Monday, December 2, 2013

Hang Time

Credit: google images
Hang time can be a good thing, like on a kick-off or ‘Hail Mary,’ or when you’re in a plane and the engine dies. It’s nice to have time to look around and pick the best landing site you can reach with your glide path. Hang time is also good when you are at a beautiful campsite and need a day of R&R. Hang time is not so great, however, when you’re locked up somewhere against your will. And that’s where I am.

This has been going on for a month. I haven’t brought it up since I didn’t know how best to address it. But, when I started the blog, I promised honesty, and health issues are very real for everyone in a high-energy sport or recreation, so sharing the experience can’t help but be mostly positive.

We were all set to leave a month ago for Florida. I needed to finish the St. Johns River, the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee Rivers, and resume the Florida Saltwater Circumnavigation Trail. For some time before, I started experiencing feelings in the right side of my neck and along my right shoulder that varied between pain, tingling, and numbness, and they were only getting worse. It was a constant irritant, and was keeping me awake at night. Having to deal with it when we were in the middle of something else was also an irritant, but I figured I’d better check it out before getting 1,500 miles away from home.

Our doctor told me to come in for an x-ray. After looking it over, he said it looks like I am about to make the acquaintance of an orthopedic surgeon. The vertebrae of my neck are collapsing on one another. When I turn my head, I can hear the vertebrae clicking against one another and making squishing sounds. The next step was to schedule an MRI. If surgery could be avoided, physical therapy may help, but the MRI would tell the story---and that’s where everything came to a standstill.

The earliest I could get an MRI was just a few days shy of three months out. Three months for an x-ray? Come on! Sure, it’s a fancy x-ray, but it’s still just an x-ray, and the MRI machine probably sits cold and empty 90% of the time. Also, if an NFL player is injured, he gets both an MRI and surgery before the next weekend’s game. Jean and I spent two weeks on the phone trying to get an earlier appointment with no luck. We did learn that some of the backlog is because a number of doctor’s are refusing to accept Medicare, because they don’t get as much money. So much for the humanitarian reasons for going into medicine. Anyhow, that’s Reason #9,978, 672 for not putting your dreams on hold until retirement, or next year.

The real lemon in this enforced hang time is I know nothing. The only thing I’ve been told so far is not to allow my neck to be rotated, as it could cause permanent and severe damage. Also, the numbness is caused by my vertebrae slipping and shutting off the holes that allow the nerves to exit the spinal cord. The condition will only get worse until it extends all the way down my arm and includes the first two fingers of the hand. When I asked what this meant for paddling and related strenuous outside activities in the future, I was told, “We’ll see.”

At this point, it seems the Florida trip is off, and if I have surgery on my spine, between scheduling and recovery, I could be out of commission for nearly a year, which would also kill next summer’s River Rumble on the Wisconsin River. My message again is to do it now, whatever IT is. The way to make smart decisions is in being able to tell the difference between problems and solutions. They often get confused. Getting older and putting things on hold until retirement, is a problem, not a solution. Avoid both by doing IT now.

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