The Reluctant Traveler: from Tendonitis to Typewriters

Politics? Sexual harassment? The lovely movie I watched this morning? Dogs running circles around the yard in the cold bright light? Chronic left elbow tendonitis?

OK, I’ll talk about that for a while, and maybe we’ll get somewhere today with something. My arm pain started some time in the late 1970’s. (OK, do the math, and figure out how long I’ve been a registered nurse. A LONG time). Anyway, back then, it was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. (OK, ask me how a California-born-and-bred girl ended up in Pittsburgh? There may follow the story of a relationship gone bad.) Nurse’s aide at a Pittsburgh hospital, working my way through school. The crazy boyfriend is gone, sort of, and I am bent on earning my BSN and booking back to the coast as soon as I can walk away with my diploma.

Making beds. Making hospital beds was a particular nursing science. The goal was no wrinkles. Wrinkles cause decubiti (the fancy word for bed sores. I’ve seen some ugly ones but no details). No fitted sheets or pneumo-dymanic mattresses. Pulled tight, mitered corners tucked. Not a wrinkle in sight. Then the draw sheet – a sheet placed across the bed, pulled tight, used for moving immobile bodies in various ways, from bed to stretcher, from stretcher to bed, etc.

Opening sterile packaging, Foley catheters, sponges, IV bag covers. Over and over.

Carrying cinder-block-sized nursing text books to and from school classes.

I noticed a sharp pain in my forearm, near the elbow, sharper when grasping and lifting things. I wore an ace wrap and that helped somewhat. Tylenol. (Ibuprofen was not then an OTC drug. In fact, acetaminophen was new and growing in use after the tragic outbreak of Reyes Syndrome, septic shock in children, an unhappy outcome of aspirin administration by worried parents to children with virus-like illnesses.)

A change in job helped. I left the med-surg unit and started working evening shifts in ICU. Less bed making. Way more interesting work.

Over the years of nursing jobs in California and Washington state, the tendonitis came and went. Stretching, ibuprofen, rest. Rest, ibu’s, stretching seemed to help. 8 years in the PACU (recovery room) equaled very few symptoms. Spring and Summer and Fall, symptoms worsened from gardening. Add a brace to stretching, ibuprofen or naproxen (never both at the same time), rest.

Now, my nursing skills are mostly plied on line. Computer keyboards have become my bane, along with mousing. I strictly use a left hand mouse now. Touch pads are nasty to my right arm and I’m trying to train my left hand to use it. I’m typing this on my little Mac Air and my arm is talking to me. When gardening the brace is on and ibuprofen is taken prophylactically.

Add to years of physical arm-abuse my love of typewriters. My dad gave me his old Royal electric while I was in high school. I loved it. The click of keys was music, along with the carriage-return bell. Lacking training in touch typing, for years I was hunt-and-peck, my nursing papers down-graded for smeared erasable bond typo-corrections. (Despite my initial inherent sloppiness, my virgo-obsessive nature came out strong in my jobs, especially in my role as the ICU charge nurse.)

I composed my early writing on that Royal. Later, without access to a typewriter for a long while, I filled spiral-ringed notebooks with my unreadable script. (Reading physician handwriting is another vital nursing skill). Finally the crazy boyfriend introduced me to a portable Hermes, which produced reams of novels and short stories, and that I lugged to Clarion West in 1984. It’s in the basement. I can’t part with it yet.

Then personal computers and word processing. A Brother electric that could double as a printer, a Commodore, a series of IBM clones starting with a 286, used Macs, a Mac laptop, a Sony laptop, HP’s, and now, a Thinkpad for work, an iMac desktop for graphics, and an Air for freedom. And the iPad, and the two iPhones, one for work and one for me.

Tendonitis to typewriters. All this because the lovely movie I watched this morning was about words as art, and art as words?




About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


The Reluctant Traveler: from Tendonitis to Typewriters — 2 Comments

  1. The massage therapist in my varied past wants to know if you ever alternated ice packs on and off that tendon. If we had decent medical in this country, ice, PT, and sports massage might have taken care of most of that. Sigh. It still could improve it, in many cases.

    My mother’s old Royal–I wish my sister hadn’t given it to the local museum, they probably have several. I had a very small travel Hermes for college, which worked for years until the platen cracked and would no longer hold the paper still. Dad kept using it for envelopes (they were distinctive.) An electric I killed–it sounded like a B52 taking off when I finally surrendered it. An Apple IIe, an Apple III, a Dell 286, an ancient XP tower still tucked in storage so I can make sure everything I need is off it. My current Toshiba laptop–probably more powerful than the system computers the size of dining room tables I created manuals for eons ago in computer time.

    We have traveled far in a lifetime. My grandfather went to church in a buggy as a child, and saw a man walk on the moon.

  2. I kept waiting for some smart computer company to recruit Jack Williamson to do commercials for it. He emigrated to Arizona in a covered wagon in 1912, and 70 or so years later was talking about computers in Old High Marsian with the best of them.