the neurosurgeon, part 2

glass of beer 01

The day before yeestuh-die* I wrote Part 1 of my ongoing attempts to see the neurosurgeon. Much comment on the obvious craziness of my experience was offered. Here’s the second and final thrilling installment.

Eventually I drop the chiropractor. His office is across town, my back gets better and worse, and anyway I’m getting tired of arguing politics with him.** I’m just getting tired.

My physical therapist gets married to another physical therapist. They move to British Columbia. My new physical therapist is the guy who owns the place. He is a terrifyingly well-muscled man who could use me as a backscratcher. He brings in a young woman named Stephanie with distractingly huge breasts to see what a really bad back looks like. He explains my condition to her breasts. Then he promises her breasts that he’ll get me in to see my specialist within two weeks.

I wait out the two weeks, but the specialist doesn’t call. My physical therapist lied to Stephanie’s breasts, damnit. I would have treated them with more respect than that.

July hobbles off. Hello August! My father recommends a nearby chiropractor – not because he has any faith in the efficacy of Greco-Romanesque spine twisting, but because this chiropractor hunts the health system with an elephant gun. So I make an appointment.

My new chiropractor is named Dave. He has one dead eye, which I find surprisingly comforting. After five minutes of tests I’ve been run through so often that it seems choreographed now, he’s given me an unofficial diagnosis: a midline fracture and disc herniation somewhere in my lower back. He draws a picture on the lightboard that looks like a squid with its brains leaking out.

Who’s your doctor? He asks.

Boembe, I says.

Ah, Boembo, Dave says. You’ll never get in to see him. His waiting list runs twelve to fifteen months.

Somewhere in the back of my brain I know how terrible this news is, but my despair centres have been overtaxed. They don’t give a shit.

Tell you what, I’ll call another doctor, he says. Hold on.

He gets on the phone. Hi, this is Dr. Dave, he begins. I’ve got this healthy young man here with a really bad back. Looks like a fracture and a herniation. Yeah. Okay? Okay, thanks.

He hangs up.

Okay, he says, they’ll call your house and get you in by the end of the month. If they don’t call you in the next few days, let me know.

I check the room, but Stephanie and her breasts aren’t there. This is a sign of hope.

By next week the specialist still hasn’t called. I tell Dave. He’s got me on the table with my legs twisted around and my arm draped over my head, like I’m a lousy actor pretending to be dead from a long fall. He takes his hands away and goes to the phone.

Hello? This is Dr. Dave. I talked to you last week about this patient here and he’s still waiting for a call. Oh, you did?

I shake my head. He rolls his eye.

Well he didn’t get that call. Uh-huh. That sounds great.

Okay, he says to me, You’re in for September 5th.

The next day the specialist calls. I’m bumped to September 13th.

On September 4th I have an appointment with Dave in the morning. A muscle in my hip feels like it’s been lovingly slow-roasted over smoking charcoals. Dave watches as my skin turns pale and sweat starts beading on my forehead. I’m exhausted and sick with pain.

Sit down Aidan, he says, and leaves the room.

He comes back in. You go home right now and get some rest. I got you an appointment with the specialist for 1:00 in the afternoon.

What, today?


And just like that, I was in to see the neurosurgeon.


I’ve been in many ugly offices in my life, but I’ve yet to see one as perfectly ugly as the neurosurgeon’s office. All the angles are square and brutal. Fluorescents bathe every surface in the same reflective glare. It’s as if the architect had a fear of shadows. Worse is the colour scheme, which combines a flat maroon with industrial teal and a light blue that somehow manages to capture the very worst notes of grey and green.

I wonder if the doctor’s assistant notices the colours, but then I see that her scrubs are a slightly washed-out version of the maroon walls.

Close your eyes and wait patiently for Part 3.

*I’ve hired a New Zealander to say “yesterday” in all my blog posts for the next six months. Believe me, it really takes the stress off.

**I knew when he quoted Ronald Reagan one day that we were off a rocky start. I can almost understand American ideologues who suck up NewsMax and Firedoglake fodder for the next day’s talking points, but when a Canadian does it, it ceases to make sense.