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PAIN – I spent over 40 days somewhat absent from the digital environments I am responsible for, somewhat late with work related tasks and replies, and evasive as to what was happening to me. Now I can speak: I had infectious spondilodiscitis. I was taken to the Emergency room on November the 12th, with a level 9 pain and a fever. I am still at the hospital, but fever-free for three days already, blood indicators looking good and most of all, almost pain free. During the last 10 days here I’ve been poked, pinched, biopsied, echographed, scanned, MRIed and measured every day. Eight different IV access devices had to be inserted and eight different veins were lost to flebitis. Three different medical teams worked together to bring me back to the platform: the Pain Management Group, the Infectology group and the Orthopedics group.
This is one of the best hospitals in the country. If it weren’t for that, last Saturday could have ended bad: one week ago my disease produced bacteremia. If it weren’t for that, too, I wouldn’t be able to make sound medical decisions. On an over 8 level pain, you don’t think, you don’t speak and you don’t see. You don’t decide.
For 44 days I lived in total physical isolation and silent. My full time companion was the pain. High level pain wakes you up every day and you must put it to sleep. It gives you a few hours to sleep yourself after heavy medication. The pain is there when you eat, when you use the bathroom, when you must talk to someone, when you try to work and when you move. You learn to get work done while it is under level 6. You learn to hide when it is over level 7. You are annoying: people don’t know how to react when someone is in extreme pain, no matter how quiet you try to be.
I broke limbs, ruptured tendons, ligaments, had all sorts of surgeries, had a baby, car accidents, motorcycle accidents – you name it. I knew all types of pain. But I never knew a pain like this one even existed and could be experienced. It can’t be described.
Studies show that chronic high level pain can lead to depression, severe depression and death. There is only one way to keep your sanity under severe pain: hang on to what is meaningful. I did. That was why, blind with pain, loosing over 8lbs, I still claimed I would lift at a major powerlifting competition: RUM. RUM kept me sane for these 6 weeks of relentless pain.
Pain is a prioritizing force in life. After a few days under severe pain, all your life is organized in neat drawers each containing its own level of priority. You start giving away most of your stuff because you can’t find a place for them in your priority scale. Minimalism is the key to survival.
You let go of everything unimportant. When you reach a point where every day you endure hours under level 9 pain, when you worry about being heard when you scream, when finally you make it to the Emergency room, there is only one thing left: what really defines you.
Lifting. Nothing else matters. Not even life.
How I know that? Because between just another good lift before death and a life without lifting, I chose the good lift (and good death). Doctors realized that on the fourth day, and that was when the orthopedics team quickly changed their approach and started collaborating with me. I like to think I helped some of them discover powerlifting, even under the stress of losing a mad lifter.
And here I am, on my way back to the platform, as it has always been and will always be.