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This morning the rips and tears around the neck and shoulders of my blue Vanderbilt Sports Medicine Clinic t-shirt seemed to beg for my attention. I’ve worked out in that shirt and also worn it as a sleeping shirt. When I first received the shirt, I wore it three times a week to the Vanderbilt clinic for therapy. That was in 2004. This morning—yes, more than 10 years after receiving the shirt—I saw the holes for the first time.

(As someone from the Commonwealth of Virginia, I know the humorous wisdom in the question: “How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Seven. One to change the bulb and six to talk about how good the old one was.”)

I received that shirt after an ER doctor referred me to a doctor who happened to work at Vanderbilt University. The referral followed an assault on the street by four adolescents. I describe that violent action and some of its consequences in Three Prayers You’ll Want to Pray. My right arm was in pain and wasn’t working properly. The medical specialist brought two med students with him to examine me, told us all that the short head tendon was torn, wrote notes, and also said, “It may heal, but it will probably tear completely and then you’ll be OK. I’ve had this happen with—“ and he named two professional football players.

So I rested, iced, and exercised according to plan. Eventually the arm worked without pain. I began to deal with other aspects of that street violence, especially the immediate “What did I do to cause this to happen?” reaction and other matters impacting the whole of life.

Ten years later I can say that I have the t-shirt. Should I make it into a quilt or a bowtie? Use it to shine my shoes? Hang it as a scarecrow in the garden? Toss it.

I’m grateful healing happens.

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