Funny thing about old injuries, they are a lot like bad memories, they always come back to haunt you.
In the summer of ’83, on a Monday morning after a weekend of hard rain, I suffered an injury that would haunt me for the rest of my life.
I still remember that morning, the morning after a weekend rainstorm. Late Sunday evening the rain stopped, and the sky broke into a sea of clear blue. By Monday, the only reminders of the storm were the damp ground and the wetness in the tree limbs. I had been into the last few months of a summer job. Back in the eighties, the province offered summer jobs to any youth over the age of 16, and while the jobs didn’t pay much, they did offer job experience to young workers who had none.
Since my dad and his dad before him were loggers, I jumped at the chance to do this job. The position would teach basic logging skills, and toughen up even the meekest of the workforce. The perfect job for me, I thought, as I anxiously accepted this position. I worked on a team of seven, and it was our job to cut a right of way that some surveyors had marked along a survey line, through some of the most intense forest in western Newfoundland.
The inexperienced crew consisted of three girls and four guys, along with a seasoned foreman to keep us on the straight and narrow. Albert, or Big Al, as we jokingly called him was a force to recon with. I don’t think I seen him smile in all the three months I worked on the job, but when you needed someone to help you along or give you life saving tips, he was there for you.
On this particular Monday morning, we had to descend a one hundred foot incline, cutting any trees that grew along the right of way. I was voted to carry the supplies, which consisted of a chain saw and two cans of gasoline. I carefully strapped the cans of gasoline on either shoulder, and carried the chainsaw in one hand, which only gave me one free hand to grab various branches and small shrubs to keep from sliding down the hill. I walked behind the others, and in the event that I slipped, I had the other workers to catch me; at least that was the plan.
Since I had to carry most of the weight,I decided to take a different path than the others. (this was a stupid plan) While I was walking towards the edge of the hill, ready to start the trip down the mountain, my foot hooked up in an exposed tree root, and I began my slide. The ground was still damp from two days of intense rain, and it was as slick as oil. I worked to discard the two gas cans, but they were tangled around my shoulders. I threw the chainsaw to the side of the hill, while trying to avoid the sharp teeth of the chain, and made every attempt to grab a tree or even a branch, but with the two gas cans tied to my shoulders, I had little chance of slowing myself down.
I finally did slow down, a large tree stump protruded through the thick underbrush, and since I was now in a lying down position, I had two choices. I could continue sliding and hopefully stop myself by engaging one of my boots against the stump, but since my boots were soaking wet, I risked rupturing myself on the stump; or I could try to lift my feet and avoid damaging the ‘family jewels’. I chose the latter.
I still remember the feeling, as my tailbone hit hard against the spruce tree stump. It felt similar to hitting your funny bone on your elbow, except that the numbness ran throughout my entire body. I lay still on the wet ground, unable to move. I was in such pain that crying out only produced a low whine, and I knew nobody would be able to hear me. The ground was cold and wet, but none of that mattered, as I was too worried that my 20 year old body would remain here forever, or that I may end up in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I tried to move my legs, but nothing worked. I couldn’t even wiggle my fingers. I figured I was finished.
Suddenly I heard their voices. It seemed like the sound was coming from every direction, and I had no way of responding. I hollered out but still nothing, until once when all of a sudden my voice worked. The numbing in my body stopped, and I was able to get to my feet. Fintan, a towering individual and a god send when we needed brute strength to move a large tree on the job, was the first to find me. “My God, are you okay?” he asked. “We were looking for you for the past hour” he said. “An hour?” I thought, it didn’t seem like that long,but then again, I may have passed out from the pain” I figured.
“You really took a dangerous turn” he joked. “Take my hand” he said, and then proceeded to throw me over his shoulder like a bag of potatoes, and carry me out where the others had been waiting.
I was surprised to be able to walk on my own, and in just a few hours, I was able to keep up with the others, and head back to base camp where the foreman was waiting for us. I still regret not obeying Albert’s orders, as he said that I had to go directly to the hospital when I got home. He worried about the fall I took, and the possible damage I suffered, but I assured him that I felt no pain. “No pain after a fall like that is the worst thing. It will come back to bite you!” He said. I should have listened to the old guy, but you know 20 year olds, stubborn and think they know everything.I was no different.
The pain first hit me while working as a logger some five years later. It had been late November, and the air was stale with dampness. I had done the same work as always, which was carrying pulpwood from one spot to the piling site, but for some reason, an intense pain in my lower back caused me to fall forward. I couldn’t get up.
My dad came running over, very worried about me. “What happened?” he questioned. “I don’t know, but I can’t move!” I said.
The trip out of the woods was especially painful. Every move was a different pain, all in my lower back. To make matters worst, the only way home from the logging site was down a rough road, some 26 miles, on the back of a Yamaha ATV. The bumps in the road were complete hell, but my dad carefully maneuvered each bump, making the trip home as painless as possible.
The doctor was very rude, and he scolded me the entire time I was in his office. “How could you let an injury like this happen and not come to the hospital?” he demanded. “You twisted your spine. I don’t know how you manage to walk.” he said. I assured him that I only suffered for a few hours at the time of the incident, and this was the first time I ever had any pain since that day. He gave me muscle relaxers and instructed me to take a few days off to recover. I was still young and stupid, and when greeting my worried father in the car, I lied and told him that everything was fine.
That was a long time ago. From time to time, while working as a logger, I would wander off to myself, and bend over and cry from the pain, but I then gathered myself and continued working. I worked in the logging industry for fifteen more years since the visit to that doctor, finally moving on to a different career once the pain became unbearable.
Yesterday, my girl and I were spreading gravel on our driveway when it hit me. I went down on my knees from the pain. Since we have been together for the past eight years, my lady is used to those pain attacks of mine, and she instructed me to lie on my stomach while she massaged my lower back until the pain went away. This morning, I visited the local chiropractor and she re-adjusted my spine, like she has been doing on a regular basis for the past ten years. X-rays have proven that that accident all those years ago may have twisted my spine, and that is the reason for all the pain. My chiropractor continuously warns me to take it easy, and I do my best to do so,but I am not one for lying down and resting while work needs to be done. Call it stubborn or call it stupid, but either way, I cannot stop, I still have half my driveway to finish before the rain starts.