â€œOh, look, you made me a bullâ€™s-eye!â€ Dr. W says as he enters the room.
I attempt to chuckle and pretend I am amused. I am not.Â It is not that I donâ€™t appreciate his sense of humor or his desire to connect and make me feel comfortable. Rather, it is that I am laying face down on a skinny surgical table, chest elevated on pillows and my face hanging down into a hole similar to those found on massage tables. My neck is on fire, not literally of course. I am uncomfortable and anxious. I am not in the mood for chit chat. It frustrates me that he, like my dentist, expects me to carry on a conversation when I am in no position, emotionally or physically, to do so.Â Perhaps I am wrong in my expectation. He may not be anticipating an answer but since social rules dictate one responds when spoken to, I feel pressured.
Dr. W was commenting on my back tattoo, a rather large piece of skin ink.Â Â The tattoo, an all black illustration of a Native American symbol common referred to as The Man In the Maze, rests on my upper back between my shoulder blades and beneath my neck.Â
â€œHow funny would it be if the spot I need to inject into is right in the manâ€™s neck?â€ he quips.
Another forced chuckle from me.
Dr. W begins the procedure and tells me he will inject me with a local anesthetic first followed by the steroid injection.Â
â€œSo, tell me, does the tattoo mean something to you?â€ he asks as he wipes down my back with what I presume is betadine.Â
â€œYes, it is the logo of an organization I run.â€ I respond.Â At least this topic interests me. If I am going to be forced to talk I may as well talk about something that matters to me.
â€œOh? What kind of organization?â€ he asks as he signals the surgical assistant to move the x-ray machine in a different direction.
â€œIt is an organization that helps reunite family members separated by adoption.â€ I respond with some degree of difficulty.Â The position my neck is in has caused additional pain.Â
â€œBy what?â€ he asks.
â€œAdoption.â€ I respond with a bit of an agitated tone.Â No surprise he cannot hear me. I am talking through a hole in the table looking down at his skele-toesÂ shoes. I wonder if those things are comfortable.Â Is the feeling akin to wearing thong underwear with a piece of fabric separating each toe much like the string of a thong rests between your butt cheeks?Â I think those shoes would bother me as much as a thong.Â I ponder toe wedgiesÂ versus ass wedgies.
â€œOh, wow. Thatâ€™s neat.Â How many people have you helped?â€ he asks.
â€œAbout 200.â€ I respond.
â€œReally? WOW, that is great. Were any of them rejected or not welcomed by the person looking for them:â€ he says as I feel a prick of a needle in my back.
â€œLocal anesthetic. You will feel a slight pinch first and then I will get ready for the larger needleâ€ he says.
Bracing myself for some sort of impact, I respond to his original question.
â€œNo. It happens, of course, but fortunately it has not happened to my reunionsâ€ I offer with a bit of pride. I then rethink my answer and wonder if I should edit myself and add â€œexcept my ownâ€ to my initial statement.
â€œWell, thatâ€™s great. I guess itâ€™s good to know your roots. I can understand wanting to know where you came from.â€ he says.
â€œTrueâ€¦not to mention your medical historyâ€ I retort.Â Pain or no pain this is a topic I am passionate about.
â€œOh, yeah, huh?Â I didnâ€™t even think of that.â€ He says.
Seriously?Â The doctor does not think of the value of medical history. Should I be letting him stick a large needle in my spine?
â€œSo what made you get interest in that?â€ he asks as he begins to insert the secondary needle into my back.Â
â€œI was pregnant when I was eighteen and due to familial beliefs and my boyfriend not wanting to, uh, marry me, I was sent to a maternity home for five months and eventually gave my daughter up for adoptionâ€ I say with a bit of a shake to my voice. I am not sure if it is the topic of conversation or the needle going into my spine that makes me a bit shaky.
â€œOh, wow. Yeah, eighteen is young to have a childâ€ He says seeming to suggest that it was a good thing; my daughter was better off begin abandoned to strangers.Â I wince a bit. He thinks I am in pain and tells me to hang on a second.Â I donâ€™t bother responding. I did not wince due to pain, at least not physical pain.
Societal conditioning on adoption has just entered the room. I can hear it breathing. I can hear it laughing at the side of the surgical table.Â I can sense its sarcastic smile looking over the doctors shoulder.Â I cannot believe I am about to debate adoption Kool-Aid while I get an injection into my spine.
â€œI disagree. My mother was nineteen when she had my sister but she was married.â€ I respond.
â€œOh, wait, so you wanted to keep your daughterâ€ he asks.
At that very moment, the entire left side of my body goes into a massive muscle spasm.Â I feel pins and needles down to the tips of my fingers and I gasp.Â I start to moan a bit and he tells me to hang on, keep breathing.Â I try to get into my yoga frame of mind and focus on my breath. When that fails, I switch to the labor heeheehoohoos.Â I am incredibly uncomfortable and conclude that if there werenâ€™t a large needle currently inserted in my spine I would be jumping off the table.
The spasm wanes and I catch my breath.
â€œYes, I very much wanted to keep herâ€ I share.
â€œOhâ€¦wellâ€¦that must have been hardâ€ he offers before telling me the procedure is over and that I can get dressed. He tells me the surgical tech will help me into recovery where they will check my vitals and ask me to wait a few minutes.
Hard I think to myself?Â Hard.Â Yeah. It was hard and still is.Â Unlike the pain from the shot and the underlying condition creating the need for it, it is a pain that has lingered for twenty six years.