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The International Writers Magazine
: This is a true story

Hope At Dawn
James G Skinner

In March 2003, María Teresa, a perfectly healthy Spanish sixty year old, was diagnosed by a leading orthopaedist, Doctor Domingo Rueda of Povisa Hospital in Vigo, with Spinal Stenosis, a disorder of the spinal duct caused by Primary Osteoarthritis. In layman’s terms, because of ageing, the pathology is due to bone growth inside the duct that ends up by pressurizing the spinal cord causing not only extreme pain but, in Maria’s case the gradual disability of her right leg.

The following months of medical consultation, numerous tests from X-rays to MRI’s (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and subsequent treatment by prescription of a plethora of medication ranging from anti-inflammatory pills to pain killing drugs, with fruitless results lead to an inevitable visit to the operating table in search of a solution to the problem. During the period between these medical efforts, Maria was subjected from the sublime to the ridiculous, ranging from astronautic nerve stimulators to spa baths, from ozone therapy to Korean chiropractic beds. No stone was left unturned.

Although her ordeal is far from over, her condition at the time of writing has improved considerably. The use of her leg has returned to normal and the original stabbing pain has all but disappeared. However, the story is a compelling record of the trauma and suffering due to a far from uncommon ailment in elderly persons. Her experience as well as her thorough investigation of back ailments in general has lead to the conclusion that the world medical profession is far from resolving what will become one of the most sort after cures for senior citizens facing the XXI century.

It is written with sorrow, anger, humour and above all hope. It is dedicated not only to the many Spinal Stenosis sufferers around the world but to all those involved in the medical profession that deal with spine disorders to close the text books and look into the patient’s eyes for an answer to this particular human nightmare.

Chapter 1
The diagnostic

‘Maria was pouring the hot water from the electric kettle for our usual morning tea when a sudden sharp pain in her left buttock that ran down her leg caused her to drop the contraption into the kitchen sink and scream for help. Within seconds I had rushed out of the bathroom, bubbles of toothpaste oozing from my mouth as I stuttered, ‘what the hell?’ She was sprawled out on the floor, still holding an empty tea pot and unable to move an inch. A trickle of steam seamed to be slowly disappearing into thin air from her left arm as a red blotch appeared where she had accidentally burnt her self with boiling water. ‘I can’t move,’ she shouted, ‘the pain… it’s…’ I thought she was about to pass out. Instinctively I reached for a cloth to dampen with cold water when Maria reacted violently, ‘it’s my leg!’ I stood motionless for a couple of seconds. She continued, ‘the pain, it’s all down my leg,’ as she grasped at it with both her hands, tears dripping down both cheeks.

I can’t recall the next couple of hours. I think I called an ambulance or maybe the police. It happened so quickly. The next thing I knew was that I saw Maria being wheeled on a stretcher, through a couple of large plastic swing doors into the outpatients section of the hospital, whilst I sat patiently in the waiting room amongst a similar collection of forlorn relatives or friends awaiting news of their loved ones that had been sucked into the vowels of the hospital. Minutes seem like hours. More patients arrived, some already bandaged, others hobbling with crutches and the odd elderly seemingly fast asleep in a wheelchair. In all our lives, neither of us had ever been subjected to emergency treatment without warning. Most hospital visits or internments had been through planning without rush or hassle and after thorough consultation with proper medical advice. This was totally different and alien. My mind wandered. My thoughts didn’t make sense. ‘Was her leg in danger? Would they operate right away?’ I continued to look towards the large hall area that leads onto the street. More ambulances arrived with more mangled humans. It was definitely a busy morning.

Suddenly she appeared. She was walking, without crutches. She had both her legs! I still hadn’t recovered. ‘It’s OK,’ she said as she hugged me, ‘Doctor has given me an injection to calm the pain and told me to make an appointment with a specialist for a further check up.’ Maria’s pain had subsided as we walked along the pavement to the taxi rank. I was still feeling nauseated as I opened the back door of the cab. ‘He said I had a sciatica attack. Quite normal for my age.’

A week later we were in Doctor Domingo Rueda’s surgery, a veteran orthopaedic surgeon at the same hospital.

My first impression was that it was Christmas and I was seated in front of Santa Claus. Dr. Rueda was the splitting image of Edmund Gwen, plucked straight out of the heart jerking movie, ‘Miracle on 34th St.’ I could just picture him giving my wife some sweets and wishing her well in the years to come. He was certainly the same age, well into his sixties. ‘My dear, tell me all about it,’ he said as my wife who was still suffering from pains in her buttock began to unravel her ordeal. It was Gwen all right! His gentle smile, his drooping eyes and that air of understanding that only miracle makers could exude was all packed into this more than experienced medical professional.

‘Come back in two weeks with the results and see how we get on, my dear,’ said the doctor as he ushered us out. After some fifteen minutes we were on our way with a prescription for a treatment with painkillers made up of a set of anti-inflammatory injections and analgesic pills, plus a note for the radiologist section to carry out the usual x-rays and magnetic resonance test of her spine. María seemed calm. I was still not convinced.

For years I had heard of people complain about sciatica attacks, pinched nerves, slipped disks and many other back ailments, but when it actually happens to someone close to you, the whole scene changes. Neither of us knew anything about the functions of our skeleton. We had never had any serious injury such as a broken leg or arm, and yet somehow, Santa Claus gave me the impression that he was looking at yet another case of someone in trouble.

Two weeks later we had the x-rays and the MRIs, as they are known and were sitting patiently outside the doctor’s surgery.

I was right. This time, Santa Claus was dead serious. Without even asking how Maria felt, or whether the medicines had had any effect, he went straight to the point.
‘You suffer form scoliosis and spinal stenosis!’
Maria and I looked at each other with the same thought on our minds. ‘What the hell is he talking about?’

© James G. Skinner. January 2007

The Goa File   Author: James G. Skinner
Paperback (pp: 395) ISBN: 978-81-8253-079-9
Availability: In Stock (Ships within 1 to 2 days)
Publisher:, Allahabad, India
Pub. Date: Jan 2007
James G. Skinner, as he is know to his friends in Vigo, Spain was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a retired telecommunications expert who has travelled the world over having worked for some of the greatest of todayıs conglomerates such as Cable & Wireless, US Sprint and British Telecom. Having lived in many different and disparate countries spread across several continents, his knowledge of and experience with people from different ethnic groups and social backgrounds is second to none. He is a regular writer ­ in Spanish ­ in the local papers of Galicia and is currently the Honorary British Consul in the region.

Read a Chapter extract of The Goa File here on Hackwriters

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