablation therapy appointment today.  The therapy order from my doctor indicates that I will be working on core strength.  I know that this is exactly what I need.  I haven’t been able to do any core work for the past couple of months because of the back pain.

The therapist I worked with today (who I have worked with in the past) did an evaluation and talked about how I’ve been doing since I last saw her at the end of April.  She measure my range of of motion.  We talked about what types of movements typically cause my pain.  We talked about how ‘flabby’ my core feels and I told her that I am looking forward to getting a little bit more stability in that area.

And, since she is really big on working toward her patient’s goals, we discussed some short-term and long-term goals.  I told her that most of the goals I had for myself this year aren’t going to happen.  I already missed my two half marathons in the spring.  I won’t be able to run either of the two fall marathons I registered for.  I don’t like giving up on my goals.  But, since I had to stop and think about it, I told her that my short term goal was to be able to do my normal, everyday tasks without pain.  Those things that everyone else takes for granted–folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, making the beds, playing with the kids—I would like to be able to do those things.  As for my long term goals…well, I want to run.  I would love to be able to do a spring marathon.  But, since I am currently running approximately a mile and a half a week, that seems pretty close to unattainable.

After the evaluation, we went through a few core strengthening exercises.  They are all isometric, nothing that requires me to flex my back.  And we are starting slowly.  Just a couple exercises with only a few repetitions each day.  I wish there was a magic button I could push to make this work faster, but there isn’t.  I have to approach this as rehab.  If I try to do it all at once, I will end up hurting myself more.  My therapist kept reminding me that I will actually get more benefit if I do these exercises slowly.  I have to consciously try not to be my super-competitive self.  I have to relax.  She also suggested yoga, but probably not until this winter.  It is still too early.  I need the back to get better and I need to get some of my core strength back.

I will see her again on Thursday and then one day next week.  I am hoping to get in twice a week.  Until then, I have the exercises I can do at home.  Every once and a while, we will reevaluate to see where I am and we can add to, or change up the exercises so that I continue to see the benefit.  Slow and steady.

On the job front…..

I hadn’t heard anything yesterday from HR at the hospital, so my plan was to call them this afternoon.  Instead, they called me right after lunch.  It was a different HR lady who called.  She wanted to let me know that they had sent out orientation letters stating that the next class was on Monday and Tuesday of next week.  Of course, Monday is Labor Day, so she wanted to let me know that the class was actually Tuesday and Wednesday. 

I asked her if this meant I was supposed to come to the orientation, since I was still waiting to hear if Employee Health was going to clear me to start working.  She transferred me to the lady I have been working with.  This lady apologized for not getting back to me sooner and for the confusion that this phone call must have caused.  She is still working with Employee Health to see if they can work within my restrictions.  She said that they wanted to make sure they made the right decision for everyone involved and that they didn’t want to make a decision and have to change it a couple days later.

I reiterated to her that my restrictions were TEMPORARY and that I anticipated making a full recovery.  She assured me that she would remind Employee Health of that fact.  In the meantime, I am just in a holding pattern.  She promised to get back to me by the end of the week.  My gut instinct is that they are not going to let me start.  I believe I am going to lose this job and there is nothing I can do about it.  The worst part is that I turned down a different job to take this one.  I feel like I’m being punished because I got greedy and put all my effort into getting the job I really wanted instead of taking what was offered to me.  And now I might not get anything.

I’m going to need wine and chocolate.  Oh, and a job.

I just need one thing to go my way

I have been holding off talking about my new job on the blog.  I am super excited about the job, so I’m not sure why I haven’t been sharing that excitement.  Maybe because in the back of my mind, I know that things just haven’t been going my way this year, and I didn’t want to get too excited about anything.

Well…I guess I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.  Let me back up.  After two years of nursing school and months of filling out applications and going on interviews, I was offered my dream job.  I got a part time position in the operating room of a local hospital!  I was beyond thrilled. 

I was offered (and accepted) the job two weeks ago.  After that, I had to quickly schedule my pre-employment physical, so that I could get into the orientation class that was scheduled for the 18th.  I was able to get the physical scheduled for the 11th. 

I drove over to the clinic and they did some fasting labs, took my vitals, and had me talk with the nurse practitioner.  Then I was sent to physical therapy for the back evaluation.  I was nervous about this part.  It is essentially a fit-for-duty assessment.  The therapist has me perform a series of exercises: lifting, bending, pushing, pulling, etc. to be sure that I am capable of fulfilling the job description.  I talked with her about my back pain and about the ablation.  We talked about proper body mechanics and some of the ways I have been compensating to deal with the pain.  She was satisfied that I could handle the job requirements.  After that, I was excited and ready to start orientation the following week.

Fast forward to Friday of that week (three days before I was scheduled to start orientation).  I received a call from Employee Health.  She told me that they weren’t able to clear me to start work without a note from my doctor at Bone and Joint stating that I had no restrictions and that I could start work.  I received this phone call at 2:00 pm.  I freaked out.  I called Bone and Joint, but (naturally), the doctor had left for the day.

I eventually talked to one of the nurses and gave her the contact information of the person I talked to in Employee Health.  She was able to get a copy of the job description and said that one of the nurse practitioners in the office would review it and fax a form over to the hospital.  Ok.  Great.

An hour or two passes and I get another phone call from Employee Health.  She informs me that I will be unable to start the orientation class on Monday because I was only cleared for sedentary work until my follow up with the doctor.  What?!?!??  Devastated. 

I hung up the phone and cried.  It was already 5:00, but I quickly called Bone and Joint to see if I could move up my follow up appointment.  It was scheduled for the 26th, but I was able to move it and get in to see the doctor yesterday afternoon.

The appointment was not what I had hoped for.  Obviously, I’m still having pain.  I’m not getting the relief I had hoped for from the procedure.  I talked to the doctor and she told me to “be patient” and “keep waiting” and “sometimes these things take time.”  At this point, I’m not sure if I should believe her, or if she is just Pollyanna-ing me.  I like her less each time I see her.  She explained to me that she deals a lot with my type of pain.  She told me that 80% of her practice is procedures like mine.  She expects the pain relief to take a while.  I don’t actually care about 80% of her practice.  I want her to focus on me, not what everyone else goes through.  I don’t feel like she is listening to me.

She did write me a prescription for some lidocaine gel to apply topically to the spot that is burning.  I guess this is a side effect that a small percentage of patients experience.  I have another appointment scheduled in 4 weeks.  Hopefully there will be more pain relief at that point.  I asked her about physical therapy and she said that I could start if I wanted to, but that I needed to take it easy.  She gave me a referral.  I’ll probably drop that off at the local therapy center this week and see if I can get something scheduled.

As for the work situation, we talked about it and she said that she would fax something over to Employee Health stating that I could be put on ‘medium duty.’  I don’t know exactly what that will mean to Employee Health.  I am hoping that Employee Health will get that form by the end of the day today and that I will hear something from them regarding when/if I can actually start working.

This whole situation has really made me wonder if I will ever get a ‘win.’  I thought I had one when I got the job.  I was the happiest I have been in months.  Then, as has happened often this year, the floor was dropped out from under me.  Nothing is going right.  I just can’t get a break.  All I want to do is crawl into a deep hole and disappear.

Recovery update

It has been about a week and a half since my radiofrequency ablation.  I had hoped that I would be able to work my way into the half-a-mile-every-other-day running schedule that the doctor is allowing me.  Unfortunately, I am still having pain.  It isn’t the same pain, but it is pain none-the-less. 

Actually, there are two different kinds of pain I’m currently dealing with.  The first is back pain.  It isn’t as intense as it was before the RFA, but I still have pain with bending and twisting.  It is still a challenge to unload the dishwasher and fold the laundry and make the kids’ beds (I usually have Tim do that last one.)  This is the pain that leaves me exhausted at the end of the day.  It is the pain that makes me question whether I will ever experience a pain-free day ever again.

The other pain is completely new since the RFA.  It is kinda hard to explain.  There is a spot just to the right of my tailbone that feels like it has been rubbed raw.  I know that this is something to do with the nerve damage from the RFA.  There is nothing on my skin.  It isn’t red.  Nothing has been rubbing against it.  It looks completely normal.  But it feels very irritated.  Imagine the worst chafing you have ever experienced.  Think of how it feels when the skin is that sensitive.  Think of how it feels when your clothing rubs up against chafed skin.  Think of the pain you feel when you first take a shower and the water hits that area.  That is what this spot feels like.  It is terrible!  My underwear rubs against it.  It is super-sensitive to the touch.  I don’t know if this is a temporary side effect of the procedure, but I am really hoping that I don’t have to deal with it much longer.

In running-related news, I tried a little bit of running on my walk today.  It has been a week and a half since I ran my first half mile.  I haven’t been doing any running because of the continued pain.  This morning, when I went for my walk, I sprinkled in 5 short running segments.  The first four were one block and the last one was two blocks.  There is still pain when I run.  But it is hard for me to differentiate between the irritation-type pain from the nerve and the deeper back/hip pain. 

I didn’t feel any worse after the run, so I think I’ll give it another shot on Saturday.  Maybe I’ll even try another half mile.  I want to be able to get a good read on exactly how everything is feeling.

Mentally and emotionally, I am still struggling.  I had put so much hope into this procedure and I had really hoped that I would be feeling so much better than I am.  I desperately want to get back to living a normal life.  One without pain.  With running.  And more smiling.  And less despair.  That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Recovery so far

Or…don’t get your hopes up.

Well–this isn’t the post I had hoped to be writing a few days after my radiofrequency ablation.  I had really hoped that I could give a stellar report, detailing the wonders of a back-pain-free life.  Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case.

After the initial pain of the procedure wore off, I actually felt pretty good for most of Tuesday.  I even went for my first run in six months.  I ran half a mile, at a 12:00 minute pace.  This was exactly what I was allowed to do.  Half a mile.  Very slowly.  Every other day.

I got home from that run and felt pretty good.  In fact, I felt so good that I weeded the garden and then picked raspberries.  Probably not the best idea.  I went to bed a little sore that night.

Wednesday, I woke up and felt ok.  I had a job shadow scheduled for the morning and was happy that I wouldn’t have to deal with back pain while I was there.  I was on my feet all morning, but the pain wasn’t too bad. 

By the time I got home that afternoon, I was excited to go for my walk (the job shadow experience went really well!—a topic for another day).  My pace for the walk was relatively fast and I felt great!  But when I got home, and started doing the normal daily house-stuff, I started to have that familiar pain again.  Pain loading the dishwasher.  Pain folding the laundry.  Pain playing with Logan. 

Any positivity that I had carried over from Tuesday’s half mile run was gone.  I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry.  I went to bed Wednesday night in pain, depressed, despondent. 

Thursday morning dawned and I got up to go for a walk.  It was the ‘every other day’ that I was allowed to run my slow half mile.  But, in a display of incredible self pity control, I simply walked my three mile loop. 

I know that increased pain is possible for a couple days after the procedure.  I guess I had gotten so excited from that initial, very short lived pain relief, that I got my hopes up too much.  I’m hoping that there is still a chance for some pain relief from this procedure.  But, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think it’s going to happen.  And I don’t know what the next step will be if that is the case.  Although I’m sure it will involve antidepressants.