bad-golfI kept putting off a golf lesson to correct the terrible weakness I had with my irons. I put it off because I figured I’d never be able to improve my persistent inability to make clean contact with the ball…often pounding the ball into the ground instead of into the air.

Finally, I gave in and took a lesson. And though it didn’t do much to improve my swing, it did manage to tear my right elbow apart. Or at least it felt like I’d ripped a tendon or two from bone and ligament.

My elbow was so sore, in fact, that I could barely pick up a coffee cup, let alone hit a clean shot from the fairway to the green with any club in my bag.

elbow-painWhat to do? Ice it. Band it with a tourniquet device. Play less golf? Play no golf?

Or get a cortisone shot?

Like the golf lesson itself, I put off the cortisone shot and moved onto Ibuprofen, then menthol gels, then ice wraps again. After a couple months of this mess, I gave in and went to Kaiser for a cortisone shot.

It’s an interesting bit of medicine, these shots — Big needle, little vial of cortisone, competent orthopedic doc, and me…the Nervous Nelly in a chair with my arm extended and my elbow exposed for the insertion of the needle as if the arm didn’t belong to me any more, as if it were made of wood.

“I hear these shots hurt like hell,” I said.

“Not as much as you think,” the doc said.

What an answer!

“Just open and close your hand a couple times, then leave it open.”

cortisone-injectionI did as told, and he inserted the very large needle.

Did it hurt? Well, not as much as I thought it would.

Then he slowly pulled the needle trigger and the cortisone pushed its way into my tender flesh. That did hurt as much as I thought it would. Maybe a bit more.

Fortunately, it was over pretty quickly, except for the golf-ball sized lump that had bloomed on the tip of my elbow as the cortisone forced its way in.

“Is that normal?” I said with some alarm, afraid to touch the growing bump on an elbow that I hardly recognized as belonging to me.

“Sometimes,” the doc said casually. “Here, lemme massage the cortisone in.”

He took a hold of my forearm and literally mashed the flesh like you might mush a potato. Slowly, the monkey-bump went down.

“Thanks,” I laughed, looking at my arm like it were some kind of fixture separate from my body, separate from “Me.” My arm had promptly become a simple appendage that you could shoot stuff into at will, and then rub it and twist it until it was smoothed out like a lumpy carpet.

The doc told me to go down the hall to a room called Orthopedic Services and pick up a forearm splint. He also told me to layoff golf for two weeks.

cast offI found the Ortho Services door at the end of a long hall that was oddly quiet and removed from the rest of the Kaiser facility. When I opened the door and stepped inside, I was greeted by a buzz-saw screaming in the dust-filled air.

I turned to see a kid getting his leg cast sawn off by a lab tech in a blue lab coat, both of them grimacing at the horrific noise of the vacu-saw.

Next to them was an older gent having some kind of leg brace fastened to his shin with nuts and bolts that another lab tech in a blue coat was assiduously tightening with a crescent wrench for heaven’s sake.

Lying on table near them was a woman with black hair and ruby red lips with her arm outstretched as a lady tech in her own blue lab coat was fixing an arm sling around her neck and cinching it tightly to support the lady’s heavily bandaged arm. And then a man in a head, neck, and shoulder contraption appeared. He looked like a creature from outer space. Quite alarming!Halo Brace

workshopI felt as if I’d walked into Gepetto’s Workshop for marionettes where various human puppets were in various stages of repair with their own lab techs in blue coats working on them with screwdrivers and silver hammers and yards of white tape. Feet held up. Arms tied down. Backs wrapped in support gear. Necks festooned in puffy foam collars.

I stood amidst them, rather stunned at the reality of our fragile selves; and more to the point, of our mechanical selves that are the object of the orthopedic world.

This “external” part of our human anotomy hadn’t actually looked me in the eye quite so clearly until this moment. I realized that we’re all just bits and pieces, rods and connectors, joints and knobs, clicking and clacking our way through the bumpy world.

“Hmmph,” I heard myself say out loud as I gently rubbed my elbow and found myself backing out of the room.

Then my name rang out, “Zajaczkowski?”

“Here,” I said.

“Your elbow is it?” my blue-coated lab tech asked.

“Yes, my elbow. This one,” I said holding my arm aloft as it I’d just bought it at the Arm Shop down the hall.

“Right over here,” the tech said with a nod, “we’ll fix it up quick.”

strings“Thanks,” I said following after him on my own two sturdy human legs locked securely and smoothly into their hip sockets with no strings holding me up…at least not for now.










One Response to Geppeto’s Workshop

  1. Gary Maxwell says:

    There’s always miniature golf. Even I could go a round with you without much stress on my old bones.

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