Within a few weeks later, right out of the blue on Christmas Eve, a shooting pain stabbed in my back. It was an excruciating type of pain that brought me to groan on the way to an emergency room. They gave me a dose of Demerol then sent me home with painkillers that I got to pop Dr. Feel-Goods in my mouth for every four hours for eight long months. I went from doctor to doctor because every time they told me what I had, it was different from the previous diagnosis. At first, they told me I had a common back pain and just to shove prescribed Motrins as much as I felt like it. Then a month later, another doctor said it was a pinched nerve then another said a sciatic nerve, then it was a degenerated disc and then and then and then...so you get the drift of the pattern. You know it is always wise to get a second opinion but when you get a different diagnosis more than two times, it is even wiser to keep on getting more opinions. I got my eighth one since no two doctors were found in an agreement, imagine that!
I was bedridden for three months and I never got to go downstairs from my bedroom. Yes, for three frigging months! A mere distance from my bedroom to the bathroom was all I could handle. I was fortunate and blessed to be surrounded by my loving, caring family and friends. My back started to evolve into an C-like-form since I could not walk straight. I thought I would never get to ski and dive again. My mother told me later that she thought I had some sort of a crippling disease that was incurable. It was a scariest moment of my life.
During the week of the Deaf President Now protest (March 1988) at Gallaudet, I was rushed in an ambulance at 5 o'clock in the morning to the hospital with excruciating pain. Again, I was heavily dosed with those powerful shots of painkillers. Then I was trapped in a traction being strapped for a few days while watching the news about the Gallaudet Deaf President Now protest without captions. There I saw the four leaders signing and that was what I could at least understand through their use of ASL. These were the days of pre-ADA era. Even I did not have access to communication let alone no interpreters provided by the hospital! I was grateful to my mother's friend who happened to be the interpreter but she was my guardian angel not because she interpreted for me, it was because she interpreted ways to deal with my decision about the surgery that was scheduled on the next morning. Never mind the code of ethics since she used a good judgment to set aside her role and be my friend instead. She volunteered to interpret anyway. She really influenced me to think twice about the surgery. The diagnosis at that time was that I had herniated disk in my lower back and that the disc had to be removed. You know, when a part of your body is being removed or even added, it is something you would need to consider heavily especially that the risks involved would be numbing in my legs and possible paralyzing from the hip below.
That night, my interpreter family friend said to me that the cat-scan results were not always accurate. She recommended me to get a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) where I am able to get more accurate results. She had experienced car accident related injuries leaving her to deal with unimaginable difficulties to get a right treatment. She mentioned that MRI helped her to find the right treatment. After she left, I could barely sleep all night. Imagine, no computer, no Internet, no DeafRead, no pager, no CC'd TV programs to watch, etc. where I was able to investigate for more information or to keep in touch with my close friends. Boy, I fought so hard to remain sane by reading a good novel but from time to time, I drifted off to think about what to say at the moment when the gurney was wheeled next to me. There were "voices" in my head telling me to cancel the surgery all night and I swore I could hear it so well at that moment. I never had that kind of experience before and even after.
When the dawn came, bright lights glared into my weary eyes as the doctor was greeting to me. I immediately showed him my hand as to signal a message "halt". I told him that I was not convinced about the surgery and that I wanted to get another opinion although I already had seven at that time. Immediately, I was discharged from the hospital and sent home with unbearable pain. I had to wait for few more weeks to have the paperwork shuffled for me to transfer to a different family doctor with a better health insurance coverage.
Finally, in April, I got to visit my new family doctor. He told me to lie down and raise my leg, one at a time. After I did that, he immediately said I didn't have herniated disc. Whoa! He said that anyone with this condition would not be able to raise their legs like that so he knew it was something else but didn't know exactly what was the problem. I was referred to a back specialist whose grandfather and father were in the same profession. I never forget this warm, friendly doctor who reminded me as Tom Selleck. He just returned from a skiing trip with white circles around his eyes thanks to the ski goggles. I just remember this so vividly because I was all visual and that I love to ski. Remember no interpreters provided and it is all based on writing back and forth.
He just made a referral for me to have MRI on my back area. Back then, it was so new and very expensive. MRI referrals were the last resort and only if it was considered really necessary. I believe today it is much more available than before but it was hard to get one back then. It only took a few hours to declare that I had a white spot around the area indicating that it was an infection in my disc but the doctor was not able to identify it. I had to stay in the hospital for a whole month to get biopsy procedure done but it was not successful forcing me to have an open surgery on my back where tissues could be gathered to identify the type of disease. The surgeons knew I had some sort of an infection so they took extra caution and care to prevent it from spreading in my body.
Finally, it turned out that I had a food poisoning disease known as salmonella. Nobody in the medical profession had ever heard of this, as it was a rare case. I received antibiotics through the needle for seven weeks and wore metal brace for three months undergoing physical therapy frequently. By the time the autumn season came, I was completely healed. It was a miracle. Some people came forward and confessed that they thought I was dying. I was really in a bad shape and I didn't blame them for thinking this way. My life was interrupted for ten months robbing my piece of college years and I was not making any progress as I continued to deteriorate leaving them hopeless that I was to get better.
I am just grateful to everyone and God for providing me support. I had to bring this up because when surfing in the net, I just came across the website on cochlear implant. It said that If an "MRI is needed, it would be necessary to remove the magnet which is a quick and easy procedure typically performed under local anesthesia. The surgeon will shave a small area of hair directly over the implant. A small incision will be made exposing the implant. The magnet is gently removed and replaced with a sterilized insert. The incision is then closed. You may experience some swelling and slight discomfort following the procedure."
Remember, I had an infection and no one knew what condition I had at the time. Imagine if I had to go through this hassle to get the internal magnet removed in order to be eligible to have MRI done, what would happen? When I asked my Dr. Tom Selleck what would happen if I went ahead to have my disc removed back in March, he replied with a sympathetic frown and said, "You don't want to know." I said, "Oh come on, just spill it to me." He said," Since there was no diagnosis that you had a severe type of infection, it would have spread to your heart and lungs causing attacks and collapses that may result in death." I just shuddered. So if I had a cochlear implant, it would require me to go through surgery to get the magnet out. I believe it will contribute to more difficulty for me to heal and I am not sure if I would still exist today.
Now fast-forward 20 years later, I find it odd that the almost same fate and at the same time of the DPN event has prevented me from going to DPN 20th celebration again. I was invited to present about Deaf Bilingual Coalition but had to regretfully decline since I just underwent a cervical fusion that the disk from the spine was removed and replaced with a bone graft. At least technology today allows me to submit a video clip of my presentation that in a way I could contribute and be a part of the event.
Before that, I got a MRI last fall for the second time in my life and questioned the MRI technician about what would happen if I had a CI since I thought it would not be an issue this time. But I was shocked and appalled to learn that even today, I would have to arrange a surgery to get it removed. I could not help but think all of these poor Deaf children and adults who had to go through this painful procedure just to get a MRI. It was already painful enough for them to suffer with their unidentified condition but to go through a surgery to get their metallic implant removed so that they could get accurate results blows my mind.Most patients with cochlear implants cannot get MRI scans, as the implant is metallic.
Update Date: 2/12/2007See the webcast on DPN tonight from 7:30 to 9:30 pm at DeafNation!