April: The Test of Endurance

Every new test result brought a mix of hope and dread, and each treatment felt like a gamble with her health. Due to several factors such as her age, weight, bone density etc. the doctors did not want to perform surgery that was the last option. They were simply treating the pain until a determination could be made. She was on a cocktail which contained the highest dose of morphine, valium, nerve medication and a few other things.

Warded

April was an incredibly challenging month, stretching every facet of my being to its limit. My mother was hospitalized for nearly the entire month, testing my endurance, finances, health, spirituality, and ability to manage everything.

My mother underwent numerous tests and examinations, all while enduring constant pain. One of the most vivid memories is her MRI, for which she had to be sedated; the medication was so strong she forgot it even happened. Her diagnosis was severe: spondylolisthesis of L4-L5, Grade 1 osteoporosis of the left hip, and degenerative disc disease (DDD) with foraminal stenosis. These conditions caused her unbearable pain, making even the smallest movements excruciating. Watching my once-proud, independent mother in such a vulnerable state was heartbreaking. She couldn’t walk, sit, or even turn without immense pain. She could only stay in one position, and any deviation triggered a painful chain reaction. Somehow, when you add the fact that she had to wear diapers, my mother used to be a geriatric nurse before she retired. So now both of us are witnessing her becoming the same type of dependent person that her patients were. Seeing her struggle and suffer was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure. It broke my heart to see her in such a condition, stripped of her dignity and independence. 

Visiting hours at the hospital were 11 a.m.–12 p.m. and then 4 p.m.–6 p.m. The first week she was warded, I would wake up early and get some work done (respond to emails, complete quote requests, follow up with suppliers and shipments, etc.). Then I’d prepare a thermos of hot tea, miscellaneous fruits and snacks, clothes, and whatever was needed or requested. Time the traffic and try to get there by 9:30–10 a.m. so I’ll get a good park. I’d go up and visit with mum and the other people in close proximity. When the visiting hours are finished, I’ll go and track down her doctors for updates and the plan of action. Most days, this might have taken about an hour to complete. Now that it is 1pm, I’ll go home and work on whatever I forgot from the morning, return missed calls, and then leave and rush there for 3pm for a good park again, and then visit for 4-6pm. Soon, all the driving and the entire situation got me really tired. It really wore me down. Then, while driving home one day, I asked myself, Why don’t you stay close to the hospital? So my morning routine remained the same, but instead of going home, I started working from a Starbucks that was about 10 minutes from the hospital. In retrospect, I’m not sure how it took me so long to think about this. The only reason could be fatigue. Despite the overwhelming difficulties, I had to summon all my strength to care for her while juggling my responsibilities with three businesses. Each day presented a new challenge, balancing her needs with the demands of my professional life. It was a true test of endurance, requiring every ounce of my energy and determination.

I became her barber, ensuring her hair was low and presentable; her esthetician, making sure her face was looking supple and bright; and then, as her physical therapist, I brought a massager and tons of elixirs to rub and make her feel better. I soon became a fan favorite on the ward. As Caribbeans, we are big on herbal teas, not prepackaged but straight from the tree. Soon I was taking requests and bringing varieties of tea such as soursop, lemon grass, bay leaf, moringa, papaya, etc. The love that the patients in the ward had for each other was awesome. They cared for each other. Advocated for each other. They cried for and with each other. It was refreshing to see such humanity. I wouldn’t lie, but there were moments of deep despair when I felt utterly helpless, unable to do anything but watch her suffer. The doctors and nurses were incredible, but the constant worry and fear for my mother’s well-being were agonizing. Finally, a pain specialist was brought in as the first option for a resolution.

Finally!

Through it all, my mother’s spirit remained unbroken. Even in her worst moments, she managed to show glimpses of her inner strength and bravery. Her fight was not just against the pain but for the life and moments she cherished. This experience brought us closer together and taught me invaluable lessons about love, resilience, and the power of the human spirit. About a week and a half after being admitted a procedure called a nerve block (explanation at the end of this blog) but they didn’t have the right needles but it wasn’t a success. I purchased the needles and it was repeated. It was successful.. It. was. successful. Breathe a sigh of relief with me. For the first in over two weeks my mother was able to move and raise her leg. The relief was amazing for both of us. Finally some progress. It was becoming daunting and grim till then. From here we started to experience slight progress. The financial strain was definitely felt. Medical expenses, minor home renovations, and the need to maintain my businesses added to the pressure. Emotionally, I was drained. Every day required me to dig deep into the reserves of strength and resilience that I had no idea existed till then. The burden was heavy, but the love for my mother kept me going.

 

Unexpected Revelations

This challenging period revealed a lot of things and forced me to have a greater appreciation for damn near everything.

I saw who my true family, friends, and supporters were. I was equally surprised by the people who showed up for me and the ones that did not. It helped me to understand their place in my life. I now understand how they valued me, and if you know nothing about me, it is this. I’ll match energy, whether it is love or indifference. The importance of having a robust support system cannot be overstated. Adversity strengthens bonds and reveals the people who genuinely care and are willing to stand by you. The support received provided emotional and practical assistance, making the ordeal more bearable. Without them, I don’t know how I would have managed.

This experience also highlighted the critical importance of having savings, insurance, and contingency plans in place. Medical emergencies and unforeseen circumstances can arise at any time. Having a financial cushion and insurance can alleviate some of the burdens during such crises, allowing you to focus on what truly matters—caring for your loved ones. It was a kick in the ass to always be prepared for the unexpected.

As an entrepreneur, it became clear that having systems in place is crucial. I’m a systems girl, and I believe it is an integral part of our personal and business lives. Without proper planning, a tragedy can jeopardize not just your peace of mind but also your business. Systems, processes, and a reliable team are essential to ensuring that your business can continue to operate smoothly even when you are personally overwhelmed. This ordeal underscored the need for robust business strategies and the ability to delegate effectively.

Spiritually, this period was a profound…… profound! ….. test of faith. I found solace in moments of quiet reflection and prayer. This challenging time also brought significant personal growth. It taught me the importance of perseverance and the strength of the human spirit. I learned to appreciate the small victories and the importance of being present for those you love.

This month tested my limits. The frightening ordeal with my mother’s health brought a new perspective on life’s unpredictability and the importance of being there for our loved ones. The end of April signaled a new journey, though….. May. May she came home. Stay tuned.

Moving forward, I am committed to sharing my journey more openly. In the past, I was often shy and apprehensive about revealing myself, but from 2024 onward, that will definitely be changing. I want others to know that even in the darkest times, there is hope, strength, and a way forward.

Understanding Epidural Steroid Injections for Back Pain Relief in Older Women

What is an Epidural Steroid Injection?

An epidural steroid injection (ESI) is a medical procedure designed to alleviate chronic back pain by delivering a combination of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic directly into the epidural space around the spinal cord. For older women experiencing debilitating back pain, ESIs can provide significant relief and improve their quality of life. This procedure works by reducing inflammation and blocking pain signals from reaching the brain.

How Does an Epidural Steroid Injection Work?

During the ESI procedure, a physician uses fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance to accurately insert a needle into the epidural space of the spine. Once the needle is in the correct position, a mixture of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic is injected. The corticosteroids help reduce inflammation around the irritated nerves, while the anesthetic provides immediate pain relief by numbing the affected area. This combination can significantly reduce pain and improve function. 

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She had two of these performed 

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Benefits of Epidural Steroid Injections

ESIs offer several advantages, particularly for older women who may have other health concerns or limitations:

1. Pain Relief – The most immediate benefit is significant pain reduction, which can improve mobility and overall quality of life.

2. Minimally Invasive – Unlike surgical options, ESIs are minimally invasive, reducing the risks associated with more invasive procedures.

3. Reduced Medication Dependence – Effective ESIs can reduce the need for oral pain medications, which often come with unwanted side effects, especially in older adults.

4. Quick Recovery – The procedure is typically quick, often performed on an outpatient basis, allowing for a fast recovery time.

5. Improved Functionality – By reducing pain, ESIs can help improve a patient’s ability to perform daily activities, enhancing their independence and overall well-being.

Conditions Treated with Epidural Steroid Injections

ESIs are commonly used to treat a variety of conditions that cause back pain, including:

1. Herniated Discs – Discs that have slipped out of place and are pressing on nerves.

2. Spinal Stenosis – Narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the nerves.

3. Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) – Wear and tear on the spinal discs that can lead to pain.

4. Sciatica – Pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down the legs.

5. Spondylolisthesis – A condition where one vertebra slips forward over the one below it.

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So it definitely seems like we made the right choice, since mum had everything listed above.

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Considerations and Risks

While ESIs can be highly effective, there are considerations and potential risks to be aware of:

1. Temporary Relief – The relief provided by an ESI can be temporary, lasting from a few weeks to several months. Repeat treatments may be necessary.

2. Side Effects – Possible side effects include infection, bleeding, and allergic reactions to the injected medications.

3. Not a Cure – ESIs treat the symptoms but do not address the underlying cause of back pain.

4. Individual Variation –The effectiveness of ESIs can vary from person to person. Some may experience significant relief, while others may not.

The Procedure Experience

The ESI procedure is generally straightforward and performed on an outpatient basis:

1. Preparation – The patient lies face down on an X-ray table. The injection site is cleaned and numbed with a local anesthetic.

2. Injection – Using fluoroscopic guidance, the physician inserts a needle into the epidural space and injects the medication mixture.

3. Recovery – The patient is monitored for a short period after the injection before being allowed to go home. It’s advised to take it easy for the rest of the day.

4. Follow-Up – Patients typically see improvements within a few days to a week. Follow-up appointments are necessary to evaluate the effectiveness and plan any further treatments.

For older women struggling with chronic back pain, epidural steroid injections offer a promising option for relief. By effectively reducing pain and improving mobility, these procedures can enhance quality of life and reduce the reliance on other pain management strategies.

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