By David Webb

With a metal bar in my neck, I’ll probably be ornerier than ever

In case no one noticed, I’ve been missing in action for the past three months.

It all started on Valentine’s Day when I was trying to place a television on top of a tall bookcase. I was standing in a corner next to the senior editor holding the television over my head when I realized it was too heavy for me. I quickly deduced that I had three options — I could throw it backwards over my head, drop it on the senior editor’s head or lower it on to my own head. Reluctantly, I chose the third option and slowly waltzed the television to a nearby table where I put it down.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I began to feel an unusual and overwhelming pain in my neck and shoulders.

A few doctor’s visits later — combined with multiple sets of X-rays, a C-scan and an MRI — it was determined that I had damaged three levels of discs in my neck. The discs were pressing against nerve roots in my neck, and it was noted that my injury had aggravated my degenerative arthritis — a condition I was unaware I had.

The long-term solution to easing my pain was cervical surgery because I was told that relieving it through the use of painkillers and lots of liquor was a temporary and ill-advised plan at best.

I underwent surgery a month ago after a nice anesthetist promised he was about to send me to the Bahamas and flipped the switch. I woke up five hours later, begging for a Diet Coke and ice cream but strangely happy.

Judging from my five-inch scar, I’m really glad I was asleep when they did all of that to me. The surgery involved cutting through the front of my neck to remove the damaged discs in the back of my neck. A metal bar was installed with screws inside my neck to give it support.

When I left the hospital, I went to recuperate in the country on a cattle farm owned by a relative. I quickly became close personal friends with a herd of cows and began naming them. One afternoon they all lined up against the fence and stared at me for about a half-hour. If I were going to compare the experience to a television show, a cross between "Bonanza" and "The Twilight Zone" comes to mind.

Just last week the neurosurgeon said I could finally quit wearing the hard plastic cervical collar that had encircled my neck for a month. He told me to resume normal activities but to be cautious.

I can never have another MRI, which stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. I don’t even want to think about what could happen to the metal bar in my neck if I got near that big magnet now when it started rotating.

Although I had entertained the idea of remaining in the country and retiring at this juncture in my life, I realized that I had more work to do. I am after all one of only a few available to fit my niche.

There are plenty of other reporters around whose education and experience either match or exceed mine, but there’s not that many who are openly gay — particularly those who are familiar with the history of Oak Lawn and the rest of Dallas. You see, most gay men my age are dead.

So I guess I’ll stay on the job for a while. It’s bound to be exciting, given that every time I enter a courthouse, airport or other secure building I’m guaranteed to set off the metal detector alarm.

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