Sunday 13 October 2019

Living with the constant pain of having a bad back

Ivan Yates describes living with extreme back pain, which sometimes means business meetings - or even his radio show - are conducted while he lies on the floor

Ivan Yates
Ivan Yates
Ivan Yates

Ivan Yates

I got out of politics in 2002 to concentrate on Celtic Bookmakers. Just one month into the following year, however, my gallop was brought to an abrupt halt. I was scouting potential offices in Galway, Sligo, Tuam and Ballina. Heading home, my lower back was in acute pain. I pulled in at Athlone and got some paracetamol from a chemist.

When I woke up the next morning, I couldn't move. My left leg was paralysed, my toes numb. Deirdre had to help me hobble to the bathroom. I made various visits to my doctor in Gorey, Michael O'Doherty, who specialised in back problems. I went for physiotherapy, but to no effect. An X-ray revealed nothing amiss.

At this stage, on good days I was on crutches, but mostly confined to lying flat in bed. This went on for several weeks. Later I went for an MRI scan, which revealed extensive wear and tear damage to two lower discs. My consultant suggested surgery, which I wasn't up for, or a course of injections. They were extremely painful and didn't work.

Over many months I tried various alternative medicines, homeopathy, chiropractic and massage. None brought about any improvement. To function at all, I had to live on a diet of anti-inflammatory and analgesic pills. I had two options. I could sprawl on the floor or I could stand up. That was it. Sorry. That's still it, even though I had surgery in June 2011, with two rods inserted to fuse my lower spine. I try not to aggravate it. Upside? Medicinal alcohol alleviates the pain.

My determination to propel Celtic Bookmakers forward was not going to be diluted by my dodgy back. I bought a second-hand Scudo white van with no windows in the rear compartment, and installed a mattress in the back. I would then drive the vehicle, pull in, take my tablets and lie down until the pain had eased, then drive off again, repeating the procedure every hour. On longer journeys Deirdre had to drive as I lay in the back.

Sunday Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life