OUT ON A LIMB

The message on the Willoughby’s answering machine came as quite a shock. Roger Willoughby was suddenly facing a life and death scenario. He wasn’t ready.

Roger remembered how it all started a couple of weeks ago when he felt a twinge in his shoulder. Thinking perhaps he slept in a wrong position, he decided to take a soothing hot shower to ease his sore muscles. Afterwards he applied an anti-inflammatory cream and went about his business. The discomfort disappeared and he forgot about it.

A few days later Roger joined his buddies for a round of golf. It was a glorious morning and the foursome decided to play 18 holes instead of 9. Mid-game Roger started feeling sore but continued playing. Later that afternoon he was paying the price. His shoulder was killing him and he could barely move it. The pain was more intense than ever. His wife Muriel said it looked swollen and scheduled an appointment with her doctor. Lord knows, she couldn’t remember the last time Roger had seen a doctor.

After a thorough examination, the doctor arranged for Roger to have an MRI and also set up a consult for him with an orthopedic specialist. In the meantime, Roger was prescribed something for the pain and waited for the results of the scan. The orthopedist told Roger he would call as soon as the results were in.

Coming out of his trance, Roger shook the cobwebs from his head and listened to the message again:

“Mr. & Mrs. Willoughby, this is Dr. Arbor calling. I have the scan results. I was hoping to be able to give you better news but after consulting with my colleagues, we’ve concluded the best course of action would be to treat the affected limb aggressively. I’m sorry to say there’s an extensive amount of an insidious degenerative disease which spreads rapidly if not treated in a timely manner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t caught in time and there’s nothing we can do. Even with treatment the situation is too far gone and I’m afraid we have no other options. I was quite taken aback to see the amount of deep tissue decay. Once that sets in it spreads voraciously and is extremely difficult to treat; in fact, 9 out of 10 cases are inoperable. I know these are drastic measures but we must remove the limb as soon as possible and check to see if the disease has spread further. I’m terribly sorry; I know this isn’t the information you were expecting. I’ll have my assistant call you to make the necessary arrangements.”

Roger was so incredibly shaken by the message, he suddenly felt drained of all energy and his shoulder hurt more than ever. Cradling his arm against his chest, he stumbled into the bedroom to rest and drifted off to sleep. Perhaps it was the pain meds he was taking but he fell into a very deep sleep. An hour or so went by when he was roused by his wife’s voice; she was speaking softly on the phone in the kitchen. Roger felt very groggy and got up for a glass of water. As he drew near the kitchen he could hear what Muriel was saying and he stopped dead in his tracks.

Yes, Dr. Arbor, I understand there’s nothing you can do. As harsh as it sounds, I believe you are right; we should bypass the limb removal and go straight for termination of life. I was hoping to save the old guy but it’s clear his time is up. Sadly, everything comes to an end. I agree with you there’s no point in dragging it out any longer. As you said, the spread is inevitable. While end of life measures are drastic, removing both limbs is quite radical and seems so cruel when all that would do is prolong the unavoidable. I know Roger will be shocked but I’ll talk to him, make him understand it must be done. Besides, having the old guy gone will free up some space around here, maybe even bring in a handsome new fellow! Yes, let’s do it as soon as possible. I’ll leave everything in your capable hands.”

Roger couldn’t believe what he was hearing. After 40 years of marriage Muriel was ready to toss him into his grave without a second thought. How could she be so cold- hearted, agreeing to end his life without so much as a second thought?

“So, this is what it’s come to, Muriel! How dare you!” Roger bellowed. Muriel was so startled by Roger’s outburst she dropped the platter of chicken and dumplings she’d just prepared for dinner. “When were you going to tell me you and the good doctor were going to do me in? Not even giving me the opportunity to discuss my options. Just chop me up into little pieces and toss me into the compost, why don’t you? I’ve never felt so betrayed and hurt in my whole life. How could you be so heartless? After all these years, I thought I knew you!” Roger collapsed onto the kitchen chair, his head in his hands.

Muriel couldn’t control herself and burst out laughing. Roger stared at her as if a knife had been plunged into his heart. His head was about to explode. Seeing the look on his face, Muriel composed herself; stepping over the spilled food, she pulled up a chair and sat next to Roger.

Are you finished ranting and raving, you old fool? I’ll have you know that conversation you overheard was between me and Dr. Arbor, the tree surgeon – not your doctor. The old oak in the backyard is infested with some horrible mange and he has to chop it down. We were talking about the tree, Roger, not you. Chopping off limbs and termination of life! Honestly, do you think I have such little regard for you?! You mean everything to me, Roger.

Husband and wife stared at each other. Muriel sat with her arms crossed while Roger stammered and stuttered looking for the right words.

So I’m not dying of some rare degenerative disease? What about this pain in my arm?”

”Well, if you gave me half a chance to explain before you started screaming at me you’d know I already spoke to the doctor I dragged you to last week. You’re in pain and you haven’t had an examination in ages so now you’re assuming the worst. Well, it’s a simple case of bursitis in your shoulder, Roger, and all you need is a cortisone shot.”

“Thank God! I was frantic thinking you were going to put me down, Muriel. My entire life flashed before my eyes. Why, I swear my arm feels better already. Maybe I don’t even need a shot after all.”

“Roger Willoughby, don’t you dare try to weasel your way out of this one! We’re going to the doctor tomorrow and that’s final. Now what do you have to say for yourself?”

“What do I have to say? I feel great and I’m starving, Muriel! What’s for dinner?”

Muriel gave Roger a withering look. “What’s for dinner?! Is that what I just heard you say? Well, since our chicken dinner is ruined, you’re eating the next best thing, Roger – crow! You’re eating crow for dinner tonight! Now help me clean up this mess.”

NAR © 2022