Ever wonder just how many muscles and joints are involved in the simple act of getting into a car? Or getting into bed? Give yourself a twisted rib (as painful as it sounds), combined with some sort of extreme “rotation” of the spinal column and seasoned with muscle spasms, and then you will have some idea of the mechanics.
The plan was to drive from Traverse City down to visit our daughter Genne’ in Gainesville, Florida – a trip of about 1400 miles if you count the digressions. We travel, you see, with digressions, one of the benefits of being old and retired. Kim’s back was a bit sore before we left, but that’s nothing new – one of the non-benefits of aging. If it hurt more than usual, she did not let on. Perhaps her plantar fasciitis was a distraction from back problems. Our new friend Abbey provided a pain-killing spray and some other goodies to ease the trip, and we were off.
We spent two nights with our son in Northville, with a day trip to Ann Arbor, and then a night in Lebanon, Ohio, with its 1805 hotel and antique shops, and then Shaker Village in central Kentucky, and then the I-75 trek through Tennessee and Georgia broken into 300-mile days. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
As our long drive continued, Kim could not help but indicate how painful her back was becoming, especially when getting in and out of the car. The last few days of our trip I felt like I was accompanied by someone with Tourette Syndrome. Her sudden cries of pain did not always include profanity, but sometimes they did. (If I didn’t know better, I’d have guessed that she was giving birth out of her back.) Kim had spontaneous cries of pain when getting into or out of bed in our motel rooms, or sometimes just trying to get comfortable. I’m surprised that people in adjoining rooms did not call the police.
We had a heart-warming experience at a Hilton Garden Inn in Valdosta, Georgia. The sharp pains made it impossible for Kim to sit and rotate into bed, so we thought she might have to sleep in the relatively firm chair. I went down the hall to beg an extra blanket, and the desk clerk graciously obliged. A few minutes later I was back at the desk, begging for a glass of milk so Kim could take two Advil to try to help with the pain. Again she obliged – at no charge.
Kim’s pain was so severe that I telephoned Genne’, a gifted physical therapist, for advice. After telling us that it is impossible to diagnose anyone over the phone, she suggested a complex series of stretches and positions, which I passed along to Kim. It was a bit like having a civilian land an airplane by hearing instructions radioed up from the control tower, but eventually (it took three phone calls) it worked and Kim and I were able to sleep. The free drink coupon from the hotel helped me nod off.
And finally, in the morning as we were about to leave we needed another pillow for the car to replace the one we left behind in Kentucky. I asked if they would sell us one, or if not, how much they would charge our bill if we stole one. The clerk, a different girl, said she would check with the manager. She emerged from the back room with a smile saying that she could not sell it to us but she could give it to us in exchange for a positive Trip Advisor review. I agreed, and the pillow made a big difference.
Getting to Genne’s house made an even bigger difference. Shortly after we arrived, her portable table was unfolded and the stretches and counter-rotations began in earnest.
One of the more difficult aspects of this experience, apart from the pain, is that Kim is the one who usually takes care of other people, mainly me, but now she was asking me to take care of her. For example, the twisting motion when you reach for your seat belt and twist back to hook it up was excruciating, so when Kim got into the car I would pull out the belt to the proper length and then hand it to her to click in place. I unloaded our luggage at Genne’s with minimal assistance, and I made our bed.
Any experiences with pain that you'd care to revisit? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.