long ticket time...
I know it has been quite sometime for me to post a blog, and seeing as how I have been laid up, I reckon I have the time now. It is just over a year since our first group (whoa). We have grown in numbers and are excited to announce we will be adding a second group in April! We are awaiting 501(c)3 status, applying for grants, and gaining momentum! These are all amazing things, and I am so stoked about them. These are not the reason for this blog entry though.
Last week I had a minor back surgery, (successful btw, whew!) and it has been quite the pain in my a** literally. It began last May with pain running down my leg and into my foot. I fought it off for a while and tried some stretching and exercising. None of which seemed to help, so I made my way to the doctor. They were unsure of the cause and started me on physical therapy. The physical therapists did not know the cause either. This was frustrating for me, as it was the first time to see a professional and expecting an answer. All the while spending money too. It was annoying that they didn't know anything, because this was their job! I started to lose trust in the medical system, and reinforced the reason why I didn't go in the first place. It was easier to go back to burying the pain like I had always done and continue on. This is September now. I tried to bury it, but it only got worse. I started researching and found that many Chefs had experienced similar pains. It was all lower back relations. I went back to the doctor and told him about these other accounts. He ordered an x-ray, and sure enough, BAM!, compression fracture in the lowest vertebrae (L5 specifically). Reassuring as it was to know that something was wrong, still a bummer. He said it looked about 3-4 years old! I have had a broken back for a few years and have just been brushing it off or drinking the pain away. I am not proud of the latter. So from there we tried other remedies, chiropractor, steroids, more PT, etc...Some of which helped, but never fully fixed the issue. It is now December. I got an MRI. This revealed even more. A slightly herniated disc, early onset arthritis, and degenerative disc disease. Next solution - steroid injections, a thick 4 inch needle stabbed into your back to decrease the inflammation. Costs ~ $900. Damn, but I am hurting so eff it lets do it. Doc's are pretty confident in it, lots of people had success, so things are hopeful again! Get the shot, takes anywhere from immediately to 7 days to kick in. 7 days later, nothing. Now we are mid January. Things are grim and super bummed because I just wasted a lot of money I would have not liked to. I talk with other people again, and was told to just go ham on core exercises. I do that, and immediately make the pain worse. I have to leave work early one day due to extreme pain, the kind where you can't focus. You sweat. Eyes dilate. Ya know? SERIOUS FREAKING PAIN. I call the doc's, they get me temporary meds to get through until an appointment the following week. Looking like surgery is the only option. Luckily not a fusion, which don't do until you're in your later years, but a "laminectomy". They shave off bone, extract some disc fluids, and shave off more bone. They open up the nerves. Looking at another $2100 to finish out my out of pocket for health insurance (which i am very lucky for - thank you Peak!). So surgery is done, and looking hopeful. I no longer have the pain in my leg which is amazing.
After this whole long story there is a much different point I want to make. I have had lots of time to look back on this for the passed week as I have been at home and pretty immobile comparatively. To understand the point, the cause of all this came from the initial fracture, I didn't check it out because I didn't have insurance, I had to work, and I didn't want to admit I was hurt. Then I worked and worked and stood and stood. These did not help the injury and only made it much much worse.
There were so many ups and downs through this. Lots of depression, anger, and anxiety. I was not who I used to be in the kitchen. I had a hard time being positive. I had a hard time being the leader my crew used to know me as. I had some low times of hitting the bottle again. I wanted to be angry at myself, then at the industry. The industry is what I worked so hard for, and I sacrificed so much for. What did it give me in return? Bills, pain, and distraught. Those were the down times. I have been through those. I hated being down. There was nothing good that came out of it. So each time I was down, I lifted my head back up and I moved on to the next solution. I kept fighting, I didn't give up. I looked at it differently. I quit blaming myself AND the industry. It is not my fault, it is not the company's fault, and -most of all- it is NOT the industry's fault. There are preventative tools out there; we are just unaware. Looking at it this way has turned a new light, and made me aware of how ironic it all was. Like WTF?! I started this group in February of 2019 - before the pain really hit. Before I even thought that there was anything wrong with my back. I created this group to support us in the industry. First it started as mental health, now I am starting to see how deeply connected mental health is tied to your physical health, and then to the financial health. Mind blown. I am now going through, personally, the exact experiences that create so much burnout. I now see what so many of us are missing, and what the industry itself is. And it is not the industry's fault. It just doesn't have the resources to supply its members. Ya know what? Let's create those resources and make them accessible. Let's get healthy, build our savings, and take care of ourselves. There should be no need for a profit for this, because it is our human right to grow and learn and be who we want to be. With as little barriers as possible. The point of all this - DON'T GIVE UP. Don't give up on food, don't give up on the guest, don't give up on the drink, don't give up on the INDUSTRY, don't give up on YOURSELF. We are coming to help. We are going to change the way people see us, we are going to change the way we self medicate, we are going to change the industry, we are going to change the WORLD. The ticket time is long, but it is fired, and it IS plating. 30 seconds out Chef.