Expat Life: What a Drag it is Getting Old
|This is about right. via|
Although MrLogical is the one who recently celebrated an iconic* birthday, it seems that MsCaroline is the one who is experiencing all of the degenerative effects of old age. MrL - with only a little less hair that is, possibly, ever-so-slightly greyer - still weighs the same as the day we got married, wears the same size trousers, and is apparently, still as fresh as a daisy. He goes to the gym regularly (sometimes twice in one day,) takes hideously long bicycle rides with his Korean teammates, and generally enjoys the rudest good health.
|Gratuitous photo of MrL who is still as hawt as ever after all these years.|
In stark contrast, MsCaroline - who is almost 2 years younger - is having problems tying her shoes.
Up until 4 years ago, MsCaroline had never experienced back pain (except the pregnancy-induced kind) in her life, treating her back with no more consideration than, say, her knees (and they're another story) or her elbows (still good, so far.) Then, she
Three weeks later, she bent over to vacuum under the bed, and joined the ranks of those whose lives have been forever changed by back pain.
Over the course of the next few months, MsC experienced the joys of both chiropractic and conventional medicine, and, after more than a year of pain pills and steroids and chiropractic and injections and x-rays and MRIs and PT, finally got to the point where she was until yesterday: living with a ruptured lumbar disc which is mostly OK but sometimes flares up and causes problems.
MsCaroline is not bothered too much by this. She knows if she keeps up with her PT exercises, doesn't lift too much, and puts an icepack on the affected area as soon as it begins to hurt, her life is not significantly affected by her quitter back, and all is well.
Apparently, however, once one part of your back starts to go, it's all downhill from there.
Yesterday morning, leaving for work, MsC bent over to tie her shoes, and experienced the electrifying sensation of someone stabbing a knife directly behind her shoulder blade. "Ah," she thought, "I've pulled a muscle or pinched a nerve or something. I'll try stretching it out."
This did not work. In fact, it intensified the sensation, to where MsC was gasping for breath - another problem, because, as it turned out, taking anything but the shallowest of breaths was excruciating. MsCaroline's solution for this was to
Eventually, MsC -still convinced that she'd pinched a nerve - hobbled back to her laptop, where she did
You may be surprised to learn that, when one Googles 'sharp pain in shoulder blade,' the first 250 or so hits offer no useful suggestions whatsoever for 'un-pinching' a nerve. Instead, the alarmists all recommend immediate transportation to the hospital via ambulance to investigate a suspected heart attack. Even though MsC
Eventually, MsC calmed herself down enough to accept that, pinched nerve and blinding pain or no, she would not be expiring - at least not before work- that day, and that she'd just have to get herself out the door and hope she didn't pass out en route from hyperventilating. Tossing down a handful of ibuprofen and hoping for the best, she Quasimodo'd her her way out of the building to the taxi stand (no time to wait for a bus.)
The trip to work in a taxi was actually quite helpful, because the sweet old driver's insistence upon showing her the photos of his visit to the Grand Canyon on his Smartphone - while driving in morning rush hour traffic - distracted her from the fact that she could not breathe. In fact, during that ride, she discovered that, if she bent her right arm at the elbow, held it at a 90-degree angle to the side, and pushed it back as far as it would go while taking a deep breath, the pain was bearable, and she could get enough oxygen into her system to retain consciousness. Needless to say, it was probably a little alarming for the taxi driver to observe this in his rearview mirror, but MsC figured he was so engrossed in scrolling through his photos on the phone, he probably didn't care too much.
MsCaroline arrived at work, still flapping her arm at regular intervals (it looks a lot like someone imitating a one-winged chicken) to ensure oxygen intake, and started off on her long day.
While the children were blissfully unobservant, more than one of MsC's coworkers commented on her strange arm gyrations. All of them - despite being about a thousand years younger than she is - commiserated fully and offered suggestions for relief, ranging from a few stiff belts of schnapps (after work, of course) to acupuncture.
The most practical - and immediate- suggestion, however, came from one of her coworkers who recommended applying heat in the form of one of those adhesive patches that can be affixed to the affected area (in the US, they usually smell like menthol.) However, she assured me that the Korean version was far superior and - bonus! - did not smell like menthol. When I expressed doubt at my ability to communicate my desire for just such a patch to the Korean pharmacist, she whipped out a pen and paper and wrote down exactly what I would need, and I gratefully tucked it into my pocket on my way to sing, 'The Itsy-Bitsy Spider' for the 53rd time that day.
|This is Korean for (roughly) "adhesive back patch that will make a pinched nerve feel better."|
Naturally, by the time the end of the day rolled around, the neck pain had settled down enough to the point that MsCaroline could take a reasonable breath without too much pain, and - if she was careful about it and didn't turn her head too far to the right - she was doing OK. Based on those improvements - and the fact that she had no desire to schlepp to the pharmacy in the grey misty drizzle hanging over Seoul - she headed home, applied a heating pad, and put herself to bed at 7:45, optimistic that, by tomorrow morning, things would have returned to normal.
Needless to say, it's now tomorrow, and things are back where they started.
MsCaroline will be stopping at the pharmacy on the way to work, and someone else is just going to have to get dinner.
In the meantime, she's decided she's definitely wearing slip-on shoes today.
*A significant one ending in zero