For many years, I've had intermittent back pain caused by a herniated disc. But I'm lucky: While many people with bad backs suffer constantly, I have only two or three attacks each year, usually when I'm gardening or lifting heavy things.
Last week I came across a newspaper article that every back-sufferer should read. It was about a gentleman named George Rekers.
George Alan Rekers
Mr. Rekers is co-founder of the Family Research Council and a champion of family values. Like me, he has a bad back, which usually bothers him when he carries heavy luggage. Because he travels often, this is a frequent problem. Or was a frequent problem until he found a way to travel effortlessly with the help of an organization called rentboy.com. Rentboy is a for-profit, social service organization that connects disabled people with healthy people who can assist them with difficult tasks.
To learn about the organization, I visited the Web site:
The organization is impressive, in part, because of its international reach. It is staffed by hundreds of young people who assist local (and sometimes distant) clients. Its members reside in major cities throughout the U.S. and Europe, making the organization ideal for international travelers. If you're flying from New York to London, for example, with a single phone call you can hire some-one to carry your luggage in both cities. Listings are by location, so it's easy to find someone in your area. Through Rentboy, Mr. Rekers has 24-hour access to a luggage assistant anywhere.
As a fellow back-sufferer, I wanted to know if the organization had repre-sentation in Oklahoma City, so I checked the index. Sure enough, there was a young gentleman from my region named Chad.
From the photo, Chad seemed amiable and well-constituted. He looked like someone who could handle arduous tasks. Then I noticed his fee: $275/hour! Can you imagine? $275/hour to carry luggage! Maybe this is acceptable on the East Coast, but where I'm from, it's highway robbery.
I was leaving the Web site when something in his biosketch caught my attention: Chad is adept at massage and other relaxation techniques, and promises to leave you physically and emotionally rejuvenated.
Now things were beginning to make sense. Though no mention was made of academic degree or certification, Chad clearly had a background in physical therapy and, perhaps, psychology. His fee, albeit considerable, could no longer be construed as exorbitant (assuming he was proficient in these fields).
As I continued reading, the phone rang. It was my wife, Susan, who was at a conference in Boston. She called to tell me she would be coming home on Monday. Susan loves landscaping, and after we talked, I felt guilty for neglecting our garden while she was away. Fortunately, I had enough time to make amends. I turned off the computer and prepared myself for an afternoon of work.
As I rose from the chair, however, my back suddenly went out! I fell back against the chair and squirmed as I tried to find a comfortable position. The pain was intense and unremitting. Finally I slid onto the floor and crawled to the bedroom, where I climbed into bed and curled into the fetal position. Only then did I obtain relief.
The situation couldn't have been worse. Susan was coming in two days, the yard was a mess, and I was bedridden. I waited for the spasm to subside, but everytime I moved, the pain left me breathless. I didn't want to call an ambulance, but I couldn't function.
That's when I thought of Chad. Although I had qualms about asking a stranger for help, I knew that Rentboy was reputable, given Mr. Rekers' longstanding association with the company. I reached for the phone, called 1-800-rentboy, and asked to be connected to Chad in Oklahoma City.
To my satisfaction (and surprise), he answered promptly. I explained that I was in bed with a bad back and needed help right away. He responded courteously and reassuringly, and offered to come over immediately. I apologized for my urgent situation, but he said not to worry: He was accustomed to meeting people in bed. He would let himself in through the back door.
He arrived a half hour later and came to by bedroom. Before starting therapy, we briefly exchanged introductions and pleasantries.
Chad was consistently polite. As we bantered, I could tell he was smart and insightful. He seemed to understand me instinctively. Clearly there was a psychologist inside his sculpted frame. Of course, psychologists have their idiosyncracies, and Chad had his: The room was cool, but he removed his shirt anyway. Asking me to lie prone, he straddled my waist and began working on my back.
The experience was unprecedented. Within a few minutes I knew his talent surpassed the online description. His technique was holistic: He treated mind and body. Within fifteen minutes, my pain had dissipated. When he proceeded to the shoulders and arms, I felt an incongruous mélange of tranquility and exhilaration. His cadenza on my legs and thighs was virtuosic.
When he was done, he patted me on my side. I turned over and faced him.
"Do you feel better?" he asked, the light dancing on his forehead.
"You bet," I replied. "You're a miracle-worker, Chad. Your online description doesn't do you justice. I predict that you're going to have a very successful career."
"Thanks," he said in a voice that would have tamed Goliath. "Is there anything else you need?"
"Well, just one thing," I said. "If I have back therapy every week, do you think I can prevent this from happening again?"
"Probably," he replied with a smile Adonis would have envied.
"Well, why don't we plan on doing this every Saturday afternoon around two o'clock?" I asked.
"Sounds great," he said, his dimples sparkling in the afternoon light.
Chad stood, dressed himself, and accepted my check. He bade me farewell and said I could call him anytime.
When he was gone, I put on my gardening clothes and went outdoors. The air was fresh and the leaves rustled in the afternoon breeze. I worked tirelessly -- and painlessly -- for hours. The neighbors, who were unaware of my back incident, said they noticed a "spring" in my step. I felt as if I had the strength of a thousand men. Above all, I was proud of my work. The garden looked terrific! Susan would be delighted when she returned.
Before going to bed, I wrote a letter to George Rekers, thanking him for introducing me to Rentboy and for his exemplary work at the Family Research Council. Then, turning out the light, I thought about my beloved Susan and my excellent new therapist. I drifted to sleep knowing I was the luckiest man on earth.