Part 2…An inquiry from an old friend and long time reader…Artwork in Phuket house…

This is my favorite piece of Thai art. It’s quite large placed above the TV in the living room.

In yesterday’s post we answered the first question posed by longtime friend and reader, Cathy in Minnesota as shown in a statement as below which she’d asked in a private message in Facebook.

With Cathy’s permission I posted her questions as follows:

Cathy wrote:
“So this is my question for you two. Honestly, have you ever gone someplace and after about a couple of weeks wish the stay was shorter? With your back hurting the way it does sometimes do you wish you were closer to a doctor. I just know how painful back problems are from experience.  I read your blog every day.”

As a result, yesterday’s post addressed the first question in detail, particularly as it applies in our current location: “Honestly, have you ever gone someplace and after about a couple of weeks wish the stay was shorter?”

Some of the art work is lopsided on the wall, but we didn’t want to straighten them for fear they’d fall off.

Today, we’re addressing the second question in Cathy’s inquiry: “With your back hurting the way it does sometimes do you wish you were closer to a doctor.”

We chose to break up these two questions, especially since this second question requires a certain amount of comment and reflection that we wanted to share with our readers, many of whom are in our age bracket subsequently more likely to require medical care.

Our reality when we began our travels was the fact that I have a serious spinal condition that is exacerbated by inflammation triggered by certain foods and chemicals. By changing my diet five years ago this month, within a period of three months I was pain free although I still have the condition.

Plus, I was pre-diabetic within months of requiring medication when I started this way of eating and now my blood sugar is normal with these dietary changes. Two major problems were solved by a change in diet. 

Many of these works of art consist of design and texture.

It was these massive improvements in my health that inspired us to travel the world, when prior to the change in diet, the possibility of travel was very limited when I couldn’t sit on a plane for two hours. In these past 46 months, we’ve experienced as much as a 34 hour travel period and though tired at the end as anyone would be, I did fine, pain free.

In the early part of June, slightly over two months ago, I injured my spine in the swimming pool in Bali while walking backwards in a particular exercise feeling fine and pain free. I was using the pool each day as a form of exercise with no health club in the area. 

In June, I accidentally walked into the sharp stone edge where the end of the steps meets the main part of the pool. The second I did this, I knew I was in trouble.  The impact hit me from my neck down to my tailbone. It felt as if I’d been in a car accident.

There is a pair of these, each slightly different.

At first I didn’t say anything to Tom hoping the pain would subside. I didn’t want to worry him. But, by the next day I knew was in big trouble when the pain was awful running from my neck down to my tailbone. 

Having heard stories of horrible medical treatment in the remote area of Bali, I decided to wait it out knowing it could be months until the injury would heal. My arms and legs were working fine convincing me I hadn’t injured my spinal cord itself. 

In time, the pain reminded me of when about eight years ago I had a compression fracture, compounding the pain I already had at the time. It took several months to heal. 

Recently with a lack of good medical care nearby, I made the assumption that again I had a compression fracture which is a very common condition for seniors, even those with less precarious vertebrae than mine.

This style of Buddhist statue is commonly seen in Thailand.

This statement is from a document at the following site from American Family Physicians :

“Vertebral compression fractures affect approximately 25 percent of all postmenopausal women in the United States. The prevalence of this condition steadily increases with advancing age, reaching 40 percent in women 80 years of age. Women diagnosed with a compression fracture of the vertebra have a 15 percent higher mortality rate than those who do not experience fractures. Although less common in older men, compression fractures also are a major health concern in this group. Because the age group of those older than 65 years is now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, the incidence of this age-specific fracture is likely to increase.”

Based on the fact that there was no need for surgery, I self treated doing the best I could. What would a doctor do, when only in very rare cases, there’s an impingement on the spinal column (which I didn’t seem to have) during which surgery may be required. 

Rest, hot and cold packs, limited movement with no bending, not spending days laying in bed and the fractures would eventually heal without further incident. Many times I had read that the pain could last for three months or longer in typical cases. I guess I’m a typical case. Had I not experienced this type of injury in the past, I may have been more intent on having x-rays, MRI or CAT scan.

Plus, I determined, that if the fracture was spotted in a scan, what would a doctor do anyway?  Prescribe narcotic pain meds? Not only did I not want to take narcotics for such an extended period I didn’t want to be hauling narcotic meds in our luggage as we travel in a variety of countries. 

This larger statue is located in the kitchen and dining area.

I had one old bottle of painkillers in my luggage with 30 pills (I’d never used any of them) in case of an emergency. During this two plus months I used 10 of the pills when I couldn’t seem to get the pain under control, especially when we were in Singapore and then on the Mekong River cruise, going out on tours. 

Tylenol, Paracetamol, Aleve, Motrin and aspirin haven’t helped at all, even after trying them for weeks. I take nothing now, instead finding a new way to sit, stand and rest using the ice and heat packs to relieve more painful periods. It’s getting better, now only painful during the second half of the day when I may have sat too long, bent over too much or walked too far. It’s a balancing act.

Back to Cathy’s question, “With your back hurting the way it does sometimes do you wish you were closer to a doctor.” 

My answer is clear.  Had we been living in the US I may have gone for an x-ray or MRI, but the ultimate treatment would have been the same except with the addition of pain relieving medications I’d surely have been prescribed of one sort or another. 

Interesting rendition.

Most likely physical therapy would have been prescribed once it healed, which is often postponed until after several months to avoid further injury. After years of experience with a variety of spine related physical therapy modalities, I feel confident once the pain is gone, I can begin walking more once again and incorporate light physical therapy type moves as I progress.

Once we arrived in Phuket I considered going to the local hospital for an x-ray but after reading many poor reviews about the local private hospitals, I decided against it. Finally, over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a subtle improvement each day and feel confident that it will continue over time. 

Since the injury, I’ve managed the following:
1.  The four to five hour harrowing drive from Sumbersari, Bali to Denpasar Airport
2.  The flight from Denpasar to Singapore with considerable walking at both terminals
3.  The week in Singapore with several trips to immigration offices to acquire  the two visas
4.  The flight to Hanoi, the flight to Siem Reap, 18 days total touring Cambodia and Vietnam, including rides on non-motorized tuk tuk, motorized tuk tuk and a rickshaw along with many tours requiring lots of walking and stairs.
5.  Flight from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with a layover in Bangkok, then another flight to Phuket.
6.  One hour van ride from Phuket Airport to vacation rental
7.  Lots of bouncing around in the less-than-stellar rental car over the past three weeks since our arrival.  Three weeks from today we depart Phuket.

This statue is located on the marble kitchen counter.

Over the next few months, we only have to get back to the airport in Phuket, with a layover in Singapore, then on to another flight back to Denpasar, an overnight in a hotel and then, the next day, the four to five hour harrowing drive to the villa. For sure, these next few months will be easier than the past two months.

I’m anticipating by the time we board the back-to-back cruise in Sydney, Australia after a seven hour flight from Denpasar (after one more four to five hour harrowing drive), on October 31st (our four year travel anniversary), I’ll be back to my “old self.” If not, we’ll carry on with our plans. I’ve proven to myself, I can do this.

Many people suffer with chronic conditions and maintain active and fulfilling lifestyles. Until such time as either of us cannot travel as such in the above listed points, we’ll continue to live life to the fullest, enjoying each and every day while dreaming and planning for the future.

May you do the same.

Photo from one year ago today, August 11, 2015:

It seems we awaken every morning at 5 am.  Tom gets up and I read in bed until I fall back asleep, usually until 7:00 am. Up so early he has an opportunity to capture these amazing sunrises. For more photos, please click here.