After those two days in bed, my mom's suspicions were too much. She packed my raggedy body in her car and took me to who she was told was the best back specialist in Charlotte.
Dr. Chew was a little guy with a little mustache and a red bow tie and reddish hair. I could tell I was looking at a genius. Sometimes you just know when you are in the company of brilliance. I could tell that he knew this about himself, too. This man may have been little, and he may have been friendly, and he may have worn an antiquated bow-tie, but I could tell he was still confident to say the least. I always felt like this guy was probably slumming it by being only the best back doctor in the area. He probably could have built rockets out of re-treads if he wanted to.
Dr. Chew had already looked at my records before we met. So after a few minutes of examining me he said in a chipper voice, "All right, you broke your back. And you broke it good. It's a plain as that. You're not passing go, and you're not collecting 200 dollars today. We're gonna fit you for a brace and your gonna stay across the catwalk in the hospital for a couple of days, then you're gonna wear that brace for three months. Then you're gonna do nothing for a year, and then we'll have you healed up as best you can."
I said, "Do nothing?"
And he said, "You're not gonna run. You're not gonna jump. And most of all, you're not going to bend over."
A year of nothing? Have you ever met me? To this day, I'm still the most hyper 31 year old you will ever meet, and that's still with all these problems. (I just retired from doing full-speed fake-falls at 30. And I'm thinking about pulling a Magic Johnson and getting back in the game!) So imagine how hard this was gonna be on me when I was 16! Do nothing? This was gonna be tough.
As they started to wheel me to my hospital room, Dr. Chew asked me a few sarcastic but serious follow up questions.
Dr. Chew: Did you ever have any dreams of being a power-lifter?
Me: No, not really.
Dr. Chew: Good, because that dream would've been killed today. I'm surprised, though, a guy as big as you.
Me: I'm 140. Real funny.
Dr. Chew: Did you ever have any military dreams?
Me: Not really.
Dr. Chew: Good, because that dream is D.O.A today, too. Here' s the bright side: now you can't get drafted! But seriously, if you ever want a desk job in the Air Force, even years from now - you let me know. I can make that happen.
Me: Sure will, Doctor Chew. Now one more thing. How close was I to paralysis?
Dr. Chew: Have you ever heard of a place called "The Edge of Hell and Back?" You've just returned from there. You don't get closer than you did without going in.
Me: How did that other doctor miss this?
Dr. Chew: I don't know. He was young. But I'll tell you this. He received a phone call from me about this. I've never met the guy before, but let me promise you: he will never EVER make this mistake on someone else. We came to an understanding.-------------------------------------
I could tell by Dr. Chew's eyes and tone that he meant that he had given the new doctor a brief lesson in reading X-Rays, and then probably yelled at him a little and maybe even cussed at him for sending me home with a broken spine.
Also, Dr. Chew told me that I would never get to play football like I wanted to the next year. I would've been a great receiver, too. I was skinny, fast, and afraid to get tackled... which would make me even faster. This "no football" order made my mom happy, because it was the only thing in life she had ever sheltered me from. This lady would let me jump off the railroad track bridge as trains passed two feet over my head (seriously), but the thought of me returning a punt from the 30 yard line scared the shit out of her - ironically because as she once said, "You could break your back!" I had finally gotten old enough that she was going to have to let me play football my junior year, but now, thanks to Ginger, Mom got her way.
In part 9, I'll get to my poor nurse. Oh, it's a good one. That poor nurse. Although, I really want to get to part 10. It's a sad tale about such a nice person, who I guess was sad.