Saturday, December 07, 2013


Real Pain

I had a common but unmentionable surgical procedure yesterday and all was well until I pulled out the Foley catheter and the packing and then the pain started and I have not been able to knock it down with the number of pills I can take. Sleep is out of the question. The pain is 6/10 and I'd hate to think how bad it would be without the medication. My urethra must have gotten scratched when the catheter went in or came out and it hurts a lot to urinate, about what I suspect peeing with Gonorrhea feels like (although, thankfully, I don't have first hand knowledge of that, just descriptions). And the current pain got me thinking about my history of injury and surgery.

I had convulsions in Virginia when I was but months old from a lack of something essential in the formula I was given. No memory of that at all.

I had my tonsils removed when I was pretty young in Denver in the '50s and the only things I remember are the cribs with lockable, barred tops on them and the girl in the crib/cage next to me puked blood out the side. No memory of any pain.

In Mobile, Alabama, about the time President Kennedy was shot, I was riding a flexible flyer sled with wheels instead of metal snow runners. I  turned down a very steep driveway and pulled the steering handles too quickly to avoid running into the garage door and flipped the wheeled sled and suffered a green-stick fracture of either my radius or ulna or both on the left. No real memory of pain.

The year before that I pulled the venetian blinds too hard and wrong and instead of lowering they came off the wall above the window and broke my nose and sliced off a part of it. The doctor reattached it successfully. I recall blood but no pain

The next year I sprained my left ankle very badly playing football at my military school in Mobile. I remember just a little pain but the ankle would re-sprain easily for the next decade or so. One time, I was doing alternately ice and hot water to get it ready for a fencing match at Stanford and that was extraordinarily painful.

I had my wisdom teeth removed surgically in 1965 or so and there was no physical pain but I had to hold ice blocks against both sides of my jaw and the nurse put the TV on White Christmas and left. I could neither look away nor get her back to change the channel so I had to watch the whole freakin' thing. 4/10 psychological damage, I reckon.

I was practicing soccer at my high school in Richmond, Virginia probably in '68 or '69. My school, Collegiate School for Boys, is the alma mater of multi-billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller and Seahawk's QB Russell Wilson and my best friend then who is now very high up in the administration of the National Gallery in DC, Frank Kelly, who went low for a high arcing ball I was trying to head. I fell over him backwards and broke my right radius and ulna. People said it sounded like a pistol shot. I knew something was wrong but the pain was pretty minor, until the doctor, resetting it hours later, said, before he forced the bones back into place, after shooting the break site up with lidocaine, "This might hurt a little." My memory is that I almost passed out from the pain then but it was over quickly. Probably a 9/10.

Driving before I had a license down our mile long driveway outside Richmond in early 1968, I lost control in the loose gravel and ran into a tree and I broke the windshield from the inside with my chin which caused a two inch cut there. The doctor down the road who stitched it up had the shakes (from alcoholism) so that was harrowing but not painful and the worst thing about it was I didn't get to go see Jimi Hendricks at the convert venue then called the Mosque. I never saw Hendrix play live.

Outside Richmond in 1970, I shot myself in the left knee showing off during single action army Colt pistol practice for a girl I had invited along. Didn't hurt at all until very late that night when a bat came down the chimney and I had to move to a guest bedroom. I'd rate the worst pain with that a 2/10.

By 1975 I had received several pain pill prescriptions but I don't think I took a single pill.

In 1987 in Denver I was playing softball for the Denver District Attorney team and I was running flat out to catch a foul near left field and I turned at the last second to glove the ball when I heard a snap and I fell down. ACL full tear left knee. I had a murder trial the next week so I didn't get it fixed which may have been a mistake as I'm now sure I tore up my cartilage from the unstable knee shifting. No pain I can recall, but when I finally did get the ligament reconstructed the doctor harvested replacement tendon from the front under and below the knee cap. That harvest site hurt a lot and I'm sure I took some pain pills during the first week after surgery.

I had an inguinal hernia on the left side probably from birth (good story of a very pretty young female doctor discovering that) and my doctor now, Mervyn Lifschitz, talked me into getting it fixed in 2000 or so. The surgeon went in through my belly button and there was never any pain.

Shortly after than I had a kidney stone and everyone made a big deal about it and I took a lot of pain pills until it passed a few weeks later.

My right femur head was pretty deformed, perhaps again from birth, and that degenerated over time so that I finally had to have it replaced with a titanium ball and socket joint in 2007, I think. No pain that I can recall, and no physical therapy. Cool.

In 2010 I fell on the ice taking out the trash and suffered a big tear on my already partially damaged right rotator cuff. I had surgery to tie it back together. I think I took two pain pills. The immobilizer sling was a pain in the neck but not painful and physical therapy was no fun but thankfully brief.

This year in August I tore my left Achilles tendon running hard after a soccer ball on the Playa at Burning Man. Had to get that surgically repaired. It never hurt but it's taking a long time to heal up. I sure hope that's about it.

The good thing about the real pain I'm in now is that for the first time really ever, I can have greater empathy for my hurt clients--something I have not had a lot of since I was so rarely in pain after injury or surgical repair.


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