Monday, July 18, 2011


OUCH! Who wants to talk about pain? No one does...but we will.

"MR. LUCKY," one of coworkers once said, "Never complain about pain because the guy you're telling...might have it worse."

When my son was born, my wife Sue endured nineteen hours of labor. She went through excruciating pain and at one point begged for the epidural that never came. I have often joked that if I witnessed the end of her experience first, I would have immediately fainted.

Moments after our prize came into the world, Sue's gurney was wheeled out of the birthing room and back to her private suite. In those sparse seconds in the hall, I heard another future mom's interwoven tapestry of profanity, melded perfectly with agonized screams of uterine distress. It was at that precise second, (as if I needed more evidence), that I gained a better insight as to the astronomical hurt level involved in bearing a child...and how that pain is dealt with by different people. Either way, I concede that none of the following examples of pain could possibly come close to the rigors of motherhood.

In the eighties, for three years, my business sponsored a Casino League softball team. I recall only one noteworthy injury.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to laugh at the misfortunes of others. Think about it, slapstick comedy is founded on this principal, (slipping on a banana peel, exploding cigars or the ever-popular knee in the groin, are the ultimate in this type of humor).

So I confess to laughing when our catcher broke his pinkie in a home plate collision. Mind you, this was NOT a compound fracture...nobody will ever compare this incident with the tragedy that ended NFL quarterback Joe Theismann's fact, I was certain my poor little insurance liability only suffered a sprain.

From the way my big and burly catcher sounded, you'd think this galoot had a deep, paper cut under a finger nail from a razor blade. So that's why, I, like many of his teammates found his reaction (hopping around and screaming like a twelve-year old girl), to be funny.

I rushed him to the hospital. On the way, I had to hide my smirk and come-off as supportive as this damaged soul whined and cursed. The situation worsened (for me) in the ER because I was stuck by his side...and had to watch him maintain a vice-grip on his right wrist as he moaned and groaned for an hour.

It was difficult for me ignore his repeated whimpering of, "It's broke, help me, I know it's broke." In the beginning, I thought he was just "screaming" out for attention but after a while, I interrupted his fixation, caved-in and re-examined his finger.

I guess we all have different thresholds of pain. Even though he came off like a tough-guy in the past, you can never understand what someone is feeling internally. I patted his shoulder and conceded, "Yeah, maybe it's broke," when I remembered the paradox of a body-builder from my youth who was afraid of heights.

I went to the receptionist to try to hurry our wait along. When I was returning to my seat, I found our exactly how much intestinal fortitude my disabled buddy had.

Two nice-looking girls in short-shorts came in. When they passed, neither of them looked as if they were in disrepair, so I assumed they were visiting. The taller one was wearing a men's Everlast, boxer tank-top...which was trendy at that time. This fashion statement featured an exaggerated arm hole that was cut low into both sides of the shirt. It also had a more narrow than usual strip of fabric at the breast. What made this "look" more unique was that she wasn't wearing a bra. While the smaller girl filled out forms, Ms. Everlast sat quite comfortably in her modesty, as one, if not both of her boobs were alternately, fully exposed.

This was serious business...there was nothing slapstick about it. That's why my wounded warrior like everyone else in the room, (including me), quietly gawked at her. The next time my catcher griped about his affliction was when the view of the bosomy free-show became blocked by an unprofessional precession of health care employees (both male and female) who came out of the back-of-the-house to parade through the lobby, to check her out.

When the novelty of the girl wore thin, my catcher's dismay returned as a low muttering. If I still had lingering doubts about the legitimacy of his "unbearable" pain, that all ended when two men burst through the ER's doorway. They were dragging in a third man with what looked like a metal spike sticking out of his bloody face.

In the split second they hurried by, my player and I caught a quick, grisly glimpse of the victim. We overheard the men explain to the receptionist that a screwdriver snapped and the broken shaft stuck in this poor bastard's eye. Without filling out paperwork, they were ushered right in...and Mr. Broken Pinkie never uttered another word.

When I dealt craps at Hotel Fremont in Las Vegas (February 1980), my crew was talking about pain while standing dead. A fellow dealer, (Captain Johnny), told us a gut-wrenching story, (he hated being called Johnny and didn't like any references to his army rank. But we called him that because...for someone who saw as much active combat in Vietnam as he claimed, he couldn't make the simplest decision...and far worse, was afraid solicit tips from the players).

We were all expecting to hear of physical or mental tribulation at the hands of the enemy. Instead, he said his platoon was surrounded by the Vietcong and cut off for a week. Supplies were being air-lifted in but instead of clean water, the only drinks were cans of Coca-Cola. He said that after three days, he developed incredible pain in his side. The medic gave him pain killers. But he was still so bad off that he was forced to temporarily relinquish his command because he was reduced to writhing in his foxhole, for the next three days. Then Captain Johnny explained that; like peeing rusty razor blades, he passed a kidney stone...the size of a cigarette filter. When I heard that, with my eyes open, everything went black. If my supervisor wasn't there to prop me up, I would have gone down.

Johnny's experience in no way helped me get through my kidney stones. Seven years ago after an hour of sleep, I woke up with an awful pain in my side. I couldn't lay, sit or stand. For five hours, I tried everything I could think of. My wife wasn't home so I waited until my son woke, to let him know I was going to the hospital.

My three days there were spent waiting for me to pass the stone. Rather than use a laser and annihilate it, the more cost effective policy for the hospital was to wait and see if I naturally passed it.

Even with the pain killers, the image of a stone the size of a cigarette filter getting passed was tormenting. On the second day, the genius doctor told me that the x-rays showed that the kidney stone was obstructed. He said, "Tomorrow, I'm going in."

I was lulled into thinking that I didn't need my meds. At 3:00AM, I woke up in excruciating pain. I called for the night nurse but nobody came. Suddenly, the only two bites of the first solid food I had eaten there erupted up from my stomach. In a panic, I ripped off all my feeder tubes but my mad dash for the restroom came up short. The orderlies were scrubbing the blood soaked walls and disinfecting the remnants of my tuna sandwich off floor for an hour.

In January 1987, I was demonstrating a craps technique to a casino class. Suddenly like a bolt of lightning, I felt a deep stabbing sensation in my back. My legs felt a numb and I was helped to a chair as the agony increased. There was no sign of relief. I was crying buckets of tears during the comedy of errors when I was loaded into a car.

At the Atlantic City Medical Center, I was told I was lucky to only have a MILD strain of my lower lumbar...and released. My wife alone took me home. This "mild" strain cost me a half hour of my life...just getting out of the car, wobbling a few steps to a staircase, up one flight, down an exterior forty-foot corridor and another twenty feet into our apartment's bedroom.

I was thinking; just kill me, as I struggled to find a comfortable position (on my side). Sue tucked me in bed and ran out to fill the pain management and muscle relaxant prescription. While she was gone there was a knock on the door. I could not get up (maybe, if there was a fire I could). Plus, it was too far to yell; who is it? Ten minutes later the telephone rang. The phone was out of reach...I let it ring. After about thirty rings, I inched out of my comfort zone and re-lived the intense pain. When I picked up, it was Sue, (that was her at the door and she had to drive back to a convenience store to call).

She told me that in the confusion, she took a set of car keys without an apartment key. Without help, I was forced to crawl to open the door. I spent the next nine days in bed. Sue came home to spend her lunch hour with me and empty bed pans.

The first day on my feet, I woke-up to a twenty-four inch blizzard. I wasn't supposed to go out but poor Sue was using a kitchen trash can to scoop away snow from our cars. Stripped of all my testosterone, the feeling of uselessness overpowered me. Until a heroic student from the school (Robert Francis) who lived in our complex, organized the tenants to work as a team...and clear the roads and free-up cars.

To add insult to injury, my first morning back to work was a sunny but frigid ten degrees. The highway was clear but along the way, I got a flat. Few good Samaritans perform their magic when it's that cold. So I hung a white rag on the radio aerial and waited.

Just shivering from the cold was torturing my back but I had to do something. I soon found out that I was "stuck" in more ways than one. First, I was determined to put myself back in the hospital and stupidly decided to fix my own flat. Then I found out that even I couldn't sabotage my lower lumbar because the jack was "stuck," frozen to the wall of my trunk.

Mr. Lucky was right. When I look back at my worst experiences, I think I should consider myself blessed. Of course the pain of the past is a moot point until something new comes up. Yes I got struck again last week with the granddaddy of all toothaches.

It started while I was on vacation last Friday. I figured the pain would go away but it became more acute. During the day I survived on aspirin. That night the jack hammering throb in my tooth expanded up the wall of my outer gum to the roof of my mouth and down throughout my lower jaw. I got practically zero sleep.

On Sunday my cheek was so swollen that I looked like a right-handed squirrel. I bought Ora-Gel. Are you kidding? It did NOTHING! One application useless... ten applications, still nothing! What a waste of hope, time, energy and ten bucks. In the furthest corner of our utility closet, I found the tiniest relief in the form of expired pain killers. They helped give me three hours of choppy sleep.

Oops! In the shuffle, I forgot I had jury duty on Monday. Everyone I spoke to asked if I was sick. I held my jaw for eight-hours, got through that boring ordeal and wasn't picked. I went to bed at midnight full of expired pills and woke up just after 5:00AM. At exactly 9:01AM, I called my dentist. The joke was on me, Tuesdays were the only day of week they didn't open until eleven.

I was diagnosed with an abscessed gum from a disintegrating crown. I was given antibiotics and sent home. I'm okay now. The area will be re-evaluated in August. My dentist said that the infection will return if I don't have it properly treated. Trust me, there's no way I would allow that to happen twice...if I can help it. My two options will be surgery or getting what's left of the tooth yanked. Either way, I'm NOT going through that again.

More importantly, I hope my readers can't relate to any of this. But pain is a reality. So I hope all the future moms in my audience have mild labors and for everyone else...when it seems you can't bear another second of agony, I hope the right person for your taste appears in a most distracting level of undress.

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