RAVAGES OF AGE


I hit the Big 6-0 this month, and the wear and tear is beginning to show.  In 1988 when I shot the DCM course to earn my Garand, I spent two days lying on my left side, trussed up like a chicken on a spit in a too-tight shooting coat, with an 11-pound rifle to hold me in place if the wind got too stiff.  My left shoulder was NOT happy that weekend, and it has bothered me ever since, but most of the time I've been able to ignore it.  Over the years I've had two bouts of physical therapy and have probably consumed about 11.3 tons of Tylenol, but it really started acting up two months ago.  My doctor sent me to physical therapy again, because I've lost some range of motion, and then I went for a MRI on the shoulder a week ago today.

If you've ever had an MRI you know what it's like: they stick you in a tunnel magnet with no more space in it than a coffin, and the thing whirs and bangs and clangs for 20-30 minutes and it's over.  No big deal if you're not a claustrophobe and I'm not; the hardest part was not scratching my nose.  BUT...that was before the contrast injection.

To get a better look at the joint space in my shoulder, I had to have TWO runs in the coffin: the second one was after they injected a gadolinium based dye that is affected by the magnetic field of the machine and lights up in brilliant white.  This involves the doctor sticking a whacking big needle through my skin and INTO the joint space.  I append an image of my left shoulder being so abused;  they do it (than God) with fluoroscopic guidance into the very narrow space.

The doctor used lidocaine to numb the skin, injection of which hurt only marginally less than none at all, and then he stabbed me with the Big Needle. He said, "You'll feel some pressure..." and then set off the hand grenade he'd cleverly slipped into the syringe when I wasn't looking.

My GOD, did that hurt...I started to (literally) writhe in agony; it felt like I'd been shot, except when you get shot, I'm told,you don't feel it for a little while, and I felt this from the moment he pushed the plunger.  My shoulder caught fire, and it took 20 minutes, an ice bag, and several pain relief tablets to get me to where I could hold still long enough for the second run.  I am NEVER, EVER, going to do that again.  I know people who've had arthroscopic surgery and I can't imagine how painful that must be.

It's ached for the past week, constantly, to the point where it's interfering with sleep and a number of normal activities.  I still can't raise my arm over my head, and I have yet to hear what, if anything, this torment reveals about the extent of the injury.  I imagine the answer I'm going to get is "You'll just have to live with it."

I really do need to go back and hunt in Africa again, over there they have big strapping guys to do all the grunt work.  My left arm isn't going to take things well when I drag my deer out this year...