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by M.C. Calhoun
Chapter 1: Introductions
It was shortly after my divorce was finalized that I met Dianna. We became acquainted at a renaissance faire that's held locally in the spring, when I literally bumped into her and knocked her off her feet. Making endless apologies, I helped her to her feet, and that's how the relationship got started. Of course, the fact that she was wearing black leather over black spandex didn't hurt, neither. Shortly I discovered that she was a doctor, and shortly she discovered my interest in "recreational" orthopedics.
One day, Dianna asked what I was going to be doing over my summer vacation, and I had to admit that my divorce had left very little money for such expenditures. She then asked if I would like to spend my three weeks off exploring the "recreational" orthopedics to which I had professed.
"What exactly do you have in mind?" I tried to sound nonchalant about it.
"Some of the students I teach at the hospital are studying to become something other than doctors", she replied. "Some are training to be brace-makers, while others are studying to become what we call "orthopedic technicians". That is basically the person who sets up traction's, applies casts, splints, and what-not. Sort of hardware-related nursing."
My left eyebrow raised at this point, my impression of a quizzical Mr. Spock from Star Trek.
"These students have handled most situations, but only one at a time. I would like to present them with the challenge of treating someone with multiple orthopedic conditions. That's where you would come in......."
I started backing away from her, thinking that I would first be introduced to Guido the Enforcer first, to make sure the I was really ready for treatment.
"No, no, not as a real patient, but as a model", she explained.
"You'd stay at the hospital, and would be treated as if you really were injured. As a model, instead of a patient, you don't get charged, and in fact you'd earn $25.00 a day. That's "scale" pay. And besides, after it was all done, you'd get to keep any appliances we made for you. And I can guarantee that you'll have some made...."
I believe that, for the first time since I met my now-ex-wife, my eyes started to sparkle.....
Three weeks later I was introduced to the people who would be taking care of me during my stay at the hospital. Connie was the orthotist, and would be making the braces I would be wearing home. Ann was the cast technician, and would be supervising the actual cast applications (they said there would be several). Jennifer was the traction specialist, and would have the say-so when I was in traction. All three of them worked as a team, with the particular specialist supervising whenever their craft was involved, and the other two assisted. It didn't hurt that all three were drop-dead gorgeous.
The first five days would involve placing me in various combinations of traction, and leaving me in that predicament for twenty-four hours, so that I could assess how well it had been applied, and how comfortable it was, or wasn't. Set in a wheelchair like any other patient, I was wheeled into my room to begin. What greeted my eyes was breathtaking.
In the middle of the large room was a bed mounted in a circular frame. Two hoops, one on either side of the bed, allowed it to be rotated end over end. The cradle the hoops rested on was a wheeled base with a motor on it.
"This is called a Circo-Electric Bed", explained Dianna. "It is used for patients who have spinal injuries, and must be kept immobilized for long periods of time. The bed allows us to flip the patient onto his stomach, and back again, without moving the spine at all. A second mattress ...",she said, pointing to the metal-framed item leaning against a wall,".. is placed on top of the patient, secured, and then the patient is rotated over. The bottom mattress, which is then on top, can be removed, and the patient can receive skin-care for their back. Various accessories can be attached to the frame to apply traction to any part of the body, and that traction can be maintained, no matter what position the patient is rotated into."
As I was listening to all this, my mind started swimming. Total immobilization? That would mean that someone would have to be there to help me perform almost every function, especially if my arms were involved (I had a feeling they were going to be). When I brought this idea up, and asked who was going to be there to help me, the only answer I got from the three students was a knowing grin. I grinned back.
"Now, before we begin, there's a little matter of a consent-form. You need to sign it, so that we can "treat" you as an educational exercise." Dianna produced a form and pen. Anxious to get started, I briefly glanced at the wording, then signed on the bottom line. I figured I could trust these ladies.
"First order of business", Dianna said. "Undress."
I looked at her quizzically for a moment, then stripped down to my underwear.
"All of it." There was no denying that she was used to giving orders to patients. I removed my underwear, half expecting some comments about my physique. All that was said was, "onto the bed."
It was easy to tell which way to lay on the Circo-Electric bed - there was a convenient hole just under the buttocks. No need to ask what it was for. A warm blanket was quickly draped over my body.
"The first situation will involve applying traction to your lower back, your neck, and both arms." As Jennifer started assembling the appropriate gear from a nearby cart, Ann placed a soft cotton roll under my neck to support it. The they both started attaching various pulleys to different places on the bed hoops - one at my head, two at my feet, and two brackets above me at about shoulder level, each bracket holding a pair of pulleys. Next, my right arm was held out straight away from my body, and my elbow was bent ninety degrees, like I was about to do a bench press. A piece of perforated, padded, rubbery material was placed along the top and bottom of my upper arm, forming a loop at the elbow. An adhesive Ace bandage was then wrapped around my upper arm, holding both ends of the loop against my skin. A metal spreader bracket was placed in the loop itself, about an inch from my elbow, and a rope was tied to it. The rope went through one of the pulleys on the side-bracket, and a weight was attached to it. My upper arm was in traction, being pulled directly away from my body.
Another piece of the perforated material was placed along my forearm, with the loop forming four inches above my hand, and was wrapped in placed with another Ace bandage. The spreader bracket placed in this loop extended down to my palm, and had a rubber grip there for my fingers to wrap around. A rope and weight was attached to this bracket, going through the second pulley in the side-bed bracket, holding my elbow at the ninety degree angle. While the majority of the weight was applied to my upper arm (the traction was mostly for the benefit of shoulders, I was later told), the amount of weight on the upper arm was sufficient to prevent me from moving it. The procedure was then repeated for my left arm. Within twenty minutes of being wheeled into the room, I was firmly attached to the bed within, completely helpless. I decided this was a nice feeling.
Next, the blanket was rolled down, and my hips were exposed. At Jennifer's direction, I raised my hips off the bed for a moment, and the pelvic traction harness was slid into place. I lowered my hips, and the harness was wrapped around them and buckled together in front. It seemed to be made mostly of thick leather straps. These straps were placed on above my hip bones, and tightened so that as weight was applied to them, the majority of the pull was transferred to the top of these bones. I was relieved to see that, where these straps passed over my hips, they were encased in thick rolls of foam padding.
After crossing over the hips, the straps, cris-crossed just above my groin, and connected with the straps from under my body on the sides of my thighs. Heavy pads were attached here as well. Its seemed like this harness was designed to apply a great deal of tractive force on the lower back, yet at no place would the heavy straps directly contact the skin. It seemed like the thick padding would make this comfortable to wear no matter what.
The next items applied to me surprised me somewhat. Foam rubber boots, lined with sheepskin and closed with velcro straps, were applied to my lower legs, encasing them from the toes to just below the knees. Ann answered my question. "These are so that you do not develop pressure sores on your heals. While you probably won't be here long enough for that to happen, we are going to treat you like you would be. It's all part of the exercise." I could see Dianna giving an approving nod from one side. Once in place, the boots were secured to the bedframe.
The final appliance was the head halter, for applying traction to my neck. One wide strap passed under my chin, another behind my head. Side straps were connected, and the ends of the halter were connected to a spreader bar. A rope a weight completed the application. I noticed after it was in place that the parts contacting my chin and the back of my head were lined with fleece. This item was also apparently designed for comfort.
I lay there, feeling myself being pulled in all different directions, and closed my eyes. I tried to decide if any part of the experience was uncomfortable, and decided that, at the present time, it wasn't. A passing shadow caused my to open my eyes in time to see the upper bed frame being lowered on top of me. All four ladies were smiling widely as they placed the frame on me, and secured it with heavy bolts. The upper bed had a frame which was shaped to fit around the edges of my face, apparently to immobilized my head while I was turned. I watched with anticipation as Connie wrapped layer after layer of cotton padding around the bars of this frame. But before she placed the frame against my face, Dianna appeared from one side with a black rubber oxygen mask. "It is important that a patient in traction be as passive and relaxed as possible, so that the tractive forces will do the most good. This will help you to relax." And with that, the black mask was placed over my mouth and nose. The padded frame was then placed firmly against my face, holding the oxygen mask in place.
It took only a moment to realize that there was more than just oxygen coming into that mask. The feeling of relaxed euphoria that slowly engulfed me made me realize that I was also breathing Nitrous Oxide, or laughing gas. As I did indeed begin to relax, I heard a whirring sound, and the world started rolling towards me. The bed finally stopped with me facing down, but the rolling feeling continued. my last thoughts before I lost consciousness were that the tractive forces on my arms did not change a bit while I was being turned. ................
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