Pain and Suffering: A True Story

When I tried to get out of bed this morning, I discovered I could not straighten my back.

Don’t worry, this morning wasn’t the first time this has happened. Slightly more than thirty years ago, I was hit by a moving car while walking across the street. The car’s grill struck my left hip, propelling me up onto the hood and into the windshield. When the car slowed, I rolled off the hood and fell to the ground beneath the still-moving car. I heard Gretta scream before I lost consciousness.

I came to in a Fire Department ambulance on the way to a hospital emergency room. My neck and back were strapped to separate braces that kept me immobile. I was wheeled into x-ray where they took a full set of 8 x 10 glossies.

My head had cracked open where it had collided with the windshield (Gretta told me later that she saw my hard head actually shatter the shatter-proof glass in that windshield). I received a half-dozen stitches and a shot for the pain. Three doctors examined me and let Gretta drive me home with a brace around my neck, stitches and bandages on my head, and a handful of pills that included prescription muscle relaxants and pain killers.

Long story short: I was lucky to be alive.

When I went to see a doctor again the next day for follow-up, she told me I had hairline fractures in my cheek, jaw, and left hip. She said they would eventually mend. The muscle in my left hip was severely swollen and badly distended. She said she doubted it would ever heal properly.

It didn’t.

I had no medical insurance at the time because I was a free-lance writer barely eking out a meager living selling an occasional short story, a work-for-hire novel, or a magazine article. I managed to pay the rent, purchase pipe tobacco, feed the cats, and put food in my own stomach, but I sure as hell couldn’t afford medical insurance. Fortunately, the driver of that car had insurance. The driver felt terrible about hitting a pedestrian, the insurance adjuster said. I agreed to sign a waver forfeiting the right to sue for future pain and suffering if the insurance company paid for my current medical bills and the cost of replacing the three-piece suit I had worn that was ruined by blood and rips in both the pants and the jacket.

I wish now that I had sued. My hip never did heal. That muscle is still distended and if I turn over the wrong way in my sleep I awake in terrible pain and can’t straighten my back.

I also walk lopsided, like the way an automobile drives when the frame is knocked out of kilter by a collision.

But I consider myself lucky to be alive. Not only did my head shatter that windshield instead of the windshield shattering my head, when I rolled off the hood one of the front wheels missed pancaking my head by less than an inch. That, according to Gretta, was what made her scream. She was certain I was road kill.

It’s now 8 PM, thirty-some years after the accident, and I haven’t been able to straighten my back since yesterday. I have to walk hunched over like Igor or Lon Chaney. I’m in pain as I write this. As I said, this isn’t the first time this has happened. I should be back to normal in a week or so.

Until the next time I strain my back and this happens again.

It’s always nice to know that I have friends who worry about me. When I don’t post for a while on various social media sites like Facebook or one of my multiple blogsites, I get e-mails or phone calls wondering why. If I don’t appear at a con where I’m normally a fixture, plenty of people wonder why. If I haven’t been my usual prolific self with new stories and novels and book reviews appearing in print, you probably wonder why yourself.

Here’s why:

1. I am carefully crafting a breakthrough novel that’s dynamite. My agent asked to have the novel polished for submission by the end of August. It’s now whittled down from 140,000 words to 95,000 fast-paced words and almost ready to fly.

2. I’ve been invited to submit to four anthologies, one of which is a shared-world, and those deadlines are also approaching.

3. After neglecting personal self-care for five years, natural aging finally caught up with me. My eyes, knees, and teeth cried out for attention. I may not yet be the Six Million Dollar Man, but I’m getting real close.

4. Lizza and I are coordinating our fall convention wardrobes during cook-outs and dinners in area restaurants.

5. Daily deluges turned my front and back yards into virtual rainforests that require constant cutting, chopping, and decluttering before my humble abode completely disappears and I turn into the Swamp Thing.

6. You already know about my hip and the pain I’m in.

Stephen King, like many of the characters in his stories and novels, is the kid next door. We all knew him when he ran around the neighborhood with poopy diapers and a silly shit-eating grin on his face.

We watched him grow up, go away to the nearly-local state university, fall in love, get married, have a handful of kids, and bury a beloved, but possessed, dog or two. We watched him struggle to make a success of himself. We watched him fall down once or twice and pick himself up. He was a lot like us, we figured. He looked familiar. He sounded familiar. He had similar addictions. When he was good, he was very good. When he was bad, he was very bad.

We could easily identify with all that

He loved books and he loved to read or hear a good story as much he loved to tell one. He still does. Everyone I know can certainly identify with that.

Steve, too, was a pedestrian hit by a moving vehicle. Not everyone can identify with that. But, on days like today, I certainly can.

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