Back Seat Driver or Oh, My Aching Back…

My back issues can be attributed to my being an “old nurse” – When I saved a patient from falling to the ground in my early years of bedside nursing, I wrenched my back. When I got home that afternoon, I laid on a heating pad on my saggy Goodwill couch thinking that was the best treatment, but when I attempted to get up some hours later, I could not stand up, walk, or sit on the toilet—which was my reason for getting up from the couch in the first place. It turns out that heat is NOT good for an acute back, at least not for my back; thus began my 45-year challenge with L4 – L5 disc herniation, and a myriad of physical therapy, bodywork, pilates, and meds. Long story short: I have had two mini-discectomy back surgeries—on the right side in 2006 and on the left side in 2014—from which I have recovered well enough to be (nearly) as active as I would like to be with few limitations. I work hard at keeping my core strong to prevent what happened 8 days ago, from happening. So much for that. 

This tattoo, drawn by a friend, was inked onto my original midline spinal scar on the 1-year anniversary of that surgery. I can see that faint line in the second to fourth hearts; the second surgical scar is over to the left. I don’t get to see this tattoo often as I have to purposely look backwards into a mirror, but I see from this photo that the entire tattoo is now faded…

I bent over to tie my hiking shoe for a glorious sunrise hike in the hills outside of Napa, California. Bam. I felt the “pop”, and the immediate discomfort. While I forced myself to take that hike, which became a small-step walk, I knew I was in trouble. I recognized the discomfort, and although I was then and still am grateful that I do not have sciatic nerve involvement, I was/am limited. We were on our way to our old home town in NorCal, so I requested that my Indiana physician send in a new prescription for Celebrex to CVS. That, along with Tylenol pretty much round-the-clock for over a week now, has kept this manageable. I cannot ride my bike currently. My hiking is still small-step with a dedicated focus on watching my step so as not to tweak my low back from a misstep. 

Oy Vey. This has got us thinking about vanlife as it may relate to an injury, such as now, or to contemplate what we would do if one of us became ill. In a worst case scenario, we could either dig in wherever we were until said injury/illness resolved or we could always make a beeline for home. The caveat with my back however is that sitting is about the least friendly activity one can do with a flared up back. We are spending hours in the van each day as we make our way home. We’ve decided that it would not be safe for me to lie on the bed while John drives, so here I am, in my very comfy captain’s chair, sitting sitting sitting for hours. 

We are into the last few days of this 4-week vanlife trip, today being day 2 of driving across Oklahoma. We went from NorCal to Nevada to Death Valley to Utah to Colorado to New Mexico to Oklahoma. We’ve driven through snow and big wind, some rich and wonderful desert formations, some high mountain passes, and acres upon acres of grasslands. The views from my Back Seat Driver (passenger) chair are wondrous, yet here I sit. And sit. Oh, My Aching Back. #oldnurse #nurse’sback #vanlife #lovemesomecelebrex 

Stormy skies!
Snow in New Mexico.



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