Dick Wolfsie: Back to the problem!  |  columns

I was out for a walk with my wife recently. Mary Ellen was thirty meters ahead of me because at some point I had to stop … to catch my breath. She encouraged me to hurry, and when I shifted into gear (from neutral to first) I tripped over some rocks and fell to the ground. Descent is usually reserved for bus accidents, but this was clearly a descent.

One consequence of my fall was a black eye. I didn’t mind how disfigured I looked, but I dreaded endless friends jokes about why Mary Ellen hit me. Spouse abuse is not funny, and Mary Ellen is not the fist fist type. She has a number of subtle means of showing her disapproval. How subtle? Once she was so mad at me that I didn’t even know it.

At the end of that week, my neck pain was severe. Molly, the nurse at my doctor’s office, ordered an x-ray and prescribed some medication. She also wanted me to see a physical therapist. My diagnosis was cervicalgia, which sounds more like a crazy Roman emperor. I also have cervical spondylosis, a longstanding condition that was made worse by my fall. Any illness that ends in “Ose” (like scoliosis, thrombosis or tuberculosis) would scare me to be diagnosed with it – except bad breath, which would be more your problem than mine.

My next appointment was with a therapist named Ellen. She had a PT, PhD, MPH, MDT, and CLT. I was a little concerned about possible pain with each treatment, and based on her references, she could have started killing me. But she was great.

The first thing in the session I was asked if I was able to turn my head. I watched another handsome healthcare worker pass by so that this question was answered. At this first meeting, mainly my mobility and flexibility were tested. I was excited to see the therapist’s review that should be available online to my other health care providers and myself.

When I accessed my summary, I panicked. The report kept referring to my throat rot. It took me several readings to realize that “red” was short for rotation. There was also a checklist of other possible problems the therapist should look for, including nystagmus, dysarthria, and diplopia. I don’t know what that was, but where was my borborygmus (the medical term for the rumbling, gurgling sound from my stomach) on the form? Whenever the church gets going, I see a lot of full neck turns in the congregation.

There were other strange observations in the table as well. “The patient has a tendency to cross his right leg over his left leg when he is sitting.” This made me feel very embarrassed. Instead of working on the required exercises, I spent most of the week NOT crossing my legs while watching TV. The report also informed me that I had “… reduced flexibility with bilat traps, levator scapulae, scalene and elongated rhomboids”. Exactly what I suspected from the start.

This physical therapist has started a new job in Washington, DC. I will work with Anna for my remaining nine sessions. It was given to me when I had my knee replaced four years ago. Now that I have neck rot, I hope that if my head falls off and I need to have it replaced, I hope she can help.

Dick Wolfsie was a reporter for WISH-TV in Indianapolis for over 30 years. His columns appear in 30 Indiana newspapers. He is a resident of Indianapolis. Email: [email protected]