Down, But Not Out (Sorta…)
By Jim Kuiken
You ever have one of those days? Or weeks?
Yeah, I thought so. At least I don’t feel so all alone. It happens to the best of us. Even the truly gifted (which I’m not one of…) can still trip over air every now and then. And then you look back, right? Like there was actually something there (but there wasn’t…you’re just a klutz).
Not talking about long-standing issues, or things that just keep you out of the norm for extended periods of time – I’m talking about when things just don’t go well, and you have an instance (or streak) of bad luck that just knocks you off-center for a bit.
As many of you know, I’ve had a life of interesting occupations that tend to be a bit on the physical (and sometimes hazardous) side…with which come the inevitable bangs and bumps, and sometimes a few more serious owwees… The kind that stick with you.
And get worse with age (just sayin’…) And overuse (because I’m not bright enough to stop).
So…I had one of those (couple of) weeks. Still working my way out of it as we speak. But first, some context.
Now don’t get the impression I’m whining here, I’m not. But these are a brief list of some of the reasons I have some of these issues that lead up to the last few weeks.
Besides being blown up a few times, a couple of parachuting mishaps and various other little incidents in the military, I’ve fallen through a roof at a fire (when I was a firefighter), and been in more than my share of scuffles and knock-abouts during my career in law enforcement.
Due to these and other incidents, I have three spinal fractures (base of neck, midway between my shoulder blades, and mid-lower back); a couple pieces of shrapnel; eye, ear (hearing/balance) and head issues (no wise-cracks here…I’m watching you!); two blown-out knees, and a few other marginal parts and pieces. (again…hold your tongue!)
Over the years I’ve learned to deal with some of these, and work around the others. Unless I get bull-headed and just do what I want to anyway…which doesn’t always work out well. At least I’ve never been accused of being the brightest bulb in the box!
Stubborn (I prefer “determined”), idiot (“independent”), what the heck were you thinking (“innovative”), bull-headed (“self-motivated”), you just never learn, do you (“focused”), and a few other terms seem to be frequently used. But bright? Not so much.
At least I don’t (normally) say “hold my beer”, or “watch this”! I just refuse to be defined by my well-earned limitations. They do, however, tend to impose restrictions, or step on my brakes every now and then. Like the last few weeks…
So…there I was. Starting out on a great adventure!
Well, actually, I was just sitting down on the floor (a big no-no for me…no back support) with my Dremel tool in my hands, getting ready to file down my dog Freedom’s toenails. He screams like a baby if you try to cut the front ones (they’re very sensitive), so they have to be filed. This is fairly new to me, I’ve only done a couple of his nails once before, and I had to stop to rest my back. I figured I’d just do two or three at a time, with plenty of breaks in between.
As I bent over to take his front paw in my hand, selecting the nail to be filed, and turned on the tool, the lower back slid out of place. When it goes out, the vertebrae mis-align, and pinch the nerves (which is excruciating), which causes the muscles to spasm, and further mis-align the spine…and hold it (out of) place. It’s like a railroad spike being driven in with a sledge hammer…only much sharper. And it is constant, not just immediate.
When the back goes, I’m down (in bed) for a week or two, or for up to a month or so, before I can finally get up (with help) into my walker, and shuffle (with help) to the bathroom and back, for about another week or two. Then, if things are going well, I can transition over to my forearm crutches for a week or two (sometimes longer), and hobble around the house (with help initially, then under supervision), even sitting in a chair (with help and back support) for short periods of time. Finally, I can transition over to my cane, and move about unsupervised, even leaving the house for short excursions until I’m finally able to walk again unassisted…in about a week or two.
The fun part is, if my neck or upper back go out (and yes, they go out independently, and generally with no warning) for doing mundane things like pulling the skin off a turkey neck while I prepared Thanksgiving dinner for my mother (who was visiting a few years ago) and my family, turning slightly, and dropping the skin into the trash can. As I turned with my arm out slightly to drop the skin, the neck went out. For no reason.
So, like I was saying, if they go out, they cause spasms, which immediately pull the lower back out, and here we go again…
Back to this time. I’ll try to wrap it up. I was down in bed, and as I was helped into bed, my leg dragged slightly (I can’t pick them up after the back goes), and my left knee cracked, and went out. It’s the worst one (from one of the explosions…the right one is from the parachute mishap), but luckily, it didn’t hurt that much – because the back masked the knee pain.
A couple of weeks later, as I’m up and moving around (Yay! This one was a short one), I went outside and was moving around, but was still not fully functional because of the imbalance of the back and knee, and some effects of the medication, I lost situational awareness, backed up slightly, and tripped – backwards – over the tongue of my son’s boat trailer. Yup…didn’t even notice a full-sized bass boat on a trailer right behind me…
So I fell backwards over the trailer hitch (which is just over knee-high) onto the driveway pavement, jammed my right wrist (which ended up being wrapped for a few days, and is still painful today…with my still sore, but basically functional back, and sore knee), and in keeping my head from hitting the pavement, hurt my neck.
That’s ok. You can go ahead and laugh. What a frigging couple of weeks!!!
I’m hoping to fix lunch today without cutting off any fingers…