I had a special patient today. Let's call her Maria.
Maria is a 21-year-old lady who's coming in Royal Melbourne Hospital for an operation called "Lumbar Discectomy". Basically, it means that she's fixing a disc which had slipped out of its usual position between two bones which are located at her lower back. The displaced disc (see figure - the blue thing labelled L5) impinged on her nerves, and has produced pain on both legs, and it's especially worse in the right leg where it expands throughout the whole length. The pain of this nature is usually referred to as sciatica, as it's usually associated with problem with the sciatic nerve (the fat nerve going down the leg in the figure).
Guess what: Maria has had this problem since she was 12.
Maria's predicament remained undiagnosed because it's rare for young people to get sciatica, which is quite common among older population. Throughout the years, doctors had been telling her that the pain was due to muscular problems, and that it would become better with time. It was not until last year when she couldn't bear with the pain anymore, that she asked for another check-up and discovered this problem. Turned out that she had a really severe case of disc prolapse, and if it's not fixed urgently it would progress to a medical emergency called cauda equina syndrome.
So I had a look at Maria because she was suitable for my study. From her history, I discovered a couple of interesting things:
- She had been smoking cigarette since 12 year old.
- She smokes marijuana (weed, 大麻) everyday
I mustered my courage to approach her for my study. I stood there and called her name out loud in the waiting lounge, and the girl with her mum and her partner stood up and came to me cheerfully.
Shit, they thought I am going to call her in for surgery preparation while I am only inviting them to participate in the research. Damn damn damn. They are going to be so mad at me. She's hungry (patients need to fast a long time before their operation) and impatient and all, and now I am going to invite her to be some sort of research participant. I am so dead.
So I showed them to the interview area, my heart pounding real hard as the family remained cheerful.
[To be continued...]
[19/10/07: Continued here]