Monday, 12 June 2017

Top Hand Golf for Golfers with Buggered Backs

After a three-week visit to St Andrews in Scotland, I had a dream. That dream was to pack up and move to the Home of Golf and live out my days playing those links courses. It was a dream shared by my wife. I now feel relatively confident that this will never be more than just a dream.

The reason it will have to remain just a dream is that I'm so crippled with my back at this point that I'm likely never going to be able to walk the Old Course. And the Old Course is for walkers.

I saw my family doctor today. Half-crippled, moaning and yelping as the back spasms struck me, the nurse was good enough to put me in to one of the examination rooms instead of having me embarrass myself in the waiting room. I thought that was awfully charitable of her.

Not only that, but I saw the good doctor well before my scheduled appointment time. I can only think this unforeseen blessing might have been a reward for my having at some point done some other suffering soul a good turn. On the other hand, it could just have been that the nurse had no desire to listen to my yelps; especially since they were sometimes followed by expletives. 

I was starting to sound more like a guy suffering from Tourette's syndrome than a patient with sciatica, multiple damaged discs, spinal stenosis, bone spurs, etc. My long-suffering wife accompanied me to see the doctor in order to make certain I conveyed to him all of my medical concerns or complaints. This is because the Doc and I tend to spend more time talking about golf than we do my health. I mean, who wouldn't rather discuss golf? And, all too often, I have arrived back home after an appointment only to have to confess to Kathryn that I had neglected to actually discuss the very issue that had prompted the doctor's appointment in the first place.

I am fortunate to have a terrific family doctor. He's definitely not filled with his own self importance. It's more like visiting a buddy than a doctor. And one of the things that really won me over in his case was when, early on in our relationship, he confessed that he'd really wanted to be an astronaut, not a fricking doctor. Here was a man I could truly relate to. 

My father suffered for thirty years with chronic back issues and pain. He was also an avid golfer. In his 85th year, suffering from debilitating and chronic pain for which even large doses of morphine provided no relief, my father resorted to doing what he had more than once told me he would do when he felt the time was right. He took the pistol he had personally taken from a German army officer during World War II in France and shot himself. 

As he was my best friend, as well as my father, his loss was pretty devastating. But I understood then, and understand even more now, that he did what he had to do. Not only was he in almost constant pain, the old Colonel knew that things were not going to get any better. Death was surely a more merciful option in his eyes than continued suffering without hope. 

He couldn't golf anymore. And this guy who read an average of three to five books a week, now couldn't either focus or stay awake to read anymore because of all the morphine he was having to take. And, as I look back, the last straw was probably about a month before his death when I took him to the hospital to see about another hip replacement. They told him they couldn't do it because they'd discovered a heart murmur. I could see all the hope go out of my old father's eyes.

I have been told that I am one hundred times more likely to commit suicide because my father did. And my doctor, who really wanted to be an astronaut, makes no bones about the fact that he would really prefer to prevent this from happening. He also knows that the day I can no longer play golf will be the day my risk for a similar fate to my father's will increase exponentially. So I know, and the good doctor knows, that something's probably got to give in my case.

I am headed for another MRI, and we'll likely try a few things if we think they might help. But I'm not counting on things improving very much. This back and neck business likely has a strong genetic component. But I have a new dream. My hope is that I can use my experience to try to find a better way to hit the ball for people with a seriously buggered back. That is going to be my new dream while we see whether they can either find something to help me physically, or I eventually have to just pack it in. 

I've been thinking about this swing for cripples thing for some time now. I have some ideas. And I intend to try them out first with me as the guinea pig. I think that's not a totally unreasonable dream. After all, I'm obviously never going to win the Open at St Andrews. In fact, I may never even be able to play the Old Course again--unless they decide to permit carts. But, with this new dream, I'm at least still in the game. And that's where I certainly hope to stay for a little while yet.

So, don't be surprised if the name of my blog becomes Top Hand Golf for Golfers with Buggered Backs. How does that sound?