The searing pain in my hip shut down my mobility. Fix me, the nerve said. Which explains why I sit in the reception room of the Pain Clinic, waiting my turn. Pain and mostly old women fill the room, waiting also for relief. A man with Einstein hair sits across from me, unkempt, grimacing. The nude on his large silver belt buckle smiles. His wife is having a bad hair day. She might have washed it last year.
The nurse calls the roll, “Mr. Hearn.” I remain silent momentarily for effect. Then I answer, “Here.” She has no humor. Pain nurses are not happy people. Follow me, she says. I do, into the pre-op room. The interrogation begins. Where do you hurt? My hip, I say. On the 1-10 scale, which? “100,” I answer. She’s not amused. She continues. Why are you here? You need revenue? I answer. Are you drunk, sir? Not yet, I say. Be serious, sir. OK, I’ll try. Are you pregnant? No, but I’m working on it. Yes or no, sir. OK, No, so far. Her eyes fling daggers.
Do you know what the doctor plans to do? Not really, does he? She looks disgusted. She checks my blood pressure, then re-checks it. Why? I ask. You appeared not to be alive on the first take. Consult my 100-scale pain, I shout. I ask her name. Same as my first girl-friend. Scary. I ask if perhaps she had once been. She didn’t remember. We’re both relieved. She finishes, leaves. I wait. An old lady, maybe 100, hobbles in for interrogation. Same questions. Pregnant? Hope not, she says. He promised safe sex. She smiles. Do you know what the doctor is going to do? Artificial insemination? She answers. I’m beginning to like this lady. I may ask her out, with permission of course.
A young nurse in a red flak jacket arrives. Follow me, she says. Anywhere, I say. Why the vest? X-ray protection, she says. What about me? I ask. Don’t worry, X-ray won’t kill you,…the needle might. The needle? I’d forgotten about it. Nothing good comes from a needle. A cold sweat erupts. I shiver. Lie face down, remove your pants, she demands. Things are finally getting interesting. I always prefer domineering women. A massage? I ask. You wish, she replies. Think of it as your last-meal request, she says. I cringe. Then I hear a whirring sound. A picture of a gigantic spine appears on a screen. Is that mine? I ask. Yes, she says. See that bulge? The needle will go there. Will it hurt? I ask. She laughs. I pray.
You want local anesthesia or the full knock-out IV? Bareback, I say. I’m tough. They all say that…the first time, she says. Can I change my mind? Too late, she says. Have you performed this procedure before? I ask. Yes, she says. Once. I don’t laugh.
A door opens. A white Hazmat suit shambles in. Who’s that? I ask. Robodoc she replies. An echo inside grunts. Two red glows emanate through an opaque black shield. Eyes? I picture a black Caddy Escalade, windows blackened, on Peachtree Street. Horrors! Who’s this? I ask. Dr. Feelgood she answers. Rejoice…your redemption draweth near. Are you a Nun, I ask. No, she says, but I have given many last rites. Relax, sir. He holds a needle not quite as long as a baseball bat, aiming at a bull’s eye on my spine. Is that going into my spine? What do you think? the suit says. I lose consciousness.
I awake sitting in a wheel chair. No pain. The doctor sits beside me. How do you feel? Great! Is this heaven? I ask. Thank God, he shouts. You’re our first success. I feel faint. Doc, is this relief permanent? I ask. No, he says, are you kidding? I search for words. Give me some hope, Doc, I say. What’s the long-term solution for this pain? I ask. He’s silent for a long moment. Then says, Death, gets up, leaves. I lose continence.
The nurse with my ex girl-friend’s name wheels me through the waiting room to my car. People with eyes of pain look at me. They seem to be asking silent questions. I feel sorry for them, hoping it’s not their first time. I offer no encouragement. I exit, proclaiming, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Two scream. One faints. I add, and may God have mercy on you if you’re pregnant!
Today I live. The pain has subsided. But the Doc’s word, “Death,” still troubles me.
Editor's Note: Visit Bud's blog and enjoy his vast collection of musings at theweaklypost.com. He can also be reached by email at BudHearn@mindspring.com.