By Ray Knapp

The check-in receptionist at Mountain Empire Surgical Center was asking the routine questions filled out at any doctor’s office or hospital you check into. When she came to that question of what caused my condition I didn’t have a ready answer. There had been no falls, I hadn’t lifted anything heavy of strained my back in any way. What I had was a Synovial cyst that causes pain and kind of a painful shooting or tingling sensation down your hip and back of your leg and bottom of your foot. The only thing I knew was: they generally happened more to senior citizens. So I answered: Age for one thing.

These cysts develop as a result of degenerative changes that occur with aging. They are most common in patients older than 65 years and can be found throughout the spine, but are most common in the lower back. Synovial fluid, contained in a membrane called the synovial sac, lubricates the facet joints and helps them move smoothly. In response to degeneration, the body may produce more synovial fluid in an attempt to keep the joints moving smoothly. It is thought that synovial cysts form when this extra fluid builds up inside one section of the synovial sac.

The normal procedure is to drain this extra fluid from the sac and then give you an epidural – which is a cortisone cocktail of sorts that travels down your leg and in 3 or 4 days the pain should be gone. In my case, the extra fluid had jelled. The doctor said if the pain persisted they would have to operate and remove that sac; just my luck.

I had an appointment with Appalachian Orthopedics who gives me a yearly “Rooster Shot” to keep my knee operating right – the shots are synthetic now, but used to be made primarily from rooster combs. My wife used to joke that she expected to be woken by me perched on the head of the bed, crowing.

Anyway, they sent me to our new little hospital with its new equipment for a CT scan to see what was going on when I told them of my other complaints. I was personally impressed with it; the clean spaces, friendly and knowledgeable staff and up-to-date equipment. Even though Erwin’s Ballad Hospital only has 10 beds, to me, it is far more than an emergency clinic. The scan revealed the cyst in between joints 4 and 5 – the lower part of the back.

I was a little surprised that Medicare even approved this procedure as I had been for my yearly check-up at the VA and the doctor suggested a lung scan due to a past history of smoking and cancer in other parts of my body. I notified my civilian Primary Care Doctor who put in a request for the scan. It came back from Medicare as disapproved. The reason being, my age was past 77 and starting the first day of 2019, this procedure would not be approved for persons past that age. People past that age still vote, so I wrote Phil Roe, Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn a letter voicing my disapproval and haven’t heard from any of them. ‘Too busy fighting democrats over a border wall I suppose.

The procedure was done by Doctor Knox, a knowledgeable man with 32 years’ experience in this field, so I felt in capable hands. You’re awake during the procedure and though it’s not extremely painful, you could say it’s highly uncomfortable.

For all the age-related problems that occur during the Golden Years, I’ve never met a more supportive or positive people in any age group. I think part of this is while having more physical problems, have – and take the time to check on friends and neighbors. They go to church more, which has a positive effect, and most of them have children and grandchildren to check on and help them.

But watch out for Medicare, they think we’re a bunch of doddering old folks whose memory is shot, and don’t vote. We know how to complain; we’ve heard it all our life.