Follow me on Twitter @LarryHartsock
October 3, 2007. I was riding my bike on a cobblestone street in South Kensington, London when I crashed. The bike came off the ground and hit the street hard. I was badly hurt and bleeding from my nose. My left hip was broken, my ankle was smashed in half and I had a badly contorted face. But the most important injury was to my elbow. I couldn’t grip a rock with my elbow, and I knew instantly that I wouldn’t be able to do what I loved for much longer. And so it was that when my father called me from Buffalo, NY to say I had been admitted to a local hospital, I never answered.
During the next two weeks, dozens of doctors looked at my elbow and asked me lots of questions, including the wildly popular “have you taken your medication?” — a generic label for steroids used in severe pain management. I got shot up with three intravenous drugs one minute, then thirty-five minutes later, given another injection. None of them were able to use my left arm to do any real work. My father was at my bedside all this time — watching my arm move only in a wheelchair.
My lifelong love of amateur boxing was gone. So was my favorite haunt, The Comedy Store. I used to bring my friends there in trunks and shorts to watch Muhammad Ali, Frank Bruno, Michael Watson, Ken Buchanan and the rest of the British heavyweights that thrilled me every time they took the ring. Now all I brought was a paper bag on my shoulder and an empty drink glass. It was very depressing.
I was told by many doctors and nurses that they’d never seen anything like it. One had this friend who served as a doctor in the military. She explained to me that my ailment was a third degree tear in my idiopathic arthritic elbow joint. “Just to put it plainly,” she said, “your arm is like a Swiss Army knife.”
I’d been prescribed the painkillers Prozac and Seroquel, which are a few of the millions of medicinally advanced individuals who face the possibility of permanently debilitating arthritis. But neither drug seemed to help. After several trips to the UK for additional tests, I finally was diagnosed with chronic nerve damage, which was probably related to the fracture to my left hip. The next morning when I awoke, I was paralyzed from the neck down. I got up slowly, put my jacket over my head and used a walker to head down the elevator. It was that simple.
I was on painkillers from that point on and continued to get worse. My urine was leaking out of my bladder (oops), my weight rose to over 350 pounds (double my weight) and my face became increasingly swollen. I couldn’t work, so the only job I had was as a nurse at Mercy Hospital. I have just now come to understand that my chronically swollen face — the one with all the wrinkles — is probably due to osteoarthritis, which would have robbed me of the ability to work. It occurred to me over the last couple of weeks that I was living a life with no work ethic. There was no emotional quality in my face, no depth and very little joy. At last, I was ready to end the life that had become so boring to me.
Then John Sarno called. “You don’t have to stop doing anything,” he said. “Just go get a diagnostic scan and figure out what the hell is wrong with you.” John told me that they could see inside my bone by pulling the muscle from the top of my elbow to the bone (basically, they would clip that muscle), and that they would be able to look inside my nerve while the nerve pads are still attached to the muscle. As soon as he told me this, I knew what he meant.
I agreed to go to Jackson Memorial in Miami, FL to get an MRI, but because my memory was so bad, I had to write out what it would entail for me — a complicated needle cleanse, sedation, prolonged discomfort, and a couple of days in the hospital. Finally, I agreed to the “doctors’ suggestions” of sedation, in an effort to be more forgetful.
The ultrasound scan on October 16th showed that there was no nerve damage or damage to my arm. We then began a cat scan, which revealed that there was a massive amount of connective tissue, along with misalignment that was causing my bone to be stiff. We proceeded to surgically remove all of that compressed nerve muscle, which I know as “spinal cord bone.” I also got an MRI on November 5th to confirm that there was no problem