All posts by sam

The name of my monster

I’ll try to keep this brief and would appreciate any input from people, especially those with similar symptoms who perhaps found a diagnosis somewhere down the line.

Background on me: I just turned 24, I’m a final year med student and I’m set to graduate may-june of 2016 (God Willing). I used to be pretty active, take very long walks, go kart-racing and loved any sort of vigorous activity.

About 18 months ago, I started having recurring lower back pain on exertion. Things like doing dishes, picking things up and putting them away, walking for 15-20 mins etc. It wasn’t regular pain like the sort you get from a muscle strain, it was of a very different character. It started off sharp and then tapered into a very dull gnawing ache in my lumbo-sacral region but it would be relieved by rest.

About a year ago, this pain was no longer “recurring” but rather a constant ache that I classified as either “tolerable” or “intolerable”. I had trouble doing the simplest things and i couldn’t walk or stand or even sit for too long. 6-7 months ago this was followed by tingling, numbness and heaviness of my right lower limb along with very obvious weakness.

Today, my pain is always at a level 6-7/10 on the severity scale (hence it has now become the new 1-2/10 for me since my scale doesn’t have a ‘no pain’ number), I can stand/walk about 7-8 minutes before the pain becomes severe and I get a limp within 15 minutes which becomes more and more pronounced the more i have to walk/stand. Along with this, my leg also gets numb and heavy and eventually, becomes nothing more than dead weight that I have to drag along.

Seeing as how I’m in the medical field, I diagnosed myself with having a prolapsed disc or some other sort of lumbosacral pathology with nerve impingement leading to sciatica. The pain was unrelenting so I got an LS and pelvis MRI and it showed a very mild annular tear with broad disc protrusion and some very minor degenerative changes in L5-S1. We were told by multiple doctors that we consulted that these changes were quite insignificant and didn’t at all explain my symptoms.

This last week, I went to an excellent ortho who noticed that my clinical examination signs and description of symptoms warranted another MRI, this time for brain and full spine to rule out multiple sclerosis. My sister is a doctor and I myself knew this was highly unlikely and the doctor was just being thorough by admitting me and seeking a neuro consult. The neuro also believed it was highly unlikely but wanted to rule it out anyway. I was excited because I thought that even though i was sure it wasn’t MS, this MRI would show us what it actually was and the mystery would be solved. But I wasn’t that lucky.

The MRI came back unremarkable. I should’ve been happy like my family was, but I wasn’t. The neuro told me that it was “nothing” and I knew she meant there was nothing neurological but the tone in which she said it made me think that now I had lost credulity with professionals because they couldn’t find a clear medical explanation. I often given this analogy that “if there is a monster in my house that i can’t get rid of, I’d rather know where it is at least”, which means that since i do have pain and it’s not going anywhere, I’d at least like to have a diagnosis or give a name to the monster.

It’s very hard for me to get narcotics because no one wants to give a 24 year old narcs and if I hear one more doctor tell me to take an NSAID and “not jump to heavy pain meds”, I will tear my hair out. It takes about 120mg codeine for my pain to be influenced at all. Even morphine shots don’t take the pain away entirely anymore. The last time I remember being pain-free was the first time I got a morphine shot a few months ago and those magical 40 minutes showed me what a pain-free existence was like because I had forgotten. There are people out there, majority of people actually, who live in that bliss almost everyday! and they don’t know how blessed they are!!

My previous semester at med school was awful because I had to be sent home or had to go to the er multiple times from pain exacerbation. Ward rounds became torture to me because by the second bed we’d go to, my body was done and I can’t even begin describing how difficult clinical examinations were. I was almost not allowed to give my exams because of my attendance (even though the days i missed were mostly times I was sent home by doctors because of how pathetic I looked dragging myself along, using the wall for support with pain-glazed eyes). Thankfully I gave my exams and got through the semester and now I’m on to my last one which is going to be brutal and mostly on my feet, and I have no idea how the hell to do this. I can barely shower without needing to take rest afterwards and little things like combing are now an ordeal.

I want this monster gone.