Back Pain

Being ill, and the NHS, suck

Lugosi, Going Postal
A patient being treated with acupuncture moxibustion in Nelson, New Zealand by Charlotte Stuart MAc RN WonderlaneLicence CC BY 2.0

I know I have touted for sympathy at GP for my recent back/leg pain and I am grateful for your support. There is an old saying that to understand someone else’s perspective you should walk a mile in their shoes. They should add “and wear a clean pair of socks in case of athletes foot”.

I am virtually shoeless having been mainly in bed for a month but I can now empathise and understand the World of “Back Pain”. Reports say that 30m working days are lost due to back pain in the UK every year. My experience with the NHS suggests that maybe 5m days could be saved if the NHS dealt with patients in a timely and serious manner.

I was prompted to write this article after an aborted session to get some facet and nerve needles into my spine at a private hospital. I have a prolapsed disc as well as tightness in my facet joints. I couldn’t lay flat on my tummy because the pain was unbearable. Consequently they couldn’t do the procedure and it may have to be an x-ray guided one so I can lie on my side, which I can do. The shape of the CT scanner wouldn’t allow them space to insert the needles with accuracy.

As I sat in the car while the wife took back the wheelchair from BMI Hospital  I watched the other patients come and go. At least 50% of them were walking with some aid. Some walking unaided obviously had some mobility problem.

Since they were at the older spectrum of their lives, like me, I thought “We have funded the NHS with our taxes for many years. Where are the vital help and pain relief we paid for all those years?”

For years my back would get tired when walking. Had some minor flare ups but settled down. Since May, when I returned from a trip to the USA, my back had started to give some pain. I put it down to the airline seat and soft bed at the villa.

I needed to do work in the garden and tackle a pond that I had neglected for two years. I began to realise some difficulty stepping onto and down the sleepers surrounding the pond. Woke up with considerable pain in right buttock, back and shooting down my leg. I could not walk because of the pain. That first trip to the loo without any aid was unbelievably painful.

I now entered the World of serious back pain and four weeks later I am still suffering.

The “World” consists of painkillers and mobility aids. It also teaches you that the NHS is a waste of time. I no longer have health insurance so I have to pay for private treatment.

When my back pain started I went to the GP. “Take ibuprofen and get some exercise”. In fact he told me to buy the ibuprofen even though I get a free prescription. He wouldn’t write a scrip. It took me a week to get that appointment.

My knee was playing up. A torn meniscus from 12 years ago. Rarely give me trouble. It took another ten days to get that appointment. “OK, we can x-ray you knee. Make an appointment”. “What about some physiotherapy?”, I ask. “Well, I can refer you to the NHS but it will take six weeks. Here are some phone numbers of private physiotherapy”.

I made the x-ray appointment. “Can you x-ray my back instead?” I ask. “No, it has to be referred by the GP”. “If I get that done how long will it take before we get the results. Will the radiologist be able to tell me what they see?”. “No, we write to your GP. At the moment it’s taking a month to get the reports out”

I contact NHS physiotherapy. “OK, we’ve got you in our system. I can offer you an appointment on the 4th September (that was four weeks in the future) for a telephone appointment”. That’s right. It takes them one month to speak to you by telephone to assess your knee before offering you an actual appointment to get treatment.

Pain unbearable. Wife threatens my GP that if she doesn’t do something she will call an ambulance. Note, MY GP was not available for the original consultations I mentioned earlier. We’ve know each other for 20 years. She calls me by my first name. She makes a rare house-call. Prescribes Tramadol. 36 hours later I vomit, pass out and my wife calls an ambulance.

Now, here is one part of the NHS that is excellent. Brilliant lead paramedic and his lovely assistant. Every move was efficiency itself. Testing heart, oxygen levels and blood sugar. I am heavy. They call for help to get me down the stairs. Four burly paramedics turn up (I only needed two more so don’t get images of a 34 stone Lugosi require a crane and removal of the upstairs windows!).

What SHOULD have happened? “We will get an ambulance to take you to hospital and get an MRI to see what’s wrong” Immediately they saw it was a trapped nerve they should have given me a CT guided spine injection to relieve the pain on the same day, especially knowing I can’t take codeine or Tramadol orally as pain relief.

A&E did offer me morphine, which I declined due to me allergies. “Why can’t you x-ray me while I’m here?” “We can’t” “What about an MRI while I’m here” “We can’t?”.

The reason being that I was in A&E for passing out while on Tramadol and not for a back problem (which was the reason I was on Tramadol)

At time like this you wonder if I wouldn’t have been better in Cuba. So, I have had to go Private at my own expense.

The World of Back Pain bring with it “mobility and relief aids”. From a friend I have a nice adjustable walking stick. From Amazon I have a great four wheel rollator, crutches, seat for the shower, a seat massager (which I have yet to try) and a TENS machine which I am awaiting delivery of.

And to end on a low note:- You realise it’s easier to sit down and pee and, let’s say, you have to be a bit creative when it comes to cleaning up the other end.

Being ill sucks. And so does the NHS.

I wish you all good health. Until you get ill you don’t always  fully appreciate what others go through.

© Lugosi 2019

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file