Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kindly Do Not Speak to Me of Writing Pain

Some people say they have a high pain tolerance. Mine is certified.

Repetitive strain injuries used to be associated with tennis players and other enthusiastic sports peoples. Back then, it was just becoming known that doing something as simple as using a computer mouse the wrong way could hork the nerves in your arm (and hork is a technical term).

Geek extraordinaire I was, I fell prey to an odd type of nerve problem. I used that mouse eight to ten hours a day, the wrong way.

So, when the going got tough, the tough went to see a neurologist. It was obvious I had an inflamed nerve in my arm. My primary care doctor would poke at it and I would go OUCH MY GOD DON'T DO THAT AGAIN OR I WILL KILL YOU, YOU HACK!

But I digress.

The neurologist spent the appointment frowning. Soon I was on designer anti-inflammatories. This was a code phrase for "expensive as hell". Literally, I would count the pills to double check the pharmacist's work. I had no co-pay, but still, the thought of a $3.24 mistake grated on my nerves. Get it? Nerves? Grated?

Never mind.

ANYWAY, the specialist sends me to yet another specialist. He wants to know if I have a nerve problem or if I am totally screwed with un-repairable nerve damage. Little did I know my neurologist HATED MY GUTS. For he sent me to a man, a man who TORTURES the INNOCENT for a living.

I show up to my appointment to this specialist. I need an ENG. Not an EKG, but an electro-nerve-graph appointment. Boy howdy. I just should have given a Seattle bum a twenty to kick me in the nuts repeatedly. I am sure that would have felt better.

My first inkling something was wrong was a woman being led out of the appointment area by two friends who looked quite angry. This woman was crying. She had also peed her pants. Most of me felt really bad for her, the other part started to finally clue in that my insurance company was just about to pay $450 to have me tortured for an hour.

So in I go. After I tell the receptionist I am stopping by the men's room first. She nods wisely.

This neurologist is a mild-mannered looking fellow. Young and good looking, even. He explains the procedure to me: he is going to attach a probe to one end of my arm, and another probe at the other end. Using electric pulses, the probes will measure the time it takes for the nerves to conduct electricity from one end to another. These graphs then blah blah blah blah. About this point my brain goes:


But, actually, it doesn't sound that bad. To his credit, he mentions some people find the procedure painful. If it got too bad, we could stop, but he did not recommend it. We would have to start over some other day.

Hey, I'm a tough guy. How bad could this be?

My next inkling something was very amiss is when Dr. Young Man Torture Head "attaches" the fist probe to my arm. "Attaches" was "jam a sharp needle with a wire attached to it into my skin until it touched a nerve".

Literally, I about puked my guts out right then. Then oh no he DOES IT AGAIN. The second probe is a couple of inches away from the first.

"You're doing great," he assures me. "We're going to start the test. The shocks will grow in intensity. Don't worry if your arm flops about, the probes won't come out. If you feel faint, just lie down."

Oooookay. Maybe that was the hard part.


Well that is not too bad.

Zap Zap.


Zap Zap Zap

No, really, ow.

Zap Zap Zap Zap!

Oh, please, no!



"You did really well," he says.

In which I reply: *whimper*

Now he takes the second probe out and, and, he jams it into my arm again, this time a few mere inches away from the OTHER HOLE IN MY ARM WHICH IS NOW BLEEDING.

He puts a band-aid on this wound. Thanks doc, you're all heart, really you are.

This process repeated until the second probe was sticking out of my shoulder. I latch onto the fact this torture session is almost done. I used that to focus. It is my center. Mentally, I am the Master. Ommmmmmm.

"You did really well, most people at this time start crying," he says. "You have a high pain tolerance".

Well fine. Take that damn needle out of my arm, you, you, BAD MAN you.


He shows me the graphs. I remember nothing of this, of course. They look computerish impressive. Which is nothing to me now, because I am going home and shooting my computer.


"Okay, now we'll do the baseline."


"The what!?"

This does not sound good. Not good at all.

"We need to establish a baseline by running the same test on your other arm."

"But there isn't anything WRONG with the other arm. It feels fine!"

"Right. That's the good part. It lets us compare the blah blah blah blah blah blah with the blah blah blah. Right now your charts look fine, but without a baseline we won't know for certain."


And just like that, I am tortured again. At the end of the session:

"I don't see any damage, but your neurologist and I will go over the results together."


"You did great. You're well beyond the average in pain tolerance."


"Any questions?"


"Uh, you can put on your shirt and go now."


So I walk out. On my own. The reception area is devoid of patients. I remember the other woman and check my pants. They are dry. For now.

I get outside, and no sooner does the sunlight hit my face then I am on my hands and knees puking my guts out. Hurl hurl hurl hurl, goes lunch, breakfast and any meals prior, including the fish sandwich I had three days before, right into a handy bush.

Somehow, I have managed not to puke all over myself. But I can't muster the energy to get up. So I crawl, literally, to the car.

That is when I notice I have an audience. A man is looking at me with deer-in-the-headlights eyes. He turns to a woman next to him.

"I'm not going!"

"Harold! You have to go. You've been complaining about the pain for a month!"


This comes out as wheeze, wheeze, wheeze.

"Screw this!"

"Harold, Francine was a nine pound baby with a big head and we got to the hospital too late for me to have an epidural. Remember? Huh? Remember that?"


"Stop being a baby!"

Somehow, I manage to get into the car. Harold, the poor man, is doomed.

So, do not speak to me about how sometimes it's painful to write. For you know not what you speak, no sir no ma'am. And I never, and I mean never, used the mouse improperly again.


  1. All I can say is Lord have mercy.

    Years ago I had a job where I used the computer all day long. Evidently I wasn't sitting in the ergonomically correct position because by the end of the day, my arm would be numb from shoulder all the way to my fingers. I've learned since then. However, after your story I'll never complain about those little hand cramps again. :)

  2. Anthony,

    As I read your post, I kept thinking of the scene in "The Right Stuff" where doctors did a similar thing to potential astronauts. If you haven't seen it, check it out.

    On the other hand maybe not.

    Might bring back some bad memories :-D

  3. This story makes me laugh.

    Do you know the difference between a comedy and tragedy?

    A comedy is when it happens to somebody else.

    Thanks for the story.

  4. Oh my God.
    Please, tell the uninitiated (me) the proper way to use a mouse.
    Don't make me be another Harold.

  5. ooooh you've done it again. i was laughing so hard, so loud, that hubby had to make sure i was okay. you really ought to send that in somewhere. too funny.

  6. Alex, you are a Real tough guy. At the same time, I like to share with you a saying " No pain, No gain". My brother, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. James 1:2

    God bless and look forward to hearing from you,

  7. hey, James Oh: just so you know, this is a team blog -- we have 7 writers contributing to Adventures in Writing. Today's post was brought to you by our intrepid Anthony -- who has a kicking sense of humor, to be sure. Poke around, and you'll see that every day is posted by a different author! cool, huh?

    take care of you

  8. Thank you, Anthony. I shall endeavour to be more conscious of my hands, wrists and elbows when I type.

    Bless you and your poor, tortured arms.

  9. I decided to get passionate about curing the mouse hand dilemma! It started with the Mouse Hand Warmer blanket and grew to a website with several helpful, healing products. I enjoyed reading your blog. I hope you enjoy seeing my response to helping folks use the computer wisely!

    Take a look at and

    Thanks, Anna

  10. HAHHAHA oh man, sorry, but not, because you wrote this, and I laughed. Man, did u get a tetanus shot to save you from all the metal jabs you received? Just a thought...


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