Saturday, January 28, 2012

Be Careful Out There

A friend said she cracked a rib by coughing. An X-ray confirms it. She had been sick, and you know how it can be when you're sick. You get good at coughing. You practice that rattling resonance in your throat, and you really get into it. She still has the cough, but because of the pain in the rib, she has to cough very carefully now.

I strained my back from coughing one Saturday morning last December. I had not had enough sleep for many days, and my cough, which had been subsiding after a cold I had thought I was over, was bad again. And my back had been tweaked six days prior while pushing a housemate's van off its long-term parking spot on a bed of pine needles in our front yard. On that Saturday, in the midst of moving equipment from my house to my car, I paused with my hands resting on some cases on the dining room table. I coughed, and I felt that electric coil spiraling up my spine, muscles seizing from the base upward. It had been worse years ago, the first time it ever happened. That time, it happened while I was bending over tying my shoes, and it rendered me completely immobile. Now, maybe my conscious mind sent some ameliorative message down to those muscles as they were seizing: relax guys, it's just a cough, don't go completely on sabbatical on me. The seizing was not as bad as that first time tying my shoes, and I was still able to go to work. I could carry things as long as I kept my back rigidly straight, in good dancer form, using my ab muscles. Funny how back pain like that makes us all in to dancers. But I spent the day wincing. There was so much to lift: C-stands to hold sound blankets, the sound blankets themselves, the sandbags to hold down the C-stands. I went back and forth from the staging area on the porch to the dining room inside, carrying these things. I would be sometimes giving instructions to an assistant while lifting something ("When we roll . . ."), and when I felt a twinge in my back, my voice would become noticeably tight (". . . can you be sure the air system is turned off in the hallways, upstairs and downstairs"). But I would continue speaking right through the pain, and no one asked about it.

And then there's this other guy I heard about who tore a hernia while laughing. He was just leaning back in his office chair and holding a pen in a weird way between his fingers. Someone came in and said something so funny that he was wracked with laughter -- and he was holding that pen weirdly, and his hernia tore and he had to go to the hospital.

The moral of these stories? Be careful out there.

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