Whenever you go into a hospital they always ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. In my case, my arm/shoulder was causing intense pain that did not subside even for a moment. It was accompanied by dry mouth, occasional light-headedness and nausea. Thus, I characterized the pain as a 10. Not that I’m a wimp, as I’ve said, but it was really, really bad.
But I tend to take things in a lighthearted way. I see no point in complaining or putting on a martyr act. I try to see the humor in events. And so I make with the jokes. It can backfire.
A long time ago, I fell out of a tree. (It’s a long story.) They thought I broke my back. On the way to the hospital, the woman EMT was asking me the usual, “how many fingers am I holding up?” questions. I was cracking wise. I may have asked her to open her blouse and let me see ‘em inasmuch as I might be dying and it would be a nice gesture. I heard my nephew riding in the “shotgun” seat of the ambulance go, “Uncle Bobbbbbbyyyyyyyy…” and I could tell he was rolling his eyes. The woman EMT snapped at me, rather sharply, “Sir, we are just trying to do our jobs here!” I replied, “Missy, let’s not forget that I am the one in pain here.”
So in Sacred Heart Hospital this past Tuesday evening, they may not have taken me seriously when I said how badly I was in pain. My body was fighting hard- my BP and pulse were off the chart but that did not seem to impress them. Eventually, I did see a doctor who said they’d give me something…perhaps he mentioned Demerol…for the pain. Eventually a nurse did come in and give me a shot. She warned me that it might sting a little. I said, “Sweetie, you could stick that needle right in my scrotum and it wouldn’t hurt as bad as my left arm is hurting right now.” (I swear I said that, too. I have no filter when I’m in pain.) She looked a little shocked. I can’t say I felt the injection at all, even though she may have been digging around for bone. I am not popular in Emergency Rooms.
Twenty minutes later, the doctor stuck his head in the little room where I lay writhing in pain on the gurney. I mentioned to him that the shot did not seem to have any effect at all. Casually, he said we’d just wait a little while longer and see about giving me another one. That “little while longer” turned out to be an additional 45 minutes, when they came to discharge me. (Sacred Heart Hospital is not exactly generous with the pain meds.)
As they tried to strap me into an immobilizing sling, the same nurse gave me a shot of what she called the same stuff as before. All I know is, as she pulled the needle out I immediately felt extremely nauseous and woozy. I was gulping down water (“SIR, JUST SIP IT!”) fast. As I did, the pain melted away like an ice cube in a hot frying pan. I was, like, whoa! “You sure that’s the same stuff as before?” I asked. She answered in the affirmative. Hmm.
Next day, I was relating this little story to a pilot/attorney friend of mine. “They probably gave you a placebo the first time,” he offered. I was incredulous. Would they do that? He opined that they might. And it sounded logical.
I entered the hospital complaining of Richter Scale 10 pain. But I wasn’t acting like I was in pain. Suppose they only gave me sugar-water, or liquid baby aspirin to see how I’d react? If I reported drastically reduced pain levels, they’d know I was faking it. But I wasn’t, and they were forced to give me the real stuff on the second go-around. Bastards!
I have no proof, of course, and I might be all wrong. All I know is that the first injection they administered had ABSOLUTELY no effect. It did not diminish the pain, nor did it cause any nausea or what we in aviation call “secondary indications” - you know, like how you can just feel when a drug has entered your bloodstream? I can’t prove it, but I’ll bet they gave me a damn placebo.