Getting older is “a pain in the hoop Bill” as the boys from Après Match might say. If it’s not one thing it’s another. My latest venture into the world of exploratory medicine was an MRI for my left shoulder early on Wednesday morning. Now if you’ve ever had and MRI, you’ll know that it’s a painless procedure, unless you suffer from claustrophobia in which case it might be a bit of a struggle. On Wednesday I had one of the most painful experiences I’ve had in years and I’m still not the better of it today.
I woke up this morning, darkly depressed, not a state I am at all comfortable with, as I tend lean to the dark side at the best of times. The chronic pain and the lack of sleep, are at this stage taking a rather heavy toll on my Psyche.
Generally I tend to be the one who keeps the smiley face on so when I switch off its noticeable. I recall hearing the story of the man who goes to ta doctor in London in the early nineteenth century, suffering from depression. The Doctor in his wisdom prescribes a visit to see the great clown Joseph Grimaldi who he declares, will be guaranteed to cheer him up. I feel like that man when he tells the doctor that it would be no use, explaining “You see…I am Grimaldi.”
It would appear that I have a combination shoulder injury, adhesive capsulitis and some damage to my rotator cuff and maybe even, a touch of something else. I went to the doctor, got diagnosed weeks ago, did several weeks worth of physio, got worse, went to another doctor, did my MRI in advance of some pain killing injections planned for later today and it has been one long pain in the arse, or should I say shoulder throughout.
We all have our troubles don’t get me wrong. I am old enough to have had my fair share of injuries, especially playing sport in my younger, handsomer and dare I say sexier looking years… Yes I dare. There are some who would say that the hint of grey (maybe more than a hint eh?) makes me even sexier, but they tend to be octogenarians with blue rinses, on their way to collect the widow’s pension in the post office, or lonely, not so fussy gay men. Let’s face it I’ve not reached my use before date, but my best before has long since passed. This particular injury however, does rank at the top end of the pain spectrum for me at least and certainly reminds me that I’m no spring chicken.
The problem is that I have very little movement in my left arm, or my bad arm as I like to call it. It has always been my bad arm as I am very much right handed. When I played basketball I spent a huge amount of time working on it to teach it how to dribble as good as my right, but it was a poor student. Bad arm! Right now I cannot even raise it to the horizontal either to my front or side and it certainly refuses to go behind my back.
It’s the little things I miss. Washing my hair one handed, slipping a belt through my trousers one handed, even trying to tuck my shirt in at the back have all become ridiculously complex if not impossible on my left side. Luckily I have one dog who walks on a loose lead so she goes to my left while the other two lunatics drag me up the road by my good arm. I used to feel like Indiana Jones, these days I feel more like his auld fella.
So where was I? Ah yes the painful MRI. I was there on Wednesday morning at 06.30, early as ever, and eventually ended up stripped and be- gowned, and on the table. My arse was hanging out of the gown as I couldn’t reach around and tie it. What a fine sight indeed. The MRI technician or whatever they are called, was pleasant enough until she told me that I had to tuck my shoulder in against a frame and lie with my arm perfectly still. Therein lay the problem. Sweet mother of the Divine I couldn’t hold my arm that way. Sure don’t I spend an age each night at every twist and turn, just trying to find a way to position my arm in bed so it doesn’t hurt.
“Come ‘ere to me darlin” says I (She was more motherly than daringly, but sure I can’t help myself) “how long is this going to take?” She tucked a pillow under my head and raised my legs a little.
“About 15 minutes,” says she with a smile for the ‘darlin’ in my voice, “why, is that uncomfortable love?” Now for the non-Irish, among ye, the love and the darlin’ thing is very normal, especially for people of a certain age, so don’t be getting the wrong idea.
“Uncomfortable? says I, “ it’s not really bearable, sure I can’t lie like this for any length of time.”
She gently adjusted my wrist. “That’s the best I can do, we need to have your shoulder in that position and you really will have to stay still. Do you think you can manage it?” She gave me a big smile as though that would make it easier. She knew by my face that I was struggling as she handed me the alarm button. “Sure you can press this if the pain is too bad and I will give you a break, but it would be best if you can stay still until it’s done.”
“Go on” says I against my better judgement. She put a set of headphones on me and away we went into the tunnel of pain. Of course this was not my first MRI and I generally fall asleep inside, despite the loud noise banging away over the music from the headphones. I always suspect I snore my arse off, but I don’t really care.
Wednesday was different. It seemed like an age before the first of the whirring clicking began and every second that passed, highlighted the pain in my shoulder even more. I thought about whether or not I could actually last the 15 minutes and quickly came to the conclusion that it was unlikely. The choice was stark but clear. Man the Fup up!
Now that’s easier said than done because for all the bravado that one might muster, lying perfectly still in a narrow tunnel, being bombarded with the blast of noise as you are enveloped in a magnetic field in a room which is essentially a giant faraday cage, while your shoulder and upper arm feels like it is in a vice being squeezed, can alter one’s perception of pain a little. Sometimes I think too much. 10 seconds becomes 2 minutes, and 2 minutes feel like 10. Halfway through, I briefly considered throwing in the towel but then thought the better of it.
What was the point? I would only have to go back in again anyway and sure that’d be worse. Feck this I thought – mind over matter. Unfortunately I’ve never been one for meditation, the very skill that might have stood me in good stead that morning. All I had was bloody mindedness and a false sense of machismo.
I’ve seen John Wayne tie a hanky around his bullet-ridden arm and still ride a horse. Was I going to wimp out of a 15 minute MRI because of agonising pain in a shoulder that I desperately wanted to move – just an inch even? The hell I was! 15 minutes later it was all over and I have never been so relieved.
“You were very good” she said “didn’t move at all, the images are perfect and clear” she told me.
“No s**t Sherlock” came to mind, I knew exactly how still I was for 15 minutes, sure hadn’t I counted every flippin’ second! But all I said was “that’s grand so.”
Took me forever to get my clothes back on one handed. I nearly called for help at one stage but I’m way to proud to do that. I collected my greatest hits CD on the way out and slid into the car, never more pleased to be driving an automatic. My left arm was fubared. I drove one-handed to work and slid the CD into the hard drive on my desk. It meant nothing to me of course. So I did what any self-respecting highly trained medical professional would do. Hello Dr. Google… You’d be amazed at the diagnosis I came up with after a solid medical training of ten minutes on t’internet.
Now all I have to do is visit my Doctor today for the cortisone injections. Sad as it is, I have never fantasized about anything as much. I’d let him saw off my arm if it gave me relief at this stage if the truth be told. Fortunately I’ll be able to give him the benefit of my new found extensive medical knowledge. I’m sure he’ll be delighted…
Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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