There’s something to be said about being confined to crutches. Yes, I used the words confined because that is exactly what it feels like to me — a jail sentence.
Although I’ve never been in jail, believe it or not, to all you stereotypical folks, I can only imagine the feeling of not being able to come and go as you please. Having to be escorted in and out of buildings, just for the simple pleasure of enjoying some fresh air each day, and waiting for someone to come visit you each week is confining.
To me, that seems like hell on earth, especially when you consider that I am claustrophobic. I can’t stand being held to one place for long periods of time. My bout with claustrophobia has gotten so bad, that even simple bouts with sinusitis can quickly turn into anxiety attacks. Even after I suffered injuries from a motorcycle accident in late July, having to breathe with help from a ventilator and having a cervical collar around my neck, sent me into a panic. I remember calling the nurse and explaining to her that I was having anxiety attacks and they were recurring frequently. When I couldn’t get her to understand, I called my wife in Charlotte, North Carolina, who tried her best to explain the situation, to no avail.
I don’t know why the anxiety attacks occur, but I do remember when they began.
In 2000, I worked as an Army recruiter in Carrollton, Georgia. During one of my high school visits, I decided that in order to better connect with students, I would participate in a game of basketball and show them how athletic I was in my heyday.
This was not my heyday.
As I scored the first three points of the game (we were counting by ones … street ball rules applied), I felt pretty good, especially after hearing a few student proclaim, “Sergeant Rogers can ball!” No sooner had they said that, I heard and felt a distinct “pop” in my back.
As I mustered the energy to hobble back to my car, I knew it was going to be a long night.
How long? I had no idea.
When I arrived home, after traveling back to the recruiting station and returning my government vehicle, I could barely make the five steps to enter our apartment. Once I got inside, I fell to the floor and told my wife I wanted to rest there for a while.
My wife eventually called the ambulance to transport me to the nearest hospital.
Once the paramedics arrived, I wondered how they were going to manage to place my 225-pound body in the ambulance, especially since the lady paramedic was about 5’2” and looked as if she weighed about 105 pounds. Her male counterpart was quite the opposite — he stood about 6 feet tall, but looked as though he weighed in at about 280 pounds, none of which was muscle.
I remember telling them, in between groans, “please do not drop me!” And while the lady paramedic assured me that I was in good hands, the man on the other end of the stretcher struggled to maintain his grip, twice having to stop for rest. Fortunately, when I arrived to the hospital, there was another crew of paramedics who ensured that I got into the emergency room safely.
Once there, I was wheeled straight to a room and the doctors began working on me.
I watched as one of the doctors tried to lift one of my legs, which would not budge. He immediately called for a shot of Toradol, an anti-inflammatory and a dose of Percocet. After taking the medicine, my life would never be the same.
Some of the side effects attributed to Toradol include severe restlessness, mood changes and unusual behavior. Percocet’s side effects include confusion, fear, unusual thoughts or behavior followed by drowsiness, anxiety and possible dizziness.
I will honestly say, I was forewarned about how I would feel as the nurse who administered the drugs proclaimed, “One (medicine) is going to take you up and the other will bring you back down.”
Within five minutes of taking the drugs, I began to panic and tried to remove the IVs from my arms. I also became teary-eyed as I felt like I had to leave the hospital because something bad was going to happen. It was a very bad experience.
My wife, along with the doctor, did their best to calm me down and within three minutes, I dozed off to sleep. But … that would not be the end of my bouts with anxiety, but it would become my first bout with claustrophobia. Every now and then those symptoms return and the results are the same. But I’ve learned to calm myself down by taking walks or just removing myself from whatever environment I am in at the time of the attack.
I have yet to seek medical assistance for this ailment, but know that I probably should. In fact, I have an annual checkup appointment scheduled for Nov. 6, so I will surely mention it then.
So for everyone else, who feels that they are confined and the walls are closing in on them, seek help as soon as possible. It can only make things better and you won’t suffer as long as I did.