I’m piecing this together from appointments in my calendar...
The first time I recall feeling a pain was the weekend of the curfew beer festival in Berwick. It was on the Saturday afternoon as Gordon, Tom and I walked from the town to old Shielfield to watch Tweedmouth Rangers play. That was Saturday the 5th of May. I had a pain in the buttock and a pain down my right leg to just above the knee. I thought I had pulled my hamstring a little. Still I manage to walk on it for the weekend and drove back home on the Sunday morning.
I was still hobbling around on Friday the 18th of May when Gordon and I went to see Ian McMillan in Kirkcaldy and I manage around the fife show the next day. I think by this point Viv the masseuse who comes into work had seen me and I had my first ever massage. I think I had another couple of sessions with her and she said it was likely to be piriformis syndrome – the tightening of the piriformis muscle in the upper thigh that was pulling my hamstring tight and pulling on my sciatic nerve.
The next stop was a doctor’s appointment on the 29th of May. The doctor also said it was Piriformis syndrome (after I mentioned it) and sent me away with some pills and told me to look up exercises online and continue with Viv as there was a few weeks wait for a physio appointment, unknown to me at this time was that the pills I was prescribed weren’t painkillers but an anti-inflammatory and I “probably” should have been give some painkillers to go with the anti-inflammatory I was prescribed.
So more hobbling and limping about at work and the next event I remember is going out with Stuart and Ewan for a drink after work on Friday the 8th of June. I wasn’t drinking I was on the anti- inflammatory pills but I could go out and see the guys and get some dinner. I had to leave early (7?) as my leg was becoming really sore and my stomach was hurting (likely from the pill I had just taken). I manage back to work where my car was parked after stopping several times in pain. I waited at work for a bit and the pain eased so I drove home. The pain returned and I was due to go see the Rolling Stones in Edinburgh the next day, sadly that didn’t happen.
The next couple of weeks I continued on and had a couple further sessions with Viv. She said I had the tightest muscles she had ever seen in her 25 odd years of seeing people. At this point I took a week’s holiday to try and rest up, popping back into the department on Wednesday the 13th of June for a day’s first aid training. Still limping at this point but able to manage. Still continuing on with my exercises for my piriformis I drove myself and my dad down to Berwick for the Berwick Rangers open training session on Saturday the 23rd of June. My leg was sore but ok while sitting and driving.
My next appointment with Viv was Thursday the 28th of June. This was when she identified that there was something wrong with my back and suggested I see a chiropractor she knew. Ruth phoned immediately and we had an appointment for the following Monday. We were going down to Berwick for a week’s holiday but we could delay that, treatment was more important. By this point I must have been to the doctors again because I had an MRI scan booked in for the 14th of August I cant quite remember when though.
I know that the MRI was booked when I had to go to the out of hours doctor in St Andrews when I was in real agony, rolling around on the bed clutching my leg. Ruth phoned NHS 24 and they told me a doctor would phone back in around 3 hours. An hour later (or less) I was in the car Ruth driving me to St Andrews, I couldn’t wait for the phone call I was in real pain. I’m not one to grumble at the slightest thing, I had a kidney stone several years ago and the pain was on that level but without the
easing when the stone stops moving. People have likened the pain of a kidney stone to that of childbirth, so up at the top end.
The out of hours receptionist was a real downer. I was crouched in front of his counter rocking back and forth in real pain and all he could say was that I couldn’t see anybody, I had to call NHS 24. I said I had but it would be at least 3 hours for them to get a doctor to call me back. A shrug was his reply and the woman next to him glanced up from her paper to tell me to call NHS 24 again. At this point a doctor walked by and immediately took me in to her office and prescribed me stronger painkillers and said she would put me in for an MRI scan. She said she had been there all day and seen no other patients. NHS 24 called back several hours later....
Whatever she gave me worked to ease the pain, I think it was diazepam but by this point I wasn’t sure. I know I was on a cocktail of drugs by this point and out of hours had been called again the following Saturday I think and morphine was prescribed.
At some point during all of this I lost my ability to lie down and had to sleep/rest by sitting on the bed pushed against the wall and resting my head on some pillows propped on the radiator and window ledge. I had also developed another symptom that comes from trapped nerves. My right thigh had become very sensitive to the touch - it was like sunburn and rather painful. Fortunately, it only lasted for a couple of weeks.
The next few weeks were easier but still painful. I was on a lot of Tramadol and other painkillers, still seeing Viv and Frankie (Chiropractor) and waiting for my NHS physio and MRI results. I had missed all the pre-season games of Berwick Rangers and all the cup games. I had been looking forward to taking my dad to them but there was no chance I could travel, not even as a passenger.
I had to chase up my MRI results. I had been to the doctors the week after to get my return to work extended and get even more pills. The doctor actually seemed annoyed that I had been for an MRI as they are expensive...... I said sorry, but I didn’t know and I didn’t request it. The last time I was at the doctors was for my kidney stone several years ago. I don’t know how the system works. He didn’t have the results and after a further week I phoned and still nothing. Another phone call to the surgery and the results still weren’t there. I was getting a little worried, was it something really bad? At this point the receptionist asked where the MRI was done and I said Ninewells, Dundee. Well it turns out she had to login to the Ninewells system as the results aren’t put into my file from there as it’s a different region! I then waited for another couple of days for the doctor to phone me back about the results. After a long days wit he called at 3pm and said he couldn’t really tell me anything because the results had to be reviewed by a neurologist.. he did say that there were notes on the MRI and there was nothing major. Trapped nerves at s1/s2 and a bulge and compression at L5. This is the area that Frankie identified as causing the problem so I was happy that he was on the right track and knew his stuff.
Still loaded with painkillers and such I’ve now progressed through August slowly getting better with the odd setback chucked in such as a change of anti-inflammatory that caused my ankles and legs to swell up. Hampering my progress.
By this point I could travel in the car as a passenger without a great deal of discomfort so my dad was taking my up and down to Berwick to watch the football. I was glad to be getting out of the house. I had also had a skype interview with BBC look north during my worst time, appearing on screen while on morphine... The interview was because I had won the raffle for front of shirt sponsor at Berwick Rangers and given it to Northern Soul Kitchen, a community kitchen just starting out in Berwick.
I was also down to Berwick for the seaside festival on the 11th of August. By this point I was needing to get out and walk a little to build up my strength and stamina again. It was tough but an ice cream on the prom is a great motivator...
Next target was the Berwick food and Beer festival. Again still unable to drive Ruth drove us down. Gordon would join us on the Saturday as would Ruth H, I had completely forgotten to mention it to Tom Kelsey, oops..
We arrived at the food and beer festival around 11am. My plan was to stay to around 9pm. There are plenty of seats so I could sit down for most of the time. By 1:30pm I was done and ready to go. People kept commenting on how pale I was and I was pretty sore and shaky. Luckily Ruth’s parents were there and they could take me away. I couldn’t manage the walk to their car so they had to come and pick me up. Ruth’s sister Beth was there and she carried my bag into the flat for me, clearly seeing that I was done. This was my big comeback weekend and I had stuffed it.
I was sore but at least I could lie down by this point, a great relief.
The rest of September was 2 steps forward and 1 step back. But all in an upward track. I was reducing my painkillers and I think I was off tramadol completely. I had my own pain management scheme in place as the doctors hadn’t offered anything, it’s pretty much a different doctor each time I visit.
The last couple of weeks have been tough again though. My hamstring is giving me some real pain and hampering the exercises I need to do to loosen my back. Frankie has said that my back is loosening nicely now though. Because my hamstring is so painful I can’t lie down at all, I’m sleeping/resting at night sitting on the edge of the bed crouched over a bedside cabinet wit pillows and cushions piled on top of it. This of course means my ankles and legs are swelling up, which means my hamstring is getting pressure, which means my back isn’t getting fully exercised.....
I did go to the doctors about my ankles swelling up, it started when my medication was changed to a gentler type a few weeks ago – common side effect fluid retention in ankles and legs.. The doctor told me to stop taking the pills and give it a couple of days, if it was still the same come and see them. Well a couple of days came and went but it was about 2 weeks before I could make another appointment... So my current situation is swollen ankles, very sore hamstring and a back that’s loosing off but now becoming sore and tighter in other areas because I can’t lie down and I’m crouched over a bedside cabinet at night. I’m still waiting for my first appointment with the NHS physio and my appointment with the Neurologist to set out my path to recovery. At least in the last few weeks I’ve been able to do some work from home, otherwise I would be going round the bend by now. I’m also thankful for a workplace that allows such a length of time off, if I was working in an Amazon warehouse or sports direct I would have lost my job by now. Very thankful too that we have a bit of cash saved in the bank to pay for Viv and Frankie. I’ve spent around £1600 on treatment so far and probably another £400 on supplies like hamstring supports, neck cushions, heat pads etc. I’m also very lucky that Ruth and my parents have been able to take me to appointments, I’ve had around 40 trips to Frankie so far and 4 or 5 trips to the doctors and a visit to Ninewells. Viv visits me at home. Next visit will be number 16.
my “bed” in Berwick.