"As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes." ~ Mel Brooks
Now my husband has only one task inside our house. He unloads the dishwasher for me. I'd turned on the thing last night when we went to bed, and this morning ~ PRESTO! Perfectly clean dishes… dishes that need to go to their appointed places in the cupboards this morning.
"Richard, don't forget the dishwasher needs to be unloaded. If you do it now, you won't be encumbered with that later…" (Good word, Terry… keep that one in mind for your next scrabble game… "encumbered"… LOVE that one…)
"I'm not cumbered!" Richard shot back. "I'm going to meet the guys at Starbuck's. I'll do it when I get back."
CUMBERED? Did he say "CUMBERED"? Could I use that word? Is it a real word… Perfect for my next vocabualry test against that snide cartoon face who is my opponent on-line. Silly face, I've got you now!
But Fate (with the capital F) got me back instead...
My shoulder hurt one morning when I woke up. I mean it really HURT! But I had places to go and things to do, and so I did go and do. But I found out that's not the way to treat a shoulder. You see, shoulders are what your arms hang from. Your arm acts like a heavy weight that swings and sways as it hangs down from your shoulder. It sways backwards and forwards, pulling, pulling on your shoulder. But that will go away by the time you wake up next morning, won't it…
Nope! Not the next morning or the morning after that, and especially NOT when you have to fly to Albuquerque to teach for a week. Nope! It's there night and day. And that right arm hangs down heavier and heavier from that shoulder until the shoulder starts sending electric shocks from itself all the way to the ends of your finger tips. Scary…
Finally, it was too much pain, night and day and night and day... I went to my doctor. He checked for a rotator cuff injury, but there was none, so he gave me a prescription to last a couple of weeks, but still no let-up. And then I guess it affected my brain because I did every single thing a person could do, but every single thing I did was WRONG! Let this be a lesson to you…
I looked on the internet for a specialist in orthopoedics… and I made an appointment. I thought the doctor's office was there at the hospital I used to volunteer in, but the pain must have helped make me stupid! My question is: Why didn't I go to my G.P. and ask him for a referral to a specialist? Why? But on with my story...
I walked into his office. It was in a kind of seedy 3-story building with an elevator that was rusty and littered with peeling paint. But I HURT! There was help there somewhere, I thought…
The doctor was young and his specialty was playing rugby, he said. The best I can say for myself is that I sort of know what rugby is… at least, I know it's not something you put on your living room floor. He gave me an interesting batch of pills, pills that each had separate rules for when to take them and how many at a time. I was so fixated on taking 8 the first day, 7 the second day, 6 the third day, and the huge one every 8 hours, and the orange one just before I went to bed at night, that it really did help alleviate the pain, sometimes. Taking those pills in the correct order and at the correct time was a full time occupation.
A week later I was in more pain and nothing had helped. So I made another appointment with the rugby doctor/specialist, and he said, "I'm going to send you over to Dr. Le." So I went to him, dragging my right arm along the floor as I went. I showed this new spine specialist that there was one way my shouder didn't hurt. If I draped my entire arm on top of my head, I was fine… Walking around with my arm swirled on top of my head made driving difficult and grocery shopping impossible. It's just not cool to kick the grocery cart down an aisle with your right arm draped over you head.
"You need an MRI," he said. I went right down to the MRI facility, and the lady laid me into a vise that held my head and pressed in on my shoulders and then oozed me into a narrowish tube. I could take it, though. After all, I had taught junior high school and lived to tell about it! She didn't tell me that it woud be 50 minutes of thumps and strange bangs and silences... 50 straight minutes of huge pliers gripping my painful shoulder… 50 minutes of not moving… 50 minutes of keeping my eyes shut without the rest that ought to go along with shutting your eyes. The saving grace was that lady manning the MRI. Just when I thought I couldn't take it, she'd say a kind word or tell me that I'd finished half of the "test." She must have taught junior high herself at some time!
When I came out of the torture cell, the nice lady handed me a CD, and up the stairs I went to see the doctor again. Well, he was thrilled… THRILLED, I say! He couldn't take his eyes off the computer. I could see it, too. There was a sharp, backwards V in my spinal cord that he'd never seen before! He said. "You must have been hit hard in the back of the neck!
"I was never hit in the neck… Actually, I've never been hit at all… We were in an automobile accident when I was 5 years old, and I broke my collar bone, but that's all…"
"Now, there are 2 ways we can go," the young, young doctor announced, never taking his gleaming eyes off the CD picture of my head and neck bones. He was thrilled! "I can give you a shot in the neck about every 3 months. They only let you have 3 of these shots a year, though. You'd have to be awake when I give you the shot. Oh, and if I miss it a tiny bit, you could be paralyzed. But I haven't missed it yet..."
"The other way we coud do this… WOW! I've never seen a backward Vee in a person's spinal cord before! Amazing!!!"
"The other way, Doctor? What is the other way?" Paralyzed…………?
"Oh, I could fuse two or three vertebrae together, of course." He still hadn't looked at me at all. That backwards Vee in my neck was going to be the topic of his conversation with his doctor friends for the next few months, I thought.
I left his office with a choice to be made… and with a lunch date with 3 friends waiting for me in fifteen minutes. When I got to the restaurant, I started to cry. It's funny how it takes time to let something that important sink in.
When I got home and told my husband, he said he wanted to call our doctor friend in Laguna Beach before we decided anything. Bob was terrific. We drove down there and he examined me and took some blood and did all the things that doctors do. But he did something else. He sat down and talked to me. When I didn't understand, he explained it in a different way. When I had a question, he answered it. And the thing I will always remember the best is this statement. "Terry, you've jumped from some pain to the most extreme possibilities. There are steps to take BEFORE jumping to possible paralysis!"
After an hour and a half of the tests that all doctors do, and listening and talking and listening some more, and explaining in different ways, and giving me a referral to a spine specialist who he's watched and worked with for 18 years, and a referral to a good physical therapist... after all that, Richard and I kidnapped him, and took him to lunch at our favorite restaurant in Laguna Beach!
And do you know what? I was UN-encumbered and almost happy when we drove home. And I figured out a way to use "UNENCUMBERED" in Scrabble that very night!
Meanwhile, I'm making an appointment with the older, less excitable doctor today. And I was told that part of my physical therapy will include massages. I've never had a massage in my life! It always seemed like that was for pampered ladies, not retired school teachers. But soon, I'll find out. After all, now it's part of my required therapy! Well, that and this miserable large collar-thing that I have to strap my neck into every night when I go to bed. It's not chic… but it's helping!