Once you realize that shit is going to happen whether you plan your entire life for it or not… life gets a little more exhilarating.
Several years ago I found myself at a very exclusive table, in a very extravagant restaurant, surrounded by very exquisite food, unknowingly about to play the most expensive game of my life.
It wasn’t Blackjack nor was it Poker. It wasn’t even the Texas version of Hold ‘em. What it was involved two men grasping each other’s hands as they jousted back and forth for control in the ancient art of arm wrestling.
No that wasn’t meant to be a joke though if you had been sitting there you would surely have wished it were.
Yes arm wrestling, the Neanderthal version of dick measuring at its finest. Me, undefeated in my thirty one years of life, him, some sort of Kung Fu masters kick boxing champion something or other from Iran. Both fresh with drink and the flow of testosterone thick in our veins.
All that had been required to ignite this showdown of egos was a catalyst. Ours happen to be a lesser man with a much larger wallet who specialized in the art of instigation and shit talk. One drink had lead inevitably to another and the game was on.
Now ya see in a formal match each opponent’s wraaastling hand grasps the others, thumb knuckle to the ceiling and straight wristed with their free hands gripping a peg on the table, elbow secured firmly against a pad. The winner is declared victorious upon the pining of his opponents forearm to the top of the same designated pad.
This was in no way formal nor was it licensed under the any form of legitimized league play. It was two idiots acting like idiots spectacularly.
So after firmly grasping each other’s hand we each found leverage with our free other not around a peg but instead around whatever we could. Being right handed on the wrong side of the table my thigh was the only natural place to try and secure my body for to competition, which was a far cry from the bottom of the table that he found with his. Needless to say I learned to always position myself for success no matter how many drinks I have had prior. All that was left to do now was await the “1, 2, 3, and Go.”
It came fast and hard matching the force our core; biceps, triceps and forearms displayed as they contracting against one another. The grip I had on my leg did little to steady the inertia my body created as it rotated violently into his forgetting the lower half of my arms as it did so.
The sound of my distal humorous spiral fracturing at its base exploded from under my skin and through our private room spilling out into the main dining area like a gunshot. The first thing that ripped through my mind, besides the fact that I wasn’t going to be dining on black cod that evening, was a shimmer of humor at the question I immediately asked myself before even reacting. Alright Superman, how the fuck are you going to spin this to make it work for you, not against?
Being surrounded by patients, friends, semi beige acquaintances and a new girlfriend of two weeks the last thing I wanted to do was acted scared or seemed concerned. Thankfully, and more surprisingly, I was neither. I wasn’t afraid.
With a sense of ease and a polite smile I informed everyone that “Fuck. I just broke my arm” right before asking for an ambulance. Of course I first made sure to finish the glass of yes, expensive wine before saying my final au duet. It would have been alcohol abuse to leave such a fine wine unappreciated.
Now the funny thing about breaking a bone is that when it happens around holidays orthopedic surgeons tend to vanish like farts in the wind and Miami is no exception stereotype. Not one could be found to perform the required surgery let a lone come and see me that night as they were most likely elbow deep in the fireworks and French fries that encompass a July 4th weekend.
So not to bore you with the multi-million dollar lawsuit I decide not to pursue making this long story very short, I finally was able to conjure up an orthopedic surgeon after ten days by calling in a favor from a very influential patient of mine. A favor that could have been used in more fun places just to get the much-needed surgery.
So after being misdiagnosed, under cast, and improperly healed… I could argue that these ten days of my life was less than five star. Further snowballing this effect listening to a brother who began his career as a traumatic surgeon in one of the largest trauma centers in the United States as well as a brother in law who worked as a physician’s assistant for an orthopedic clinic ream my ass out about the amount of risk my recovery suffered each day I prolonged surgery was exhausting.
Being a right-handed physician who uses that same right hand every day for work, has an activity level and age like mine, and was on the hormone program I was on screamed contradiction, stupidity, and malpractice. Insert several drinks later, an early surgical room appointment, procedure that lasted an extra seventy-five minutes, and me waking up in a room by myself.
Now the worst thing about surgery, minus having it preformed hung over (guilty as charged), is that upon waking up you don’t know whether or not your gonna have a catheter rammed up your pee hole… I thankfully did not. My days as a medical student had conditioned me to become a pro at placing them and forged a phobia to ever having to receive one.
What I did have however was a full on radial nerve palsy wrist drop type situation going down. Pun intended. To give you an idea of what that means take your right hand and lay it flat on a table. First try and open and close your fingers. Next raise your hand up and down leaving your forearm on the table. Lastly give yourself a thumbs up… for me ALL of these things were impossible to accomplish without the use of a claw like device that looked like it was purchased from K Mart. I had gone to sleep a man with the world at his fingertips and woke up a limp wristed cripple and still I wasn’t afraid.
Being a doctor affords an advanced knowledge of how the body works that comes hand and hand with an understanding of what can happen when it doesn’t. You immediately start to think in time frames when you realize the situation you’ve been cast in. How long until this heals? How long until this wears off? How long until I can use my right hand to make love to myself? Stop for a second and Imagine waking up to the realization that you can no longer jerk off. Terrifying right? Yes I was thrown into a hell like no other upon that epiphany, as anyone would be.
For those reading this I hope you will never know the feeling of not being able to communicate with any part of your body. This part of my body had acted as my breadwinner, best friend, lover (haha), and figurative/literal right hand for 32 years up to this point. And now he was gone, still I wasn't afraid.
Now already understanding my predicament the last thing I needed was some over educated physician telling me what I already knew… the chances of regaining the full range of motion in my arm along with the functionally/sensation of my hand weren’t something I shouldn’t bet on any time soon. But where was I going to go?
Finally his speech and me forcing myself to piss, a small battle in and of itself, I headed home to begin my new life officially handicapped and yet still, some how, I wasn’t afraid.
PT was as I expected, pointless for someone who was used to exercising twice a day and lasted only one session. The claw I was handcuffed to wear was anything but pleasant on the eyes and not the easiest garment to keep so fresh and so clean.
But the day finally came where I would have the future of my hand read. My nerve conduction study would shed some light on when the expected due date of having all my digits back to working fashion was going to be. It took several very large needles stuck in several very small muscles, deciphered by on very uncouth physician to paint a grime tale.
“Honey you ain’t ever going to be able to used that hand again. Uh uh.”
Even with her un compassionate fortune telling of my foreseeable future, and the look on the girls face who I had just started dating, I remained un afraid promising myself that once I regained the ability to give myself something as simple as a thumbs-up I would commemorate this feat with something monumental in its honor, a gigantic tattoo that I had envisioned years ago but never found a reason to get it. Back tattoos can suck or they can really suck there is no in between.
The thirteen hours of pure torture to finalize the ink I have currently decorating my back was worth every prick of the needle and inoculation of dye it took to honor my personal accomplishment. One of deciding to not play victim or become a statistic but instead own a situation making it work for me not against. This was my personal victory over something that was impossible according to everyone but the only person that needed to not believe it, me.
Those that live consumed by fear, unable to think outside the confines of their smaller than small box, lack the shade of confidence required to evolve the world around them.
Take the risk knowing that even if it doesn't go as planned you are strong enough, wise enough and ballsy enough to adapt. Those that step into this ALPHA’ISH mind set with open arms are able to utilize perceived failure as a springboard into asserting a new upgraded way of thinking.
Was I afraid that I might break my arm or lose the joust? No, not at all. Regardless of outcome it was set up to be an epic story, me breaking my arm only made it legendary.
Was I afraid by the explosion of bone under my skin that sent the sound of potential catastrophe ricocheting throughout the restaurant? Negative, I knew my life had forever changed that instant and it was up to me to embrace the curve ball life had thrown at me. I altered how I approached everyday work, which resulted in a doubling of income that very month that has yet to see a regression. Yep, I juggled the shit out of the curve ball.
Did I fear the future when upon waking I found my right hand to be as useful as a hand knit condom? Well I’ll admit this one scared me for a day or two until I mastered the art of ambidextrous masturbation. But overall I saw opportunity in this pitfall to prove to myself that the medicine I prescribe to my patients isn’t just about better erections and washboard abs. That it actually works on a level that transcends traditional medicine. With a complete full range of motion after only three weeks, not the six months I was quoted, and a fully functioning hand I proved it does what I say it does. Practices what it preaches.
Was being told that I would never be able to use my right hand again something that sent me cowering under my bed calling out for lawsuits and worker comp? No this is the one that scared me the least actually. Being told I couldn’t do something was all guidance I needed to accomplish that very thing. Six months after my visit to the oh so polite ortho center I looked at myself in the mirror, smiled cheekily and gave myself the biggest thumbs up of my life. It was the first time I really ever felt pride in myself for accomplishing something that relied solely on me and me alone. All my awards in academics and sports and life have come with a sense of “if you build it they will come.” Study you get the degree. Study harder you get a better degree. Crush weights in the gym and make the team. Crush massive weights in the gym and you will make pro.
This challenge had no set formula nor did it have a guarantee that if every hoop were jumped through success would be waiting with open arms on the other end. I could just as easily have poured my heart, money, knowledge and hopes into healing myself and ended up the way I had started this adventure, handicapped and relying on rubber bands attached to hooks to eat.
Fear for things that are can be manipulated to me is nothing but a display of the lack in confidence one has in themselves. Fear of being in the water where you can’t see the bottom seventy miles out and having someone yell shark however is totally justified, its theoretically uncontrollable. And yes I have experienced that and made it out with yet another monumental tale but that’s for another day.
The greatest innovators in history were simply the ones who took the greatest risks….
Dr. Ivan Rusilko