A Story about Pain

There once were two people, locked in a prison called    life

One person got their pinky finger cut off in a freak accident.

The other person lost their whole hand.

There was nothing either of them could do about it because shit happens, and shit can happen to anyone.

If you ask the pinkyless prisoner, what hurt him more - his friend losing a hand, or him losing him pinky.. of course him losing his pinky has hurt him more, because it was his pinky finger! And with the other prisoner, vice versa.

Moral: No one else can truly feel your pain or understand it. Don't look for them to validate it for you.

This little analogy came to me while waiting at a stoplight. Although mostly written here to apply to emotional issues, using a physical issue seemed to get the point across more clearly. If this writeup bothers you for any reason other than my writing style/punctuation, I suggest you work out your issues. The concept seriously bothered me years ago, but now I know the real meaning of it. I am in no way implying here that there is no such thing as compassion, sympathy or empathy. Just that you can't experience being another person and feel what they feel in that exact situation, because you are not them and never will be... well, you could put on their shoes.. but your feet still aren't theirs. yep.
"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." --Westley, from The Princess Bride
---
There are many different types of pain and some people can bear a lot more of each kind than others.

Many people also use self-inflicted pain (in what many deem is a bad way) as a cure for other pain. I went through a pretty bad period of depression. There were times when I had so much emotional pain that I almost writhed in a fury. I needed some touch with reality. For a while, I would take my pocketknife and cut myself...nothing big...just enough to make me FEEL something...anything, and give me a touch back down to reality and some control over my situation. I no longer do that, and don't have any scars to show, and I guess I'm lucky for that. (I've actually never told anybody that before.) For some people, physical pain is a way to control their lives. Although this is certainly not the long term healthiest solution, in the short term this pain provides a lot of relief.

Despite all of its negative connotations, it can also be very addicting. Long distance runners can get a "runner's high" from the lactic acid buildup in their muscles. Lastly there are also masochists, who for them, pain is pleasure. Perhaps they can just be lumped in with the long distance runners *grin*.

Although most people in our day and age go to great lengths to avoid pain (and pursue pleasure), pain can be a positive and transforming experience. I had my lip pierced about five weeks ago. It was certainly not my first piercing and it certainly hurt a bit. Yet, for me, it was an ecstatic and transforming ritual. Piercing is not just a trend for me. It wasn't at all for the shock value. I would imagine that other people yearn for this sort of transforming ritual. This kind of experience (of which pain is part but not all of) is the reason that many people get pierced or tattooed and immediately start wanting more. I also think that choice of that pain has a lot to do with tolerance regardless of the amount. If I get a piercing, it was my choice, and I don't mind the pain. If I get a small cold, or burn myself when lighting incense accidently, it's a lot harder for me to deal with and tolerate.

Pain is life's reminder that we exist.

Painless expanses of time melt together into a non-descript state of reverie, supreme happiness a drug that dulls the senses, never restoring them until the happiness be smitten. The sensation of happiness is not unlike the feeling of dreaming a sweet dream, the covers separating one's body from the cold, harsh elements that lurk; but wherever they lurk it's far from here, we don't know them and we couldn't name them. Because they don't concern us.

What is commonly believed to be the test of whether a person is dreaming? Pain. The pinch that brings the subject back to reality, back in touch with the things they had forgotten about, the things they neglected in their intoxicating bliss. We are weak, vincible, mortal. We are bound to a frail system of tissue and fluids. We are subject to involuntary states of consciousness that we call feelings, at times unconquerable by the strongest will.

Yes, we definitely do exist, of this much I can be sure...

pain also happens to be the French word for "bread".

"So what," you say, and rightly so. Well, I'd like to relate a little experience that changed my attitude toward the French word to bread:

A friend and I were touring around in Germany, enjoying the (theoretically) limitless speed of the Autobahn. Suddenly, while passing a line of trucks, we found ourselves next to this humongous (by European standards) truck. All of the truck's main body was painted bright fire engine red. On each side, a single word was painted in huge white block letters more than half the height of the available space:

PAIN

My friend just kind of gave a little gasp, while I was mentally floored for some seconds. A goodly portion of my field of view was red. Red like fire, red like the devil, red like blood. In the midst of this, four letters representing what may be the most unpleasant of sensations. The brief but vivid associations this conjured up felt like being in a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

OK OK, we both speak some French, and we eventually realized what the truck was about, and it checked out with the French license plates and all, but it sure felt kind of strange for a while. Some otherwise unknown bakery in France has made a lasting impression on me.

 

Pain

Pain – – has an Element of Blank – –
It cannot recollect
When it begun – – or if there were
A time when it was not – –

It has no Future – – but itself – –
Its Infinite contain
Its Past – – enlightened to perceive
New periods – – of Pain

Emily Dickinson1

 

Goal: Achieve catharsis of the soul. Possible outcome: None

Being in a state of pain, of deep and utter pain from rejection, does something to you. So many people have described this feeling in the past, and many more will try to describe it in the future. What I feel right now might not be comprehensible to anyone but me. But I still do write it.

Because there is no way around it, this writing must be done. What a silly thing to do. But pain makes people do stupid things.

    Brain scans carried out on volunteers showed that when they suffered a social snub, the brain's "pain centre" went into overdrive. The finding suggests that any emotional stress, such as the demise of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, might be far more closely linked to real pain than previously thought.

Matthew D. Lieberman, assistant professor of psychology at UCLA, The Guardian, October 10, 20032

Pain makes a mess of all feelings and emotions. It affects both body and mind, leaving you with that sting in your chest, nausea, sleeplessness, confused and with a non-existing self-esteem. Ok; reality described.

 

When everything was gold

Your mail:

If I had been lying close to your back I would put my nose in your hair
and as much of your body as near mine as possible.
Then I would have felt someone’s pulse and I wouldn’t be sure
which one of us this pulse belonged to. I would have sensed
the heat coming from you, while you tenderly had shown me with your hands that you were
ready, or perhaps satisfied. Caresses, touches.
All the things there are so few and so useless words to describe.

If I had been lying close to your back and put my hand gently on your stomach,
what would you feel?

My reply:

If you had been lying close to my back and gently put your hand on my stomach,
I would probably be quiet. Quiet to perceive the revolt of my senses,
a revolt that would start in my gut and spread out in my body.
My nerves would probably control my senses, conquer them without weapons
just by outnumbering them. There would be sparkles and fire,
and no one would hand over buckets of water to put the flames away.

If you had been lying close to my back and gently put your hand on my stomach,
I wouldn’t hesitate jumping into that fire,
walking on coals would be like floating on air, the heat would sooth me
even though the possibility for burns and blisters would be present.

If you had been lying close to my back and gently put your hand on my stomach,
I would want to get even closer to you,
to wipe away the skin that separates us,
I would want to move to the beat of your heart
as you move to the beat of mine.

If you had been lying close to my back and gently put your hand on my stomach,
I would have felt the possibility
that we were going somewhere together,
and then I would have taken you by the hand and led us there…

Your reply:

…I would have let you. Would have let you take me by the hand
and felt that I got tensed and relaxed,
I would have had knives and butterflies in my stomach and millions of stars in my head.
I think of your hands, your lips and your hair
which you have to put behind your ear when you bend to fetch something.
I think of what your hands may do to me
and everything I want to do in return when our bodies live a life of their own
and all reason and sense are gone like morning dew at dawn.
Take my hand and feel.
Turn around, let me caress your back. Give me a grin.
Give me your lips and set fire to yet another part of my body.
You glow, pulsating like blood.
I feel you against my chest, you prickle me and I tickle you.
Now we’re not even two anymore, going to that somewhere,
greedy, blood filled and ready.
My pulse beats heavily.
I hold your face in my hands… taste… it burns…
eyes closed and hands strolling red hot fields and valleys.
I want to feel you even more… will you let me?

I let you.

 

Intermezzo

What would you feel if someone you held dear suddenly and totally unexpected told you, by e-mail, that they didn’t want to see you again. Ever. On the same day you took a leap of faith and shared your dark nightmares and fragile hopes with them. That you were accused and judged for something you’ve written down as a short-story. That they told you that your thoughts and fantasies told the truth about who you were and what you had done. (I wonder what they would say about Bret Easton Ellis by the way.) That their fear of what you might do in the future was so strong that all their faith in you had gone. That all your insurances of innocence had no value and were refused delivered. That you were denied the opportunity to explain yourself, that none of your phone calls, messages or mails were replied upon.

You would get hurt, wouldn’t you? Even though you were able to think rationally for a bit, even if you could understand their reaction. Or at least be able to see that it was this person’s own hang-ups that messed up the situation.

    Rationally we can say being excluded doesn't matter, but rejection of any form still appears to register automatically in the brain, and the mechanism appears to be similar to the experience of physical pain…

Matthew D. Lieberman, assistant professor of psychology at UCLA, Science, October 9, 20033

I thought I could be a writer, putting my inner thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears through a metamorphosis that would turn them into situations and feelings that someone else could recognize and be familiar with. I was always afraid of what my loved ones would say if they were able to read what I put down on paper. But I gave it a shot. You disappointed me; reacting just the way I feared. I can't believe how you forgot that summer so fast.

    You can't do anything about what people think about your work. They're mostly going to be wrong. They're going to criticize you and they're going to think it's about them. Anyone who thinks your work reflects badly on them is going to be mostly wrong, as your work is your own struggle to understand your own self. You won't be able to prove they're wrong; most people are not going to understand the project of the writer, the manifold whatevers of writing. They're just not going to get it and you have to live with that. It helps to believe that there is nothing shameful about trying to understand one's own self in public; it may be unsightly but it is useful work, and instructive to others.

Cary Tennis, salon.com, June 24, 2005 (my emphasis)4

Being a writer yourself, you still didn’t understand. You could only feel your own shame, fear of rejection and low self-esteem. No golden empathy could slip away from those dark feelings in your brain. I totally misjudged you. And I didn’t know you well enough.

I do see the contours of your inner torments. I only wish you could see them yourself. But when you just cut me off with no explanation at all, I’m having a hard time understanding. That makes coming over you really difficult.

As a wise man just said to me:

    If words get you into trouble, it was trouble that was already on its way to begin with5.

Maybe that’s the bitter part of it all.

 

A mad girl fighting for things she believes in

I needed to know. Needed to know what was going on inside your skull covered with that black hair that looks so spiky, but feels so soft. I usually don’t do these things. Don’t want to be a nuisance to anyone; don’t want to make a fool out of myself. But this time I didn’t care. Some times you just have to fight for the things you believe in. It is my strong belief that talking to each other is the only way to try to solve problems that has occurred. When you denied me that opportunity I couldn’t just give in. And that’s why I spent hours in your garden, outside your bedroom window, waiting for you to get up when your alarm clock rang. Then you couldn’t run away. Then I could make contact. Then I would be able to look into your eyes. I awed for that moment. What would I see?

I saw rejection, contempt, anger. I tried to tell you all the things I wanted you to know, tried to beg you to forgive my thoughtlessness. Tried to explain that my words were nothing but words and had nothing to do with the way I am or what I’m capable of doing to you. But your angry look paralyzed my ability to speak rationally. Some words came out of my mouth, but I can’t remember what I said anymore. It has all faded away in the big, black fog that covers that part of my memory. I remember some of your words though.

    You’re nuts, sitting here all night. Now I really know that I’ve made the right decision. Go home, you wacko! I don’t want to see you again!

So that’s it. To you I was ready for hospitalizing in a mental institution. For me I was just a girl fighting for things she believes in.

This shows clearly that two people may interpret the same situation in totally opposite ways, depending on their earlier experiences. And that if there’s not a will to understand each other, there sure as hell is not a way either.

    Lonely adolescents unwittingly adopt harmful ways of escaping the sadness… (…) Another unproductive coping mechanism is to deny any interest in socializing more or in relating more intimately: "I'm not interested in having a girl/boyfriend." (…) Gaining awareness of these escape mechanisms might help the person get motivated to learn social skills and build his/her self-esteem.

Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd, Psychological Self Help, Chapter 66

This is why you rejected me. You’re so scared that it’s better to cut clean. So you think. I can understand that fear. I pity you for not being strong enough to even try to change your ways.

But my pain is still there.

 

What pain does to love

In order to live through this period of pain I have to withdraw my love for you, to put it in a drawer, to distance myself from it. Maybe that’s the hardest part of it all.

At first the drawer is kept wide open. I can see my love for you almost totally exposed, but it is so valuable to me, I can’t stand doing anything else than keeping it there for all to see. But your ongoing rejection is so painful that I just have to close this drawer a bit. I struggle, pushing with all my strength. It’s very hard to even reduce the gap by an inch.

‘Cause I miss you.

Everyone is looking for someone to blame
But you share my bed, you share my name
Well, go ahead and call the cops
You don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops
She said baby, I still love you
Sometimes there’s nothin left to do

Oh you got to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here, you got to
Just hold on.

Well, God bless your crooked little heart St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken-china voice
How I wish you were still here with me

Excerpts from "Hold On" by Tom Waits7

I mourn. I sit alone, getting utterly drunk. I watch old technicolor movies. Ingrid Bergman makes me cry. I’m sure that all is lost. My tongue curls itself while I call a friend on the phone.

    ‘Sall over with m’fella. ’Saful. ‘Sunbearable. He woan come back.

Then, despising myself for my self pity I cry:

    ‘I’m ‘sgusting, I know. Tell me t’stop. Tell me I don lov’im. Tell me I’m better of without’im. That fukin freak.

In time this drawer will be closed. But it may never be locked. I have no key. You took that away with you.

 

The afterworld

Surrounded by pain, I hesitate to go forward. I read a lot of stuff, in order to help myself understand, to get ideas and messages that could get my screwed-up head back in its right state.

    Feeling terribly upset when losing a lover may be hard but desirable. After listening to the pain for hours, I have often asked a person who has just been rejected, "How would you rather react to such an important loss?" The point is: your sadness comes from your good traits--you were loving, devoted, caring, committed, trusting, and involved. You had given your whole self to the relationship. Isn't that the way you want to be? Isn't that the way you want your future partners to be? Would you really want to be so self-centered, so uninvolved that you could easily dismiss a love relationship?

Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd, Psychological Self Help, Chapter 68

Yes, this makes sense. I’m trying to force my neurons to perceive the truth of this statement, but they’re a hell of a bunch. Fighting back in every way they can. My shoulders still attached to my ears, my smile still gone, my gut still acting like I’m sitting in the most terrible rollercoaster ever built. But I breathe. I live.

    Who needs love?… who needs the pain of it?… Well, it seems we all do, no matter how much it may hurt. We all need it, because without it we would not be human, without it we would be lost, without it we simply could not exist… Without love – even with all the agony it causes – this world, this life would be truly unbearable…

P. J. Oszmann, January 1999. Revised October 20049

I cling to this. Yes, I need love. I want love. And because this last bit of reason in my mind has survived, I live. In pain, alright. But I still live. Being able to write and to share my inner emotions helps me. Although I still live from minute to minute, I live. The sun is shining today. I’m not out there yet. But the sun still shines. I’m human. Are you?

(No disclaimer attached.)

 

References:

1 Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems, New York: bartleby.com, 2000
2 http://www.biopsychiatry.com/misc/rejection-sensitivity.html
3 http://www.scienceblog.com/community/older/archives/O/c/ucl3182.shtml
4 http://www.salon.com/mwt/col/tenn/2005/06/24/afraid_to_write/
5 Augustine
6 http://mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/chap6/chap6m.htm
7 http://www.lyricsfreak.com/t/tom-waits/138874.html
8 http://mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/chap6/chap6l.htm
9 http://authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?id=19703&AuthorID=6177

 




Denial is an essential part of life. We justify our denial with math. Statistics.

Statistically speaking, traveling by commercial airline is the safest form of transportation. Statistically speaking, you will not die of ebola. Statistically speaking, you will not become a casualty of war, or victim in a fatal car crash.

Unless you are. And then the statistical improbability becomes certainty.

Which is to say, everything is fine, until it's not.

They strapped me to the backboard. Put a thick collar around my neck. Loaded me onto the back of the truck because I objected to the helicopter.

"But it's two miles to the road," said Harry the fireman. "The jostling is really going to hurt. And if you have a spinal injury it could lead to complications."

"I don't have a spinal injury," I said, though how the hell did I know. I just knew I didn't want to pay $10,000 to have a helicopter take me to a hospital less than ten miles away. Statistically speaking, I would have to ride uphill for a mile to get to where they could land a helicopter. They thought the uphill ride was safe. I was only doubling my very small risk going downhill.

The firemen spoke to each other in medical jargon, but I got the jist. Because I told them I crashed my bike at a low speed, chances are the only damage I had was what they could see. But all they had to go on was that their quick exams hadn't shown anything bad, and they didn't seem to trust what I was saying.

The kicker was when they saw that the red stain on my headband was not blood, but rather, the logo of an Italian bicycle company. Then maybe I was telling the truth.

They loaded me onto the truck.

"Have you ever had morphine?" Harry said.

"No and I don't need any," I said, mostly because I was afraid it would make me nauseous and I was already feeling quite claustrophobic being restrained and tied onto the fire department backboard.

"Well, some people have a high pain threshold," Harry said.

"I don't," I said, thanking God I was not paralyzed. Thank you God, I was not killed. Thank you God for these broken bones. They hurt like hell but I am alive to feel it.

Thank you for this challenge. Thank you for this opportunity to be brave and to show my stuff. It is an opportunity I would have never chosen willingly.

There is now a titanium plate connecting my neck to my shoulder running across where my collar bone had been. That bone has been shattered by 100 kilograms of me hitting the ground from a height of about 6 feet at 10 miles per hour. I put myself on the bike as I have done for the past 30 years. I put myself on the hill as I have done nearly daily for the past 20 years. I was in a controlled descent. Somehow my front wheel got stuck.

One moment my eyes were drawing a line on the trail for me to follow. The next moment the ground was in my face. There was nothing in between.

I told Harry what happened. He asked several times, I suppose to ascertain if I had lost consciousness during my flight over the handlebars, or if I'd sustained any other head injury that was now causing symptoms.

Harry the fireman said, "Everything is always fine until it isn't."

This was a mountain bike accident that was no accident. I always knew I could do something awful to myself on a bike. All the pain was my fault. I liked the fact it was my doing and there was no one to blame but me.

One of my bike shoes disappeared into the woods. I've heard about people being blown out of their shoes. Now I am one.

I had road rash all down the left side of my body. The top layers of skin were abraded from my thigh, forearm, knee, and elbow.

And there was a bone pushing against the skin, nearly protruding from my shoulder, near my neck. The feeling was electric. Bright and sharp. Undeniable. Unignorable. I felt like I'd been hit in the shoulder with an axe. I had to walk about a quarter mile down an 18% grade with one shoe, no cell phone, blood oozing from gashes in my arm, side, and leg, and my shoulder screaming so loud I was sure it could be heard downtown. I only had to walk a quarter mile because a park ranger found me. Had she not been there, I would have had to go the entire two miles to my house on foot. It would have been a bold display of raw toughness.

Note to self and others: never put yourself into a situation where you need to display raw toughness to continue your existence.

Especially if there is no one around to admire you.

The ranger radioed the fire department.

"Are you having any trouble breathing?" Harry asked, which made me think that maybe I should be having trouble breathing.

"Nope." But I was getting lightheaded. I thought I might faint. I figured it was from the fear.

"Stay with me," Harry said.

"Oh, I'm right here," I said.

"What do you do for a living?" he asked.

I saw myself in my office at work, but couldn't remember what I did there.

"I'm an engineer."

"You bike a lot?"

"Every day I can. Hey can one of you guys call my wife? Let her know what happened?"

"We're not allowed to do that. You have to do it yourself from the hospital."

Wouldn't have mattered anyway. I couldn't remember my phone number.






About pain: You have to be deserving.

The message of Jesus Christ - no matter how much you hurt it can always get worse. Save the whining for your crucifixion.

The surgeon had inserted two yellow pipes. About two feet of each hung from my abdomen. One hung from a place where there was a natural opening, into which I had never inserted a thing in my life. It was now time for the glorious pain of a tube the thickness of a large pencil shoved up my dick. They'd attached a bag to the pipe to collect body fluids. The other had been put into a man-made hole from the outside of me to the inside, dug in with a scalpel or a cordless drill. That one I found more disturbing than the first. I didn't think humans were allowed to continue life while having things poked into them from the outside.

Moving around with these tubes in me would have been trivial had I not paused with each step to admire the pain they caused.

The pipes had been inserted due to a surgical complication that resulted in a condition for which I wound up in the hospital, two days after leaving the hospital from the installation of the titanium plate. Probably, I should sue someone for taking a routine orthopedic procedure and turning it into a life threatening situation. First, I want to be well. Second, I don't want revenge.

Third, I want to thank God. I want to thank my guardian angels. Officially.

Thank you for this pain. Thank you for this trial. For this sleepless time. For pain that reroutes every thought. For obliterating my immortal future and replacing it with mortality.

I spoke to a wise woman during my illness. She may have been an angel, except I have her phone number and remember dialing it. I told her I had seen it coming. I had a dream 20 years ago. In that dream I die in a mountain bike crash. That dream has been with me these 20 years. I may have even written about it before.

Before the ride, I put on the clothes I had seen myself wearing in my dream. I'd done this a bunch of times, tempting fate. Proving dreams are not reality.

"But you did die," said the wise woman. "Your life is entirely different now."

My left arm was alight with strong electric pain. Every time I tried to move it willfully I'd get pins and needles. First the sense of touch would disappear. Then I wouldn't be able to move it.

Then there was the other problem. My bladder had been allowed to nearly burst, and it was only a trip to the emergency room that had saved my life.

The treatment for that was simple. Pipes. Time. Only time would tell if I would heal.

For two days I lay on my wife's side of the bed (because her side was closer to the bathroom door). I stared at the ceiling. I watched the daytime shadows cross the room. I watched it get dark. I felt daytime warmth fade to the cool dark evening.

I thought about time. I thought about things I'd done just days before I may never do again.

After the first day I gave up crying. I started thanking God that I hadn't broken my neck and died. Or broken my neck and wound up in a wheel chair.

I made it to the sofa in the living room. I put on the TV. I watched "60 Minutes".

The whole show was about Iraq war veterans who had received medals.

One soldier was being asked about the situation that won him the medal of honor. He didn't want to talk about it, so the reporter tried to draw it out of him.

"Your squad was ambushed," said the reporter.

"Yes," said the soldier.

"And you were shot several times. Your right leg was nearly blown off. You eventually lost it."

"Yes."

"How did you manage to get your sergeant out of the line of fire?"

"I crawled."

"And then you got him on your shoulders and somehow you managed to get him and yourself back to your Humvee with one leg nearly shot off and two bullets in your pelvis."

"Yes."

"The pain must have been amazing."

"I really wasn't thinking about it."

"Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?"

"Well, I wouldn't have got into an ambush."

"Anything you regret?"

"Yes. You know, when a soldier dies, everyone salutes him. When they got us to the field hospital, they put me on a stretcher and took me away from John. They started prepping me for surgery, putting in the IV, giving me shots, and then I saw everyone salute, and I knew John had died. And I tried to stand up and salute, too, and they held me down. Then they injected me with something and knocked me out. I never got to salute him."

I started crying. Maybe it was the drugs.

My wife was sitting next where I was laying. I felt like nothing. Insignificant. Forgettable. A single raindrop falling into the Grand Canyon.

"What's wrong? Hurt too much? Let me help get you back to bed."

"There's nothing wrong with me," I said.

"Lay still," she said, looking at the stream of diluted blood coming out of one of the tubes. "You need to rest."

But I hadn't earned the right to rest.






May 2012 is wiped out. I spent it going back and forth to the hospital. Endless doctor visits. Days and days of taking down numbers. Temperature. BP. Volumes and characteristics of contents voided through the pipes.

I see the medical world differently, now.

In one conversation with my urologist, I complained that everything we were doing was based on statistics and not any kind of deterministic fact about my condition.

"Well, nobody knows," he said.

I pointed to the ultrasound machine he'd just used to determine my guts were not healing to plan.

"In my world, I can make that machine work no matter what. You could set it on fire. I could fix it."

"But you'd have to replace a lot of parts," he said. "We can't do that with you."

"But you have to have a plan."

"We have a plan. It's going to take time. You have to trust that I've seen this before. Keep taking your biometrics. Write everything down."

"Does it always work?"

"I've never had a failure."

"Doc, you're saying it could fail."

"You want certainty. I can't give that to you. I can tell you, though, that I've never had a patient who didn't recover from this."

"So, you're saying the sample size is pretty big. You're saying it's a lot of patients."

"I know it's very hard when you're hurting. But somehow you have to find a way not to worry about this. It doesn't help."

"I make a living worrying," I said.

"We'll check progress next week. Meanwhile, keep taking measurements and e-mailing me the data."

I did. I don't know if the data I sent him did any good. Honestly, I couldn't see any trends in the numbers I took over those two weeks. I ran regressions on them. I charted them in Excel. It seemed like a scatter plot.

In fact, it was. Yet, he decided to move forward anyway.






I was angry he wouldn't take the pipes out on Friday before the long Memorial Day weekend. I figured he was being lazy, but in reality, he wanted 3 more days with them in. When he took the pipes out on Tuesday, I felt like the door to a cage had been opened.

For instance, I could walk without a bag attached to me. I could move without feeling my insides rubbing against latex balloons. I could sit on chairs without setting my lower abdomen on fire.

"The bleeding and clotting will stop," he said. I figured that meant, basically, now.

What he declined to tell me is that my bladder would fill with blood that would clot. What he didn't tell me is that I would be urinating Cabernet for the next week, and to boot, I would have to somehow rid my insides of what seemed like a pint of blood clots.

At one point, on a Friday evening, with my wife in LA visiting her grandmother and me supposedly well enough to be alone, I got into my car to drive myself to the hospital because, well, voiding a pint of blood clots is not what the urinary system was made to do. And so it didn't. And wasn't the fact that system had failed in the first place the whole reason for the river of pain that swamped out the pain in my neck and 11" cut in my shoulder over the plate they inserted?

And the fact I had chills and sweating that came from a fever, that probably came from an infection caused by the pipes. And wasn't it a fact that I couldn't actually drive because I have a manual shift car, and my left arm was not under my voluntary control? Every time I moved it a guy in a hockey mask came with a chainsaw and sliced off my arm at the shoulder. So I would have to call an ambulance anyway.

The concept lingered in my mind that I should just let it all play out. That if I was really at the end, then why keep fighting? I had died on that hillside, only my body was laboring under the misconception it could be saved.

I went back in the house and got onto the bed. I didn't bother turning on the lights. I ate two Vicodin, because I wanted to be senseless when I died. Then I took another one to be sure. Some time later I fell asleep.

When I woke I didn't remember things were going bad because it is also true in our world that everything is terrible, until it's not.






After the emergency was over the doc said he didn't tell me I might wind up back in the hospital with a bladder full of congealed blood because, well, chances are I wouldn't, and well, I would just worry about it and it wouldn't help.






I am wanting to talk to the angel again. I thought to call her but her phone number is actually a grocery list and some tesla coil equations. Maybe I dreamed the whole thing.

I mentioned the angel to my wife who said, "Yes, I remember your angel. You were very insistent about it. You said she told you that you were a very valuable person, that you were resilient, and you must repeat that to yourself over and over."

"I am resilient," I said. "I am resilient."

"And you're not going anywhere without me."

"I am resilient. I can take it. Bring it on. I'm not dead yet."

I'm not.






A few weeks ago they took an x-ray of my clavicle plate. My doc doesn't have a digital x-ray machine. He has one as big as a locomotive that uses film.

The technician took the picture, developed the film, then handed it to me and told me and the wife to walk down the hall and hand it to the surgeon who would be waiting for me.

On my way to the surgeon, of course, I held the film over my head and let the ceiling lights illuminate the image.

I saw my plate with 10 screws holding together the bits of my bone.

I saw what seemed like two razor sharp shards of bone just hanging around, not secured by screws or any other contrivance. It looked nasty to me, but I figured, hey, I'm no radiologist. I don't know what I'm looking at.

I held the film up for the wife to see. She agreed, it looked pretty scary, but she didn't know what it was.

The surgeon clipped the x-ray to a light box on the wall. He glanced at it, looked at me, and then said, "You're looking at this, aren't you?"

He pointed to the bone shards I had seen.

"Well, now that you mention it," I said.

He said, "I missed those. They're behind the bone I plated. I never saw them."

"Well, okay," I said, about as tentatively as one can say.

"You must never worry about those," he said, but I was already down the long path of worrying about them.

He said to my wife, "He must never worry about these, and neither should you. These will never cause problem at any point,"

Then he said, "I'll tell you why. Because in 8 more weeks they will not be bone fragments, but they will become lumps attached to the main bone. You will see the gaps filling in. We'll take the pictures and you'll see."

I said, "Ok," But I was already imagining nerve and blood vessel damage. I was already thinking it felt like someone had held a nail gun to my shoulder and pulled the trigger twice.

It does.






Pain works in layers. The brain acts as a filter, burying all the smaller pain under larger ones. As larger pains are removed, one by one, the smaller pains emerge.

For instance, when my bladder nearly burst, that pain completely made me forget I had had shoulder surgery only days before. When I had prostate surgery, that pain made me forget my bladder had nearly burst and there was an unhealed 11" gash in my shoulder.

Now enough of the pains have gone away to the point I can tell there's a plate in my neck.

The other insidious thing about pain is that the mind does a great job of burying it under dread and concern. When I was loaded with pain and pain killers, I was sure I would never again be whole. Now, nearly a month after consuming my last opiate, all catheters removed, and all the feeling and 90% of the mobility restored to my arm, I am certain I will recover. The certainty alone is speeding my recovery. And when, finally, the pain of having a plate in my neck subsides, I'll go back to feeling the misery of indigestion and athlete's foot.

There were some other side affects of my bike crash two months ago. One is that I must have busted my elbow, because now that I can feel my arm I realize when I rest my elbow on the table it feels like someone is trying to slice it off. Also, my right knee clicks and hurts like hell when I walk uphill. I probably tore the meniscus.

But frankly, I don't want to think about these things, nor do I feel like seeking medical advice at the moment. I think I'll let these ride for a year.

One thing my accident highlighted was that, in fact, I hadn't been seeing a doctor regularly. I had no GP/primary care physician. I've been mostly healthy my whole life, save for high BP & cholesterol, for which I drop into a cardiologists' office every now and then.

I finally picked a GP and saw him last week. Because the world works on luck and connection, we discovered through the patient/doctor interview that he was from New Jersey and graduated from the same place I did around the same time.

"We see a lot of this in the medical profession," he said. "Someone is mostly healthy. No problems. And then they get into an accident. Something happens. And one thing triggers another. It cascades like falling dominoes."

"What can you do about it?" I asked. "I mean, I exercise every day, nearly. I am not grossly overweight. I don't smoke. Don't drink much. Not sure what else I could be doing."

"There isn't much you can do," he said. "I've seen professional athletes go down the same path."

"Guess you have to have a positive outlook," I said.

Then, because he's from New Jersey and he knew I would understand what he meant, he said, "But something always gets you."

It's a fact of life.





Pain (?), n. [OE. peine, F. peine, fr. L. poena, penalty, punishment, torment, pain; akin to Gr. penalty. Cf. Penal, Pine to languish, Punish.]

1.

Punishment suffered or denounced; suffering or evil inflicted as a punishment for crime, or connected with the commission of a crime; penalty.

Chaucer.

We will, by way of mulct or pain, lay it upon him.
Bacon.

Interpose, on pain of my displeasure.
Dryden.

None shall presume to fly, under pain of death.
Addison.

2.

Any uneasy sensation in animal bodies, from slight uneasiness to extreme distress or torture, proceeding from a derangement of functions, disease, or injury by violence; bodily distress; bodily suffering; an ache; a smart.

"The pain of Jesus Christ."

Chaucer.

Pain may occur in any part of the body where sensory nerves are distributed, and it is always due to some kind of stimulation of them. The sensation is generally referred to the peripheral end of the nerve.

3. pl.

Specifically, the throes or travail of childbirth.

She bowed herself and travailed, for her pains came upon her.
1 Sam. iv. 19.

4.

Uneasiness of mind; mental distress; disquietude; anxiety; grief; solicitude; anguish.

Chaucer.

In rapture as in pain.
Keble.

5.

See Pains, labor, effort.

Bill of pains and penalties. See under Bill. -- To die in the pain, to be tortured to death. [Obs.] Chaucer.

 

© Webster 1913.


Pain, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Pained (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Paining.] [OE. peinen, OF. pener, F. peiner to fatigue. See Pain, n.]

1.

To inflict suffering upon as a penalty; to punish.

[Obs.]

Wyclif (Acts xxii. 5).

2.

To put to bodily uneasiness or anguish; to afflict with uneasy sensations of any degree of intensity; to torment; to torture; as, his dinner or his wound pained him; his stomach pained him.

Excess of cold, as well as heat, pains us.
Lock

3.

To render uneasy in mind; to disquiet; to distress; to grieve; as a child's faults pain his parents.

I am pained at my very heart.
Jer. iv. 19.

To pain one's self, to exert or trouble one's self; to take pains; to be solicitous. [Obs.] "She pained her to do all that she might."

Chaucer.

Syn. -- To disquiet; trouble; afflict; grieve; aggrieve; distress; agonize; torment; torture.

 

© Webster 1913.

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