Friday, May 24, 2013

The Monster In My Elbow.

from Jacqueline

I guess I've not been paying attention over the past year, or perhaps, what with one thing and another, my mind has been on other things.  Things other than my personal safety, that is.  I've told you all about the case of the flying horse manure that ended up in my eye - and I am still dealing with the infection.  She who is really, really sensitive to antibiotics has been given just about everything ending in "cin" or "cyn" over the past year - amoxy, neo, tobra ... you medical types will get the picture.

To no avail.

Now for the story of the cactus needle.

As you may know, I spent much of last year in England due to the fact that my Dad was very ill with the sudden onset of a rare blood disorder.  He passed away in early July.  My brother arrived from California a few days before he died.  John and I both ended up living here in the Wild West, something I attribute to early conditioning by my Dad.  He loved westerns, and so we watched westerns on TV on Sunday afternoons (for some reasons, that's when they were on British TV).  Those wide open spaces called to us, I guess.

But I digress.

I'd already bagged the spare room, so we'd set up a bed for my brother in the conservatory.  I was in the process of pulling down the blinds (so he wouldn't be blinded with sunlight first thing in the morning), and the one in the corner was stuck.  Oh, that would be the one in the corner next to The Monster.  The Monster is a cactus.  It began life as a very small cactus.  Thirty-odd years ago.  Now it's a big thing, with long needles.  I hate it. I do not like cacti.  Cacti are the plant version of reptiles, and I am not fond of reptiles.  I'm not fond of the desert either - I prefer green.  My people come from damp, so I prefer green.

I digress again.

I was fighting with the stuck blind, and probably because everything was pretty emotionally charged, I was bound and determined to get that thing down - I had to have control over something, I suppose.  I pulled and I pulled.

"Jack, forget it.  I'll be OK," said my brother.
"No, I'll unstick it ...." said I.
"Jack, you'll hurt yourself."
"I'll be fine, I just need to pull this cord, and -"

The cord snapped.  My elbow came down at about 50 miles per hour and hit The Monster.  I screamed.    "Heck," I said.  Only I didn't say "Heck."

I inspected my elbow. No blood, but a small bruise began to appear.

"Do you think there's a needle in there?"  I asked my brother, who was bleary eyed with jet-lag and with worry about our Dad.
"No, it would bleed - and you'd see a hole."
I inspected The Monster.  No needles seemed to have been damaged.  I iced my elbow.

The elbow hurt for some time afterwards, but calmed down eventually.  Then it would hurt a bit again, and the pain would come and go.  A couple of months ago I was fingering around the pointy underside of my elbow and I felt something.  A little something.  I asked my physical therapist about it (the one I've been seeing about my knee - that would be the knee injured last summer and on which I had surgery in February).  "That's odd," she said.  And she suggested I ask my orthopedic surgeon about it, at my next knee check-up.  Which was last Monday.

The knee was given full marks for being a good knee and getting better in good time - well done Jackie's knee.  Then I asked Dr. Mike about the elbow.  I told him the story of the stuck blind and The Monster, and pointed to the exact place where I could feel something odd.  By the way, Dr. Mike is the same brilliant guy who put me back together after my riding accident twelve years ago.

"That's odd," he said.
"Do you think it's a bone chip ... or a cactus needle?"
"Could be a bone chip.  But let's get an X-ray."
Then he told me that a cactus needle would not show up on an X-ray.
I had the X-ray.
"It's not a bone-chip," he said.
"Whaddaya reckon it is?" I asked, slipping into a cowboy tone.  Dad would have laughed.
"A cactus needle.  But we would have to do an MRI to make sure."
"Does it hurt?" he asked.
"Sometimes," I said.
We looked at each other, and agreed.
Let's leave it for now.

Have a good weekend, and be happy you do not have a monster in your elbow.


  1. Just so long as it does not start taking root!RBB

  2. Just as long as it doesn't interfere with your writing!

    Sometimes foreign objects work their way out of the body on their own. I once got a wood splinter deeply embedded under my fingernail. A doctor told me he'd have to surgically remove the nail and the splinter. My neighbor told me to soak my finger in tea tree oil and see what happened. I did and a few days later, the splinter came to the surface and I pulled it out with a tweezer.

  3. from Jacqueline

    I confess, I wondered if I might end up with a cactus inside me (I've read about plants growing in lungs, where people have inhaled seeds - ick!). I guess I have "Cactus Elbow" that well-known repetitive syndrome - keep pulling a stuck blind and see what happens. The elbow is not red or blistered or otherwise nasty - it just has this "thing" under the skin. I might massage it with tea-tree oil - it's great stuff and works very well on infections. if only it could be used on the eyelid!

  4. When my brother was living in a healthy neighborhood for crime, he had a large cactus on his porch. He said he'd read that it was a good deterrent for intruders. It was beautiful, but there were no needles visible. I am not the most graceful of persons and one evening I tripped on the steps and backed into it. I was wearing bike shorts and the "invisible" needles went right through. I won't describe the ride home, because I think I've blocked it from memory, but the treatment involved lying naked on my stomach while someone painted PVC pipe glue on my backside and ripped it off as it hardened. Funny you should mention Cactus Elbow; I'm still trying to live down Cactus Ass....

  5. A neighbor who grew many cacti told me that Elmer's glue works well to remove small needles and little splinters as well. Just slather some over the spot, let it dry, then peel it off (like we used to when we got it on our fingers in art class). I've been a little bit less afraid of cacti since she taught me that, but I still avoid them . . .
    Good luck recovering from all the traumas. Hugs!