Medical terms are something I am intimately familiar with. I carry a three page printed list of diagnoses to hand over to the emergency room doctor, consultant of the month or new physiotherapist/occupational therapist/orthotist and with the list comes certain responsibilities. Like answering the questions that follow, starting with “what is…?”. Never a good sign. I didn’t learn what I know just from books. I know that an atlantoaxial subluxation is a misalignment of the 1st and 2nd cervical vertebrae and usually occurs with neck flexion. I also know that it makes a rather disconcerting crunching noise in the back of your head when it happens. I know the indescribable searing pain if in the process, the bones in my neck brush across or compress a nerve. I know the sensation of vertigo and slowly fading out when it occludes the basilar artery, reducing or cutting off blood flow to my brain. It’s difficult not to be terrified of moving my neck.
It wasn’t ideal that this should happen early on in last night’s Naxx raid. It has been happening too often lately, giving me the dubious advantage of developing better expertise and practice in dealing with it more efficiently. Like with all weird things, the first time warrants a trip to A&E, the second usually gobbles up a day or two of my time trying to deal with it and from the third time onwards, it becomes easier not to think about what could happen and just deal with what has happened. It was crunchy dizziness last night. One second I was running around with Heigan and the next the room was spinning rather violently and I blacked out just a little. Chris had the sense to quickly put the bones back where they should be. It’s the upside of EDS really, bones may move out, but at least they can be moved back in. Others aren’t so lucky. It took a minute or two for the vertigo to stop and a painkiller or two to dull the very bad headache that flared up. “Dropping out?” Chris asks and I try not to move my head in any way. It was a difficult question to answer.
On the one hand, I felt like a washed out rag, still surprised that things can change so quickly in a matter of minutes and feeling the pangs of anxiety, knowing that I had a lucky streak and I may not always be that lucky. That decided it for me. Raiding didn’t sublux my neck, flexing my neck did. Moving my head is not something I can stop doing, so why should I stop raiding? It’s no more risky than anything else I do. In fact, it’s less risky than walking down a set of stairs or doing the dishes. I’d much rather escape into the world that unfolds on my screen than collapse on the couch in a heap of self-pity and misery. Next time, I may not be so lucky and until that time, I plan to be indulgent. We took regular breaks during the raid so that I can have a break and it was so much fun that I didn’t want to stop.
I dislocate a finger opening the fridge door, shoulder and knees on occasion when turning over in bed. It’s an inevitability. I’m pretty sure that dislocating things during raid night is unfortunately a given. I haven’t stopped opening the fridge door although I have become a little scared of it. I don’t plan to stop playing just because it hurts. I will make whatever concessions I need to make in order to make the experience as safe as possible. Like asking for regular breaks and a few extra minutes when things go wrong to put myself back together again. And planning long, quiet days of fishing interspersed with leisurely rests before and after. One of my pain docs used to say that ‘you can only think about one thing at a time’ and that could work for you, or against you. Pain isn’t a thought, but dwelling does make it worse. I managed the Heigan dance pretty well last night, and everything afterwards was just icing on the cake. And that’s what I choose to think about.