Jim Wilcox, Guest Writer
By genetic aberration or nutritional deficit or a series of traumatic events in kindergarten, I have spent a lot of my time, dimes and worry-lines inside the screaming walls of clinics, wards, hospitals and tiny exam rooms full of 3D models of body parts.
I’ve seen so many doctors, I’ll be able to start my residency at Deaconess in the fall.
They say that wisdom is gained by learning from your mistakes. That adage really isn’t working for me so much. Whenever I’ve been called wise, it has inevitably been followed by one of any number of more specific nouns. But “wise”? I’m not close.
As a writer, I’ve coveted these run-ins with nature, but as a victim, I’d just as soon be done with all of that.
Name a rash—I’ve salved it.
Name a bone—I’ve broken it.
Name a crutch—I’ve gripped it.
Name a bleeder—I’ve bled it.
Name a kidney—I’ve stoned it.
Name a joint—I’ve sprained, pulled and popped it.
Name a piece of glass, a shard of metal, a rusty nail—I’ve stepped on it.
All poisonous plants and flying stingers have attacked me. All low-slung doorjambs, tree limbs and cupboard doors have torn my head open. In fact, I’ve hit the top of my head so many times, the surgeons didn’t even have to give me anesthesia to find my brain a few years ago. (But I asked them to, just in case they accidentally left the scalpel drawer open.)
One of my favorite stories occurred a few years ago as I walked across campus. I had to “run” a couple of quick errands, but I decided to walk instead. One stop was at the Bethany Post Office and another at the Bethany bank. No sweat.
As I crossed the intersection of Peniel and 39th, a car hit me. It wasn’t going very fast, so I wasn’t thrown too far up onto the hood, but the 10 things I was holding flew all over eastern Bethany.
(When I tell this story, Dr. Poteet insists I reveal that the young man driving the car had been a student in two of my classes and hadn’t done well at all. That somehow lends a sinister motive to the accident, but I assure you, Mike was not trying to hit me. I’m sure of it.)
By the time I got back to my office, I knew I had to go to a doctor. My knee hurt like a…well…like a 2,000-pound rolling object had collided with it.
Now the funny part of the story: the next day, three colleagues and I were to fly to a conference in Wheaton, Illinois, just a quick drive from Chicago, my second favorite U.S. city. I was on crutches (for the fourth time in my life…it’s now up to six), so I thought my trip would be about half the fun I had been anticipating.
There is one advantage to being hit by a car and sent away on crutches and knee braces: “early boarding pass.” I actually got to sit in an airplane seat with a lot of leg room. The disadvantage is getting off, being put into a wheel-chair and getting pushed around an airport full of gift shops. Especially when the colleague pushing you is your wife. And for her, there’s never been a gift shop she hasn’t loved.
Unfortunately, she kept forgetting my leg was shooting straight out in front of her, so turning the chair through a doorway took more forethought than simply walking through that door. By the time we boarded our connecting flight, she had jammed my leg into 2 or 3 gift store door jambs, which aren’t all that narrow. Darts of hot lava rocketed up my leg every time. And she chuckled every time. She’s the love of my life, but Florence Nightingale she is NOT.
The worst, however, was yet to come. On the last day of our little trip, we borrowed the hotel’s wheelchair and drove the rented van to our favorite part of Chicago. We had lunch and (st)rolled down Michigan Avenue, a magnificent downtown shopping area.
We lost track of time and on the long trek back to the van, we had to cross a street at rush hour, in downtown Chicago.
We got to one intersection and had to run across but my “chauffeur” forgot to lift the front wheels when we reached the curb on the other side of the street. The collision actually catapulted me into the brick wall of the on-coming storefront.
This hurt more than getting hit by the car. And it made Linda laugh really, really hard. (Perhaps I am not the love of her life, huh?)