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Spinal Woes

Truth is I started this blog…well…just to have a blog. I figure the time will come when I NEED a blog for one reason or another. So yes…it’s all a bit aimless. Speaking of aimless!

In December, I felt this weird rib pain on my right side. Initially I attributed it to an intercostal strain…too much twisting in yoga or something. I carried on for a couple more weeks and the pain got REALLY bad. REALLY strange pain. Never felt anything like it! Not just bad BUT really really annoying in character. Turns out I have a BIG disc herniation in the thoracic spine. MRI — Impression: T9-T10 RIGHT SUBARTICULAR ZONE LARGE DISC EXTRUSION EXTENDING 4.7 MM POSTERIORLY AND 10 MM SUPERIORLY WITH RIGHT LATERAL RECESS STENOSIS AND MASS EFFECT ON THE EXITING RIGHT T9 NERVE.

Our thoracic spines are really strong, protected by ribs. Something like less than 1% of all disc herniations occur in the thoracic spine and it usually takes some serious force to do it. But this just came on AND it’s a biggie. Positively strange. Good news is that the lesion is lateral. It is pinching on the nerve that runs around my torso above the belly button on the right. These are discs are large relative to the size of the spinal cord so there can be real problems in a central lesion. Herniated (“slipped”) discs tend to shrink a bit with time, often relieving the pressure on the nerve and thereby solving the problem. I am doing rehab, taking drugs and keeping my hopes up. But it is hard sometimes. Surgery to the thoracic spine is a somewhat complicated matter. First, it’s protected, read blocked, by ribs and it’s generally hard to access from the back so you have to go at the lesion from the front of the body and there is stuff in the way…like the lungs…yeah, one lung can be deflated by the anesthesiologist while the surgeon works…but you get my drift — access can be an issue. Also, in the thoracic spine, the surgeon has to deal with the spinal cord which is not an issue in surgery to the lower back. The nerves coming off the spine can get pretty beat up and bounce back but the spinal cord…it doesn’t take to even minimal abuse very well! There is a surgical solution for my problem but I REALLY hope to avoid it!

If that wasn’t enough, I got shingles on the other side! Even things out. Of course, this is all quite minor in the scheme of things. I have seen patients and friends deal so bravely with their problems. This has taken SO much out of me and strained relationships. I am ready to run away for a while. Just go walk for a month. I hurt but I’ll have to learn to shake it off! I walked some of the Camino de Santiago a few years ago, starting in Leon. That might be the call! Pretty much a stroll along roads with plenty of places to stop. And no need to carry much. I remember being amazed at the pain some of these devotees must have been in, hopping along on one leg and the like. You meet the most amazing people, everyone with a story! People to listen and appreciate. You can pick up a “pilgrim’s passport” if you claim to be doing the walk for “religious or spiritual” reasons. A few years ago, I walked for 2 weeks on a bunch stray euros from previous travel that I rounded up in my apartment in Sydney. Much cheaper than my physio which is getting old! I am long overdue to make some changes to break some ties that I am beginning to feel may ultimately destroy me if I don’t get my act together. Everything coming down at once!

A Perfect Saturday Afternoon

Nice hike up Mammoth Mountain from Twin Lakes yesterday. Remnants of the latest storm are evident. Winter is coming!
More photos!

The Little Things


Yesterday. After a really sluggish day, decided to take a short hike/run up Meysan Trail (near Whitney Portal). I stopped to take a picture in the fading light. I reached in the belt pocket of my little pack. It was gone. My little camera! That kind of day! I continued up a bit further, snow lingering from last week’s storm. But soon I turned back thinking it would be easier to find my camera before sunset. About half way down, there it was. My camera presented on a big rock. Impossible to miss. On my way up I had encountered four people descending from a day hike. They had hoped to make it to the lakes but the trail was obscured by snow so they turned back. Returning to my car, I encountered them at a drive up campsite right by the trailhead. It was cold and they had a good fire going. A nice visit. Sometimes we tend to focus on what goes wrong, what we didn’t accomplish.

Pondering My Next Move


Turning Point

It’s official…I am done with the USMLE. Did Step 3 this weekend. After the first day, Saturday, I walked up to Mt Lowe with my friend Mike. (Check out his photos — Mike’s SmugMug) We didn’t get back ’till around midnight. It felt so good to be outside! I had a day off Sunday and finished the exam on Monday. I have had this hanging over my head for SO long.

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Spring fun at the Bird

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