Three years ago when I arrived home from work I head a scratching noise coming from behind the dryer and I immediately knew that there was some type of critter in the flexible dryer duct that leads from the dryer to the vent mounted on the outside wall of our home. I knew without a doubt that there was an animal in the dryer duct because it had happened before.
Several years earlier when we couldn’t figure out where the stink in the house was coming from, my husband, Steve, eventually found a dead rabbit in the dryer duct. Because our laundry room is on the lower level of the house, the duct joins a vent that is only inches off of the ground on the outside of the house, which must look like a pretty inviting little hidey-hole to critters.
Not knowing what type of critter was in the duct, and being the only one home at the time, I did the only thing I could do; I closed the laundry room door so that if the animal got out of the duct it would be trapped in the laundry room. A short while later, Steve called to say he’d be home late from work.
“Okay,” I said, “but when you get home, there’s some type of animal in the dryer duct. We’re going to have to get it out of there.”
Whenever Steve is tired and grumpy and doesn’t want to deal with a problem, he relies on his old friend denial. So after explaining to him the noises that I heard I was not surprised when he said, “There’s nothing in there.”
I wasn’t surprised, but I was angry. “Yes there is! I can hear it. There is something in the dryer duct!”
“Look, it happened once. It won’t happen again. There’s nothing in there.”
“Listen, there’s an animal in the dryer duct, scratching like crazy and flopping around. You can believe that or not, but when you get home, we’re going to have to move the dryer and see what’s going on. Good-bye,” I said as I hung up the phone, and he was lucky I said good-bye because I was furious.
An hour or so later I saw Hobo the Wonder Kitty sitting in the living room in front of the cedar chest. He was sitting perfectly still, staring at the bottom of the chest. As I watched, his tail twitched and his ears went straight up and I knew that the animal, whatever it was, was out of the laundry room and under that cedar chest.
Realizing that whatever it was, it was small enough to fit under the laundry room door and under the cedar chest, I grabbed a flashlight and lying on the floor, shone the light under the chest. It was a chipmunk.
Knowing that I couldn’t catch a chipmunk and that he probably wouldn’t come out from under the chest with a cat waiting to catch him, I picked Hobo up and locked him in our bedroom. After securing the cat, I opened the front door in the hope that when given the chance, the little guy would run outside. Then I left the room and called Steve.
“Well, it’s a chipmunk. It must’ve chewed through the dryer duct and crawled out under the door. It’s in living room under the cedar chest.”
“It didn’t come in through the dryer duct,” Steve said.
I felt my blood pressure rise. “If it didn’t come in through the dryer duct, then there’s a chipmunk in the living room and another animal in the dryer duct! Good-bye.” I hung up on him again.
Furious, I went downstairs to watch television, hoping that the chipmunk would run out the front door when all was quiet. After thirty minutes or so, I went upstairs and moved the cedar chest; no chipmunk. So I closed the front door and let Hobo out of the bedroom.
Steve arrived home an hour or so later. He was tired and grumpy and didn’t want to pull out the dryer to look at the duct. He still wasn’t buying the fact that a chipmunk had crawled into the duct, chewed its way out and ended up in the living room. “Whatever. I know what happened, I know what I saw,” I said and I went downstairs to watch television while he made himself something to eat.
A short while later I went back upstairs and found Hobo sitting in front of the cedar chest in the same position I found him earlier. I went into the kitchen and whispered to Steve, “The chipmunk is back under the cedar chest. Look at Hobo. He’s under there, I know it.”
Steve looked at Hobo and said, “Take him upstairs.”
After locking Hobo in our bedroom and opening the front door again, Steve moved the cedar chest; no chipmunk. Steve turned to look at me and said, “Where did he go?”
As he was asking the question, the chipmunk, which had run from under the cedar chest, and into the kitchen, ran right past me and out the front door. “There he goes!” I yelled and I ran over and shut the door. Steve never saw it.
That following Saturday, although Steve never did see the chipmunk and still questioned it’s very existence, he moved the dryer forward to check the dryer duct. There was hole in it – a chipmunk sized hole – and it had to be replaced.
While Steve was out buying the replacement parts, I grabbed some cleaning supplies to clean behind the washer and dryer, both of which were pulled away from the wall. Because our laundry room is small, there was little room to get behind the washer and dryer so I used a step stool to climb over the top of the washer to get back there to sweep and mop the floor.
I’m short, barely 5’2. Once I was behind the washer and dryer, I had to stretch my right leg extremely high to get out and climb back onto the step stool, something I did several times during the cleaning process.
Steve arrived home, replaced the dryer duct, moved the washer and dryer back into place and put a cover on the vent outside of the house to prevent any more animals from climbing into our laundry room.
That evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed that my lower back felt slightly sore. When I rubbed the area, just above my right ass cheek, I felt slight swelling. By hey, when you’re in your fifties, different aches and pains just show up, so I didn’t worry too much about it and went to bed.
The next day, my lower back was very tender and sore and walking seemed to make it hurt worse. I took it easy, but on Monday morning, it was clear that I needed to go to the doctor. When she asked me if I did anything to hurt my back, I said, “This is going to sound crazy, but I think I pulled a muscle in my ass.”
She tilted her head and smiled at me, looking at me as if she did think it sounded crazy. So I told her about the chipmunk and about how high I had to lift my leg to get over the washing machine, but even so, it quickly became clear that she didn’t think I pulled a muscle in my ass. Regardless, she sent me home with some muscle relaxers and some Tylenol with codeine for the pain. It didn’t touch the pain. Not even close.
Tuesday morning when I got out of bed, I couldn’t stand straight. I walked downstairs, bent over from the waist, taking baby steps. Steve looked at me and said, “Either you go back to the doctor today or I’m taking you to the emergency room.”
I went back to the doctor that day. The doctor felt that I probably had sciatica and sent me for X-rays and gave me prescriptions for Oxycontin for pain and Prednisone for the swelling on my lower back. When the X-rays didn’t show any reason for my pain, the doctor referred me to a physical therapist. But as that appointment was more than two weeks away, I was to do nothing but try to heal in the meantime. Well, yeah, that was a good plan since I couldn’t walk. The Oxycontin reduced the pain, but didn’t take it completely away.
Two weeks later I had my appointment with the physical therapist. I had no idea who I was actually seeing, I just went to the address my doctor had given me. As I was sitting in the waiting room, I heard the office staff, who were talking to each other, mention “Dr. Ditzler”. I noticed the name right away because it is the same last name as one of my former co-workers. In a few minutes, the doctor came out and asked me to follow him, which I did. He opened the door to the exam room and gestured for me to enter first.
As soon as he entered the room and closed the door, I looked at him and said, “Matty?”
“I thought that was you!” he said.
“Oh my Gosh, I haven’t seen you since you were a little guy!”
As we chatted and as he was catching me up on his family all I could think was, “Oh my God, my friend’s son is a doctor and he’s going to touch my ass. Friggin chipmunk.”
When we finally got to the reason I was there,
Matty Dr. Ditzler asked me if I knew what I did to hurt myself.
“Well, this is going to sound crazy,” I said, “but I think I pulled a muscle in my ass.”
I told him about the chipmunk and about climbing over the top of the washer and said, “So I think I pulled a muscle in my ass when I was climbing out from behind my washer. And although it still hurts now, it’s not as bad as it was. I can walk, I just need to go slow.”
“It doesn’t sound crazy at all,” he said, “In fact, it’s very possible.”
He explained to me how we have three muscles in our butt cheeks, that cross over each other, and the muscle on the very bottom, the one he suspected I’d injured, sits on the sciatic nerve and to find it, he’d have to use his hand to separate the top two muscles to reach the bottom one. He assured me that if that was the problem, I’d know it as soon as touched it.
And so it was that I found myself, face-down on an exam table with my friend’s son prodding my right ass cheek. And he was right, as soon as he was able to move the top two muscles out of the way and touch the bottom one, I knew it – boy did I know it.
“You stretched that muscle when you were climbing over the top of the washer,” he said, “the injury caused it to swell, and the swelling put pressure on your sciatic nerve. It’s still swollen, but when the swelling goes away, so will the pain.”
He gave me some exercises to do but said, “Try these exercises, but if they hurt, while you’re doing them or afterwards, don’t do them any more. What you need most is time to heal, and this type of injury can take a long time. Take the time and you’ll be walking fine again.”
I find myself in a similar situation this week; I need time to heal. The election process this year was particularly biting and ugly for all of us, and the results of the election are ugly for half of us. But with time, I will heal; we will heal. With time, we will be able to walk again, arm in arm to defend the rights of all Americans…but first, we need to heal, as individuals and as a nation.
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