This is going to hurt me more than you…

December 12, 2008

When you’re Shane, you can expect at least one traumatic injury per year and sadly my annual injury due date is rapidly approaching. You may think that I’m being dramatic or embellishing the facts, but if you weigh the evidence it averages out to about one solid trip to the hospital per year (stitches don’t count/staples do). Over the last 20+ years, I have had some interesting boo-boos. I’ll provide a couple of examples to illustrate what it’s like to be me on an injury spree.

“I can work this out”…

In undergrad, I went to Gold’s Gym every day. One day I decided to see how much weight I could pick up over my head. I believed this to be an essential piece of information that every man should know. For example, if your spouse asked you to place a box of Triscuits on the top shelf of the pantry, it would be helpful to know if you possessed the physical strength to safely do so. Without knowing your one rep max for overhead presses, you would be unsure and that box of Triscuits could potentially cause great harm. So I loaded the bar with 205lbs, that’s a shitload of Triscuits, know what I mean?

A little lifting advice- when pushing large amounts of weight over your head, it is imperative that your head, neck and spine remain perfectly aligned. If you don’t, and the weight is heavy enough, the pressure can actually compress your spine and snap things that shouldn’t be snapped. You’re probably guessing where I am going with this.

I prepped the bar for my attempt, cleared my head, and went to work. Triumphantly, the weight rose to the heavens. I locked out my elbows to complete the perfectly executed repetition. As the weight hovered above, I turned my head ever so slightly to bask in the admiration of my fellow gym goers. Surely they would be marveling at my tremendous feat of strength. Wait a minute! I did say that you should keep your head, neck and spine aligned, right? Snap! The immediate sensation of someone jabbing a glowing, hot fireplace poker into my neck reminded me of my own advice. I racked the weight and quickly scanned the room to see if anyone else heard the unmistakable sound of a serious neck injury. To me, it was as loud as a rifle shot so I was kind of expecting to get some stares, maybe some “holy shit” action, potentially some calls for medical attention, but there was absolutely no reaction. Strange.

Now, it was highly probable that the noise I heard was the sound of some extensive damage to my spinal column, but there was also a chance, however slim, that it was just my imagination. Maybe what I really needed was a couple of sets to work out the kink in my neck. I chose that option and did a few sets to repair the damage (in what dimension is this logical thought?). It wasn’t until a few hours later as I lay on my living room floor racked with pain that I realized this wasn’t the most prudent choice. I’m happy to report that my neck is back to 100%- no issues- unless of course you count being unable to turn my head without rotating my entire torso an issue. If you consider that problematic, then it’s probably more like 90% better.

Fast forward a couple of years…

“Will you just leave them at home?”

Connie and I decided to vacation at the shore so we rented a beach house for the week. The only issue was that the beach house didn’t have a weight room so I had to provide my own. Connie refused to let me rent a trailer to haul all of my favorite stuff to the beach so I compromised and brought a single set of 40lb dumbbells. She thought I was stupid, “Honestly do you need to take those things with us on vacation?” I remember her saying that as I loaded the car.

How I managed to crush three discs in my lower back with a pair of 40lb dumbbells still remains a mystery, but somehow I did and the ensuing pain was unbelievable. By the time Connie got me to the hospital I could barely walk or stand- the best I could manage was to lean against a stanchion while they processed me into the ER. The rest is a fuzzy drug-induced blur, but I do remember praying- something like “Please, God, don’t make me have to poop”. My lower back was in so much pain I was terrified that if I pushed my ass would fall off. Later that night, as I lay in my hospital bed, I recalled Connie’s words and thought, “She’s really smart. I’m going to listen to her next time.”

Next time…

The following summer I was asked to train midshipmen in Quantico, Virginia. Being familiar with the area and the training schedule, I knew ahead of time that working out would be tough to accomplish. So, before departing our home, I went into my gym and looked at what I could take with me to help me stay in shape. I went straight to my 40lb dumbbells. I picked them up and was preparing to throw them in my truck when I remembered Connie’s words of wisdom. Last time Connie said something about not taking these things with me and I thought she was smart so I should probably leave them at home. I put them down and grabbed the 50 pounders instead- see Honey I do listen.

I made it the entire month without hurting myself. This was a major accomplishment and I couldn’t wait to get home and rub it in. I was planning on demanding that Connie apologize to my gym equipment for her unfounded assumption that my weights had some strange vendetta against me.

My buddy Chris drove me home that day in his giant truck. All of my gear, to include my 50lb dumbbells, was stowed neatly in the back seat. When he pulled into my driveway, I jumped out, opened the back door to retrieve my stuff and POW! For a second I lost my sense of hearing and a brilliant white hot flash of light obscured my vision. I involuntarily yanked my flip-flop clad foot backwards as fast as I could. The pain was in-friggin-credible. I’m betting that many of you have already figured out what happened. For those slow on the uptake, I’ll fill you in.

It seems that during the trip the load in the backseat shifted, to include my dumbbells. I was unaware of this, so when I opened the door, I was not expecting a 50lb dumbbell to plummet to earth and land on my nearly bare foot. All said and done it fell from a height of about three and a half feet, landing directly on all five toes. The fact that I was standing on the driveway didn’t help either as concrete is less than forgiving.

Chris had the benefit of watching the whole thing. In typical Marine fashion he demonstrated an adequate level of concern, “DUDE, HOLY SHIT THAT WAS THE COOLEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN, YOU DIDN’T EVEN SCREAM OR CRY OR NOTHING, HOLY SHIT!!! Hey, you okay?” All I could manage in response was a strange growl-like noise, or it may have been more like a high-pitched whimper, but growl sounds manlier.

I knew what had happened and simple math told me that 50lbs of cast iron dropped from 3.5 feet landing on bare toes , on concrete, meant no more toes. I had no desire to confirm my calculations so I simply kept my head up and waited for the pain to subside. Oh yeah, the pain- I’ve been asked to describe what it feels like to have this happen and the best description that I can come up with is to imagine having Zeus fire a lighting bolt from the heavens impacting squarely on your rectum, yep, I think that describes the pain pretty accurately. Chris offered to take me to the hospital but I told him no. I opted to hop to the bathroom for some alone time instead. As I hopped away, I turned to look at the ground behind me, half expecting to see my toes lying in the driveway. Surprisingly, the ground was void of any appendages. Maybe I was fine.

I mustered the nerve to look at my foot when I was alone and though my toes were all pointing in unnatural directions, at least they were all accounted for. I did some straightening and these days my toes look fairly normal, though I still wear socks at the pool so I don’t give the neighborhood kids night terrors.

That’s it for today. I rambled too long, but believe it or not I am not even close to the end of my list. I didn’t even broach the time one of my Marines accidentally blew my forearm off with a machine gun (yes, I’m serious). I do believe, however, that this lends credence to my fears that I am due for a catastrophic injury in the near future. Connie must believe it too as she has been wrapping every sharp object in the house with bubble wrap and this morning, when I walked down the stairs, I was greeted by a giant pile of Styrofoam packing peanuts. Silly woman, she’s been married to me for 16 years. When is she going to realize that this is the price I pay for being Shane? The pain is inevitable.

Well, gotta run- the gym’s closing in an hour and I want to get a quick lift in before dinner.

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