It’s okay, it’s just a bruise.

American sport coaches often bark the question “Are you hurt or are you injured?” to fallen players, both as a motivational tool as well as a genuine enquiry as to how damaged they actually are. the idea being if you’re injured then it’s a genuine problem and the coach will see about getting that player medical aid (not to mention replaced if it’s a team event) as quickly as possible. If you’re hurt just suck it up and play.
This was the mantra for decades, until the NFL found itself mired in thousands of plaintiffs, all of them ex-players, all of them suing the league for not warning them of the dangers of playing a sport (football to Americans, American football to everyone else) that was g-force equivalent of a car crash thirty or forty times a game. Average sixteen games a year, for anything up to fifteen years, looked at in retrospect it’s not surprising the NFL tried to bury the theory of brain trauma with their own medical staff.
Now the approach is a more cautious one. Not on the grounds of physical trauma and pain, the league doesn’t want to be sued, so it bars against litigation first and player health second. The players should be grateful.

But I digress. I’ve had back problems since I was a child, and they really became an issue when I began nursing back in the mid-zeroes. Nurses have always had issues with their backs, lifting patients as well as any number of other duties alongside a heavy long working day it was one of the few recognised careers that a woman could undertake that had the physical stresses near to or equal to that of a man. I undertook such a career for many reasons, none of them relevant here save the one that guaranteed me union protection under employment law. Such motivation may sound shallow but I’ve always been one to err on the side of caution (see previous post) and it’s nicer to be certain of a good solid floor beneath your feet than endless possibilities above your head, especially following the crash of 2008.
Yet such a perspective hasn’t done my back any favours. And with this new move and the new routines and everything else it has taken the brunt of my exertions to a greater level than expected. It had been sore and swollen on one side for a fortnight but I tried to ignore it with hot packs and rest. Unfortunately the bill came due on Sunday evening. Getting out of my parent’s shower I twisted awkwardly and that was that.

I didn’t cry out and I didn’t fall down, but it did feel like I had just been shanked in the kidney. Unable to turn, unable to bend I spent a fitful night on a sofa bed dozing indiscriminately, waking and fretting at my inability to move without pain and the consequences such a state would play when the morning came and I had to report to work that afternoon.
I got up early (dental appointment right in the middle of rush-hour, hence the camping on parent’s sofa) and knew right then and there work was a no-no. Calling the GP at 08.00 still put me seventh in the queue to speak to someone but I eventually got my GP to call me back later on that morning. She triaged me over the phone with a script for diazepam, co-codamol and a week of rest. Great.

That “great” is sarcasm at its most masochistic. Yes I know going into work would damage me further but I don’t do “injured” well. Not to mention I work for an employer that has borrowed its sickness and absence policy from the American Justice System’s “Three Strikes” rule. More than two bouts of sickness in six months and you’re on the books as “habitual”. I was already on the books following my back last July (another seizure), an allergic reaction in September where a GP had to test me for rubella and a severe bout of flu over Christmas that had me cursing and asking for the handgun in order to put myself out of my misery.
That’s three. I had to stay illness free until August 11th.
Well, guess I blew that out of the water.
But seriously, my chiropractor, whom I’ve had since 2005, privately I might add, said my complaint was a significant spinal sprain.
“Sprain” being diagnosed as a small tear in the ligament around the spinal column. Oh, okay, I’ll go and work ten hours doing manual labour with that shall I?
Even the GP agreed that I needed time away from the job. And even if I hadn’t the time off, this is my first time on diazepam. I love it! Never slept better, I don’t care about anything when I’m on it, I couldn’t drive a car (or “operate heavy machinery” as the label says) I can barely hold a conversation, and yet my conscious is telling me to “man-up” (love the phrase!) and get my boots on and go back to saving lives.
It’s this sense of self-destructive duty, sacrifice and yearning to do one’s best for the greater good that tells me there is some nursing gene within my core and no matter how hard I try I’ll never be free of it. If I’d been born a boy, and American, I would have been an Offensive Lineman. The idea that I have to move the obstacle to allow someone else to get through, or I have to sacrifice my body to give the quarterback time has always given me an idea of honest integrity.
My college had an American football team, and the fact that it was the UK version of a sport often ridiculed by the popular press in this country gave it a tightness and a family atmosphere some other college sports clubs lacked. Anyone who turned up got a chance to play. There were even cheerleaders. I wasn’t a cheerleader. But I volunteered to work the chain gang at every game (the chain gang or chain crew are responsible for measuring the down and distance essential for the game to work) and spent a fair few Sunday afternoons freezing on the sideline trundling up and down holding a pole with a changeable number atop it. it was an important job, the referees look to you for the down number in the UK, get it wrong and you have a very angry team baying for your blood.
But back to my spine.
I go back to work in a few days, after a week of icepacks, painkillers, and compulsory “rest”, something which I am loathe to undertake because I rarely enjoy sitting and watching tv because of its singular focus. Plus I have to do it lying virtually prostrate, it gets boring real quick, and daytime television is mind numbing. I mean, who watches this? Even with Sky it’s insipid.

So. Back to work. Which is very similar to Orange Is The New Black (I’m currently addicted to Season 1) with the exception of the orange jumpsuits. Ours are navy blue. Though the heavy security, monotony, attitude, crappy coffee and back-breaking work still apply. At least we don’t have to lie prostrate when the alarms go off. Which is a pity, it would be nice to have a lie down on the job, though I know most of us are so tired the odds of rising again after such an act would be miniscule.
So now I put my faith in correct posture and my own conscience. And only go for the diazepam when I really, really have to.


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