The Outline of my Life

1958
1959
1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969
1970
1971
1972
1973
1974

1975
1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991

1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004

 

1997

38 years old

I joined a nice expensive gym and took lavish vacations to New York City and Hawaii. I was making a modest salary but living far beyond my means. I was really nervous about it, but ultimately decided that it didn't really matter anyway, that it was better to not argue about it and just spend and spend. Marnie, who made far more money than I did (she didn't understand it, since it was all tips) could never understand why my debt kept going higher and higher.

Early that summer I got one break when my Dad paid for me to go on a week's fishing trip to Canada. I took my watch off and destressed completely. Didn't catch many fish, but I ate everyone else's.

Towards the end of summer my neck started to bother me and I went to a series of chiropractors without getting any better. Over the course of a week it went from bad to worse, and eventually I woke up one morning unable to move from the pain.

This kind of pain is a 10, on the pain scale. I thought I was paralyzed, the pain was so intense. Marnie called an ambulance and after they gave me a massive dose of Demerol, I realized that I could actually move, and that my right arm and shoulder were in terrific nerve pain that never stopped.

For about a month I explored every option I could to resolve the pain except the most fearful one, which was spinal surgery. I had to realize, since I was running out of money and unable to work - I'm right handed - that surgery was my only hope.

Major surgery is far more involved than people tend to think. The drugs they poured into my body were ghastly; drugs to paralyze you, drugs to deaden the nerves, drugs to cause amnesia so you wouldn't remember the trauma. The doctor cut open my throat, pulled my trachea aside, chopped out my disc - he told me later that the nerve was swollen and purple from the trauma - sealed the two vertebrae together with bone chips and then screwed the whole mess together with four sturdy screws and a plate.

When I woke up after the surgery I was as messed up as I have ever been in my life. My throat felt sliced and like someone had been kicking me there. But the first thought I had - the overwhelming illumination that ignited my very first thought after the incomprehensible oblivion of drugs I had just been pulled from - was that the pain was gone. I couldn't believe that the pain was really gone. After over a month of constant intense pain, my brain had grown used to the daily torment, even though I was falling apart mentally and physically from the effort to suppress the pain. So the sudden cessation of the pain was enormous, far greater than the pain of surgery or anything else.

Once back at work I noticed that they were acting very fishy about the time I had taken and whether or not I should be paid. I should have realized right then that the bloom was off the rose for me at MKW.

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