My body started talking to me a while back, but I didn't listen. Now it's screaming. Someone took five needles and inserted them lengthwise into each of my wrists.
I go to the doc and he says no, those aren't needles. You have arthritis. I squint at his med school diploma on the wall, because everybody knows arthritis only happens to old people. I can't make it out because my eyes aren't what they used to be.
I ask him what he can do and he says nothing. But the Occupational Therapist will help. The OC gives me ten wrist exercizes, says do 'em twenty times each, six times a day. Some involve squeezing stuff to strengthen the hand, but most demand I bend the wrists.
I could bend the wrist better if you would remove the needles, I say. She says keep bending and the pain won't be as bad. She asks what I do for a living and I explain I deliver 40-pound bottles of water.
To get 'em off the truck, first thing is I slide open a bay door. This isn't bad on the newer trucks, but the trucks aren't all new and on the old ones, the doors get stuck and I have to yank'em up holding the bottom of the door with my fingertips, and other times I just pound around the door with my fists hoping to land a blow at the spot where a bottle slid out of the rack and is jammed against the inside of the door.
Once the door is open, I make a circle with my thumb and index finger and grab the top of a bottle and slide it forward. Then I carry one in each hand to to wherever they go, or put 'em on a cart and push the cart.
How many bottles a day?
Two hundred, give or take.
I do some quick math and determine that 40 pounds times 200, times five days a week for twenty years is about five more years of this than the human wrist was designed to handle.
So why does is hurt so bad?
Well, she says, the body has cartilage in between the bones in all the joints, but yours is worn away. The needles you feel are bones touching bones. That's not supposed to happen.
So where to I get more cartilage?
She looks at me funny, not sure if I'm serious.
She says I can strengthen the muscles in the hand and wrist, and this will keep the bones separated. Some of the other exercizes will stretch the tendons.
I do the exercizes for three months, except for one weekend. There was a wedding. Got up early Saturday and drove four hours. Didn't do the exercizes for two days. The needles were back on Monday. Like they were before I saw the doc. It takes a week of bending and stretching to get the pain level down from seven on a scale of one to ten, to three or four. How bad is three or four? Depends on which direction you're headed. From zero, it sucks. From seven, it feels better but you sure know it's there.
I see the doc again and explain. He suggests massive doses of anti-inflammatories. I explain this won't work. Another injury, ten or twelve years ago. Massive doses. (A dose of store-bought is around 200 mg. I took 1100. For weeks.) Now if I take the stuff a couple of days I see blood where you really don't want to see blood.
He suggests cortizone shots. Oh, goody! I like cortizone. It works. Had eight cortizone shots in my heels over the last 18 months. The needle is long, but it doesn't hurt going in. Then he pushes the plunger down and fluid is packed into an area that's already inflamed, and that really hurts. You have to hold real still because this needle is in there and if you move you could mess things up real bad. But in a day or two the thing feels great. Get the needle, doc. Let's do it.
And when can I go back to work?
He looks at me funny, not sure if I'm serious.