The Four Rules (This is NOT Spinal Tap)

The Four Rules (This is NOT Spinal Tap)

Whittier humorist Lois McKinney writes about life after back surgery.

Following spinal surgery, I was given four rules. I found that each of them had its own problems, making them difficult, if not impossible, to follow.

1. DON’T BEND AT THE WAIST. This sounds easy enough, but think about how many times you pick up things from the floor. Most people don’t do it very often, but I happen to drop a lot of things. In addition to that, I have this compulsion to pick up things that I believe do not belong on the floor – for example, lint. Now that I’m not allowed to bend, what to do? Well, experts have solved this problem by inventing the grab-stick, a tool that a person squeezes at one end in order to get forceps to open at the other end. So, if I want to pick up something off the floor, I squeeze the handle and my stick grasps the item that’s on the floor, be it a TV remote or a piece of lint. That’s easy. Now let’s talk about the really important job of the grab-stick – getting  dressed. Can you imagine putting on your pants or socks with this grab stick? It’s very time consuming – that is, if you are even able to accomplish the task. It’s a little known fact, but when spinal surgery patients are prohibited from returning to work for weeks, it’s not always because of the healing process. No, sometimes the real reason is that getting dressed using the grab-stick takes so long that by the time the person is ready to leave for work, it’s quitting time. I, however, have found a substitute for the time-consuming squeezing and maneuvering of the grab-stick. It’s called “Michelle.” My daughter helps me to get dressed, and I don’t even have to squeeze anything (unless she lets me). Michelle performs another task that is extremely helpful to a recuperating patient: she’s an exceptionally good, and experienced, nagger, but that’s a story for another time.

2. DON’T ARCH MY BACK. Sounds easy; however, this seems to be in direct conflict with another important rule I’m forced to observe: I must stand up straight with my chest out and shoulders back. In fact, I was told to pretend I have a soft ball wedged between my shoulder blades. Truthfully, there’s no possibility that I’d stand up so straight that I’d arch my back. That’s certainly not the problem; the real problem is standing up straight enough to keep the d—-d imaginary soft ball from dropping.

3. DON’T LIFT ANYTHING OVER FIVE POUNDS. I’ve never been good at estimating weight. My own personal weight always turns out to be at least twenty pounds more than I’m absolutely certain that it should be. So how do I solve the dilemma of knowing whether an item I intend to lift weighs more than five pounds? Obviously, the only sure method is to weigh said item. Therefore, I must carry a scale with me at all times. But what if the scale already weighs five pounds or more? I’ll never know, because I haven’t figured out how to weigh the scale.

DON’T TWIST. One would think this is the easiest of all four prohibitions. All I need to do is get into the habit of turning my entire body if I want to, for example, look at something behind me. I’ve done a pretty good job of making this a habit. However, I live with one terrible fear: what if I should walk into a room unaware that a Chubby Checker record is playing?

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