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  • Power to Choose Your Future
  • Elaine Ballard

I loved sports! Any kind: netball, hockey, table tennis, swimming, anything that was competitive. One momentous day I signed up to play both hockey and basketball. I was so excited! The hockey match was unusually rough that day, and as goal keeper, I caught the end of a few heavy blows as they were swung in my direction. As the match progressed my spine felt on fire, and at one point I thought I was going to collapse, the pain was so severe. I knew I should have withdrawn from the basketball match that was scheduled to be played only 30 minutes later. Instead I hobbled back to the grounds and rested awhile. The whistle blew and very soon a tall opponent shot for the net. As I jumped to defend the ball, I collided with the shooter. Our heads touched, knocking me to the ground. For a few moments, dazed and unable to think clearly, I had this heavy feeling about how wrong I had been to play both games so soon after each other.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was given an X-ray and told nothing was wrong. Bed rest was ordered and willingly I obliged. This was in 1966 and MRI's and CAT Scans were not available to patients at that time. The next 6 years were filled with agonizing pain and frequent visits to the ER. The doctors didn't believe anything was seriously wrong and I was treated as an attention seeker. I was not even given anything for the severe, chronic pain, now in my lumber and thoracic back. Finally, I was admitted to the hospital for minor tests, which were also inconclusive. I will never forget the day a doctor insisted I get out of bed and follow him into a private room. As I entered, I saw a large group of junior doctors sitting at the back and two empty chairs ahead of them. One was a straight wooden chair, while the other was a comfortable easy chair. I was invited to sit in either. The choice was mine. It was at that moment that I finally understood they believed I had mental problems and my back was as healthy as the next person. I sat down in the straight chair knowing I would have difficulty getting out of the easy chair. Questions about my Christian faith were hurled my way and I answered honestly and the best I could. After awhile I was thanked for coming and led outside. It puzzled me why my Christian faith should be a problem. The only conversation I had was with a neurologist who asked what kept me going if I was in so much pain? I answered that God loved me and gave me the strength to cope every day.

I suppose the doctors later agreed I didn't have a mental disorder as they ordered a myelogram and air myelogram. I had no idea that these procedures would wreck my life forever. I was not asked to sign any forms nor were the procedures explained to me. They injected my lumber spine with Myelo dye, then tilted me up and down on a special moving table. The dye travelled up and down my spine as they took X-rays. They did this again by injecting air into my spine. The after effects were horrendous as I was forced to lie flat with a dreadful headache [End Page E5] and nausea that lasted a week. A few weeks later a laminectomy was performed on L4 disc which helped a lot. I was told the disc was crushed. Then a year later, they performed another laminectomy on T3, which was crushed as well. After this second surgery, I developed a very high fever and nearly died. They were so worried the surgeon performed an investigatory operation at T3 level and it was thought the dye had gathered in a ledge of the disc causing the high fever. Eventually, I recovered enough to work part time but always had some pain in both lumber and thoracic spine. The T3 disc periodically protruded out causing more...


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