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One-Armed Bandit.

It was Saturday 2nd July 2022. I was benching a paltry 90kg. Paltry enough for someone that used to bench 120kg (which I've never gotten back to), but could handily rep with 110kg. But 90kg, on that day, on that 2nd rep of the 2nd set, had proven taxing enough that I felt something in the outer side of my left pec

Only as I'm typing this now am I aware that the 2nd of the 2nd on the 2nd is weird/unlikely/something I couldn't make up, etc., but that's how it happened. How exactly, I don't know. My guess is too much back arching and too wide a grip on a flat bench that was simply too high. Anyhow. With the thick ripping of tissue, common sense kicked in - seasoned lifter that I am. Rack the weight, straight to the mirror, pull up the shirt. No blood/bruising in the skin of the pec or shoulder that I'd expect from a muscle tear. That said, the muscle was still sore.

In the days, weeks and months that followed of ibuprofen, GP physio appointments, referrals, MRI scans, et al, what was initially assumed to be a haematoma was actually a partial tear of the muscle and tendon. Something of a freak accident. Not painful, but annoying that an athlete as myself wasn't treated sooner for the injury. Those days, weeks & months were hard fought, railing against the blight of conflicting info, cancelled appointments (R.I.P, HRH), NHS (National Health Service) wait times (e.g. 6 months) and such. Let me say for the record that I love the NHS; as someone with family that have served in it, I know the industry can be pressurised at best. Personally, I hate waiting for things. I can be patient, but time spent waiting needs to be productive. So I bit the bullet and went for private healthcare.

You get what you pay for.

A little over a year from when the injury happened, I'm finally waiting in my own room at a private hospital in the West End. Hospital gown feeling thin and tight. Some 3 hours after I'm checked in, where I'm the last patient on the list, a couple of nurses in scrubs come to collect me & escort me to the operating theatre - where everyone else is in scrubs. It's chilly. Bright fluorescent lighting. Nowhere to hide in this room. So I lay down on the operating table. The anesthetist (who swung by my room prior to the operation, as did other nurses and the surgeon) puts tubes in the back of my hand while talking me through what he's doing. Nurses peel down the top of my gown - leaving me to get chilly - and start sticking electrode squares on me. A nurse on my left clamps an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth, trapping the edge of the left nostril. So I'm lying there with eyes closed, thinking, "how the hell am I supposed to relax, let alone sleep?" And then, I look over to my left ...and realise I'm back in my room, looking out into the hallway. With a dressing on my left shoulder. My left arm now in a sling.

This was disconcerting. Disorienting.

One, because I had no sensation of being drowsy when I was being anaesthetised - consciousness; boredom, even was followed by ...nothing. Two, because I had no sense of the passage of time. From trying to figure out how the hell I'd relax, let alone sleep as I lay on the operating table, the next moment, I'm looking to my left, seeing the hallway and then realising I'm back in my room - with no memory of how/when I got there.

Nurses come through with some water to sip/drink and cardboard bowls in case I needed to vomit, the surgeon comes through to inform me the op went well - good news indeed, considering it was untreated for little over a year. Also that I should expect to wear the sling for a month and keep the arm in 'internal rotation' (forearm held across the stomach), keep the dressing dry, etc. Still woozy I managed to down some water. And then, moments later, I had to vomit into one of those cardboard bowls. No feeling of nausea that you might associate with undercooked food, for example - just a directionless imperative to violently void the stomach. Which happened several times into several bowls over the next hour or two, with nurses offering a sympathetic "Ohhh...", until I was finally dressed and discharged. I could barely stand, let alone walk, still blindsided by anaesthesia - so I was folded into a wheelchair that barely fit me, wheeled out to the lift bay and into the lift, and down to the ground floor where my ride was waiting. Back home at last, I managed a chicken wrap that night - which promptly came up and into the nearby bucket I had with me. It took a week before I felt brave enough to stop carrying the bucket around the house with me.

Some two weeks on from the surgery and the prognosis is good. The dressing has come off, the muscle and tendon are healing nicely, and in a couple of weeks I can cut back on use of the sling - with a degree of normalcy in the next couple of months. That said, I need to be mindful that I'm still recovering. My surgeon has echoed what I already know; long-haul flights will be challenging at best - the scheduled summer trip to Toronto (and FanExpo being one such outing). Let alone trying to fold some 5'10" and 220lbs of me into an airplane seat, the bigger challenge is how to do even the most basic tasks with one hand ...even being right-handed.

Yes, I'm a one-armed bandit now. Imagine what that's going to be like on the writing.

Usually, I knock out around 45 wpm, which includes copy typing (since I've been typing often enough and long enough to reach this proficiency). Most of the new book is written, but the rest will - of course - need manual labour. I've had friends and peers recommend talk-to-text software. But despite what may be a laborious process, I prefer to type and see my words land on the page, mould and craft their structure. Refine the tone, pace and inflection. All the good stuff. After this book, I'm back on beta duty and mentoring; a welcome change of pace before I get into the next project.

Game still needs to be handled; even if there's a current speed restriction. Watch this space.



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