Here we are, many weeks later, and I still haven’t written anything. My last post ended saying that the drama was over. I wish! My spider bite healed just fine but my back pain became significantly worse and things went downhill from there.
The short version is that I believe I now have a handle on what is going on and think I have a treatment plan in place to keep things under control. I don’t want to jinx things and say I’m feeling better, but I do think I’m ready to give this another shot.
The Long Version
As I said, my back pain became much worse. In fact, my whole body felt like I had been repeatedly beaten with a bag of oranges.
My prolonged, excessive use of Icy Hot resulted in a chemical burn on my upper back. Even now, mostly healed, it feels like a family of eagles have a death grip on my back with their claws. I’ve tried an assortment or crèmes and lotions to no avail. I’ve been told it will just take time. Note that I still love Icy Hot! Just use it in moderation.
On top of the pain, two other issues started cropping up. I itched like mad and it felt like I had Restless Leg Syndrome over my entire body.
Lastly, months of inactivity, trying to care for these pains, resulted in muscle atrophy which made the lower back pain even worse.
All of this together made for a pretty miserable life. Even with an arsenal of drugs, I wasn’t able to get things under control. I was lucky to get a few hours sleep a night. Every time I lay down all my symptoms would steadily grow worse. Finally, I’d give up and take a long hot shower. That seemed to help for a while so I ended up taking a half dozen showers a day. I quickly had to get a couple Dry-Z-Air units to deal with the humidity from all those showers :)
Finally, it got to the point where I could not get ANY sleep at all. At 3:00am on my third sleepless night I went for a drive to search out any store that might be open at that time. My chemical burn was particularly bad at that point, so I talked to whomever I ran into at that hour and got all sorts of recommendations for home remedies. Being nearly delirious, I bought all sorts of products in hopes that something might offer some relief. None of them did. Taking medical advice from random people is clearly not the way to go.
Later that morning, I drove to Corvallis (I like their hospital better and mom lives nearby) and checked into the ER. By this time, over 72 hours without sleep, I was having some pretty disturbing thoughts and wanted to be under the supervision of someone who was thinking more clearly than I.
They took vitals, did some lab work, kept me for a few hours, but surprisingly didn’t admit me. I was released later that day with some prescriptions.
The significant one was Gabapentin. It is an anti-convulsive originally designed to prevent seizures (I believe), but used to great effect to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diabetic Nerve Pain.
It turns out that the majority of my problems were the result of diabetes. Your nerves send signals to your brain reporting all sorts of sensations (heat, cold, pain, itching, etc). Diabetes damages your nerves resulting both in the failure to report these sensations, and the reporting of sensations that aren’t there.
I had every reason to think that my failing kidneys would kill me long before I had to worry about these sorts of complications from diabetes, so I hadn’t been caring for my diabetes as well as I should have been. Now I’m paying the price.
The good news is that I now know where all these bizarre symptoms came from. I have drugs that greatly help my situation. They don’t stop the pain (or the itching or the restless body symptom), but they help. I supplement the Gabapentin with large doses of Vicadin and small amounts of Icy Hot plus, on occasion, with Aleve (which, for someone with kidney failure, is the equivalent of jabbing a hot poker into your kidneys, but it helps with the pain). All in all, I’m able to sleep at night and am relatively functional again during the day.
The bad news is that it will never get better. In fact, it is guaranteed to get much much worse. Hopefully that will happen slowly. I’m on a relatively low dose of Gabapentin (two 100mg capsules three times a day). Many people are taking as much as 2400mg a day so I certainly have room to increase my dosage. There are a number of side effects (the worst, at least in the short term, is blurred vision), but it looks to be relatively safe and effective. I am certainly singing its praises! I doubt I would be here today without it.