The International Writers Magazine
:Skinner's Back

James Skinner

r should I say, ‘I’m back, Buster!’ How’s that for a play on words? Ironically the title and my exclamation are on the same wavelength. It’s been months since I last sent a small piece of my mind to this illustrious website of amateur sleuths. If I recall, I was on about the futility of the world’s telephones and their misuse, but then so what. Mobile toys are here to stay and that’s it. Back to me and my play on words.

A lot has happened since then. Tsunamis, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, bird flu threats, political revolutions all over the world have all passed before my eyes as news flashes and as usual they’ve come and they’ve gone. It reminds me of an old school poem called ‘The brook’. It went something like this, ‘…men may come and men may go, yet I’ll go on for ever…’ Come to think of it, the poet is probably wrong! The way things are at the moment even the seas are liable to dry up! Anyway, here’s the storyline.

Mid 2003; all’s well and dandy. I’m happily dealing with my fellow countrymen and their problems – remember I’m an Honorary Consul – continue to write my novel on the sorry state of Argentina, and finally entered the elite club of journalists; I now have a weekly column in the local rag. My daughter decides after 20 years that she’s fed up with her husband and her three kids, gives them all the two fingers. My son turns up whenever he needs something and my grandchildren have all but forgotten where they originally came from – if you know what I mean! Then it happened. One day, my wife developed a pain in her back that wouldn’t go away. As days went by, and despite a deluge of aspirins it got worse.

We go to the quack, an orthopaedist, who checks her out with a ‘resonance scanner’ and tells her she suffers from ‘spinal stenosis’. I look at my wife in puzzlement and then back at the doctor. In unison we ask, ‘what’s that?’ To cut a long story short, this ailment is a creeping pathological degeneration of the spinal chord duct that ends up by ‘pinching’ the basketful of nerves and nerve roots that control most of our body. ‘Take these tablets and go swimming,’ recommends the doctor as he writes out a dozen or so prescriptions.
Months go by and one day my wife’s right leg gives way and she collapses onto the sidewalk of our home town. These are the first signs of the next stage of the illness. Between excruciating pain and lack of strength in her leg we begin a long and arduous voyage of experiments in medical care. Believe me it’s worth presenting as a Spielberg movie script.

Pain reaches hospital interment stage. She is now in the hands of a neurosurgeon who gives her the third degree. After a full session of tests she is placed on a program of drips, injections and more pills. Twelve days later she is discharged and goes home full of the joys of spring. No longer than a week goes by that she is again crawling along on her hands and knees at two in the morning screaming blue murder. We urgently call the doctor who says, ‘ask for an appointment!’ Sod you! We look in the yellow pages and eventually trot off to another neurotic, sorry, neurosurgeon.

He looks at the hospital report and says, ‘Ah! Yes, you have spinal stenosis in vertebrae L4 and L5’. They are part of the lumbar region joints. ‘I recommend a session of ozone injections and physiotherapy.’ Five minutes later and 1000 euros out of pocket, she starts a seven week treatment program which is absolute purgatory. After a series of punctures with hypodermic needles borrowed from the nearest cattle farm, followed by Schwarzenegger type massage sessions, my wife was ready for the scrap yard. We try another neurosurgeon who says, ‘I’ve got the answer. Cortisone injections will do the trick!’ The Spaniards have an expression: ‘Tururus’. It means, ‘up yours!’

In the meantime, my daughter turns up one day with a friend of a friend who happens to be a Natureologist. I know; there are lots of them about. They give you fungi tea and tropical pine tree ointments, charge you a fortune but resolve nothing. This one was different. He brought along a computerised ‘gadget’ he said had been designed by NASA scientists for the astronauts and that was able to ‘stimulate’ the nervous system and cure any ailments. I like modern day space games and sure enough this was it. Mel Brooks would have loved it. With a halo type artefact and dozens of electrodes placed over her body, for over an hour she received ‘the treatment’. It seemed fine, the pain had gone! Next day she was back to square one!

That’s when I began searching the Intern

If you look up the word in Google there are over 900000 mentioned pages. Once again, most are United States information sheets. God bless America! I really don’t know what we would do without them. For the next few months I began searching through to find out exactly what my wife could be faced with during the remainder of her life. In the meantime my wife was now in the hands of a ‘Pain Clinic.’ These outfits are run by anaesthetists that specialise in drugging you up to the eyeballs just short of putting you to sleep for ever. Hold it there, dear reader. We’re not into Euthanasia yet! Whilst my wife was now running her own drug store in her back yard, I was checking out the latest info on a possible back operation known as a Laminectomy. It consisted of breaking open the spine, cleaning the ‘rusty’ channel with a hammer and chisel and finally sealing what’s left with a sort of metal plate. ‘Charming,’ I thought.
‘No way,’ said our original neurosurgeon, ‘operations are a last resort. Besides, it’s not necessary as your wife can still walk.’ How about that? Back to the drawing board. This time another friend of a friend tells us of a friend – plenty of friends – that had a similar operation in Madrid by a surgeon using microsurgery. This operation is called a Laminotomy. Back to the Internet! Sure enough, it could or it could not work says Google.

February 2005, my wife is in Madrid, on the operating table of a strange clinic and within an hour and a half has had her L4 L5 vertebrae cleaned without breaking her back. We go back home. Within a week, she is back in our local hospital with excruciating pain. She is history to the quack in Madrid. He ignores her plight. Checking the scans we find out the L3 and L4 vertebrae continue to be blocked.
Back to the Internet!

Ladies and gentlemen, by chance, just by chance I came across a clinic in Munich – - Germany that boasted in a brand new technique known as ‘Minimal invasive, microsurgical decompression of the spinal chord and nerve routes’. According to them there were only a handful of neurosurgeons the world over who could perform such an operation. On Monday July the 11th, my wife and I flew to Germany and after a complete series of tests; my wife underwent a successful 6 hour operation to clear vertebrae TH12/L1/L2/L3/L4 of spinal stenosis as had been identified in yet another magnetic resonance scanning test.

Four months have gone by, and although the German doctors had predicted an almost complete recovery between 3 to 9 months, my wife is gradually returning to a normal life with hardly any pain, insignificant medication and above all, a regular good night’s rest.

I have not stopped since in writing to all and sundry in the medical profession to push hard to introduce this method of cure, particularly in the USA and Europe. With the increased ageing of the population – it affects the over 60’s - the health services will be foolish to continue with medication programs for this type of ailment until the patient cannot take it anymore. It would only add to the economic burden of both the elderly and the medical system as a whole due to the prolongation of unnecessary agony of Spinal Stenosis sufferers.
© James Skinner. December 2005.

(Glad to know your wife is getting better James - all the est from Hacks) Ed

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