A Good Place
By NANCY PATRICK
In today’s world, it may seem hard to find a good place to live, work, raise a family, and build a life of peace and accomplishment. As I remember my parents’ last few years, I often thought or said words such as “I will never . . . .”
One of those areas in their lives related to their health and medical issues. As they went to different doctors looking for cures for their various aches and pains, I saw that their primary activities consisted of medical visits. I swore I would never let doctors’ appointments consume my time, attention, and focus as my parents had done.
A paraphrase of Proverbs 16:18 states that pride goes before a fall. I began learning this lesson in a painful way in 2014 when a pinched nerve in my spine began causing my left leg to give way as I fell to the ground. These painful and debilitating episodes increased my usual depression as I spent a lot of time crying.
I began treatment for this problem with spinal injections of steroids. The injections gave a little relief but not much. After three such unsuccessful treatments, my doctor referred me to a neurosurgeon who diagnosed the problem and performed a laminectomy. Thankfully, this procedure fixed my problem and my former lifestyle resumed before long.
Within the next few years, my knees began limiting my activities as the cartilage wore away, leaving the knees to rub bone on bone. I found enough relief from the excruciating pain through steroid injections that postponed knee replacements for a while—exactly two years.
By 2019, I clearly needed new knees, so my orthopedic surgeon agreed to do both knees on the same day. On December 16, 2019, I went through the most painful, trying, and excruciating experience of my life.
I wrote about the experience in an article entitled “From Super Woman to Insufferable Wimp” for a January 2021 edition of Spirit of Abilene. The description includes how the blizzard of 2021 impacted Mike and me as we managed to survive in our home without water or electricity for three days.
Fast forward—the winter and spring of 2021 finally passed, leaving behind the damaged landscapes as we entered the summer. I was back on my feet after physical therapy disciplined my body into submission, and everyone seemed to resume a semblance of former lives.
Now, in 2022, I am almost giddy with excitement as trees and plants bud and bloom. I love spring so much that one of my friends brought me a tiny bouquet of dandelions one morning. I was as happy as if they had been roses.
By the first of April, Mike and I were cleaning up the yard from winter neglect. We raked leaves out of flower beds, pulled up dead plants, fertilized the lawn, and trimmed. On April 7, we went to Lowe’s and bought several plants and bags of mulch with plans to begin our gardening the next morning.
As Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid plans!” I couldn’t get out of bed the next morning. Excruciating pain wracked my body from the lower back, around my pelvis, and down my legs. This was not an Aspercreme moment!
I have a wonderful group of orthopedic doctors who comprise Abilene Bone and Joint: Hendrick Clinic. I start with Dr. Paul Watts for the diagnosis of the problem, and he sends me to a specialist I will need for my particular problem. In this case, my spinal problem will require a neurosurgeon, a specialist beyond this clinic’s scope of treatment.
Many of you know that certain procedures and surgeries require preliminary treatments before Medicare will approve them and cover the costs. I understand Medicare’s reasoning in doing this: the policy’s purpose is to decrease and eliminate insurance fraud. Unfortunately, the patient may suffer weeks and months of pain before the needed procedure meets the requirements for the surgery.
In my case, I began taking a relatively mild, but addictive, narcotic. Even so, the drug had no effect on my pain, so my doctor changed the prescription to a higher-level narcotic drug. This does help somewhat with the pain, but my brain feels foggy. The combination of my drugs makes me sleepy as the pain exhausts me, so I sleep long hours in an effort to avoid the pain.
Amidst my pain, exhaustion, stress, and depression, I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself. I’ve even begun eating those words “I will never” on a regular basis.
One cool morning last week as I reclined in my patio lounger, I looked at my backyard’s view of gardens blooming, trees budding for their spring and summer seasons, and petted my little Gracie, who was sleeping on my tummy.
At that moment, my phone interrupted the birds’ loud and incongruous chirping. I picked up the call from Hendrick Medical Center’s registration department. In the midst of answering questions from the registrar, I noticed a change in her tone as she asked, “Are you in a good place?”
I responded with, “What do you mean?” She replied, “I hear the birds singing and wondered if you are in a good place.” A thought broke through my selfish fog as I looked around my yard, listened to the myriad birds, heard young children playing in their backyards, and thought of other places that are not good.
My thoughts and prayers rose to Ukraine as its citizens endure bombings and exile from their homes. I added my prayers for those around the world where Covid has resurged. Our nation continues to divide itself as we fight over political, social, religious, and ethical issues. All over America and around the world, there are bad places—places where I do not want to be.
As the registrar waited for my answer, I said, “You know. I think I am in a good place—a good place indeed.”
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing