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Posted by on Sep 10, 2016 in CRPS / RSD | 0 comments

Snake warning! (10.09.2016)

Snake warning! (10.09.2016)

One of my friends is terrified of snakes, so the title for this post is a warning – because it includes a photo of… a snake. It’s a harmless little garter snake, but still scary for some folks.

Are you wondering why I’m posting a snake photo, in a rare disease post? When I was in the waiting room of my local hospital a few weeks ago, I met an older gentleman who has problems with one of his hands. Charles “not Charlie” and I started chatting about our different hand-related problems, and about our more general experiences as patients.

He told me that he’d been an avid golfer until the start of this past summer, until “my hand started to give me all this trouble”. He pulled out his cell phone, and showed me a photo on its screen. He said it had been taken just over a year ago. It showed him wearing grey golf pants (yes, checked pants, but very nice ones!) and a pale grey polo shirt, with a matching grey golf cap over his neatly-combed white hair. I told him that he looked very debonair* in that shot, which seemed to make him happy  😉

In the photo he’s holding 2 large golf trophies against his abdomen, one in each hand, with his golf bag leaning against his left hip. Charles – very proudly! – told me that he’d won an end-of-season golf tournament last year. Twice. He’d turned 75 during the summer, so he won for the 75+ age group. But he’d also outscored the 60-75 age group by quite a bit, so they gave him the trophy for that age group as well because it had been his start-of-summer age group.

He was just beaming when he told me that story. He said it was his favorite photo of his hand, before it “went all to heck”. Then he started to look sad, and said he wasn’t sure whether he’d ever be able to golf again. He’d lost his wife 20 years earlier, and said that golfing – and spending time with all his different golfing groups and friends – was what kept him going.

Then he hastily added that the only reason his wedding photo wasn’t his favorite picture of his hand is because you couldn’t see his hands in that one. He showed me another image on his phone, a weathered black & white wedding photo of a happy young couple. He has his arm around his lovely wife’s waist, but you can’t see his hand.

Photo of a woman in miltary 'combats' uniform, holding a small snake

Photo: From Sandra Woods

Then he asked me whether I had a favorite photo, “just off the top of your head, dear” of my disease-affected hand – when it was still okay. And this was it! It’s an old photo, that a friend emailed to me a while back when he was sorting through some old pictures.

My old friend had scanned it and texted it to me, so I’d saved it on my phone. Id’ been showing it other friends, who didn’t know me back when I was in the Air Force reserve. The original photo had started to fade a bit at the top, but you can still see the important part; that little snake moving from one of my hands to the other.

That’s my favorite photo of my CRPS-affected hand and arm**, because it shows such natural movement. I remember letting that wee snake move from one of my hands to the other – over and over again – by moving my hands quickly so the snake wouldn’t fall. I couldn’t do that today, with my right hand.

And I have to admit, I get a kick out of recalling that several of the guys were afraid of the snake. I was one of very few women on that military exercise, and the whole group had gotten a kick out of the fact that I’d quite happily moved the snake out of our way so it wouldn’t get hurt (stepped on). Important note: I knew that this was a garter snake, which isn’t a poisonous type of snake; don’t ever approach – or pick up – a snake if you don’t know whether it could be dangerous (biting, constricting, etc.)!

When I showed Charles this photo, he told me that he’d also been in the military. We spent the rest of our time in the waiting room talking about military history and issues. When his name was called, to go in to one of the examination rooms at the hospital, Charles gave me his card and asked me to keep in touch by email. And he said he’d take a look at my blog during the fall or winter months, when he didn’t “get off my rear end and out so much”.

I slipped his card into my purse, but when I got home that evening I couldn’t find it. I’d gone from the hospital to my office, and then to my physiotherapy clinic after work. I checked everywhere, but never found his card.

Charles, if you’re reading this, please send me a comment on the blog! I’ll see your email address, but it won’t be posted (it won’t show on the blog; no one but me will see it). It was a true pleasure to meet you, and I’d like to know how you’re doing.


* Debonair = An adjective for men. It’s a combination of confident, stylish, and charming. I use it only for older gentlemen! Like Bing Crosby. or Frank Sinatra…

** For information about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), often still known by its old name of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), read CRPS information from another doctor.

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