This happens sometimes. I was doing alternating sets, going between the hack sled and the Only Good Leg Curl Machine Left (they’re on opposite sides of the gym) when a small commotion occurred off to my right. Someone seemed to want my attention and at first, hearing something about a hurt back, I thought someone was suggesting I whip out my business card, but no, some guy was supine on the bench of the long pulley rowing machine whose look I have never quite liked and it was clear he was not going to vacate it quickly.

“I went too heavy, I was just letting it go back and OW OW omigod OW OW,” he was saying, repeating the last bits with some variation as he held his head in mid-air (the bench was not long enough) and flexed his knees to keep his feet level with his hips.

Chris, who is ripped and tattooed, was on his other side — the victim was a pretty buff medium-brown fella from the islands, judging by his accent — and we offered to help ease him onto the floor if he thought he could make it. The answer was a definitive No. People kept looking at me like I was supposed to do something. This was not like the greensticked metatarsal I was around for a few years ago, when I could help the sufferer hobble out to his truck. Pain this disabling can come from a lumbar spasm, which it very likely was, but you cannot rule out an acute herniated disk by eyeballing it, and if you toss someone around too much you can make it worse. The only thing I was in a position to do was support the guy’s head, which I did. In the nick of time the Minotaur who manages the place showed up carrying a bench to replace my hands and advising us that the rescue squad had been called.

People were still looking at me like I was Dr. McCoy. Dammit, Jim, I’m a massage therapist, not an EMT  I got down behind the bench and put my fingertips under the guy’s occiput. This is where the contact points are for cranial work. I don’t do cranial work, but I’ve gotten a good deal of it. The one thing about it is that it can’t do any damage. “Okay, I’m going to try to help back this off a little till the medics get here,” I said. “I fix this kind of stuff for a living, just not usually when it’s this fresh, but we can do this. You’ll feel a very tiny traction on your skin, that’s all. This affects the deep tissues in your spine and reduces tension in the soft tissue.” He kept moaning and saying omigod, except, son of a bitch, it got quieter, and after a while it was more a sigh than a moan, the kind you hear when something eases up. I could feel a little warm pulse under my hands, the way you’re supposed to. It may have only been coincidental and I probably could never do this again, but I think it was worth something just to keep contact.

I went around to his other end and supported his legs since the guy I had asked to do it couldn’t seem to get the idea and had sloped off somewhere. Island Man was resting a bit easier, and I leaned back against the lethal apparatus and rapped my best about the muscles he’d been using, the structures he’d probably strained, the likelihood that he was suffering a muscle spasm rather than a blown disc, how they slide you onto the back board and belt you to the gurney, and the most likely drugs he would get to enjoy when he got on the medic unit. It kept him focused on something besides the pain, at least.

“You think they’ll give him morphine?” asked Chris when they’d carried him out. “Oxytcontin?” suggested his training partner. I opined that a little Valium, a muscle relaxant first and foremost,  was probably going to turn the trick, since it looked as if he’d flexed his spine while contracting his lats eccentrically, a slam-dunk way to make your lumbar paraspinals lock up like a Chinese finger trap.

“Or Tramadol,” said Chris. “I might take some of that tonight myself.”

No wonder the bastard can do giant sets on the glute-ham, the deadlift rack and the leg curl. I wouldn’t even know my leg had ever been dislocated if I were keeping shit like that around the house.


11 thoughts on “Medic!!!

  1. I’ve missed going to the gym for a few months, not quite able to re-establish a routine. I like to blame that on my truly crazy life these days (which craziness I do not blog about). This story does not inspire me to go back so much.
    The thing with gyms is the gym rats get into lifting heavy things, wrestling with scary machines, and straining their bodies. I like being strong, and I like being able to dance for hours at a stretch while people two thirds my age are heading to bed, but I think I will generally keep the exercise focused on staying slim and defined rather than monstrous — which women don’t generally prefer anyway. It is all really about my Leonine vanity anyway.

    • For me it’s about exhilaration, plus the gym is my chiropractor, my doctor and my home. But I am a stickler for form, belts, and so on. This guy was saying “my back had been bothering me and I was thinking I should get a belt,” which is like saying your feet are sore and maybe you should get shoes.

    • I thought about it when I was younger. A couple of things. For starters, my father — the same guy who used to say “My daughter will never have to marry some man to make her way in the world” — laid it on me that men become doctors, women become nurses. I don’t suppose that would have stopped me in the end, but meeting a few doctors finished it. If med school was going to turn me into a condescending, brusque, shaming, empathy-impaired autocrat like most doctors are, and box me into treating people like widgets on an assembly line, there was no point having anything to do with it. I wanted to *fix* people, not work eight years for the divine right to fuck with, drug and humiliate them according to a set of algorithms having only passing relation to the real human in front of me..

      Fifty or so years later nothing has happened to change that point of view. Ninety percent of the doctors I’ve dealt with, perhaps more, just reinforce it.

  2. It will be interesting to hear his story when he returns. He should be grateful that you were there! Instead of Bones, we should call you Muscles (I actually know someone here with that nickname, you deserve it much more).

  3. The Only Good Leg Curl Machine. At first I thought it might be for those with only one good leg. Why not?

    Of course you’re always the medic. I now carry an athletic sock stuffed with tennis balls everywhere I go. And I’m grateful to you for it.

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