The white orb in the night sky over Fenway Park seemed to speak to me, “Steve, your patience has been rewarded, I’m coming to you.”
It was Friday, Sept. 17.
Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox.
I was in Boston for the first time in my life because my nephew would be married there two days later.
I went to see a game at historic Fenway Park, built in 1912, the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball.
A foul-ball moment like this happens once in a lifetime, if at all. I felt divinely chosen.
I cupped my hands near my left hip to make the catch — not once thinking of medical insurance or the unforgiving nature of the “proximal interphalangeal joint.”
Let’s jump forward a bit in time …
It is another Friday — Nov. 12 – eight weeks later.
I’m in one of the numerous enclosures in the inner sanctum of the emergency room at Cox Medical Center South.
To the best of my recollection, it is the same room I was in back in April 2016 when I thought I might be having a heart attack.
I was not having a heart attack in 2016. The ER doc found nothing wrong with me.
Only later, after release, did I realize the reason my chest, neck and right arm hurt was not because of my heart muscle; it was because of my lawnmower.
I had likely pulled a muscle while yanking the cord to my lawn mower 10-12 times in rapid succession in a failed attempt to start it for the first time that spring.
I don’t often go to the hospital. But when I do, it ends in a story.
This month, for the first time ever, my medical insurance was through Medicare. I am 68 years old.
But I had no idea that my use of Medicare, Part B, automatically would prompt a list of questions devised by our federal government.
A young woman visited me in my hospital bed and asked:
“Are you currently under hospice care?”
Oh my God! I thought. What did that X-ray of my finger show?
“Are you at the end stage of renal failure?”
Not to my knowledge.
“Do you live in a nursing home?”
The questions left me feeling closer to death.
I wondered how important, in the grand scheme of things, the use of this finger was? After all, I don’t really have that much time left.
My emergency room doc then informed me he is running for Congress in the Seventh District – for the seat being vacated by Congressman Billy Long, who is running for the Senate.
Dr. Sam Alexander gave it the old-college-try to pull my dislocated finger back into place.
Of course, the nurse had first deadened feeling to the finger – my left-hand ring finger — or I would have inadvertently put an end to the doctor’s campaign by killing him.
He failed, despite his telling me that as a congressman his No. 1 objective would be “to fix things.”
He left the room and I decided I’d pull it back into place myself before the painkiller wore off. But too much time had passed and the tendons had locked the phalange into a state of deformity.
I failed, too.
Back to Fenway …
I’d like to tell you someone deflected the baseball at the last second. But that wouldn’t be true.
I misplayed the ball; I made an error. E-Pokin.
It hit the tip of my aforementioned left hand, ring finger.
The finger swelled like a stuffed sausage within seconds. Two women seated nearby asked to see it; they told me to snap it back into place.
First, I did not know if this was good advice.
Second, I did not know if they had medical backgrounds.
Third, even if they had medical backgrounds, they clearly were intoxicated.
They kindly caught the attention of an usher who escorted me to a first aid station in the ballpark where there were a few people with odd accents.
I was given an ice pack and I returned to my seat, where I was greeted with a hero’s welcome.
“There’s that guy who misplayed the foul ball!”
I’ll stop now and field your questions.
Why did I wait so long to seek medical treatment?
I was in Boston for several days on vacation. I had things to do. In hindsight, I should have gone to an urgent care center. The chances of snapping it back would have been greater then.
I was back home Sept. 23 and still did not seek treatment and then I changed jobs on Oct. 1 and no longer had medical insurance – unless I wanted to purchase expensive COBRA coverage.
Yes, it hurt a lot — for several days.
Then it only hurt when I moved the finger or accidentally jammed it. I gradually tried as best I could to not use my left hand.
I was referred to Dr. Erin Greer, a Cox hand surgeon. He plans to put a pin in my finger to straighten things out. It would be in place four to six weeks.
Dr. Greer tells me this particular joint – the “PIP joint” in hand-surgeon parlance – does not take kindly to injury. It’s the first joint up the finger from the knuckle.
When it’s fixed it will never have the same range of motion and will be susceptible to arthritis. (But then again, how much time do I really have?)
I was told to take a COVID-19 test prior to my scheduled surgery on Thursday, Nov. 18.
I was stunned to discover the test result was positive. Fortunately, I feel great and have no symptoms.
I had received both doses of Moderna and on Saturday, two days before my COVID test, I had the booster.
The surgery has been delayed.
Finally, I did not get the foul ball. I have no idea what happened to it. Instead, all I have to show for my Fenway visit is a crooked finger.
Editor’s note: Steve subsequently had surgery on his finger and he is working himself back into typing shape.