You know, I sometimes read novels, or watch movies about the old days when people were drawn and quartered, stretched on the rack, broken on the wheel, and other good things that we used to do to each other when we were having a bad hair day.
The problem was that I never really knew what all of that meant. Until today.
I can’t remember (damn chemo) whether I have talked much about it, but I have been the lucky recipient of a flare-up of gout for the last week. Now gout (speaking of medieval tortures), was in my mind, something that affected fat bastard kings and others who probably richly deserved it. Died out in the middle ages, I thought (though if I dug far enough into my memories, I would probably have come up with the vision of my father walking along in a funny fashion with one of the toes cut off his stylish brown oxfords – sole was there, just no cap).
Then it hit me – on 9/11 no less. Didn’t know what it was, but when it came back again, the doctor told me – gout. Well, I’ll be….didn’t know I was a fat bastard king. Turns out that it is partially hereditary, and I have a history (rather be a king if it came right down to it).
Trying to explain this thing to someone doesn’t do it justice. Plus, it doesn’t look like much. Cut your leg off in an industrial accident and people sympathize. Show them your gouty toe and they go “Eh.”
See, it doesn’t look like much. A little swelling maybe. A little redness around the base of your big toe. What’s the big deal? When did you turn into such a whiner? Give me a break.
But the thing is, that little redness and swelling feels like someone drove a red-hot railroad spike down through the first knuckle of your big toe and all you can do is spin around in a circle while no one understands. It’s horrible. I know, you could give a rip.
Well, today, after living with this for five days (in hell, thank you very much), I called the doctor. Why wait for five days you might ask. I mean, if it hurts as much as you say it does, why not call sooner.
Well, let me tell you why. The last time I went into the clinic complaining of gout, my friendly internist wanted to stick a needle the size of the Holland Tunnel into my already inflamed joint to suck out some magical fluid that would tell him if I really did have gout. WHO CARES IF IT’S GOUT? GET AWAY FROM ME YOU QUACK!!! Just give me something to fix it. So, he gave me the Evil Green Pills. They are almost worse than gout, but not quite.
They make me temporarily insane, cause dizziness, sometimes nausea. Can’t function in any normal sense (yeah, I know, when was the last time that happened). They are evil, BUT they usually make the red-hot spike go away in a day or two. Not this time.
Don’t know why, might have been the CT-scan contrast. Don’t know. I did know that if I wanted to get some medical relief, I would have to go today – before the weekend. So I called (have a different doc now – not the fiendishly sadistic one before). And miracle of miracles, they said “Could you come right now?”
I should have known something was up. It never works this way. But I fell for their line, told two still sleeping teens that I was leaving (“whatever”) and hit the road. I got there, got right in, the doc came in before the nurse had finished my blood pressure (what movie was I in?).
He looked at my toe and said, “Oh, a little gout I see.” Brilliant.
I said, “Yeah, well I would have come in sooner, but the last guy said he wanted to stick a big needle in my joint and all that space was already taken up by a red-hot railroad spike, so I split. He said he needed to suck out some juice to see if it was really gout.”
The doc smiled benignly and said that he didn’t want to do that. He could see it was gout. He wanted to stick a needle in there to inject steroids.
Fortunately, the nurse was quick and tackled me as I made a break for the door. Gout is good for one thing and that is to keep you from going anywhere fast. I could have been headed off by a granny with a walker.
Now, you have to imagine just how desperate I must have been to give permission to someone to stick a needle in a place that already hurt beyond belief. I know, all you women out there will say that men don’t handle pain well at all, and it’s true. I will give you the “pain handling trophy”, just don’t ask me to experience any more. Uncle, uncle.
Next thing I knew, I was on the table and the nurse was holding me down. I have to say that the doc I have now really knows how to handle a patient as he cracked to his nurse, “You know, usually we say to the patient that this won’t hurt a bit, but in this case, it will hurt a lot.” Then he stuck me.
I think I yelled. At least that’s what they told me later. The doc said that this was just the “numbing” shot and that he used the smallest needle that they had. They need to switch vendors cause they are buying from an irrigation company right now. Then he hit me with the big needle.
All I can say is that I wish I had blacked out like they do in the movies. Just so you know, that’s all fake. You don’t black out from the pain, you just go into “slow motion appreciation” mode. I am sure it was over in a second or two, but I have used up at least two birthdays today. I’m not sure what kind of hydraulic rig he used to inject the steroids with, but I don’t see how my toe could have survived the process. He might as well have cut it off with dull, rusty tin snips.
All I can remember is the nurse leaning on the arm and leg closest to her. I think I cracked a joke earlier about patients swinging at doctors when stuck in their gouty toes, but I am not sure.
At any rate, they put a little bandage on it and said “Good day.” I walked out of there like someone cut down from the stake just before the kindling catches. Everything was new again and I was free. Plus, my toe was numb.
Have a good weekend.