"If I wasn't done before, I'm done now."
In the finals of the Grand Masters tournament in July, Alex caught a swing pass near the sideline. I was about 10 yards in front of him, being fronted, so I faked a step in and bolted long as he hucked the backhand. Because of the thin air or his poor touch, I had to keep chasing after it and laid out for it. I caught it a split-second after it hit the ground and put it down*. But as I got to my feet, I noticed that both of my arms were tingling.
* - I knew it was down and never considered calling it up, but I somehow had time to turn around and notice my defender pointing down before I did anything with the disc. Maybe I was paying attention to my hands. I later asked the observer whether he would have called it up, just to see what he said. He said it was down, but maybe he was just covering for himself.
At Regionals, down 6-4, we had turned it and I noticed DJ of GLUM was looking to throw it into the endzone, so I dropped off my guy. He threw it, and I had to take an awkward angle to the disc to try to block it. I missed and ended up hitting the ground. Once again, my arms were tingling, and I headed to the sideline for a break.
Around the same time, a similar feeling happened when I landed funny playing basketball. In all these cases, there was a sharp hit and an immediate sensation which began dissipating immediately and within about a minute I was back to normal.
Then at Nationals, it happened at least three times, but this time I didn't have the sharp hit. Once, I simply reached out suddenly to try to block a throw, and twice, I was simply running hard. The last time, my last point, I was sprinting to make a jumping bid at a block, but as I swing my arm down to jump up, my arm isn't responding right, and I am unable to jump. By this time even _I_ have become a little suspicious of what's going on (unless it's debilitating, I generally don't seek medical advice; even for nagging injuries, I don't do a whole lot except for occasional ice and ibuprofen and maybe rest; I considered it a major step this year when I bought several pairs of new shoes to combat nascent plantar fasciitis). I mention this to a few people over the next few hours, and tentatively make plans to see a doctor when I get back, when I get around to it.
That night, I end up at the beach after the bars close, and I'm standing next to Alex, no doubt spewing about something. Two of our friends see us and decide it'd be funny to tackle us (and I have to agree with that), so they rocham to see who gets whom and charge us. I see tje charge at the last second but can't prevent it and end up flat on my back. However, my legs immediately feel very heavy, and I realize that I can't get up. As soon as I am aware of it, I try to wiggle my toes and find that I can, and then I begin the struggle to get up. I can finally move my arms and legs after maybe a minute but it's like pins and needles, times 100. I can sit up a little bit, and can sorta flop my arm over. It takes me probably five minutes before I am able to stand under my own power. Never in this time range did I have any change in mental faculties, no shortness of breath or seeing stars (well, I guess I could see stars since we were outside and it was a clear night). Eventually I'm ok, and fortunately someone finds a doctor in the group and he interviews me and determines that I'm not in any imminent danger of paralysis or death, but that I really need to see someone as soon as I get back.
Over the next day and a half, I'm sore, though not appreciably sorer than I would be any other year, and my arms and legs feel a little weak. Additionally, my arms feel a little weird. I have a little trouble sleeping so take some ibuprofen.
I go to my PCP on Monday afternoon and describe my symptoms, she calls a specialist to discuss, and they set me up with X-Rays and an MRI. Within an hour of the MRI, I get a call at my house suggesting that I should probably go to the ER this evening instead of waiting until the morning, since the doctor would "hate to see a young guy like me paralyzed." (He quickly added that he'd hate to see any age person paralyzed.) We arrange for the boy to have a sleepover, and get to the ER at about 8. Now, I didn't really think there was any imminent danger, and they didn't whisk me to the front of the line, but they put me in an uncomfortable neck brace and make me lie down, where I stay for the next 8 hours or so. I tell them I had an MRI at another hospital, but when they finally see me four or five hours later, they ask me if I have the MRI. My wife has to then drive to the other hospital to get a CD of it (they don't share information electronically) so they can look at it. The resident on call is somewhat apologetic but otherwise the staff isn't all that attentive or sensitive to the fears of this patient. I eventually see a neurologist at about 2 or 3 in the morning (or was it 1?), and he's half-asleep. (The reason I was directed to this hospital was that the other one didn't have a neuro staff working.) After looking at the MRI, he tells me I can go home but they'll give me some steroids or other anti-inflammatory to reduce the swelling in my spinal cord. He goes off to ask his "spine guy", and comes back and says in a monotone, "Our spine guy got kinda excited when I said I was sending you home." "Is that excited happy or excited agitated?" I reply. "Yeah, he wants you to stay here tonight. How are you with that?" What do you think, bucko? Oh, after he leaves, the nurse comes back and says, "So, you'll be having surgery in a day or two, is that right?" Huh, how about that.
In another hour or two, I get some more X-rays and then get ushered upstairs to a room, where they finally remove that cursed neck brace and I can get to sleep for a bunch of hours. I get woken up at about 9:30 and am told that they are scheduling a CT scan as soon as they can. Around 2 they come in and tell me that it will be at 4. At 4 I am picked up and taken to the CT area, where I am propped up without a word for about 40 minutes. Finally I get taken in, the tech apologizes and says an emergency had to get screened, I jokingly say "but I was here first", and we get the CT scan done. Unfortunately, the "team" doesn't have time to look at it before their shift is over, and I have to hang out until "first thing in the morning" to get the results.
At about 10, I'm told by a nurse practitioner who is trying to make me think she's a doctor that they'll be letting me out that afternoon but that I'll need surgery and that the attending neuro will talk to me after he's out of surgery at 1 or so. At around 3, after hearing nothing, I'm a little upset at the lack of attention. In 36 hours of an expensive hospital stay, I've had 10 minutes of diagnostics, 5 minutes of an NP, a bunch of vital signs readings (I made a control chart of my pulse rate), and a whole lot of waiting. Luckily I have my laptop and there is wi-fi, so I am able to keep in touch with the team and let them know what is going on, and my wife has spent a lot of time at the hospital with me, though she was also trying to do work. It's just annoying that they tell me so little and leave me waiting for long periods of time past when they said they would do something. I called the patients advocate line to pre-complain about my bill and the lack of attention, and I almost never bring my complaints to the authorities, generally just keeping them to those within earshot.
Finally, sometime after 4, the team (attending, sleepy doc, and NP) comes in, and I learn that I have two of my neck vertebrae compressed against each other and there are spurs and there is some impingment on my narrow spinal column. The fluid that I thought I heard the MRI guy say was there is not there, but there is swelling, which will have to subside over the next few weeks prior to doing anything. I'm lucky that I'm not paralyzed, I'm told. I ask whether that's "lucky like there was a chance that I could have been paralyzed, or lucky like 'I'm surprised you're NOT paralyzed'", but the attending doesn't seem to understand my question, as he apparently has not been briefed on how to handle levity. (The nurses who frequently came in were personable.) There is no fracture, I'm stable, I'm in no immediate danger, but I'll need a laminectomy. I'm confused about a lot of it but he is staring so sullenly I don't know what to ask. They write nothing down and discharge me with instructions to wear a (more comfortable but still not fun) neck brace and take the OTC medicine of my choice for pain and schedule a surgery consult for the next week or two, which apparently gets scheduled for December 8 without telling us.
There is a wide enough range of outcomes per teh Interwebs that I can't tell what to expect from post-surgery without more detailed knowledge of my specifics. I have the MRI and CT Scan and have sent out copies to a neuroradiologist friend who will share it with his colleagues, and I'm going to get a second opinion. I think there's a good chance I've played my last competitive ultimate game, and I can live with that, but I'll be really disappointed if I can't golf or play softball (not to mention what would happen if I get another traumatic hit prior to surgery and end up paralyzed).
Ooh, I get shivers just typing that sentence.