I once had a spine

Visits: 9

If you know Carol Wooley, you’ve probably marveled at how this tiny lady in her late 70’s can effortlessly man-handle feed sacks and bails of hay into her pickup truck. This lady isn’t even tall enough to ride all the rides at the carnival, but she could most likely kick your ass. That’s my biological mom.

When I was in elementary school, Mom had me carrying around bags of sweet feed that weighed as much as I did. While I may be neither tall, dark, nor handsome, I’ve always been a pretty strong little troll. Some of my favorite parts of Desert Pigs cleanups, was tossing refrigerators around, and feeling like a little pink hulk out there in the dirt.

Having gone on hundreds of adventures as a Desert Pig, always testing this meat vehicle to see what it could do, I eventually found its limit. One morning, while getting ready to participate in round 2 of the Omega Cleanup, I had to get a riding mower / mini tractor out of the trailer I was about to use. The wheels didn’t line up with the width of the trailer ramps, when they were placed into their slots at the end. To skinny up the ramps, I had to overlap them into the trailer, leaving a couple inches of a step to get the wheels and mower deck over. While doing so, I noticed the deck seemed to catch on the ramp. Not realizing there was a little metal bracket from the mower, which had snagged UNDER one of the ramps. Not knowing how best to describe the trigga-jigga-nometry of this moment, let’s just say I expected to pick up maybe 100 pounds when I tried to lift the front wheels. It ended up being more like 1,000 – which just so happens to be the limit of my L4 vertebra.

Even now – more than year later, when I think of that moment I felt the snap, I get a little nauseous. As I tried lifting the front of the riding mower, I felt a very painful shock in my lower back, and I collapsed. I rolled around in the bed of the trailer for a few minutes, yelling “F***!!!!!”. Then I crawled back to the house, and plopped down on the couch.

Oddly, the next thing I knew, the tractor was unloaded, and the trailer was hooked up to the Suburban, running in front of my house. Everything was all packed up ad ready to hit the road for Minden. I guess this was shock? …Blackout? …Multiple personalities? Whatever the diagnosis, I hopped in the truck and drove an hour to Douglas County. Once I reached the meeting spot in the parking lot of a general store on Johnson Lane, I bought some ibuprofen and swallowed 4 of those baf boys. This was enough to get through the 11 miles of trails, where I mostly just filmed the cleanup.

Assuming I was just a big wimp who suffered a pulled back muscle, I continued on with my weekend after the Saturday morning Pig adventure. I rode with my wife and kids to watch Minions at a drive-in theater in Reno. It was impossible to find a comfortable position in the back of her Honda Pilot, but the outing was still fun.

By Sunday morning, I was starting to think maybe I should get this looked at. Maybe it was something more than a pulled muscle, but most likely I was just being a snowflake about a little boo boo. Still, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to visit the urgent care the following morning.

Monday morning: Urgent Care in Dayton. After some weird mixup in their records, I had to convince the ladies behind the counter that I and my wife were not the same human, and we were both insured. I kept having to get up from the chair, walk to the window to haggle over whether I exist, go back, sit down, then repeat. When I won that debate, and was finally seen by the doctor, she poked around a little, asking what hurt.

“I don’t think you broke your back,” the doctor explained. “If you did, you wouldn’t have been able to walk in here today.”

This was good news, but *DUH*… nobody said I broke my back, silly! Just to make sure, the good urgent care doc sent me to Carson for a quick X-ray. I grunted and griped all the way to Carson for imaging. On the way back to Dayton, I made a quick stop at Battleborn Dispensary for a little Nevada freedom. As I parked, I was getting a call from the doc.

“Don’t take the Prednisone!” the doc warned. “You fractured your spine.” She then gave me a referral for some ortho docs.

A few more X-rays, and some brief time chatting with the ortho doc, then I got to live in what I called my “turtle shell” for a few months. Things healed relatively well, as far as the ortho doc says. I kinda re-cracked it at a KTMB cleanup, when I hopped off a roll-off backwards, landing stupid.

I just have to be careful now. I can’t jump off stuff, pick up stuff, turn wrong, or even twerk. As the orthopedist explained to me with his stupid big fat shiny bald head, “You’ll see 80-year-old women pick up boxes you can’t. You have a broken back. You just have to live with that.” He told me this after I asked him if I’ll ever get the feeling back on the top of my right foot, and of there was any treatment for me. [Phil salutes a middle finger in the direction of Reno]

I’m not gonna lie, this sucks. I used to pick up my 6′ tall son and carry him around on my shoulders for fun. Now I worry about picking up 2 gallons of milk at once. Just the other day, I started to notice an area on the side of my left knee going numb. The most annoying part I’ve learned about neuropathy is the itching. Imagine your leg itching, so you scratch the arm of your couch, trying to get relief. It’s like that.

To wrap it up on a positive note: I’m currently still walking. While I carry it in my vehicle everywhere I go, I haven’t had to put my turtle shell on for many months. As soon as I figure it out with my insurance & such, I’ll see a physical therapist. I would love to know what I really can and can’t do to work out and keep the meat vehicle running.