SHELDON was in pain. His right shoulder felt as if a 300-pound football player had tackled him. He tried to stretch his arm but the pain was severe, so he desisted.
The trouble had started while he was on the field involved in a cricket match. He was fielding in the slips region and had made a valiant attempt to catch a flying ball and had only succeeded in landing awkwardly on his shoulder.
His coach had tried a rough and questionable method of tugging and stretching the area. This approach only aggravated the injury, so Sheldon was unable to participate further in the match.
When he got home that evening he told his mom and grandmother what had happened at cricket. As usual, his grandma had a cure, which lay in bush medicine. After taking a bath he was given a brisk massage and rubbed down with an evil-smelling potion she had just concocted.
That night he was only able to sleep in intervals. Two things kept him awake; the smell of the ointment and the pain. By the next morning, the shoulder and arm had swollen. His mother took him to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC].
When they walked into the waiting room of the GPHC a shock awaited them. The room was crowded with about 60 people waiting for attendance from a doctor. His mother tried getting priority attention for him because he was a minor, but was told roughly to, “Go back and wait your turn like everyone else!”
After three hours of waiting, there were still 30 persons in front of them and he knew he would be spending the entire day there. It was hot and smelly and this combination began to make him really feel sick. He laid his head in his mother’s lap and tried to relax.
Another hour dragged slowly by.
A passing doctor caught his eye and came over to them.
“How is he feeling?” she inquired in a kind tone.
“Doc, he’s in a lot of pain. He has been crying for the last three hours.”
Sheldon closed his eyes and tried to keep tears from running down his cheeks. How he wished his mom would learn to stick to the point. Crying my foot!
The doctor herded them into an Examination Room and checked Sheldon’s shoulder out. As she tested and squeezed his injured joint he tried to be brave but couldn’t hold back the grunts and gasps of pain. He was sent for an X-ray. This done, he headed back to the doctor.
“Seems to be a muscle problem.” She concluded. “No bones bruised or broken.”
He was relieved to hear this bit of good news because he was anxious to get back to playing cricket.
“Good. That means I can play cricket soon.”
“Not necessarily so young man. Sometimes muscles take longer to heal than bones.
His good news went up in smoke.
“When can I play again?” he insisted.
“I’ll give you some medication and you have to return to the clinic in a week.”
They collected some of the medication from the hospital’s pharmacy; one item was not available so they had to buy it at a drug store. They headed home.
Three days into the treatment and there was no discernable difference in the troublesome shoulder. The pain was the same. His grandmother tried again. A friend had told her about a really good doctor named Doctor Punch. He would fix her grandson’s shoulder. His mother nodded and picked up the phone.
The next day found them in the waiting room of Dr. Punch’s clinic. There were five other people waiting in the small room. The first thing that struck Sheldon as unusual was the music. It was soft soothing and oriental. He looked around him curiously but found nothing else to be amiss. In fact, the place was remarkably better than that of the GPHC. He waited patiently.
A door opened and an old Chinese man stepped out. He smiled at everyone and spoke quietly to the nurse. He returned the way he had come. She beckoned to a young man who limped over to her desk. He was shown into the inner room.
It was their turn next. As his mom filled out the form he asked a question that made the nurse laugh and reply, “His name is Dr. Chin Lee not Dr. Punch. People call him that because of the type of medicine he practices.”
Punch! A type of medicine! His anxious face and racing heart must have tipped her off.
“Don’t worry. Dr. Lee will tell you all about it.” She offered as reassurance.
He was not reassured and glanced at his mother trying to get her attention. She was so busy prattling about all sorts of trivial and unnecessary details of his injury that she could not be reached. He thanked God that the injury was only to his shoulder. He shuddered to think of a scenario where she would have to explain an injury to his groin. He made a mental vow to be extra careful on the cricket field in future.
The nurse opened the door leading into the inner rooms and beckoned them to enter. He hesitated until his mother took him by the arm and persuaded him.
“You can wait outside, ma’am.” The nurse smiled as if she knew what those words would mean to him.
“No!” The exclamation sounded harsher than he wanted and his mother glared at him in displeasure.
“I want to tell you something.” He intervened quickly. This sounded weak even to himself.
“Later. Now go with the nurse and behave yourself.” Her voice had a familiar ring to it so Sheldon knew better than to object.
He felt humiliated and marched off without another word. He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing him break down.
They walked along a passageway with doors on both sides. A cloth screen covered each entrance. The nurse pointed to the last doorway on the right and turned back. The screen of this door was opened and he walked towards it. There was a groan from behind the screen on his left and this stopped him in his tracks.
Again the sound reached his ears but this time it sounded like a call for help. He looked over his shoulder but the nurse had already exited the passageway. With his heart racing, he edged towards the door from where the sound was coming and pulled the screen back slowly. Big mistake!
As his eyes grew accustomed to the dim interior, he spied a young man lying on his stomach on a high kind of bed. What caught and held his attention were the numerous needles sticking out of his back. He was petrified. Never had he seen anything like this. The man’s back looked like a pin cushion, the only difference being that these pins were more than six inches long. He decided to get out of there pronto.
He turned away from the doorway intending to make for the exit with alacrity and came face to face with a smiling Dr. Punch. Now he understood why the man was called ‘Punch’. His knees went weak but he tried walking around the doctor.
Gently the doctor held his arm and steered him towards the last room all this time never losing his smile. Tears of fear welled up in his eyes and he bawled, “Mom!”
She came charging down the passageway with the nurse following. His mom’s eyes were on fire and she was ready for war. The smile of the doctor soon changed that. Sheldon tried to tell her about the man in the next room but she put her hand on his mouth and said, “It’s okay love. I’ll stay here with you.” She stayed.
Dr. Punch kept smiling as he explained. “I will examine your shoulder while you chat with your mom.” He told the boy to lie on his stomach. Images of the poor man in the next room came flooding back. Sheldon looked desperately at his mother for support but she calmly removed his shirt and put him to lie on the bed.
“I’ll check the shoulder and give it a little slap or two. Okay Sheldon?” the doctor worked as he chatted. Sheldon nodded miserably and wished he were a fly with compound eyes. As the doctor felt and slapped his shoulder the pain began to recede.
“Mom!” His voice was loud with excitement.
“What’s it son? More pain?” His mom sounded worried.
“No. The pain is going away.” He answered
“Thank God!” Was all his mom said.
The doctor stopped his examination and moved a cloth screen on the wall revealing a large mirror. What he saw made him yelp in terror.
Sticking out of his shoulder and back were a number of needles. Long, long, needles. He began to tremble but his mom held him and stroked his back gently. He began to calm down and realised that the pain was almost absent.
Dr. Lee was looking at him in the mirror. “Are you still scared?” He inquired with his trademark smile.
Sheldon thought about it for a few seconds then answered with a shake of his head. He didn’t trust his voice just yet.
The doctor laughed. “Okay. You’ll have to stay put for an hour then I’ll be back to check on you.” He disappeared behind the screen.
An hour later he skillfully removed the needles. A lot of the pain had subsided and he explained and demonstrated a simple exercise that Sheldon would have to do regularly each day.
He also emphasised what couldn’t be done until he gave the go ahead. No lifting of heavy weights, no irritation of the joint: Translated this meant no cricket for a while. The next appointment was a week away and Sheldon prayed for time to fly.
When they left the doctor’s office Sheldon was in better spirits than when he arrived. His fear had almost blinded him to how effective and helpful the treatment was. Had he known about the doctor before going into his office, wild horses could not have dragged him there.
He was looking forward to school tomorrow. Wow! What a tale he had for his friends. The boys at the cricket club would hear about it too, so would his neighbours. If there turned out to be three different versions of the experience, so be it.
His cricket coach had pummeled his shoulder, his grandmother had mummified it and the doctors at the GPHC had sedated it. None had worked. It took an Asian with a ‘Punch’ to get the job done.