Clinic Matters: Pain, Pain, Go Away — Emma Brown’s Back
Sitting between Emma Brown and I is a plate of food and glasses of drinks. Today, she has options to pick from. This pick is coming after several minutes of contemplation. It was a tall menu. And when the food arrives, it brings more smiles to her face.
Exactly six months ago, the situation was a sharp opposite. Emma sits across me in a consulting room. On the table is a printed invoice of a certain therapy she had picked from a man who claimed to have a solution to her problem. It seemed it was the only thing he had to opt for. There was no menu to pick from. So she had come to seek my opinion.
For the past 8 years, Emma had been suffering Nerve Root Compression of her spine, offering her daily experiences of excruciating back pain. She has subjected herself to every available diagnostics and treatment, only to reach a dead end with a crushed bank account and collapsed hope… every time.
Now, here’s a man promising her a new pain-free life with his supplements, massage and detox regimen. The therapy is costing an arm and a leg, but Emma is willing to give in. She has been without hope, like a detective who’s ran out of suspects.
Her frustration moves me. It sweeps a tsunami of distress into innermost places of myself. To fix this, she would rather need surgery. It carries high risk, she would need a fortune to pull it off and her chances of survival may be on a knife-edge.
I throw the option before her, regardless; stressing it could be her best shot. She falls for it, without choice.
Emma’s anxiety is plain, even though she affords a smile. But she still has an appreciable amount of faith. It is with that she says “I’ll do it. The pain is too much”. Her confidence, although small is still relevant for this venture. Like a drop of oil in the ocean, it is there but hard to find.
Today at Frankies , as we await the arrival of our ordered meal, we recount these moments and laugh over them. We throw back to our days in high school and share humourous memories. When her salacious side takes the better part of her, she would crack a joke about trivial topics and we’d laugh them off.
We talk about her ordeal at Korlebu Teaching Hospital. Emma would report at the facility a million times, and return home an embattled victim of the no-bed syndrome. Several calls to other referral centers and surgeons proved futile.
Days multiplied into weeks and they rolled into months. She awaited processing for a scheduled surgery that never happened. At this juncture, patience was not just a virtue. It was vital. But her pain had no consideration for the hold-up. It continued to slice through her like a hot knife through butter.
Whiles at it, moves were made to solicit for funds for the pending surgery. Using social media, we raised complimentary support under her pseudonym, “Amma”. Friends and old mates joined the bandwagon.
Emma Brown now deferred her post-graduate Corporate Governance studies at the University of Professional Studies. Another dead end for an academic pursuit.
Then on 31st December, 2018, a text message came: “Good afternoon. Hope you good ? I just want to inform you that God has made a way. I’m on admission now. Was just given a bed. God bless you for your prayers and support”.
This would, however be the beginning of a new set of hurdles — another session of expensive tests, non-availability of blood, reschedules, post operative infections, a long stay in the hospital bed and the uncertainties of going under the knife. But this hopefully would be the beginning of the end to an 8 year old suffering.
Emma Brown fought her way into surviving a 5 hour discectomy on January 9, 2019, stepping out of the theatre with renewed hope. In the days that followed, she would receive uncountable visits from well wishers, friends and family. They celebrate her like a warlord. Indeed she had swerved the assaults of an aggravating spinal disorder together with death itself.
On one of my visits, Emma although haphazardly dabbed in talcum powder, and without the typical photoshoot outlook still manages to make a pose for the camera. She does it with extra caution and little movement, so as not to insult her surgical incisions.
Her mother sits adjacent her and looks on with gratitude in her eyes. She’s tired! She’s been a loyal lieutenant in this war. As we converse, I mention how expensive medical care is, at this level and she could only agree with a mumble of “hmmmm”.
Today, Emma Brown’s back is healed. Today, Emma Brown’s back to a more pain-free life. For me, I’m proud, I can hug a friend and say, “I’ve got your back” and she would believe it literally and practically.