Human frailty

I have my kidney stones, and my ischemia. I told you about my tennis elbow.

What else can go wrong?

We came back from France a few months ago, which means hoisting things in and out of overhead compartments on airplanes. Then, a few days after arrival, I went to the Providence Public Library without my sweet-little-old-lady library bag and came out with four heavy books and two “I LOVE MY LIBRARY” t-shirts. I walked for at least twenty minutes balancing thirty pounds of cargo – oh, that’s right, I stopped at CVS to buy some candy.

Two days later, my right shoulder began to ache.

Two days after that, I couldn’t raise my arm. I couldn’t put on a shirt without screaming with pain. I couldn’t lift a box of Junior Mints from the table.

I reconciled myself to this, though the blinding pain. I assured myself that I could make it through life somehow with one arm.

Then, after consulting WebMD and applying a heating pad and doing some physical-therapy exercises I learned from Partner, most of the pain went away.

It still twangs once in a while, and reminds me that it’s there. Naturally the words “rotator cuff” peal in my head.

And I remember what I heard a health professional say once: “Once you begin going downhill, you might slow down a bit here and there, or delay, but you never really stop going downhill.”

How cheerful!

Here’s a toast: to going downhill.

I hope the scenery along the way is nice.

Tennis elbow


Hey, kids! I just self-diagnosed myself into another interesting condition!



About two months ago, my right elbow began to bother me. It hurt when I picked anything up with my right hand, even small light things. It felt better some days, but then it got worse again. Sometimes it felt like it was burning. (Actually, I think I whammed it into a wall or cabinet around that time. I am extraordinarily uncoordinated.)



One day, on a whim, I asked my student assistant Jake: “What does tennis elbow feel like?”



He raced onto the Net and read the info to me, and showed me a diagram of the bones and tendons involved.






It’s not a big deal. It only hurts once in a while, when I pick something up the wrong way. It’s not a crippling pain; it’s a once-in-a-while ache. It has lots of other names: its medical name is “lateral epicondylitis,” but we can call it “shooter’s elbow,” or “archer’s elbow,” if we are feeling twee.



My friend Matt, the big tough parking cop, tells me that I can buy a brace that will help. I read on WebMD that I’m supposed to rest it, and ice it. My skinny little doctor giggled when I described it, and when I touched my elbow to show him where the pain was, he said: “That’s exactly where tennis elbow pain is.”



I can deal with it. I have gigantic bottles of ibuprofen at home and at the office, and I eat them like M&Ms if/when necessary.



It’s just one more thing in my life, you know? One more small breakdown, one more ache, one more flower in my garden.



From “The Simpsons”:



Doctor: Mr. Burns, I’m afraid you are the sickest man in the United States. You have everything. 

Burns: You mean I have pneumonia?

Doctor: Yes.

Burns: Juvenile diabetes?

 Doctor: Yes.

 Burns: Hysterical pregnancy?

 Doctor: Uh, a little bit, yes. You also have several diseases that have just been discovered – in you.

 Burns: I see. You sure you haven’t just made thousands of mistakes?

 Doctor: Uh, no, no, I’m afraid not.

 Burns: This sounds like bad news.

 Doctor:Well, you’d think so, but all of your diseases are in perfect balance.

 Burns: So what you’re saying is, I’m indestructible.

 Doctor: Oh, no, no, in fact, even a slight breeze could . . .

 Burns: Indestructible. 


Over and out, kids.


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