The Brace

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is how I felt in a turtle shell brace after back surgery.

Submitted: November 12, 2007

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Submitted: November 12, 2007



Life in a brace.  I don't care who you are; you cheat.  "if I don't have to wear it in bed, who says I have to get out of bed today.  I know how to keep my back straight.  I don't need it just to walk around the house.  It's not like I'm going to go outside without it on."

Then there are days you have an appointment.  You have to get up at some horrid hour in the morning, so someone else can squeeze your body into the brace (I still don't know why they don't make one that you can put on yourself).  You are half asleep on the couch, knowing your appointment isn't for another three hours, cough.  Oh no.  You squeeze a keegel as hard as you can, but...  And you know you can't just go change.  You're in - the brace!  No one else is home, otherwise you wouldn't be half asleep on the couch at this ungodly hour of the morning, learning your body is giving up, one small muscle at a time.

There are all kinds of braces out there.  Mine happens to be the one from hell.  It's been called the turtle shell brace.  My husband calls it the Zena Warrior Princess brace.  I call it the m@$#%# f@#$@$^$ piece of crap.  It's hard white plastic.  It has a pretend little foamlike layer on the inside.  It has (ha ha) little holes in it to help with air flow.  (How air is supposed to flow through something that sticks like glue to every surface it touches boggles brain cells.)  I guess you get the air in the little holes.  It doesn't seem to matter that you have to wear a shirt underneath the thing to keep from chaffing.  So...I guess you have a choice.  Let the air hit your actual body while you chafe, or let the air hit your tank top, and let your shirt cool off.

Anyway, the brace is custom made for my body, or at least what my body was two years ago.  I guess I am pretty close, 'cuz it still fits, sorta.  In the back, it starts at my shoulder blades and goes down to the point where I can just sit down without it lifting my butt off the seat.  In front, they molded these giant bralike mounds.  Talk about your iron bra.  It goes down in the front past my belly button. 

Me and this brace are old enemies.  We go back almost two years.  It was made for me the first time my back was cut open.  Let's just say it was a mess.  No accident, just a mess.  After five days in a morphine haze in a hospital bed, they put me in this thing.  They gave me a walker and sent me home.  I could not get out of bed without wearing the cursed thing.  I was naive.  I had no idea of all the misery that awaited me.  I thought it was my friend.  All I can do is slowly shake my head at myself.

The first problem came almost immediately.  Now think.  You have a hard plastic shell covering your upper body.  You have short arms.  The brace makes you need a longer reach, but, alas, your arm does not grow on command.  You have a very small bladder.  You have short arms.  You have a hard plastic shell around your upper body.  No one, not one person, at the hospital or your doctor's office told you that no one can reach to wipe in this M@#%#$ F@%##$% piece of crap. 

And it is June.  Mid June.  With July, and August to follow.  Summer never looked so bleak. 

 Here it is, almost two years later.  I got cut the end of March this time.  I was told no brace this time.  I was told quick recovery this time.  I would never have done it, if I had but known.  I was going to take the brace out in the garage after the first time and take a sawsall to it.  But I never got better enough.  This time, my husband says we can go out in the woods with a shotgun loaded with buckshot!  I can't wait!!

I had more problems than the surgeon thought.  I had more surgery than I went in for.  See, I only went in to have all the hardware from the first time taken out.  But the guy who took it out went and found that one of my original fusions never took.  He did another fusion.  Now the M@#%^# F*&$%^ piece of crap again - for 18 weeks.  That takes me clear through summer - AGAIN!

Winter can really suck because no matter what the temperature, you sweat in the thing.  When you flex a certain way and make a small gap that air can actually flow in, it hits the sweat - yes, cold, wet material against your skin.  With air blowing on it.  That's winter in the thing.  I learned that lesson this time around.  March is still winter; I don't care what the calendar says.

Summer is another matter altogether.  I learned that last time.  I am not looking forward to it this time.  Hard plastic against 75 percent of your upper body, since my arms and head are free, makes you sweat more than winter time.  Yes, more!  There is no perfect temperature with the mfpc.  Anyone who has spent any time in one can tell you.  I imagine it is similar to a cast, but at least you can take the mfpc off when you go to bed, or cheat.

Unfortunately, unlike a cast, you can't get to the itch.  No coat hanger will get in there.  If you can breath, the thing is not tight enough.  My daughter gets all her frustration with me out of her system every time she puts me in this. 'Mom, can you breath? " she asks.  If I say "'Yes,"  she takes another yank with the straps.  If I say "Yes," and don't grunt it out in breathlessness, she takes another yank with the straps.  She's a sharp one.  She's also a strong one.

At least she will be out of school in another month and a half.  I need someone who can put me in this later in the day.  My husband leaves really early.  I have to have a 30 minute bone stimulator treatment in the morning.  She leaves for the bus at 6:50.  I have until 6:40 to take a shower, have my treatment, get dressed and get trussed.  Since I have a lot of trouble sleeping at night, I generally don't wake up 'til 8:30 or 9:00.To put the m#%$%^ f*&$%@ piece of crap on, I have to get up no later than 5:45.  There is something inherently wrong with that. 

I dare you to try sleeping in the mfpc.  Go on, try.  Your neck doesn't line up with your back anymore.  You can't lay on your side - the mfpc digs into your armpits when you try.  The stomach is out, because you have these giant protrusions of hard plastic that think they are your bra.  So, neck ache lying on your back, armpit death from the side, and platex lift from the stomach.  Someone with a really comfortable Lazy Boy might be able to do it, but I'm your average kinda gal, without that benefit. 

I lost my job quite a while ago.  As you can imagine, I'm not exactly hiring material.  I need something that allows brain farts on a constant basis.  I can't sit very long in one position.  I can't stand in one spot because of the nerve damage to my legs (did I forget to mention that little side benefit from the first time around?).  I can't even read out loud, because the brain fighting the pain and working on the healing just doesn't understand how to pronounce all the words it sees anymore. 

 I have all my doctors tell me I can't work (duh).  I have social security telling me I can (duh).  I haven't got enough money to buy myself a comfortable chair.  Who am I kidding?  I don't have enough money to buy a gumball.  My husband works, and we try to get by, but it is very difficult just to have the basics, like food, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.  My dad, bless him, helps when he can, but he can't support me. 

Just my luck.  Nine years ago I moved to a state without any disability provisions.  If I don't get federal help (ha, ha), I get nothing.  I know someone who has a bad leg.  He walks ten times better than I do, he can do yardwork on acreage, and he can cook meals.  He's on social security.  I can't cook, I haven't even been able to vacuum my house in almost three years, I can't even water the lawn by moving a sprinkler, and I keep getting turned down.  Funny, isn't it?  Do you think it's because I am a woman?  Just a thought.  And he never had to wear the mfpc either.

I am chaffing my armpits as I write this.  I never took it off today after my bout in pain and torture (that's physical therapy to those of you who never had it).  I guess I feel a little bad about cheating.  Plus, don't ever repeat this, but I actually feel less pain when I am in it.  You did NOT hear that!!  I did NOT say that!!!  Aliens took control of me for a moment there.  I am back now.  At least I think I am.  With the brain on pain, I never know for sure.

It's sad when, as your pain and torture person puts you back in the M#%#$% F*&^*%$ piece of crap, she tells you how she would NEVER want to wear it and asks you how you can stand it.  Those are really such words of comfort.  She understands cheating.  All of you who have ever been in one understand cheating.  All you who have had casts wished you could have found a way of cheating.  I guess it's the same principle as a cast.  Bones are knitting and healing.  Spine bones.  At least it's not plaster from waist to shoulder.  Small comfort to someone in the second go round with this thing.  Mid August, if all goes well, will be the end of it.  Then, to the shooting range.

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