Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Sciatic Nerve

Starting the long weekend of September in 2013, my back started giving me problems. I put down Chaos's food bowl (he has a raised bowl to prevent bloat) for his supper, and when I straightened back up, I thought, "that isn't right."  I didn't give it another thought. I brushed it aside. When I woke up the next morning, I could barely move.
I went to a chiropractor a couple times, and he got me back to mobile. He told me I had to stop running till we got this fixed. Poor Chaos. Poor me. 
I gave it a couple weeks, and my back got worse, this time I felt pain in my leg and down into the heel of my left foot. Back to the chiropractor! It was pretty convenient. There's a chiropractic office a few blocks to the west of my home. I would just walk there on my way to work, stop in, get treated, and make my way to work.
It helped my mobility, but the pain was still very much there. After a couple months, he sent me for an X-ray to see what the problem was. The X-ray wasn't clear. They recommended an MRI.
I finally saw my doctor and got a prescription for pain medication. I wasn't getting the sleep my brain required to function. I also got a referral for physiotherapy. I needed to try something else.
Got the MRI, it confirmed that my L5,S1 disc was herniated and resting on my sciatic nerve, causing the debilitating pain down my left leg.
I started physio at a clinic a few more blocks west from my chiropractor. Both practitioners had me doing exercises in the morning and at night to try to get my herniated disc back into place. No such luck. My doctor referred me to a neurosurgeon, after a couple more months of waiting, I got in to see him. He said that if I can live with the pain, I don't need surgery, but if I can't, I should get the surgery. I told him that initially I would've said no to surgery, but it's been 8 months, and lots of chiropractic treatment and physiotherapy, missed days at work, and no running with my dog...I want the surgery. About two weeks later, I got a call saying I was booked for surgery: Thursday, April 24, 2014. That was in two days.
I was excited to visualize the end of my sciatica, but I did start to panic with all the things I wanted to get done before the surgery, and I knew it was a fairly long recovery period.

Surgery went well. I was so nervous, but everyone was so calm and very nice. It kept me relatively relaxed. They just directed me through each step in preparing for surgery.  I also brought Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's book On Being Vegan. I got a couple pleasant questions because I was reading that. I was glad I brought it because it invited a couple of good conversations.
I was anxious about getting the IV. I know people have had lots of problems getting it in properly. My guy got it in my hand alright, but he did have to wiggle it around to get it into the right vein. My hand has a bit of a bruise, but it isn't terrible. 
It really stung when they injected the anaesthesia. But then I was out. 
They gave me a lot of morphine when I came to. I was really stoned, and had a hard time hobbling to the bathroom with my IV stand, even with a nurses help. Well . . . I did just have surgery on my spine, so the fact that I could walk at all is kind of incredible. 

I was pretty hungry, too. I had to fast for surgery. I was smart and brought an apple and a banana because I wasn't entirely confident that they would have a lot for a vegan. They did have some rice crackers and peanut butter, and peach juice for me after the surgery.My parents came and saw me in recovery, and Carlos picked me up. I got really nauseous in the wheelchair down to the car, and in the car on the ride home. Luckily we live close. I took off my jacket and rolled down the window and the air really helped. 
But man. I'm having a really hard time with this "do nothing and relax" concept! It's little wonder they had to put me in an induced coma after the car collision! I'm only supposed to lay down or stand for the first week. I've been doing a lot of sleeping and reading. 
I can start increasing how much time I sit next week. I made a mistake the next day (Friday), I thought I could sweep off the
leaves from my deck. I felt okay while I was doing it. Nope. Minutes later my back just ached. Then I reread my back care instructions, all I can do in terms of house work is do dishes and light dusting. I can't push/pull/lift anything over 5 lbs.  Whoops
I am supposed to walk everyday and slowly increase the time. I get the staples out on Thursday. Which just sounds so utterly awful and painful, I'm really not looking forward to it. But I can shower after they're gone. No more of this spot-washing for me!
But sciatica's gone!!! That's crazy exciting and I wanted to cry from sheer joy. 

Carlos has been really helpful.  Extremely helpful. Not sure how I would manage without him.
SGI is going over all of my medical information to see if this back problem was caused by the car collision. I sure hope so. I've spent a lot of money on treatments, money that  was intended for some much-needed house renovations. Here's hoping.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Vegan Torta!!

sponge cake layers with damp paper towel
to keep them from drying out
first layer of chocolate icing
Well, I tried the vegan version of the Dobos Torte (my family calls it "Torta"). It was quite the adventure. I've never actually made the non-vegan Torta on my own. I had to be brave. I didn't follow exactly the instructions that the blog post for the assembly, so mine definitely looked different than what the blogger has pictured. I'll walk you through what happened with each photo posted, and tell you my mistakes. I will absolutely be trying this again and again, and probably again till I get it as close as I can to my family's version of the cake. It wasn't the cake part that was different, but the icing itself.

Icing it all together
To start, I made the sponge cake part of the many layers. This part came out almost exactly like my family's Torta. The blogger does say that she is able to get 10 baking sheets of cake out of the batter.
Some background for you. 
I've mentioned my "hallway of a kitchen" in previous posts...well, it's oven is also small. A regular-sized oven is 30". Mine is 24". I can only fit 9" x 16" baking sheets inside. Also, I'll share that Regina, Saskatchewan is and was not an ideal spot to build. The city was built in a slough (aka swamp). My house's one side (the South side) is sinking into the clay-like soil. My house is not exactly level. In fact, when I'm making stir fry, the mix falls to the back of the fry pan. It's rather endearing.

Now that you have that information on the structure of my home, you'll understand more clearly why I attacked this project the way I did.

Finished Torta with Caramel Glaze
(see the chunky pieces-that's bad) 
First Mistake: I made the sponge cake part entirely too thick, and it didn't go nearly as far as it should have. Because my oven is so small, I can only bake one pan in at a time. I have three pans. I had to wash the pans between layers. That said, I only got 4 pans baked out. This was because of a combination of factors. The oven is too small and I'm impatient. I knew it would take entirely too long to bake all 10 sheets out. I also poured too much batter in each pan because my kitchen is not balanced. It always looked like the batter didn't cover the pan. I just kept pouring more in! Bah!! Lesson Learned: Keep dough layers as thin as possible.

Second Mistake: To help correct the first mistake, I had to divide the sponge cake layer in half so it seemed like I wasn't missing so many dough layers. This created a further problem when it came time to ice it all. The nice thing about having it all baked out nicely in each sheet, is that the layers are closed. By that I mean, crumbs don't get moved around when you're trying to evenly spread the icing. Because I had divided the layers, I had to contend with lose dough crumbs making my Torta messy looking and unkempt.
Lesson Learned: Do not cut into the dough.

Third Mistake: I melted the sugar on the stove, once it was melted, I was to add some Earth Balance and lemon juice. Well! I added the lemon juice first, and it almost immediately hardened the melted sugar. I could barely get the Earth Balance added. It was quick! Rock hard caramel pieces next to the cake, it even removed some of the chocolate icing. Sad, sad day.
Lesson Learned: Earth Balance first.

The hardened caramel next to the Torta

The chocolate icing is darker than my family's icing. Course, that's probably because their icing has raw egg in it.
That kind of makes me want to vomit just thinking about it. 
Anyway! The icing wasn't much like the icing I was used to. Although, my Mom did say that it's very much like the icing of other Torta's she's eaten.
I do want to experiment and perfect it. I'll let you know how it goes. The dough was a winner. But the icing needs some work.
I'm considering adding silken tofu, or even Vegg (vegan egg yolk) to see how it works. I'll keep you informed.