"Load up everyone; today we get thin!" yelled Dad.
My dad, mom, and ten of their twelve children loaded into three separate vehicles. Today was "T-Day" (thin day).
Pound for pound my family was the biggest family in town. Not only were there twelve children but we were quite portly. In fact, the boys in our family were not considered grown unless they weighed three hundred pounds.
Members of my family tried every conceivable diet on the market and pumped thousands of dollars into weight loss programs; nothing worked.
Acupuncture was popular at the time, and Dad read testimonials of people who used acupuncture to lose incredible amounts of weight. He made inquiries and found a doctor in Wichita, Kansas, who spent six months in China researching acupuncture techniques for various ailments including obesity.
After visiting with the doctor Dad was convinced that acupuncture was the solution for our family's weight problem. He talked with each family member and convinced us that acupuncture was "the cure." He was so positive of the outcome that he paid for everyone's treatment.
The treatment is simple. There is a nerve center in each ear which controls various bodily functions including appetite. A staple is placed in the nerve centers in both ears of an individual. When the person feels hungry he merely pulls his ear lobe and the hunger pangs are alleviated. It sounded too good to be true . Acupuncture was an outpatient procedure, and Dad scheduled all treatments for the same session.
Our caravan arrived in Wichita at noon. The treatment was scheduled for two o'clock in the afternoon. We saw an all-you-can-eat chicken buffet and figured this would be our last meal before "thinness." We attacked that buffet like vultures after road kill.
We arrived at the hospital stuffed to the gills. We couldn't have eaten another morsel. We were directed to a conference room, and the doctor and a nurse entered the room.
"How is the procedure performed?" asked Dad.
The doctor held up a staple gun and showed us the staples. The gun looked amazingly like the staple guns used for stapling upholstery on furniture. The staples were made of surgical steel. They had one-half inch prongs and looked like regular staples. I had great misgivings.
"Will we need a local anesthetic for the pain?"
"No," the doctor replied. "You will feel no more discomfort than a minor incision."
His answer seemed to alleviate most of the concerns my family felt. I was not fully convinced.
"Who wants to go first?" the doctor asked.
"DAD!" we shouted in unison. We wanted to see Dad's reaction before the doctor put any staples in our ears.
The doctor put the staple gun to Dad's ear and "click." He then walked to the other side of Dad and "click." I watched very closely for any adverse reaction. If Dad flinched I wouldn't do it. He didn't flinch.
I asked, "How was it, Dad?"
"Not bad at all," he said.
It was customary in our family for the boys to go first when doing something that might be painful or dangerous. Larry, my oldest brother, was next. I studied his face for any movement. If he flinched even the tiniest bit I would refuse. I am a coward.
The doctor put the staple gun to Larry's ear and "click." He walked to the other side of Larry and "click." Larry didn't flinch.
"How was it?" I asked.
"Not bad at all," he replied.
I've already explained that I am a coward. I pushed my nine year old brother ahead of me, (I was eighteen), and said, "You go next." If Todd didn't flinch I knew I was home free. I examined him closely.
The doctor put the staple gun to Todd's ear and "click." He then walked to the other side of Todd and "click." He didn't flinch.
"How was it, Todd?"
"Not bad at all."
I stepped up to the doctor with confidence, (big man that I was), and calmly waited as the doctor held the staple gun to my ear.
W H A M M O ! I never in my life felt such horrible pain. I hurt so bad I froze. I couldn't move! The doctor was at my other ear. W H A M M O ! My entire head throbbed. I couldn't believe I let somebody staple my ears to my head! I could not move my jaws they hurt so bad!
"How was it, Mark?" asked Judy, my oldest sister.
I wanted to scream, but thought, "Why should I tell them?" With Herculean effort I turned to Judy, moved my jaw which was throbbing with pain, and said, "Not bad, not bad at all."
I sat down and gave my brothers a knowing look. I knew no one in our family would flinch. No one would spare anyone else the incredible pain he had just endured. It was tradition.
Everything went quickly until my sister, Annabel, got her treatment. When the first staple was put in her ear the gun ran out of staples. She had to wait for the doctor to reload. She didn't flinch. How could she stand there knowing what was coming without flinching? What fortitude she displayed. I had new respect for Annabel.
Lori, my youngest sister, was the last victim. The words she uttered to the doctor were not kind ones. It was something about his genealogy, I think. Anyway, I don't think she won the "patient of the week" award.
We lost weight the first week because we couldn't move our jaws due to pain. We ate through straws that first week. Slowly the pain subsided and we were able to move our jaws and eat again. We tugged our ears; we were still hungry. The procedure was a failure. Back to the drawing board.
I learned one lesson through the ordeal. Whenever a doctor says, "This procedure will cause no more discomfort than a minor incision," he is using doctor speak to say, "you're about to scream in agony, but I don't feel a thing."
Six months after the treatment one of my staples worked loose and dropped out of my ear; the other staple was still firmly lodged. Two years later one of my co-workers said, "Mark, you've got something in your ear." He placed his fingernail under the staple and yanked. The pain almost brought me to my knees.
"Wow! How did you get a staple in your ear?" he asked as the bloody staple dangled from his fingernail.
I wiped tears from my eyes and decided he wasn't worthy of the truth. I fabricated a story.
"I cut off my ear as a kid, and the doctors stapled it back to my head," I lied.
"I believe you," he said.
"Really?" I asked.
"Yes, because no one in his right mind would willingly shoot a staple into his ear."
I agreed. "No one in his right mind would ever do such a thing," I said as I walked away shaking my head.
Copyright 2008 J-me
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