The phlebotomist started to take the blood pressure cuff off my right bicep on Saturday. As she did, a sharp pain shot through my body causing me to involuntarily jump slightly off the donor chair.
Both of us were startled.
For perhaps 30 seconds neither one of us could figure what had happened. And then it was painfully clear. I had been sitting there for more than two hours being pinched by the cuff.
It was ironic in more ways than one.
When she first put it on, it was a bit too tight and I mentioned it. After she adjusted it there was a dull pain but I dismissed it as being from the temporary over tightness of the cup.
Then there was the real kicker. When I donate platelets every two weeks I prefer they use both arms — one to remove the blood and one to return it minus the white cells. This requires a needle stuck in both elbows as well as both arms to be strapped for well over two hours.
And that’s before tossing in my Achilles heel: It’s a royal pain for me to sit in one position for 15 minutes let alone two hours plus.
Having a needle poked into me stings a bit. But after having done the procedure well over 250 times it is more annoying to have a fly land on my arm. There is a little discomfort during the process although it pales to the discomfort of those in need of the platelets.
That said, I’m probably the first platelets donor to get a bruise — it lasted maybe for an hour — from a blood pressure cup.
Yes, there was a slight pain in my arm but I chose to ignore it and block it out for the most part. I learned long time ago when I was in my 20s and developed bunions from hell — they actually have made medical professionals wince in pain when they first look at them — paired with the accompanying hammertoes that you don’t allow yourself to focus on the pain.
That doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain or that it doesn’t stop me in my tracks. It’s just that I’ve been able so far in life not to let my mind be drawn to pain like a moth to a porch light.
My major pain experiences have fortunately been low-key affairs — past bouts with knee gout, a cracked shoulder, slamming my knee into the pavement in a 45 mph crash while bicycling downhill, landing on my head twice that was protected by a helmet while bicycling, and two hernia operations among others.
The hernia operations weren’t exactly my proudest moments in dealing with pain. Hopefully Dr. Jerry Weiner isn’t reading this because I did not do what he told me to do after each operation — not to do anything of a substantial physical nature for 30 days and to take Vicodin.
The first time I took Vicodin for two days I was going so nuts not doing anything that I cut the lawn three days after the operation. Cynthia when she got home that day was beside herself that I had cut the lawn and that wasn’t in a happy way. I stopped taking Vicodin four days after the operation thoroughly convinced it was doing too good of a job masking the pain and because of that my judgment would be clouded as to whether I was engaging in an activity that would be counterproductive to my recovery.
Since Dr. Weiner didn’t want to do both hernias at once, he repaired the worst of the two and told me to monitor the other one.
I did what he told me to do but I was able to function when it got painful. Then came the morning I did my usual jog to the 6 a.m. group exercise class at In Shape. It was there during a floor exercise that I doubled over in pain and insisted I was OK. There happened to be a doctor in the house — Mike Davis — who asked if I was alright. I said yes as I gingerly got up and decided to exit the class and jog back home. I got a block when the pain forced me to start walking. When I got home, Cynthia took one look at me and wanted to know if I wanted her to call for an ambulance. I emphatically said “no” and proceeded to sit down in a chair. Ten minutes later after not moving and the pain getting worse by the minute, I asked her to take me to Doctors Hospital.
In less than 90 minutes I was in surgery. Apparently it was in danger of rupturing which is not exactly conducive to staying alive.
The second time around I argued against being given any painkiller in the recovery room when I came to. I was told it was procedure and they had no choice. They also gave me a bottle of Vicodin that I did not want. It hurt like hell but I didn’t open the bottle. On the morning of the fourth day after the surgery when Cynthia casually mentioned she still wanted a mature cherry tree in the backyard taken out — I wanted it left in place — she came home stunned to find I had cut the cherry tree down. I didn’t get around to cutting up the fallen cherry tree for another week because even an idiot like me knew that would be over doing it.
The bottom line, pain is relative. And in my case it’s a first cousin.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.