June 26, 2012

A Rebirth of Mobility

For the last month, I've been limping through my days with severe gout in my right toe. I was lucky to be able to work through the pain for the most part without much disruption to my schedule (no one had any idea that I was actually in acute pain at the Avant Garden opening), but it has been annoying. At first, I though that this was just another bout of sciatica (which is something that I get about once per year). That usually starts out with a sharp pain in the lower back that runs down my leg and into my foot. A session with the chiropractor always clears it up right away, however, this time was different. This time, the pain increased. I went back to him for a second visit, but he told me that it didn't seem like just a normal case of sciatica. It sounded more like gout.

I immediately began to research everything that I could find out about gout. It's basically a result of uric acid crystallizing in the joints from too many purines in the diet. A week later, I hobbled into my regular family doctor. He drew some blood, sent me for an X-ray, and gave me a prescription for a steroid-based medicine for gout. The pills took off a little bit of the edge, but the discomfort lingered. The doctor's office called the following Monday -- both the blood work and the X-ray came back negative for gout, but the results did show a Plantar Calcaneal Heel Spur on my foot.

The next week, I was off to my third doctor for the same ache; this time, it was a podiatrist. Once again, I did some research on heel spurs and found out that the remedy is usually a shoe insert or surgery, though it seemed odd to me that my big toe would be hurting from a problem in the back of the foot. Thankfully, the podiatrist had the right answers -- I actually did have gout, which doesn't always show up in tests. He informed me he was going to clear it up for me with a Cortisone shot. So, there I was with my bare feet up on a table and the doctor coming at me with a two-inch syringe. He asked if I was ready and I said that I was. I've never had a problem with needles and I thought this would be easy. Whenever I have to give blood, I always watch and I rarely feel any pain. I sat calmly as the half of the needle disappeared into the meat of my big toe. It didn't hurt, until... Oh, the moment the doctor pressed the plunger and the milky liquid started going in, it was as if someone was injecting hot magma into my flesh. I sat bolt bolt upright and cried out, "Whoa, what is that?!?"

After the shot was done, a cool feeling started to course through my foot. The doctor said that it was normal and he told me to go home and take it easy. What he didn't tell me was how angry the gout was going to get from the injection. About twenty minutes later, a war was going on in my toe between the uric acid crystals and the Cortisone and I was taking the brunt of it. My toe was throbbing unbearably and all I could do was lay in my bed and moan. The pain persisted for about two hours before it finally began to ebb. I can't remember too much about the evening after that.

The next morning, I woke up in relief. While there was still a little bit of stiffness in my toe, the pain was finally gone. The thing about gout is that once you have it, you always have it. I may never have another attack or I could have one next week. There's no way to predict. It's going to require me to change my diet -- no shellfish, no beef, no alcohol. There will be a few things that I will miss, though this is probably a blessing in disguise. I will definitely have to make healthier choices from now on to avoid being hobbled with pain.

Anyway, this Sunday was the first day that I was able to walk normally again. It was a beautiful day, so to celebrate the rebirth of my mobility, I laced up my Timberlands and drove to a local nature preserve where I hiked deep into the woods with my djembe slung on my shoulder. By a lake, I found a log to sit on and I spent the morning filling the air with rhythm. The beats echoing through the trees and over the placid waters sounded magnificent. Beautiful atmosphere. Later, as I was walking out of the woods, I encountered several other hikers who said, "We thought we were hearing the sound of drums. Love it!" I captured this series of photographs, do enjoy:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me
beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name's sake."

~Psalm 23:1-3