This past Wednesday I finally started my physical therapy (almost three months to the day after spinal fusion number 2 and more than 6 weeks after it was prescribed to me by my surgeon). Why the lag? Let’s just say that my Jersey area-code on my cell phone is very similar to the are code of the place where I live now and the therapist’s office assumed that I was wrong when I wrote it down. I’ve only had the number for over a decade now. Sure, I got it wrong. That’s it.
Let’s talk about therapy for a second. If you have visions of people lying around a 1920’s era hospital ward doing leg lifts, you’re not far off the mark. Sure there are medicine balls and isometric bands and all. I’ve personally endured this crap on at least four separate occasions in my lifetime (all related to the spine). The last time I was given this special treat was three years ago when my then-new-to-me doctor here in Texas pulled the old “You’re back is bothering you? PT!” routine. I went to a handful of visits before realizing that I had been given an introductory evaluation, handed a sheet of bizarre exercises, and that each subsequent “visit” to the office (for which I was paying out of pocket around $100) simply meant getting on a table and doing the exercises on my own. Sorry, I don’t need to pay someone to let me stretch on their table. I can do that at home. I mean, I wasn’t doing that at home but I could have been. To hell with them.
Needless to say I wasn’t hopeful and entered the office with a rather “whatever” attitude. Within minutes a young lady approached me. “I’m Tiffany. I’ll be your therapist today,” she said. I wanted to respond “That’s a stripper’s name and based on the length of your scrubs I’m not sure that’s not your alternative income source.” But I held my tongue. Give it time, Harv, I thought… It might be helpful. Also, I had this strange sense that because I had been feeling remarkably well (especially since that trip to Cabrini’s shrine) that this would go well. In my mind “Oh Mr. Harvey, you’re fabulous! You can stretch better than any stretcher we’ve ever seen! Please stay and entertain us with your witty bon mots!”
I followed the
hooker therapist back to the ward. Seriously, that’s all it is. It’s a giant room with tables, beds, some bizarre rail contraption, sets of wooden stairs that don’t lead anywhere except to a drop-off, and the occasional curtain divider hanging from chains. Don’t get me wrong. It was very clean and bright and everyone seemed cheerful. “I’m gonna’ have you lay down on this table right here,” said Tiffany. “First, it’s lie down, not lay down. Second, you’re not gonna’ have be do anything.” OK, I didn’t actually say that and I’m not 100% sure if my grammar is correct on lie/lay/lain but that’s what I was thinking. What did I do? I got on the table. “No!” barked Tiffany. “Did they show you how to log roll in the hospital?” she asked. “Yes,” I said, “but that was months ago.” “Doesn’t matter! EVERYONE should log roll in and out of bed ALL THE TIME!!!” she shot back. Holy cow, this chick meant business. So I got up, sat back down on the edge of the table, and “log rolled” myself back into the same exact position.
Over the course of the next hour and a half I came to learn two important lessons. First, Tiffany’s a bitch. OK, three important lessons. First, Tiffany’s a bitch. Second, apparently the muscles in my legs are tighter than Rich Uncle Pennybags. The Monopoly dude? No. Oh for God’s sake, why am I the only one who pays attention to cultural references?! Whatever. See, apparently I’m supposed to be able to keep one leg flat and raise the other 90 degrees in the air while keeping it straight. Yep, ain’t happening. She printed off a whole list of exercises to help me with that. What’s the third lesson? Skip to the jump and let’s discover together!
During one of her attempts at straightening out my leg I winced. “That kind of hurt my incision,” I said. In a totally-not-log-roll fashion Tiffany immediately flipped me with one hand into a prone position (I was now facing down on the table). With my head pressed into the table I managed to get out “No, the other incision.” She flipped me back over. “Stop doing that,” I said rather cautiously, still fearful of her brute strength and afraid she might go off at any moment like a loaded pistol in the wrong hands. “You mean you have… another incision!?” she asked with her eyes wide open. I was now officially scared. I was already scarred. Ha. Get it? I explained to her that I had been incised abdominally. “Mind if I have a look?” she asked. “Well, I suppose since you are a doctor…” I untied the string holding up my shorts. I don’t usually wear running shorts. I won’t explain. Before I knew what was happening, Tiffany had her hands on my abdominal incision. She explained that it had probably adhered to my intestines. Apparently the way to break the adhesion loose was to massage the heck out of the incision. The only problem is that her definition of massage involved torture. For 20 minutes she beat the hell out of me.
That’s really about it. I went home feeling weird. The next day I was sick as a dog with what I thought was a stomach bug. Nope, I think it was just Tiffany’s massage. And she assured me, this is the best part, that she was just a “temp” in that office and wouldn’t be seeing her again. Thank the Lord. Nonetheless, I’m supposed to subject myself to this torture at my own hands every day. Her last words to me were “Make sure you massage that incision whenever you can. Sitting in traffic, wherever, whenever…” I looked back at her in distress. “Tiffany. Are you telling me that in traffic I’m supposed to unzip my pants, reach down, and play with my… incision?” “Yes,” she said, “you have to be that guy.” “No,” I said, “I don’t. I’m a school teacher. Think about that.”
The next six weeks should be a riot.