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Bad Timing in Extremis October 20, 2010

Posted by KG in Family, FS Life.

Last Monday, the 11th, my wife left for her “orientation trip,” visiting the numerous posts that she covers for her job.  She’s got a fascinating portfolio covering some unique and isolated places, and I was (and am) killer jealous of her trip.

The Sunday before her travel, I worked out at the gym.  Respecting my body and the pain in my leg, I stuck to upper body work, and managed to hit some good numbers.  From the gym, I followed my normal routine — a walk through the farmer’s market for the week’s vegetables, a shower at home, and then a walk to the wife’s dance studio to meet up with her and have brunch.

Four to five yards into that last walk, something… happened.   I don’t know what, and I don’t know how, but all of a sudden the pain in my leg went from nagging to excruciating.  I hobbled for the rest of the day, screaming every few steps.  Once back home I went straight on my back to try and rest out the pain.  Sitting down — that most modern of modern man’s postures — was agonizing.

Monday afternoon, when the wife was leaving, I was still on my back.  I got an emergency appointment with an orthopedist and continued to rest.  Despite being extremely cautious with the rest, I still could barely walk up and down stairs.  Leaving the house wasn’t an option.  Full of ibuprofen, I had a fitful night’s sleep.

I’d been really excited about work last week.  While the wife was away, I was going to temporarily man the night shift as a staffer in my Bureau’s front office, a great opportunity to take a break from my everyday routine and get a new perspective on how the building works.  Unfortunately, my body made it clear Tuesday morning that it had other ideas.  Rather than go to work, I went to the emergency room, where I was diagnosed with a severe hip strain, advised to keep my scheduled ortho appointment, and sent home on crutches (which helped not at all).  Remaining hopeful that the pain would subside, I sent a message to my superiors with the diagnosis and a plan to work a light schedule Wednesday.  That was decidedly optimistic.

Fast forward to Friday.  I’m still in constant pain, not at work, and getting intimately acquainted with the best of daytime television (“Cash Cab” is a fantastic TV show).  My walking range has increased by about ten paces. I can’t stand for long periods, making things like showering and shaving an ordeal, and cooking only a distant memory.  I see the orthopedist, who laughs at the ER’s diagnosis, orders an immediate MRI, and sends me home with scrips to treat a bulging disc.  Being alone, I’m doing all my movements by taxi, and finding a way to get the prescriptions filled takes some creativity.  But I get it done.  I manage through the weekend, somehow going for an MRI, getting a copy of the Sunday paper, getting groceries delivered, keeping myself fed, all while effectively immobile and by myself.  Unfortunately, the meds prescribed are only minimally helpful.

Tuesday the orthopedist looks at my MRI.  He’s unequivocal in his evaluation, and sends me to get a second opinion the same day.  That doctor agrees.

I’m getting back surgery today.

It’s going to be an overnight at the hospital, but otherwise the prospects for full recovery are pretty good.  I’ve got friends here to help me out, one of whom coincidentally has had the exact same procedure.  Still, I am for all intents and purposes doing this by myself.  My sister is in New York, and my normally Baltimore-resident parents are traveling in Puerto Rico.  My wife gets back in six days.

Distance from loved ones is one of those truisms of Foreign Service life.  At some point in time, you will be thousands of miles away from someone you care about when something happens, and you will be devastated that you can’t be there for them.  This goes both ways — it may be the parent of an FSO, wanting to see their kid in Luanda who has malaria, or the FSO who needs to get back to Denver yesterday to be with a sibling.  Being a tandem couple, and on a DC tour, our odds for avoiding that kind of situation are relatively high; 99% of the time, we’re very near at least one other family member.

Yet here we are.  And I’ve never had surgery. This whole thing is terrifying.

If you’ve got a spare thought today for this gimpy blogger, I’d appreciate it.



1. a Daring Adventure - October 20, 2010

Oh NO. I’ve seen your Twitter updates… and now, with the whole story… oh NO. I’m so, so sorry.

Thinking of you during back surgery, and hoping you end up 100% recovered!

2. es - October 20, 2010

Bad timing indeed. I can’t believe you have to have surgery while your wife is away!

I’m not an FSO, but I’m in an NGO marriage, so I understand the unfortunate timing of these things. Last week–2 weeks into a 4 week trip I fell (thanks nonexistent Ugandan safety standards!) in an unlit part of my hotel breaking my nose, earning a concussion and bruising my face and body pretty badly. There is nothing like lying on the floor in pain while your spouse is blissfully asleep many time zones away. And that was a minor injury compared to something requiring an operation!

Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

3. Sister - October 20, 2010

Say the word and I’ll come down this weekend! Seriously!

4. Donna - October 22, 2010

Ouch! Here’s hoping the surgery is successful, because that does not look like fun. Bright side: you’re in DC. It’s be awful if you had a long medevac ahead in order to get to the hospital. Best wishes for a quick recovery.

5. connie - October 22, 2010

A positive note is that your doctors seem so very confident, that’s a good thing! Do what your nurses tell you, ask questions, but really, just relax, let them care of you, and look forward to the pain going away!

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