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November 2005

Just Wear and Tear ...

I've worked pretty hard for several decades now, and have some wear and tear to show for it. Nothing life threatening, just some stuff that must be addressed. I've needed corrective surgery for Carpal Tunnel syndrome for some time now, and just can't delay it any longer.

For quite a few years, very long hours and too many days without a break brought on alot of arm pain, arm weakness, joint pain, and hand numbness. Unpleasant ... but manageable - and linear ... it came, it recovered predictably. I always had the most trouble after the big push was over. I managed to get thru alot of deadlines that way. Regained ground slowly afterwards.

Well, after Standing Stone 2 (three years ago), everything hit like a train wreck. Arm pain, joint pain, arm weakness, hand numbness, lost of sensation in my fingers, severe neck pain. And, thus began a loooong series of tests and rounds of Drs. While we went thru the MRIs, CAT scans, blood work, nerve conductivity tests, etc., I worked pumped full of Ibuprofen, wrapped in therma care heat wraps, and rubbed down with the full host of topical pain rubs. They were some really lousy months of pain.

We knew over 30 years of hard work had resulted in the bursitis, tendinitis, and arthritis which I fought all of the time. However; the test results came back confirming that I was also fighting carpal tunnel in both wrists (the left was severe) and I also had two ruptured discs in my neck. The neck was extremely painful, made it really difficult for me to hold my head straight, and the two bad discs were letting the vertebra press on the nerve bundles which service my arms. This was causing strength loss, co-ordination loss, and hand/finger numbness. Lovely. Working with my head bent over machines and workbenches all day was really pushing the limits of Bengay and Ibuprofen. ;?)

Therapy quickly proved to be useless. It was a mechanical problem - the structure was broken. So, we looked up a fine neuro-surgeon, and he unzipped my neck, inserted some bone grafts, titanium plates, and screwed it all up nice and tight with big ole titanium screws. Tidy. And, with the voice of a 12 year old for some months ('cause they go thru the front of your neck for this procedure and jack aside your voice box) ... I was sent home unsure my head would stay on ... and with a fist full of pain pills. The pain pills worked, but had the unfortunate side effect that they caused me to forget to breathe. Hummm. It was suggested I cease taking them. Good idea. ;?)

So ... did it work? Yes it did. Strength and sensitivity returned. It had all taken about nine months of severe pain, several Drs., endless tests, therapy, scheduling, surgery, and recovery. Pc. of cake.

But what about the nerve tests, the carpal tunnel, the arthritis ... all that good stuff? Have no fear ... like old friends, they stuck with me. To all of the various things we've discussed thru the years, add these issues which make the work more of a challenge. But, I could work and I have worked. Now, I've been advised that I can't wait any longer. Many of you have told me you have enjoyed seeing some of my steel carving work lately. Many have expressed that they wished they had the ability to do that sort of work. Well, I have a very real interest in "retaining" my ability to do such things. I've been working for years by developing methods of compensating for the pain and erosion. Well aware of my workload, I've postponed treatment against Dr's advice.

Why now? Well, it comes down to critical mass. There's another chapter to the Saga. The arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel together make for a really interesting night. I was put on the arthritis drug BEXTRA. Ring a bell? Yeah ... the one they took off the market. Well, before that ... it was a really great help to the endless aches and pains. BUT ... I was having some really weird pains at night. Following up on those weird symptoms, lead me thru a whole new amusement park of Drs. who wanted to explore my heart for the possible trouble. Thank GOD my heart was NOT the trouble. However; it took months to find that out. Along with stress tests, ultrasounds, MRIs, CAT scans, dire predictions, and even a heart cath. procedure!

Bottom line ... my heart is just fine. My arteries are just fine. I voluntarily stopped taking the BEXTRA, on my own, during all these tests ... before it was pulled from the market. And ... what do you know ... my weird symptoms faded and stopped. But I've not gotten any of the Drs. to say it was related. Hummm - yeah - right.

Well. The BEXTRA (which was making the arthritis tolerable and keeping the carpal tunnel under control) ceased doing those things when I ceased taking it. Enter more pain and more susceptibility to carpal symptoms. We build toward critical mass. Schedule behind ... work harder. Work harder ... more symptoms. More symptoms ... more pain. More pain ... the work is harder yet. You can only take it so far. Add in a bad knee I screwed up a few years ago ... and another bad disc in my lower back causing left leg and foot problems ... and ... it's now time to start some of the repairs before my resale value devaluates any farther. ;?) Hey - let's do the left wrist first!

Everything I've ever told you regarding any delay to the schedule has been the truth. I haven't added in all of this story, because it's already complex enough with just the airgun related issues. In addition, every time I get a cold, people become certain I'm gonna die just to get out of work. ;?) Now ... take for example ... had I mentioned all the heart test stuff earlier ... everyone would have freaked without even knowing the results. Turns out ... my heart is perfectly healthy. That was all a wild goose chase of symptoms most likely caused by a drug which is now off the market. Alot of my customers are Docs, technicians, and engineers. One medical tech. has done heart ultrasounds for over 20 years. We'd discussed my symptoms at a previous Cup shoot. This time, he actually brought an eighty thousand dollar portable ultrasound machine to the recent Cup shoot! You missed it. He gave me a professional ultrasound right there, and declared me USDA Prime ... good to go. ;?) Now that's service, and I sure appreciate it Bill.

You just can't plan in all of this sort of stuff into a ledger schedule. Toss in your daughter having triplets, friends and family issues, funerals, weddings, obligations ... and it takes a far better man than me to project accurately years down the road. Fortunately, waiting for a custom airgun is not like waiting for a kidney transplant. It's a hobby and it will keep. The portion of the work which is done, will stay done. And, I'll continue on and finish every commitment. I just need maintenance like just about every other 50 year old human. I hope you will understand. I put it off as far as I could, for the sake of catching up as much as possible first.

We're scheduling for an immediate surgical procedure now. Everybody heals at their own pace. I heal pretty quickly, and self-employment is a real motivator. ;?)

I would appreciate your thoughts, well wishes, prayers, fruit baskets, magazines, etc. ... ;?)