A Pain In The Back, Or Why Tarzan Has That Yell



Last Monday I had back surgery, and I was reminded of two famous quotes from our time: "It will be a piece of cake!" and "Mission Accomplished!" My doctor is a brilliant surgeon. From his perspective, no doubt, both statements are quite true. For the record, though, there is often a bit of an information gap between famous proclamations and the "whole truth." This gap forms "The Rest of the Story."

Yesterday, we had our first post-op conversation. He asked, "Are you having much pain?"

"Only when I breathe or cough," I answered truthfully.

He took a few moments of serious contemplation before offering, "We'll get you something for the cough." The rest is up to me, I suppose.

He assures me that I will be walking upright very soon. My wife comforts me with the notion that this will also bring great improvement to my knuckles and fingernails. A real jokester she is. She has no compassion. You think all those primates out there WANT to walk like that? It's back pain, I'm telling you.

I am already planning my revenge, however. As soon as I can get around better, I'm going to short-sheet the bed, and pretend that I have shrunk. Two can play this game.

Here's some advice for folks who have recently had surgery. Don't tell a soul. Especially don't mention it among a small crowd. If six people are present, five conversations will immediately begin discussing the finite details of Their life-threatening ordeal. In the "old days," apparently all surgery was experimental and only performed by doctors who rented their equipment from Aaron's. Family Practice was the only way to go. Large incisions, some described as "from head to toe" were seemingly routine, and trusted to those not involved in common cold research. It is not a small coincidence that the town surgeon and the town barber were once the same individual. This person would usually have the inside track on the liquor business as well. Anesthesia has progressed a bit, too. In those days, the average recovery period was somewhere around two years in complete agony. To hear some folks tell it, this was still common practice until about a year ago (when they had Their surgery).

My operation took approximately two hours and three Band-aids covered the incision marks. Within an hour of being assigned a hospital room, a physical therapist took me on a short walk down the hall. Later that day and twice the next one, we strolled farther and farther, arm in arm, telling lame little jokes, as I pretended that all was well, and he was my best buddy. I wanted to go home, and the room had another patient needing it anyway, so I was released with all the fanfare and good wishes a staff can muster. The little scene had a distinct resemblance to "Happy Birthday" being sung at Chili's. I was given several prescriptions and told to "take it easy."

"Boy! You're so lucky," is the standard response among your peers as several slap you on the very back which is now hurting, to the point of euthanasia. A veterinarian would have me put down, by now, I'm certain. Note to the general public concerning surgery: It HURTS! Not nearly as much as everyone else's, I'm sure, but that is somewhat relative. Oh, and the pain sticks around for a while. Here's your sign.

It's been a week now since the "little event" and my wife is recording all the mean-spirited outbursts, which seem to coincide with the inevitable lapses between pain pills, and she plans to use them in Divorce Court, if I am ever foolish enough to stray from her side.

(She treats me like Royalty in good times and is the best nurse I can imagine, in bad. Why on earth would I be That foolish?)

I was watching some old Tarzan re-runs this week in a sincere attempt at avoiding complete brain atrophy, and suddenly I had an epiphany. Tarzan suffered from severe back troubles! If you watch closely enough, you can time his famous "yell" to the exact moment when the vine gets taut. I tell you, I have the proof.

Poor devil. I'll bet the primates never cut him any slack, either.

To the marvelous people sending cards and good wishes, I thank you both. To Sharon's mother, Libby, "Don't fret about sending the birthday card. It's the thought that counts and I know how frugal one must be in these times."

Lyndon Johnson caused quite a stir when he graced us with a Full Monty of his surgical scars while President. For a small donation, I will promise to spare you two things: First, I will never run for President, and second, you can simply take my word for the scars.

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