There is something about pain that has me buffaloed. Why is it that a person can slice their finger wide open with a sharp knife and then simply look down at all the blood spilling out with no reaction, yet get a paper cut and act as if their world has come to an end?
I have spent a fair amount of time in the hospital and the dentist’s chair. Both are top choices for the receiving of pain. Most of my hospital experience comes from having a heart that beats irregularly and way to fast (kind of like a spaced-out jazz drummer). These two conditions combine for a great deal of pain. Invariably I am asked, “On a scale of 1-10, how would you describe your pain?” Well.., at first the pain always seemed like a ten. After a few years of bouncing from hospital to hospital, the number began to lower. Today, I can say that my pain level is usually about a five. This is the same amount of pain that would have gotten a ten back in the early days; I’ve just gotten used to it. One thing that has helped me in describing my pain level is to tell a little story, and here it is.
Most of my experience deals with chest pain, which I find there are two categories. ( Sharp & Dull ) The dull pain is kind of like when your older brother sits on your chest and holds you down. Only in this case your older brother is ‘Fat Albert’ and just to let you know he is the boss, he jumps up and down a bit. ( saying ‘Uncle’ is optional ). By far my favorite of all is Sharp pain. Unlike the dull kind, which is pretty mundane, sharp chest pain has a way of getting your attention. The most apt description I can think of is as follows. Take a 2×4 ( a couple of feet is plenty ) and whittle it down to a point with a dull axe. The end should be very sharp but the sides must be rough with lots of splinters hanging out. Now just imagine shoving this ‘stake’ deep inside your chest and then having it pulled on and twisted to get the full effect of the splinters. ouch! This story goes beyond the simple 1-10 rating system and lets your doctor know you are in a; “World of hurt”. I say this to you with all the confidence of a true pain expert.
Like most things in life, just when you thought you’d seen it all, along comes something new. I had another experience with leg buckling, scream out loud in public, don’t make me laugh, ultra sharp pain. Yes Mabel !, we are talking about broken, torn or displaced ribs. All these years I thought prolonged sharp chest pain was the best. How wrong this ‘student of pain’ was.
It happened over a period of a few days. Day one started with me bending down and reaching under a Christmas tree to cut it down at the local ‘u-cut-um-save-um-big-money’ Christmas Tree Farm. ( enter awkward angle & dull hand-saw ) I felt a twinge as I got up but didn’t think much of it. That lasted until I hurked ( my new word ) the tree over my head to carry it back to the car. ( enter twinge two ) Removing the tree from the top of car at home resulted in twinge three. Days two and three kind of ran together with a steady reminder that something was amiss. Day four, oh glorious day four. That’s the day I coughed so big ( enter loud cracking sound ) that my personal pain experience would never be the same. Whatever I was feeling in my side for the past few days turned into full-blown, mind numbing pain. When the nurse at the hospital asked me to rate my pain on the 1-10 scale, I immediately answered; ” This is a 12″. This was the kind of pain that made you want to stop breathing, as even short breaths were painful. Just forget about standing up from a chair, walking, talking, or any other normal activity. It seems I had pulled some ribs ( Numbers 4, 5 & 6, for people who know what numbers their ribs are ) away from my vertebrae. ouch again ! And of course, the best way to stir up trouble with dislocated ribs, is with a persistent and nagging cough.
It was my good fortune to have a minor lung infection to go along with three ribs poking me in the side. You can’t breath and even the shallowest of breaths is greeted by a gurgling sound somewhere down below in your lungs. It’s only a matter of moments before you have to cough, and when you do the pain is so great, that your only comfort is in knowing that your girlfriend made you get rid of the loaded 38 pistol in your drawer. No! I’d never shoot myself. (sidebar) I pretty much had my fill of guns in the military, but they come in handy if you wake up late at night and find a stranger going through the change on your dresser.
To my way of thinking, the only true way to true way to ‘Meet Your Maker’, is at high-speed on a motorcycle, not with a gun. ( I suppose it depends on which movie you’ve just seen; “High Noon” or “The Wild One” ) I’ll save the topic of guns and motorcycles for other times and other stories. There are at least two or three there.
“When nothing goes right…….. go left” by, ??