Sympathy For The Elbow



I’ve been seen recently with my arm in a sling, and whenever asked I just explained it was for sympathy. My wife put a stop to that when she realized some people thought I was serious. Worse, the people who thought I was really hurt didn’t give me much sympathy, anyway.

It is true that I didn’t have to use the sling: I’m trying to heal up my tendonitis, otherwise known as lateral epicondylitis. That’s the term I usually use, because it makes people feel bad for me, until they look it up. I got the condition by throwing bricks off to one side, which sounds manly until you realize I was only throwing them a few feet.

The irony’s not lost on me that demolishing a chimney by hand only got me injured after it was all on the ground.

The thing is, if I don’t move my arm it’s not all that painful, usually. But I’m right handed, and it’s my right elbow. You don’t realize how much you use an elbow until you’re not supposed to, so I put the sling on as a way to remind me not to use it.

That only works some, because I cheat. The cheating makes it hurt, then I get angry because I can’t blame anyone else.

So when I went to the doctor, I asked him how soon this would go away. He replied: “You might die with it.”

Which is bad enough by itself, but my mind interpreted his words as “You might die from it”, which cause exactly the reaction you can imagine it caused.

It turns out one of the things that can worsen tendonitis is keyboarding, which in the olden days was called typing, which I do a lot. Now, at work there are three keyboards and three mouses … mice? … um, hand control devices around my work station, and two of my six computer screens are touch screens. There are no duties that don’t involve keyboarding or reaching.

Then there’s my part time job, which is … well, you’re reading it. I could try handwriting my newspaper stuff, but considering I can’t write with my left hand, that’s kind of pointless.

Can you imagine the editor trying to transcribe my left hand cursive? “I think he wrote ‘All mimsy were ye borogoves’ … stealing from Lewis Carroll is very odd in a column about home maintenance. Did he get another concussion?”

I could cut down on my fiction writing, which at the moment is bringing in just enough money to pay for the tea I drink while writing fiction. Have I cut down? Well, I’ve got one book coming out in about a month and another in October, I’m well into the rough draft of a new novel, and I just started working on a collection based on my early columns. That last will probably be called: “They Amputated My Elbow, And Other Tales From A Guy Who Doesn’t Know When To Quit”.

            Or maybe something shorter.

It’s go through some pain or don’t write at all, and I’d rather give up on chocolate and Mountain Dew than not write, although it would be a close call. So I learned, as people do when a body part hurts, that I use it for a whole lot more than I thought I did. For instance:

Opening a bottle of Mountain Dew, which takes two hands. I miss that more than anything.

Tearing open a plastic bag of anything. Yes, I’m thinking chocolate, although it also hurts to open less important things, like food and first aid supplies. I actually have to track down scissors, although my wife would rather I have her do it because, hey – scissors.

Basically, grasping for anything or reaching for anything hurts, which isn’t a big deal if it’s something small enough to get with my left hand. But I don’t use my left hand, because I haven’t led with my left since my brother beat me up in fourth grade, and that hurt too. Thus the sling, which is there simply to remind me to lead with the left again. I’ve also had some success with anchoring my right hand in a jacket or sweatshirt pocket.

But that doesn’t get me as much sympathy.

So that’s my explanation for now, although I’m working on a story that involves something a bit more interesting. Maybe I hurt it rescuing a kitten from a tree, climbing Mount Everest (which is silly, because it’s cold up there), or fighting off whatever female celebrity is popular right now. Whatever else I have to do to get healed up, I’m not going to give up the writing.

Although if I have to go left handed for my next book signing, I might rethink that.

Me changing breathing air tanks at a house fire some years ago, just to show I could once use both arms.
Me changing breathing air tanks at a house fire some years ago, just to show I could once use both arms.
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4 thoughts on “Sympathy For The Elbow”

  1. I would definitely say I injured it saving kittens from a sinking battleship. To seal the deal, get a cat to scratch you up a little bit. People will give you sympathy, name cities after you and everything.

    1. But … there are no more active battleships.

      Oh, what the heck, small detail. I can make it work — and I’ve been scratched up by cats before, it’s not hard to get done.

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