Okay, back to the meeting with my surgeon. For privacy purposes, we’ll call him Dr. Belly Button. Dressed in his hospital blue scrubs and uncombed hair, Belly Button greets me and my wife as I shake his hand. He is a reasonably handsome young man with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face; all traits that I once held but have come and gone. You see, I’m a 71 year old man with uncombed gray hair, and shuffle my feet because the pain in my back hurts like hell. It feels like, oh you know, yada, yada, yada. Belly Button had a smile on his face, much like the last time he diagnosed my back problems when he recommended surgery. There’s that smile again. “I know what the problem is,” he said. “And I can fix it. You have another herniated disk in your lower back,” he said with a slight chuckle. “We don’t know how it happened, but it’s there.”
I was relieved that all of the pain was not in my imagination, and that he located the problem. But OMG, I have to go through more surgery? Belly Button fires up the computer and the three of us hover around the computer screen. He begins pointing out all of the bones and disks in my spin. Oh look at this disk. It looks pretty good, but now look at this one, all flattened out with goo seeping out. Looked like a stepped-on jelly donut to me. You have bone on bone. And look where the nerve is located. Just looking at it made my back hurt.
We could do the same procedure as last time when I cleaned the area, removed some bone fragments. You know the routine, yada, yada, yada. But this time the situation demands another technique, I would insert some metal hardware. You know — plates, rods, and screws. That’s the most secure way of fixing your problem. The recovery time will double but you can be back to normal — my mind began to drift, pain free, rough housing with my dog, messing around with my wife, yada, yada, yada. We can use either procedure, Belly Button said, the simple but uncertain one with a shorter recovery, or the more complicated one with a longer recovery which provides for a better outcome. We can schedule the operation in a few weeks. Let me know which technique you would like to use.
Belly Button told me that he understood how debilitating nerve pain can be. “It can cause depression,” he said. Oh really, I thought. That’s quite an understatement. Your fucking A it causes depression. It’s a “can’t move” depression. Lets open my back up right now, I thought. Here, hand me the knife and I’ll do the slicing myself. Look, there’s that stepped-on jelly roll. Hand me a stapler and a couple of rubber bands. There, it feels better already. Ooops, I’m losing a ton of blood. Looks like I’m a quart low. Give me a can of 10-40. That takes care of anything. Pains gone. Time to go home. Thank you God for my imagination. It always makes me feel better.