Published September 24, 2023

Finger in the Flame 

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

A Slice of Life

Quite often men behave like, well, men. At least that’s my explanation for what I am about to reveal. 

Men relish the tough guy persona, of which the trait of never showing pain is one of the foremost measurements of the male sex. Of course, there’s a limit to how far this illusion can successfully be carried. I know. I’ve reached it. 

Admittedly, I am not one to smirk and smile when a physician is about to stick a needle in me, or when it actually happens. I’m more of a grin and bear it guy, short on grin though. Needles and I just don’t get along very well. 

Where’s he going with this? Fine. I’ll get to the point. 

A few years ago, I was afflicted with a particularly nasty case of what is known as tennis elbow. In my case it was actually fishing elbow, a swelling and soreness of the elbow joint that just wouldn’t go away, making the simple act of using even the lightest fishing rod rise to a 10 on the misery meter.  

After talking to several other continually active fishermen, including some in the professional ranks, I learned that “fishing” elbow usually required a shot of cortisone to settle it down. Most of them hinted at, or rather warned me, that getting the shot wouldn’t be the most pleasant experience but maybe the only solution. 

Cortisone though, is kind of a last resort thing. However, after trying rest, then certain exercises, my elbow was not responding. Swelling and soreness remained. It was time to “man up” and ask the doctor for the needle. 

When the appointed time arrived, I sat in the doctor’s office, sleeve rolled up, ready for a needle. I put on my best face, joking about being injured in the simple act of fishing, smiling at the nurse and doctor. 

Then the doctor pulled out a needle about the size of Idaho, with a monstrous vile of fluid attached to it, and politely warned me this may not be pleasant. He then explained that the needle would remain in me for several minutes so as to complete the injection, the result of which may or may not be successful. 

While I am telling myself to toughen up for what is about to happen, the doctor asks me if it is okay if an intern watches the procedure. No problem.  

Then the nurse opens the door and in walks the most beautiful medical student on the planet. I was no longer looking for a stick to bite while the doctor administered the shot, but determined I would smile through the entire event. I mean, it’s just a shot. Right? 

The doctor pressed gently on my swollen elbow, asking me where it hurt the most, which was pretty much everywhere. However, after some poking around we agreed on the most tender spot. It was there, he said, that the shot would be most effective. I was already hoping the worst was over. 

So, the doctor sticks the needle in what is already a miserably sore spot while I have determined to hold a contrived smile through the entire event, especially in the presence of the lovely intern.  

I managed this false persona for but a few scant seconds. My smile was turning into a frown despite my best efforts to appear immune to the pain. Manly, huh? 

The doctor holding the needle reminded me to hold still, adding that it would take some time to complete the injection. I looked at the vile of fluid atop the needle and knew he wasn’t kidding. It appeared darn near full to me. Then I looked up at the doctor and saw him smile slightly, eyes bright too. He knew my ruse was about to unravel. 

Well, seconds turned into weeks. At least that’s what it felt like. My pretend smile was soon long gone, and tears were filling my eyes. I white-knuckled the arm of chair I was sitting in. I couldn’t breathe. Now tears began dripping off my face. The vile was only about 2/3rds drained. My cover was blown. 

I looked at the doctor. He grinned and winked and told me it wouldn’t be much longer. Then I turned my eyes to the intern who smiled slightly, which I took to mean she read the situation perfectly. I had to laugh a bit. Not much, but a little. I still had that darned needle in my elbow. 

When this excruciating event came to an end, we all had a good laugh at my feeble attempt to ignore what they knew would be impossible to do. The doctor complimented me for my effort, adding that he hoped the injection worked because he wouldn’t administer another for at least six months. That was the most welcome news I had ever heard. 

I was given a handout which detailed exercises to do once the swelling went down, exercises to keep “fishing elbow” at bay. They shot worked and the exercises work. I’ve been doing them at the start of each fishing trip for the last dozen years or more. I’m motivated. No more cortisone shots for me! 

Wherever she may be, I’m sure that intern has shared this slice of life story many times. When I think about that I can hear the laughter, shake my head, and chuckle. 

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