Today is September 27th. It’s a date neither me nor TS is likely to forget in all our life. Last year, this same day, TS had, what we then thought, was a tiny little accident on a squash court. What we assumed was a pulled muscle on his back, was soon diagnosed as a slipped disc. I will never forget the pain and agony that we went through for a few months after that, until TS was good enough to manage walking on his own. I will never forget the sleepless nights and the multitude of scary thoughts that would run through my mind each day. It was horrific to say the least. At the beginning of last year if someone had told me that TS would go through something like this, I would most certainly have laughed and shrugged it off. After all, my husband was healthy enough. Except for a few kilos he had to lose, he was doing just fine. I would never have associated something like this with the big, strong man in my life.
Yet, last year, this day, it happened. TS had wanted to go to the gym. He had gotten back from office real late but he still insisted on going. I was, as usual, lazy and tried to convince TS otherwise. But he was adamant and so, we went. TS opted to play squash with a bunch of our friends while I headed to the gym to get on the treadmill. I am not particularly fond of exercising in the gym. I prefer either running or some yoga, but the treadmill was enough of a pastime till TS finished his game. Forty five minutes of running done, I headed down to the squash court to find TS hobbling around outside. He said he seemed to have pulled the muscle on his back trying to take a tricky shot. Since it was something that happened routinely, we didn’t think it was a big deal. We took a cab back home. TS took a hot shower, applied some Bengay and went off to sleep. The next day morning was when our nightmare truly began.
TS woke me up in the morning saying he couldn’t get up. Even trying to roll onto his side was hurting him, he said. I tried to help him up and after a lot of screaming and grinding of teeth, we finally managed to get him on his feet. But he couldn’t stand properly. He couldn’t hold his head up. Even trying to look straight was causing him unbearable pain. We decided to head to the doctor right away. He diagnosed TS with a muscle spasm and said it would be alright in a couple of days. So armed with a load of painkillers we went home. But, nothing helped. The pain got worse. No amount of painkillers gave him any relief. We headed to the doctor’s again and got him to refer us to a polyclinic, with a more qualified doctor. That doctor turned out to be worse than the first one. We finally managed to convince him to refer us to a specialist at a hospital here. Meanwhile, we heard of an ayurveda doctor here and decided to try that out too. Anything for some relief from the horrible pain was welcome. He took one look at TS and said he had a slipped disc. He also convinced us to get an MRI done. The specialist at the hospital also suggested the same. The MRI only confirmed what our ayurveda doctor had said it was indeed a slipped disc. The specialist suggested immediate surgery. The ayurveda doctor said TS could manage without surgery but recovery would be slow. We went for the no surgery option and yes, recovery was slow, painfully slow. But he recovered. The MRI also bought to light the fact that there was a significant amount of degeneration in the fluid in his spine which meant no more of the sports that TS so loved to play. To me it seemed like a small price to pay, but TS was devastated. He was a sportsman, always had been. This was like a crushing blow for him. But the state he was in then, all I was praying for was for him to be able to walk and run like normal.
Those days were living hell for the both of us. Initially it was the uncertainty of not knowing what was wrong. And once he was properly diagnosed, it was the uncertainty of what next, of wondering if he would be back to his normal self, of how long it would take for him to walk without pain, It was hard for me to see TS suffering so much. The normally fit and always brave husband of mine was utterly helpless. He needed me to help him sit up even. He needed help with everything, even rolling over in bed. And it wasn’t something TS dealt with very well. He was irritable and angry and would snap at me at the slightest excuse. He would scream and yell without any reason. I, on the other hand was left to fend for the both of us. Right from grocery shopping to taking TS to the doctor, to cooking and cleaning and paying bills, it was all upto me to get things done. I even managed to pack up and move houses during that time- all on my own. And somehow I managed. I was all alone in a place that was far from home, just a year into marriage, far from my family, trying to hold myself and my husband together and tide over a crisis. We didn’t have family with us. TS lost both his parents a long time back. My Mom was at home taking care of my Grandpa who had just been diagnosed with a tumor in his throat. She was even more distressed than I was. I thought I could count on all our friends here, but I realized people were just too busy living their own lives to bother helping others out. I didn’t even have people to help me take TS to the hospital. He couldn’t walk on his own and trying to support his formidable frame was quite a task for me. Sometimes I had to ask cab drivers to help me out. My major support system was our bunch of good friends, who in spite of being miles away were always there for me. They listened to my million fears, they wiped my tears and asked me chin up and battle it out. They gave me the courage to go on and to keep my tears in check. I owe them a lot.
Those days also taught me about love and commitment and understanding. I understood what “in sickness and in health” meant. I understood what it meant to be there for a person in his darkest days while you are suffering as well. I got to know TS better. I had always known him as the strong guy, who took care of everything around the house, who took care of poor absentminded me, who was my handyman and my hero. It broke me to see him in tears, wondering if he would ever be able to play all his favourite sports again, wondering if he would be able to go running with me again. It showed me how vulnerable he was. And that in turn made me stronger. When the guy who never flinched when I was in hospital and was my rock throughout needed to hold my hand going in for his MRI, I knew how terrified he was. Till then, I used to think that maybe TS was being unreasonable in his tantrums and stuff, but that instant I knew otherwise.From then on I tried my best to be his rock and today, a year later I know we have done fine. We pulled through without help from anyone. We pulled through all on our own.
We both know there are a lot of things that TS will never be able to do because of his bad back. He could, but he would have to be very careful and there would always be the risk of him getting hurt. But all that is ok. We have found other things to do. Those dark days have been an eye opener for us- I got to know a side of TS I had never seen before. I got to know more about the man I married. I got to know more about me, I got to know that there was a quiet strength in me that I was unaware of. I got to know who my true friends were. I got to know that being in the same city isn’t a prerequisite for friendship and that sometimes strangers can mean more than friends. Today TS is pretty much back to normal. He still works out. His exercise regimen is tailored to not put too much stress on his back. He can walk properly now, he can jog, he can lift small weights (he can’t lift me like he used to though :(), he can go bowling once in a while, he’s slowly losing weight and building strength in his back muscles, he hasn’t required surgery or medicines and I’m thankful for it all. I know we both will always look back at that experience and although we will always remember the pain and the darkness, we will also remember the love and the strength that got us through it. Life looks good…it really does.. 🙂