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5/7/2017 Latest post:
When it rains it pours. I always knew I would stay with Gwen until her end. I never paid attention to what the emotional distress would do to my physical body. It became clearly evident through sleepless nights and stress in watching my beautiful wife slowly lose her faculties over six weeks. By the last week of Gwen's life I was feeling acute pain in my lower back. I have dealt with back stress on numerous occasions: Concentrate on physical therapy, good diet and exercise. Then came unexpected uncontrollable chills. I thought there was something more and suggested an MRI since that vertebra on my lower spine has always been a trouble maker. The secondary care doctor said it was likely the flu, though the instant analysis flu sticks were out, I'd have to wait a week for confirmation. Treatment: take antivirals anyway, acetaminophen and ibuprofen around the clock (great for trying to improve sleep). A week later Gwen died, and the flu stick came back negative. On the morning that Gwen died and her body was being lovingly prepared I was taken to the local ER complaining of increasing back pain (though no fever since I am taking antipyretics). My advocate asked for an MRI. The ER doctor felt my spine, no pain, and he was informed of Gwen's passing. Treatment: Drink water, take valium, and get some sleep. The back pain came back immediately as we collectively said goodbye to Gwen's body back at the hospice. To myself: "So that's what shock is like. Hmmmm." After a few more days of increasing pain I made an appointment with my primary care doctor. I strongly advocated for an MRI, the primary agreed though it would be a few weeks to schedule, in the meantime rest and antipyretics. A few days later came the debilitating back spasms. I had to crawl on the floor when getting out of bed. A long time family friend drove me the York Hospital ER. After blood tests and inconclusive x-rays they recommended a spinal MRI. One hour in the machine (the technician was very thorough and could see something weird was going on) and one hour analysis later the verdict came in. Spinal infection/misbehavior at the first two vertebra. Vindication! But still can't walk. York did not have the expertise (neurosurgeons) needed to develop a solution. Mass General was full (it was last Friday night May 6), so was Portsmouth NH. Back to Maine Medical where they are now highly motivated to solve the problem. After a bone biopsy (imagine being the piece of granite that Michelangelo is carving into a statue - that's what a bone biopsy feels like) I was started on a pre-emptive course of antibiotics. Won't know for a couple of days, but I am glad to be out of pain. I mentioned above "misbehavior" because rheumatoid arthritis can do odd things as well, requiring different treatments. Fortunately Maine Med and my rheumatologist routinely work together. Being the patient was surreal experience, after these eight years, looking up from the position Gwen had to look up from to depend on other people. I understand the frustration she felt well now, and her gratitude. Thanks to all my family and advocates.