After all the talk about ethics I find myself brushing one of my clients, for about 15 minutes before each massage. The scandalous part is that he is 94 years old. I figure that Peter is on annual leave so no one is allowed access to the pearly gates at this time. But, someone said that I have connections there so Uncle JB’s nephew decided that I was the fittest person to usher him into heaven. I went over to assess is condition and tried not to echo the skepticism of the Nurse. A few hours after deciding that I would work with him, I got a call advising that his nephew had left payment for the first two sessions and I am to begin as soon as possible.
There are two outstanding things about him. Firstly, he fell off the bed and ‘fractured’ his arm early last year, or it might have been late 2012. He was taken to see a Doctor who advised that the arm was fine. It did not look fine so the Nurse had asked for my opinion. I told her it appeared to be out of the socket. Given I am not a Doctor, the earth kept rotating oblivious to my view. As at today, if you were to look at him what you will see is the skin pulled tight over the edge of the acromion process looking as if a whole will soon be punched in it from the tension. Then there is a sheer drop, then there is the elbow. No evidence of the deltoid muscles, but the biceps and triceps seemed to have collapsed just superior to the elbow which interferes with blood circulation in the arm. If you look further you will notice that the head of the humerous is bulging out at front from under the clavicle. It is a painful sight. Naturally the arm cannot go straight up as that would mean pushing back the clavicle and causing pain.
Secondly, I was told that about five months ago Uncle JB had ‘hip’ surgery. Who decides that a 93 year old man should go under the knife? Family…the best. I remember an 85 year old client who fell and fractured her hip and her only son was tripping over himself to have surgery done. On three occasions preparations were made and it was concluded that her bone was too brittle and her blood count was too low. She will be 90 years old this September, and while bedridden she is at peace with herself. She continues to hear ‘music from afar’ and occupies herself with the daily newspapers and her many word search books. Getting back… There has been no ‘doctor visit’ since surgery and no post-surgery medication prescribed to ease his discomfort. Uncle JB has had to resort to making himself immobile to control the pain. I have always known him to be out walking, but now the Nurses have to lift him to move him from point A to point B. I mistakenly thought that his relatives rallied around him, but was told that the few occasions on which I saw he had visitors, actually coincided with blue moons. I inspected the hip and found a scar about 4 inches long below the trochanter. The trochanter itself seemed to have gained additional bone. A massage treatment is very much like putting our hand in a bag and trying to identify the object we feel. Well, whatever was taking place in his hip seriously distorted my mental map of the area.
With his immobility the feet started to deteriorate rapidly. During the second treatment a Nurse came in to advise me that the Doctor said… Doctor? Did he see a Doctor? Yes, the day before my second visit. Nice. Things are happening. Well, well. Talk about a pound of nails when you really need a screw. Anyway, having learnt that he is having massages, the Doctor said that the Therapist should not bother with his right foot as it is dead. I asked the Nurse what she meant. She said it was not her, it was the Doctor. I asked Uncle JB to move his foot. He did. I asked the Nurse if she saw that. Yes. I told myself that the message got mixed up unless there is another meaning for dead, i.e. medically dead, meaning physically alive but not responsive to medical treatment. The great toe on his left foot was bandaged so I could not tell what was going on under there. Maybe the Doctor had said that the toe was dead and not the whole foot. I have had a client before with a toe that died and fell off. She went soon after it, which is why I figure that the nephew is setting me up for the big job of preparing Uncle JB for heaven’s gates. We’ll see.
So yes, the brushing… I got a nice blush brush and I have been making circles and stroking his skin with it. The idea is to stimulate the nerves, but he is having some gentle exfoliation too. And tickles. Sometimes it is irritating and that spurs him to move his arms and legs to avoid the brush. Both legs are usually pulled up, so I have the task of stretching them out. The ligaments have not shortened, so the full length is achieved, but he screams for murder. Thanks! That’s enough! You heard me? I said thanks! I would hold the legs wherever it is at the point and when he calms down, I would continue the stretch. Thank! you! for! the! massage! I asked him to stop shouting and said that I would like to rock his legs a bit to create some movement in the hip. No!!!! Jesus Lord have mercy! This woman is uncompassionate! Un-compassionate! I told him I would do it a little at a time. He said: You are one of a set of people who do what they want. When he was calm again, I asked his age. He turned to me and said: have I ever asked you your age? No, sir. Right. But Uncle JB, as your Therapist is it appropriate for me to know. He remained silent. I began rocking is legs. Jesus Lord I reject all my sins! All! I will never sin again! He then struck my hand and said: that’s enough now. I asked him if we could do another massage on another day. He looked at me quite puzzled and said: why would you ask me that, you hear me complaining? I’m not complaining.
On my way to the carnival lady I gave the maxi driver a $50 bill. He refused to take it saying that he does not like that money and wanted to know if I had anything else. I was surprised because the man was talking loud sounding upset as if I had offended him. Nice to know we have folks who reject money. I found a $20 bill and gave him. On a different day my trip would have been free as I might have told him the $50 was all I had. Anyway, I am told that my client is standing more erect and dancing (in my absence) and a few of the Nurses asked if I think ‘it’ would look good in short pants for carnival. I’m sparing myself the image. I massaged her and we did a lap around the yard. She holds her own unless there is an obstacle in her way, like the hose on the ground that she considers skipping over then decides to walk around. Crossing the shallow drains around the building also makes her pause.
The medical practitioners have long advised that there is no physical reason why she can’t walk normal, but I am uncertain whether consideration has been given to the prescribed medication she has been using for years. Like the gentleman whose heart medication causes his gout, but they can’t stop administering the heart tablets. Over time these drugs affect the nervous system, which could eventually block the peripheral physiological cues, resulting in poor coordination. Hence the execution of normal muscle function would require additional effort, the kind you don’t care to exert at an old age. If I ignore these considerations and behave impatient, I would get nowhere fast, and she would be back in the position she was in when she first arrived at the home. Thankfully, the patience is paying off and our walk now lasts about 15 minutes. We’d pause at the back of the yard to look at squirrels, count the shadow beni plants between the grass, and talk about how the birds and ants ate the mangoes before we got to them. Then we’d visit the avocado tree that has an almost horizontal branch. Together we would reach up and hold it, giving the arms and torso a good stretch, then we would shake our hips form side to side and laugh at ourselves, and I wonder, if I am caught in the act, how would I explain to her daughter that this is the ‘massage therapy’ she is paying for.
While I hang out with the old folks, I continue to keep in touch with the young people. I was sharing with some of the students how I got quite emotional last week during and after my visit with the female footballers. While everything from our thoughts to our actions are recorded, something things are better said, not written, so I will limit my expression. The ‘Physio’ was there and I asked the manager if I may speak with him about his treatment of the ladies as his view could be valuable to the report she asked me to prepare on the relevance of massage therapy to the sport. Well, when I went over to the man and introduced myself and advised that the manager had consented to my asking a few questions, I got a smirk. He did anything but answer my few questions, which had to be repeated as he conveniently needed to take a walk after each question was asked. When he returned, I was probably was supposed to have forgotten about the question, but I asked again. At one point he asked where I did my schooling, and whether I had a university education, and what was my major. Not relevant to anything in the moment. I think that too often we lose sight of fact that all learning is for our personal development, not to flaunt. University education adds little to our lives if we lack core values. And having experienced it, I know of the short-lived satisfaction and how hollow it feels to pursue studies for the sake of doing so, or because someone or something else requires us to. I answered him, then repeated my question.
For some strange reason I thought that we would have easy rapport since our common interest is helping the players to maintain adequate levels of fitness, but that was not the case. Apart from that, when I asked two of the ladies why they felt the Physio performed the treatments he did, they were clueless. I get the impression that he thinks I am competition, which means I’d have to waste time proving otherwise. On the other hand, the ladies’ apparent lack of interest in their own wellbeing requires some degree of reeducation, which means I would have to embark on an education drive. Frustrating and overwhelming from any angle. I am not sure that I want all that work. In my report to the manager I suggested that there should be balanced amounts of stretching, correctional exercises, strength work, cryotherapy, and electrotherapy, and massage therapy. I also advised that the massages done on the field are grossly inadequate and that there should be a schedule for each player to have periodic full treatments. Only time will tell how that goes. I committed to working with them for a period, and that period is now over, so it is for them to make the next move.
And now for more football news… I have a client who plays on Sunday afternoons and got himself kicked on the calf. He gave it a little rub and told himself he would be fine in a few days. Today he called me. The pain is now radiating down to his ankle. Not what he had anticipated. So while the national team debates what they obviously need, I have a massage to do tomorrow…if the pain continues to peak. If the massage is too painful, I might have to brush him too.