So, what happened to you anyway? Why are you in that chair? in which I discuss the inappropriate questions often asked, and my usual responses

Okay, I suppose that for you this is a reasonable question. After all, you’re used to seeing me walking around in a devil-may-care manner, I’ve even been known to run for the bus and I’m a keen gardener. But after being on crutches for 4 weeks, then put into a wheelchair for at least 3 months, it’s amazing how many times I’m expected to go through this information with people I meet, who presumably think any or all of these things:

  • I’m not going to get upset talking about it.
  • I have time to talk about it, again.
  • I have nothing else to talk about.
  • I want to share this information with you.
  • I am not in pain constantly and therefore keeping social contact down to people who ALREADY KNOW whats going on.

But you, kind reader, have been sensitive enough to wait until I am ready to share what’s been going on, which I will do, gladly, so we can get it out of the way now, can we?

I have a condition called by different people Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) or Symphasis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD).

I started to experience pain at around 23 weeks into my pregnancy. At first, sharp pains right in the middle of my pelvis at the front, developing into nagging aches which would last all day.

I knew that my job working on an acute mental health unit was physically demanding, and started to negotiate with my line manager about amending my duties. However, at the time, I didn’t have the language to describe the pain I was experiencing. All I knew was that standing aggravated the pain, sitting aggravated the pain, and going up and down stairs was dreadful. One of the doctors at work (who had just rotated through obs and gynae) identified the problem and made the initial referral to the obstetric physio.

I informed my GP and my line manager of what was happening to me, and the GP wrote a “fit note” to support me at work in getting the adjustments I needed in the job. But I seemed to get worse and worse- I was coming home at night and as soon as I had my three year old in bed, I would lie on the sofa, sobbing with pain. I was taking the maximum safe dose of paracetamol in pregnancy daily. The pain was worsening by the day.

Eventually, a day came when I gave in to the pain and went home early from work. I phoned my partner and begged him to do the nursery collection, as I couldn’t move again. The next day, I finally had my physio appointment. At this appointment, the physio gave me a tubigrip to wear around my middle, and a fetching velcro fastening girdle to wear if standing or walking. She also gave me crutches. I was instructed to go home and rest up for several days, using frozen peas wrapped in a towel against my crotch several times a day in an effort to bring the inflammation on the pubic symphasis down to a manageable level. I was to use the crutches when walking, putting weight through my arms to avoid stressing the pelvic joints any further. I was to go to the GP and get co-codamol for the pain (8mg codeine/500mg paracetamol), 2 tablets, up to 4 times a day.

I’m rubbish at slowing down, so I didn’t get the message to REST! I felt like what I was doing was resting, because I was doing so little compared to my usual level of activity. For example, one day’s goal would be to bake a tray of brownies, which if you knew me you’d understand I can knock out in half an hour. However, the more time I spent standing, the worse the pain got. A few days off work turned into a week, which turned into two, then three. I kept as mobile as I could, knowing that immobility would cause me to stiffen up and get sore. I continued to use frozen peas 4 times daily on the front joints, and a hot wheatbag 4 times daily on the back joints. I did my physio exercises religiously morning and afternoon. I kept on with the painkillers.

After several weeks, the physio decreed that this was getting worse, and prescribed a wheelchair. I was to use this whenever I went out of the house, to avoid “scissoring” the joints when on my hill. I was to continue to use the crutches in the house and to stay as mobile as possible…..

So that’s how I ended up in a wheelchair from the 27th week of pregnancy. I’ll be in it until after the baby comes, it’ll probably resolve after that in a few months. Total wheelchair time= 3months-5months, which compared to lots of people is the blink of an eye.

Now can we never speak of it again? Please?

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