My first trip to the ER


I woke up this morning with a hospital bracelet on my left hand and a patch of gauze taped to my right. Last night, for the very first time in my life, I had reason to visit the emergency room – and judging by the Vicodin now pumping through my veins, it was nothing short of a necessity.

Perhaps you recall the time long ago that I worked out with Gunnar the Viking. Although I never paid for another personal training session, I’ve incorporated some of the moves he taught me into my regular workouts – and last night, while lifting an embarrassingly small amount of weight, I threw out my back.

And just like that, I am one of the Debilitated.

The pain… I wish I could communicate the pain. My lower back is a war zone, a constant buzzing electricity that shoots hot daggers of fire throughout my body whenever I move, making me cry out loud and literally want to vomit. I somehow made it out of the gym and into the driver’s seat of my car, and then, with tears streaming down my face, drove home where Hannah encountered me gasping for air and crying.

She took off my shoes, laid me back on a heating pad, elevated my legs, gave me some Aleve, and we both went to bed. Except I never fell asleep – the pain kept getting worse, I kept crying uncontrollably, and after 4 hours of increasing agony, I did what any logical person would do: I called my mom.

Now, I’m not saying I’m super tough or anything, but I definitely don’t lose it like this. Physical things don’t make me come unglued – emotional things, yes (we all know this), but physical things, never. My mom was freaked to hear me so hysterical, and convinced me to go to the hospital.

And because everyone loves an oversharer:

I got my first-ever oxygen mask (when the nurse said that the nasal prongs looked a little bit long and he would look for his scissors to trim them, I assured him that it would be okay because “I’ve got nostrils for days.” Really? Who says that?), an IV for pain meds, and prescriptions for various narcotics. I’ve been ordered to “take it easy” for several weeks, which is disappointing and scary for someone as active as I am.

Then again, when do we ever have a doctor’s order NOT to work out? If it weren’t for the pain, I’d be almost intrigued by this invitation to a slower pace.

My pain level was a 9-10 last night, but down to a 4-5 with the drugs today. I’m in bed with a heating pad, surrounded by pill bottles and books and projects that I would work on if I weren’t feeling so mentally dulled. Toad is the best little companion, letting me sleep until 10am without begging for her breakfast or needing to go out. And Hannah is the champion of roommates, getting up at 2am to drive me to the hospital, sitting with me until 4, taking me to the pharmacy this morning, and not making fun of me for whimpering.

I figured I’d write all of this down so that someday when I’m about to give birth and afraid of the pain, I can look back on this and say, “Remember that? You’ll be fine.”



  1. Ginger on January 30, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Ever the adventurer. Feel better, Superwoman!

  2. Joey on January 30, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    That look of serenity is one achieved only through the Holy Spirit and opiates. #kidneystoneexperience

  3. Pamela on January 30, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    I tore some soft tissue in my lumbar spine climbing a few years ago. I was put on round-the-clock muscle relaxers and narcotics and a week of bed rest. I have no idea where that week went. Pain pills are no joke. Don’t expect much from yourself while you’re healing! But let yourself HEAL. Your back is worth it to take a few weeks off. As frustrating and boring as that may be…

    Do you need anything???

  4. Sharon on January 30, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    Welcome to the back-issues club. We are a fine group and though we wish no one else enter our membership, it happens daily. I personally had hoped (and assumed) that the mountain queen Annie wouldn’t EVER….but as I look back I realize the first time I threw out my back I simply stood up from sitting on the couch and happened to sneeze at the same time. I was 26 years old. Sigh. No more weight lifting for you girlie. Add yoga (or something that is exercise but you don’t realize it before you start) to your already crazy physical activity list and remember you want your back to love you when you’re 60. Take my word for it….start now! I love you Annie P.

  5. Stephen on January 30, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Oh my. Get well now.

    I would add the corporate art on your gown to Joey’s list of serenity ingredients.

  6. Val on January 30, 2013 at 3:37 PM


    What in the world.

  7. Amanda on January 30, 2013 at 3:59 PM


    So glad you’re okay. Wish I could come over and watch back to back episodes of mind-numbing tv with you whilst eating a variety of processed comfort foods.

  8. debbie barnett on January 30, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    so, remember my back went out as you were leaving my house last October? Continued to get worse with a couple of moments like you experienced. The only reason I didn’t go to ER is because I already had pain killers here from a previous episode.

    That said, I started seeing a chiropractor a month or so ago and you will not believe the difference. I would encourage you to see one – even if you’re “feeling” better. You may be out of whack in your spine still and your body is just managing with it. But it can have really bad long-term results.

    Okay, Mama is done preachin’. Take care you.

  9. HopefulLeigh on January 30, 2013 at 5:43 PM

    Oh no! Poor buddy. I had lower back issues a couple of weeks ago but nothing as bad as this. Feel better soon!

  10. Matt on January 30, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    Props on making it so far without an ER visit! Has to be a record. Seriously though, I hope you’re back on your feet soon. The mountains and trails will be there waiting for you.

  11. Greta on January 31, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    Aaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhh I hate this.

    SO SORRY this happened. I know your pain threshold is way higher than the normal person, so this is legitimately scary. Wish I could be there to fetch you things and read to you or something. :( Glad Hannah is being as sweet as she is.

    So sorry AP!!!

  12. Sarah on January 31, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    Ah, I fondly recall my first (and so far only, knock on wood) morphine drip and vicodin prescription, 3 years ago this month. Good stuff!

    Physical therapy is pretty awesome, too. I REALLY miss my physical therapists. When you’re feeling better, you might meet up w/ one of them before you launch into full on runnying-round :).

    Rest easy!

  13. Laura on January 31, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Annie, that sounds absolutely terrible and probably just as bad as childbirth, just different. Hang in there, friend!

  14. hootenannie » Blog Archive » “Back” in action on February 1, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    […] My first trip to the ER […]

  15. […] heat rash on my face and ears. My back started to feel strangely reminiscent of the days before I threw it out last year. I couldn’t sleep. And when my appetite all but disappeared, I knew that things were serious – […]

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