“These kinds of bad health issues usually come in threes,” I remember thinking, just hours before I burned my hand to the point that it is now covered in blisters.
It’s been a really bad week, health-wise. I’ve had three separate health and medical issues that have needed (and will continue to need) medical intervention, and I have to say each of them sucks rocks.
My burn was the result of what might be described as a “vicious and unprovoked attack by pork tenderloin,” or perhaps simply “being a total fishing moron.” I have a large and heavy Demeyere chef’s pan that I use all the time. Seriously, I don’t think there’s a dinner that’s made in this house where it isn’t used for some portion of the meal. It’s practically become an extension of my arm when I’m in my kitchen. However, since I rarely cook French one of the few things I almost never do with it is roast meat. But this weekend I was preparing a pork loin with wild rice and leeks, and after browning the pork over the stovetop and then sautéing the rice and the leeks in the juices I stuck the whole kit and caboodle into a 400-degree oven to roast. Once it was done I took the pan out and placed it on the stove for it to sit for five minutes. As I took off the oven mitt and went to go get my glass of wine it occurred to me it might be better for the pork to sit on a cutting board rather than the hot pan. So I turned back and, grabbing the handle of the pan tightly with my now bare hand, lifted it to carry it over to the cutting board.
Yes, I am so used to picking up my chef’s pan and walking around with it that didn’t occur to me that the steel handle would be 400-degrees until the rather astonishing amount of pain hit me full force. I spent quite a while with my hand under the faucet while my wife Googled information on burns and their treatment.
“Is there any chance it might be a third degree burn?” she asked as she scanned the information.
“I have no idea. What is a third degree burn?” I replied as I stood wincing over our sink.
“It’s a burn that damages the nerves so badly that you don’t even feel pain,” she read.
“Then it is absolutely, positively, not a third degree burn.”
A while later my hand was in gauze and I was relying on ibuprofen, acetaminophen and a very strong Manhattan to dull the pain. The pain was severe enough that I actually called our doctor’s on-call service to make sure I shouldn’t be doing something like going to the emergency room. “Nah,” said the guy on call. “’Gauze, pills and whiskey’ is what we’d tell you if you came in. Might as well stay home. But if the hand falls off tomorrow, you should probably come in.”
And this was the best health news I’ve had all week.
My ankle has been giving me some problems of late. And by “giving me problems,” I mean being in such bad shape that I haven’t been able to walk on it at times. My doctor gave me a referral to a specialist at a sports medicine clinic who took a look at it and said I should stop lifting weights and rest it for a few days, and then come back if that didn’t do the trick. When I did and it didn’t, they sent me to get x-rays.
The x-ray technician was huge, probably 6’5” and close to 275 pounds; his entire head was shaved save for his thick goatee. He looked more like professional wrestler than a healthcare provider. He explained that there were six different x-rays that were needed. As it turned out, each required my foot to be in a position that it just didn’t want to be in.
“Now, push your heel back a little farther… No, farther… A little bit more… There. How does that feel?”
“Holy crap, it really hurts like this.” I’d hiss.
“Yeah, that happens a lot. Hold still and I’ll be right back.”
I haven’t had non-dental x-rays since the early 80s, when they had to send the x-ray film out to some special lab to be developed. Now they get the results almost instantly. After each x-ray was taken I could see the boney images come up on a screen at the technician’s desk. As he processed the images he talked to himself – but he did so at a regular conversational volume, so that it was hard to tell when he was talking to me and when he was thinking out loud. Much of our conversation went like this:
Technician: Ok, I’m sending number two over now, and I’m pulling up number three.
Me: Are you?
Technician: What? Oh, don’t mind me. I just talk to myself when I do this… Now let’s pull up number four. There we go. Oh God, that looks awful. Man, that’s one of the worst I’ve seen. Oh my God.
Technician: What? Oh, don’t mind me. I just talk to myself when I do this…
After reviewing my x-rays, the doctor sent me in for an MRI. (Tod’s Bonus MRI Pro Tip: Remember to take your wallet out of your pants first, or you will discover – like I did – that the next morning none of your debit or credit cards will work). When they called me back to go over the results, it turned out that just about anything that could be wrong with my ankle was. It turns out I have torn ligaments, damaged tendons, bone spurs, things that are supposed to touch that are on opposite sides of my foot, and leg bones that connect in the wrong places. To make matters worse, this is all in my good ankle.  They weren’t sure how much surgery and physical therapy was going to be needed, they just knew it was somewhere between “pay for my kids’ private school” and “pay for an Ivy League college education as well.”
And this was the second best health news I’ve had all week.
When I came in to hear about my Happy Fun-Time MRI Results, they performed all of the regular little tasks they do whenever you step into a doctor’s office. One of these was taking my blood pressure, which apparently was a tad high. How high? Well, high enough that the nurse kept calling in other nurses to double check, and the other nurses kept walking in saying things like, “No, that can’t be right. I bet you’re doing it wrong.” They all seemed pretty freaked out about it, and set me up for an appointment to go see my regular provider at her first available opening.
When I saw her, my doctor was very concerned about the blood pressure readings. I explained that I had absolutely no idea what blood pressure really is, what it does, and how they even read the little gauge on the armband they used. She took her time and patiently explained everything in great detail, and now I still have absolutely no idea what blood pressure really is, what it does, and how they even read the little gauge on the armband they used. Then she carefully went through all of the possible explanations that might explain my blood pressure being so high before settling in on my being overweight.
“You’re just too fat,” she reported. “Horribly, grossly, obscenely fat. You’re so fat you could get a job as the Good Year Blimp. If you were a two-by-four, you wouldn’t be able to get through the kitchen door. When you sit around the house and so forth. When you walked in today, I was seriously wondering if that was your ass or if the UPS truck was here. You’re “stay away from any angry sailors with one leg and a harpoon” fat. Fatty, fatty, fat fat fat. Fat…. Also: You’re fat.” [Note: I may be paraphrasing here.]
And so now here I am, needing to lose weight, racking my brain for exercise options that you can do with one leg and one hand, and coming to the realization that my longstanding illicit love affair with ice cream may well be coming to an end. (At least for now.) Like I say, it’s been a really long week.
I can’t tell you all how thankful I am that the phrase isn’t, “Bad news always comes in fours.”
 My bad ankle (which is now suddenly my good ankle by comparison) was so badly damaged in a high school speech and debate injury that the emergency room doctor who first treated me told I might never walk again.
Yes, you heard me right: a speech and debate injury.