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
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.
Copyright Bud Hearn