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Faces of Pain - Dick's Story

I am a 59 year old, recently retired high school principal from Massachusetts. Growing up, I was always very active and played sports. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was captain of the football team, a starter on the basketball team, and the captain of the baseball team. I had already had two broken left ankles, two broken noses, and a broken finger. Being 6 feet two and weighing 220 pounds, I had a choice to make, either pursue a baseball career or a football career. I chose football and accepted a full scholarship to a college down South. I sustained my first knee injury in the Spring of 1968 and returned home. I decided football wasn't a good choice. I had surgery on the left knee in 1969 for a torn cartilage and ended up having the other cartilage on the same knee out in 1970. These were major surgeries then, hospital stays were a week or more.

I finished my education and began teaching in 1973 and made do with a very sore knee, something was still wrong but nothing doctors could do about it. In 1985, I went to see a new OS and with the new technology and surgery techniques, he saw I had a torn ACL. It was repaired with the hopes it would stabilize my knee and stop arthritis from getting worse. In 2000, I couldn't stand the pain anymore and saw another new OS and he did a total knee replacement. He also discovered I had an abnormal buildup of Calcium Deposits in my knee joint. The Calcium issue raised its ugly head again in 2002 with my spine. I had surgery for spinal stenosis.  In 2005, I had my right knee operated on for a torn cartilage and the OS said that knee joint was full of Calcium deposits. I saw a rheumatologist and he diagnosed me with Pseudogout. This is a painful condition which acts like Gout but its not food related.  I have Calcium deposits in all my joints and can have a flare up at any time in any joint.

 

            In February, 2006, I had just started my school vacation week. Out of nowhere, I started having back pain. Within 24 hours, I was having the back pain, a raging fever, vomiting, and total body convulsions. I was home a week like this, even after seeing two different doctors who told me I had the flu. Eventually, I was taken to our local hospital by ambulance and admitted for Pneumonia. I don't remember most of my stay in the local hospital because I was so sick. My wife and her family tell me I was so bad they were sure I was going to die. After 4 days, an infectious disease doctor took over my case, ordered a CT scan of my back, and it was discovered I had a large spinal infection in the L 2, L 3 region. I was sent off to Mass General Hospital in Boston and had emergency surgery. Because of my weakened condition and bowel and bladder issues, I was sent to a Rehab Hospital. I was sent home mid March and for 6 more weeks was on IV antibiotics and PT. I went back to work in May but was far from right. I was still in constant back pain and terribly weak. By August, my surgeons determined that my spine had become dangerously unstable but surgery would have to wait because of the spinal infection. I guess it lays dormant and surgery could have stirred it up again.

 

            On April 2, 2007, I had my first spinal fusion surgery. My entire lumbar region was fused together with screws, plates, and rods along with some of my hip bone. Ten days later, surgery was done through my abdomen and another piece of my hip was fused into place. I was again sent off to the Rehab Hospital and got home the end of April.

 

            I never made it back to work so I took an early retirement. Pain has been my constant companion for most of my adult life, either with my knees, joints, or back. I guess I don't have anything to look forward to when I reach 80, I've already experienced it.

 Nancy and Dick

            The picture here is my wife Nancy and me, taken about a year before all my back stuff started happening. We have been married for 37 years, and have two grown sons that were a Godsend these past few years.