Category Archives: medical

Trying to Be JUST Like Her Old Man

Readers of this blog (both of you) will note by now my penchant for orthopedic insult. That is, doctors trained in the fine art of examining deficient skeletal systems and then mending them tend to have a field day with yours truly. Scratch that – most bone docs hear my name and look for the nearest window out of which to leap headlong.

We could start, of course, with the traumatic injuries suffered when I was thrown from a burning building at the age of 4. I’m sorry, I’m just taking in that last sentence and realizing how awesome that makes me sound. Seriously, it could well be a source of great sorrow and the wellspring of a thousand phobias but I look upon it like a phenomenal story to tell at a bar. “Hey Harvey, what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?” Me (thinking for a moment): “Well, let’s begin…”

Any X-ray techs want to play spot the fracture?

That fall resulted in hundreds of microfractures which eventually manifested themselves in degenerative disc disease. This led to my first spinal fusion at the age of 23. And another spinal fusion at 36. Together these two surgeries accounted for the complete removal of two discs from my spine, an autologous bone graft from my hip, countless titanium rods and screw that sometimes set off airport magnetometers, and the delightful fact that inside my body right this minute can be found 1) cadaver bone, 2) my brother-in-law’s blood, and 3) a bovine bone “donation”. I know you’re all caught on that last bit too. Yes, there’s a freakin cow bone in my spine. Moove on. Modern medicine is udderly fascinating.

Along the way and since then I’ve broken several ribs, a collarbone, the wrist on my dominant right hand (even though I’m naturally left-handed), and every toe on both feet. Come to think of it, I guess I’m a pretty tough dude. For instance, just three weeks ago I broke a toe on my left foot while jumping out of bed one morning to answer the phone. I lost my balance and slammed it into the leg of a table. Ironic that I’d break a toe on a leg… At this point, though, I don’t even bother to get stuff like this checked out. They’d just slap a boot on me, place me under all kinds of restrictions for six weeks, and NOT even give me a decent painkiller. No thank you. I’ll take my chances with sufficient rest and Motrin. Harvey doesn’t have time for such things as six weeks off from jumping rope and lifting weights.

Also, I really can’t afford to be taking it easy when the school year is only two days off. Recall that I am a high school teacher and the vice principal of our school. This school year is especially exciting for me as my precious daughter will be coming to school with me as our newest fourth grade student. Let’s refresh for the occasional reader who isn’t one of my two kids.

Don’t worry. It will be wrapped in pink shortly.

Although I do have a twin sister, I also share my birthday to the exact minute with my little girl. This is great fun considering my twin died when we were young. What fun is celebrating your birthday with someone who isn’t even living anymore? I mean, I made the best of it but when God decided to give me another young lady to share the birthday with that was about the coolest thing ever. Factor in that said little girl appears to have received way more than 23 of my chromosomes and things get really fun. We’re looking forward to our drive to school every morning and having Daddy visit her on the playground at recess, and all the fun things that come along with your father being the guy all the other students love but you get the special knowledge that he loves you a little bit more for a whole lot of reasons.

One of the reasons I love my daughter is that she seems to want to be just like me. There was the time she started playing the piano when she was 4 (like me) or the time she mastered roller skates at 6 (like me) or the time she distilled her own blend of botanicals into bathtub gin (like m… OK, you get that point. What I don’t love is when she tries to copy the dumb things like breaking bones. With her it seems to be a straight up thugfight to the death. It’s like “Hey old man, I WILL dominate in this so step off or I will cut you.” Such a sweet girl.

Remember when I mentioned breaking my wrist as a child? Well that was just one wrist. She matched that last Christmas when she fell off her scooter and snapped the left one. Today I had her with me up at school setting up some things in my office. We had just swapped the 7th and 8th grade classroom signs (no it wasn’t a prank) and I asked her help mounting a whiteboard across from my desk. “Sweetheart, can you hand me that screwdriver?” I asked. But instead of a “yes, Daddy” I heard the sound of tears. And it was the hard, painful tears of a “oh no, something’s horribly wrong” variety not the “I’m hungry and bored” variety. I’m a Dad; I know the difference.

I turned around to find my baby girl on the ground. Seems someone had decided to wear a pair of (let’s see if I’ve got this right) wedge heels? You see Mommy had already told her not to wear these shoes she had found from her aunt but someone opted to let human nature put on a great big show and disobeyed Mommy. How did Daddy not see this when they left the house together? Dude, Daddy can’t find a giant can of coffee in my pantry when it’s in the same spot for 8 years running. You think guys – even dads – pay attention to shoes? In any event, my genetic minion, unsteady on her feet in these clod-hopping death traps, tripped over herself and landed on her backside. In the process she put her hands out to soften the landing and incurred what’s known as a “buckle fracture”. She’s getting good at this. Once she stopped crying she said very calmly “Daddy, it’s broken. My symptoms are identical to when I broke the other one.” A trip to the orthopedic urgent care confirmed her claim. So I brought her home to rest with her pretty new pink cast that stretches almost to her shoulder. Five weeks from now and at least $600 later perhaps she will have learned her lesson on obedience. Meanwhile I have to be both discipline dad (instilling the lesson that she really should have listened to her mother) and kind and sympathetic dad (trying to comfort her and console her that the first few weeks of a new school won’t suck because of this). In fact tonight at Parent Night her new teacher already told me that she would be fine with my daughter dictating her homework to me if writing is too difficult. What contest in hell did I just win? I don’t want to do 4th grade homework!

On our ride home from the doctor’s office my daughter asked me to run down all of my broken bones with her. “But you did break your wrist, right Daddy?” I replied: “Yes I did,” and told her that fun tale. I was just at the point where my mom threatened to “demolish” my older brother Sean for goading me into taking a shot at him and then jumping out of the way so I’d slam my fist into a brick wall possibly leaving me unable to play the piano again when my daughter cut me off.

“So wait, Daddy… You just broke the one wrist? Then I WIN!”

Yes, sweetness, you win. For now.

Talk to me when the few strands left on your scalp are all white because your kid decided he wanted to be just… like… you.

BACK to the Grind

Man 1: “Do you like Kipling?”

Man 2: “I don’t know. I’ve never kippled.”

My dad was fond of telling that old joke when I was growing up. In reality, I like some of Kipling’s work. The Just So Stories come to mind. But the focus on Kipling was not why I repeated it here. I opened Facebook this morning and saw a picture of my father (with my mom and me) and for some reason I thought of that line. Still that joke must have made an impact on me. Every now and then my son will turn to me and ask: “Daddy, do you like… Kipling?” We both laugh like little kids.

Where were we my faithful follower? Ah yes, I broke my back. I don’t want to beat a dead horse. That wouldn’t be fair to the horse and simply a desecration of its body. But this is significant. First, it hurts. Second, it really hurts. Finally, it hurts a lot.

Let’s get caught up, shall we?

Determined to do hard things I realized that lifting heavy weights wasn’t enough so I started doing bizarre gymnastics-like things called calisthenics then my wife went out of town and I gave in to the whims of my children and, having prayed to share in the Passion of Christ, did a frontal flip on a trampoline at the age of 41 with two spinal fusions under my belt (literally), and broke my back. This was followed up with a visit to an urgent care facility wherein two pit bulls had been shot and killed by police earlier in the day after mauling their owner to death. That sound about right?

In my last post I quipped that I must be pretty tough that I went almost 24 hours without treating it before being seen. You see, although I probably get my love of dad jokes from my dad (go figure) I think I definitely get my grit (if you can call it that) from my mom. I still vividly remember her when I was a child and a fall from a second story window in a house fire had left her in traction for weeks. She willed herself to get out of that hospital because, as she said: “I had kids at home to take care of. What was I gonna’ do? Lie there forever?”

Do you like him?

This morning I walked into my classroom and was greeted by 18 of the happiest faces you could hope to see at 8:45 in the morning. They rose to their feet (as they always do, they’re very polite) and said good morning. Then, having already heard through the grapevine that I was injured they began asking with mouths wide open how it was possible that I was with them. I told my story.

Then it was on to my senior class who literally bowed down for me when I came in. They informed me that two of their classmates were out sick because they “didn’t feel well today”. They then told me they would be texting those two to inform them the the “legend” (their teacher) was a machine, a beast, and the most incredible human being they’d known because he didn’t let no broken back stop him from getting to work.

“Kids,” I said, “I had to demonstrate my toughness for you.” It’s an old teacher trick.

The juniors were last and just as mystified as to my presence. “Kids,” I said, “Who else was going to come in here today and have as much fun with you as me?” They appreciated my being there as much as I appreciated their presence. One of them in particular, an athlete, picked up on my fear of getting soft over the next few weeks. He offered me some advice on exercises I could do and diet tricks to keep in mind during the time when I wouldn’t be able to lift. Nice young man.

Back to the doctor’s office on Saturday, the doctor who came in to speak with me after looking at my X-ray asked me “Do you, um, like, do you lift weights or anything?” I gave a bit of a smirk, nodded my head, and said “Yes, yes I do.” “That’s what I figured,” she said. “It probably saved you.” She had just spoken with the neurologist on the phone because she was concerned with where the break was. It seems that a break like mine could easily have left my paralyzed but for my brute physical strength and charm. I tossed the “charm” in there for fun. But really, being in decent shape allowed me to thrust myself out of the dangerous position I was in and I’m glad that I can see a payoff for all the hours in the gym.

Tonight I’m back out making pick-ups and deliveries as part of my courier job. I’m hoping none of the parcels tonight are particularly heavy but as I previously stated “for everything else, there’s Percocet.”

I think Dad would be proud. I didn’t let a little thing like a broken bone get in the way of continuing to do what I need to do for my family. He taught me well. And Mom? Do I even have to ask? I think she’s probably wondering why it’s even a thing. After all, if memory serves, she broke several vertebrae in that fall. She’s probably reading this and thinking “When’s he gonna’ shut up about it? It was one bone!”

And my kids? Well, one day we’ll determine if we actually like Kipling.