If you ever go fly-fishing, I beg you to heed the following two bits of advice:
1. Purchase the finest high-traction wading shoes you can afford.
2. Actually wear them.
What I’m trying to say is this: About a month ago, I left my excellent Simms wading boots in my car because, well, because I didn’t think I would need them. Or, to put it another way, because I am an idiot.
The result? My wing is in a sling.
I slipped on a moss-covered boulder on a creek north of Metaline Falls and dislocated my shoulder.
Here’s another bit of advice: Never, ever, dislocate your shoulder. The following is a short list, based on my experience, of what will transpire if you are unwise enough to dislocate a shoulder:
You will be treated to an exceedingly miserable three-hour drive to an emergency room, during which you will wish, in vain, that you would simply pass out.
You will be back in the hospital two days later after re-dislocating your shoulder during the night.
You will receive, in the mail, a four-figure hospital bill.
You will lose the ability, for weeks, to tie your own shoelaces.
You will lose the ability, for weeks, to put on a shirt without lots of cursing.
You will lose the ability, for months, to go anywhere without toting your arm around in a fashionable sling.
You will be required, for months, to wear your sling to bed. (Notice I did not say you will “sleep with your sling.” Your sling will prevent that.)
You will be required to perform a variety of physical therapy exercises, which will inspire renewed sympathy for victims of the medieval rack.
And, just about the time you’re starting to feel better, you will enjoy a relaxing morning of rotator cuff surgery, after which you must wear your sling for another six to eight weeks.
I have learned many fascinating medical facts in the past six weeks, including this: There is nothing humorous about a protruding humerus. When your humerus bone is violently wrenched from its socket, it also tends to rip out many acres of sensitive tissue.
In my case, I ripped two out of the four tendons that make up the rotator cuff. Those tendons must be repaired or else my arm will simply fall off at random times.
Another bit of advice: Try to never tear your rotator cuff, or anything in your shoulder.
The shoulder - as a variety of doctors, emergency room nurses and orthopedic surgeons have patiently explained to me - is crisscrossed with nerve pathways. Let me sum it up in layman’s terms: When you screw up your shoulder, it hurts like a b&^%$#$%rd.
Just how common is a dislocated shoulder?
It is commonly seen in football, hockey, rugby, skiing, climbing, cycling and the little known sport of gymnastic fly-fishing, in which a 59-year-old man attempts to “stick” the landing on a wet rock. My emergency room doctor also told me that the sport of bar fighting, preferably at 2 a.m., is also an excellent way to dislocate a shoulder. I can’t imagine how that hangover would feel.
However, when I say “common” I do not mean it’s “tennis elbow” common. If you want to knock your arm all the way out of its socket you usually have to take a high-speed tumble off of your mountain bike, or get pancaked by a defensive lineman, or perform a comedy pratfall with your arm pointing the wrong way. I am certain most of you have never done it and I hope you never will.
However, walking around in a sling has put me in touch with a surprisingly large underground of former dislocation sufferers. Complete strangers have seen my sling and embarked on their own dislocation stories. Sometimes, these stories make me envious (“I just popped my shoulder back in and finished the game”) and others make me feel lucky (“So then the helicopter evacuated me from the mountain”).
Most of them know what I am learning, that a wing in a sling is not the most serious disability on earth, even if it’s a large pain in the … larger neck region. We have learned the hard way that many common everyday tasks require two hands, beginning with dressing oneself and cuddling a 3-month-old grandson.
So, to cheer myself up, I occupied part of my convalescence by writing a little blues tune, titled “The Dislocation Blues.” I believe it was the first blues tune in history that rhymed “bifurcation” with “hyper-rotation.” I would have worked up some chords on my guitar, except I can no longer play my guitar.
I don’t have much to complain about. I have remained ambulatory at all times. I was able to attend my mother’s 90th birthday party. I have been able to nod my head approvingly as my wife Carol mowed the lawn.
Still, as we approach the ice-and-snow season in Greater Spokane, I want to remind everyone that this is a common wintertime injury and it can be avoided by wearing proper high-grip footwear.
This winter, I’ll be the guy walking the icy streets of downtown, wearing chains on my Simms wading boots. I’m not making that dumb mistake again. We’re all just one pratfall away from the “Dislocation Blues.”