If I ignore it long enough, maybe it’ll go away…

I’m referring to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which has been afflicting my right hand for decades, a condition I can only attest to my previous life as a professional drummer.  A few too many paradiddles started the damage that, at first, was only a mere nuisance, with numb fingers causing the occasional drumstick to fly across the stage.

Trading one kind of Rock for another, I put my musical ambitions on permanent hiatus long ago, only occasionally banging the skins at home, or coming out of “retirement” to play a drum set made entirely of stone in an alabaster shop in Volterra, Italy.  I mean, really, what self-respecting drummer would pass on that unique opportunity?

With the drumming a rare event these days, the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel have all but disappeared over the years. Oddly enough, the rigors of conventional stone fabrication, as demanding as it is, never seemed to awaken the dormant beast.

But in recent times, by contorting my hands and fingers into unnatural positions from my new sculpting endeavors, the old monster is now wide awake and screaming for vengeance. That once mere nuisance has turned into a downright painful and agonizing condition that needs to be addressed.  It’s a rare event for me to actually seek any medical care for myself, and I often joke that my cats receive better and more frequent healthcare than I do.

So when does a guy who earns his living with his hands find a decent time for surgery and to be out of commission?  Right at the start of the biggest job in our history of course!

That project is Walt Worthy’s new Grand Hotel in downtown Spokane. We have begun the manufacturing of the bathroom counters and furniture tops, and when the dust clears, we will have fabricated nearly fifty-thousand square feet of stone in just the guest rooms alone.

Against every fiber of my being, and by strict doctors orders, I guess I’ll have to sit out the next few weeks on the sideline, doing office work which I absolutely despise. In our company’s earlier years, being away from the shop even for a short period would have resulted in instant chaos. But with my absence over the last few years due to traveling, our experienced and more than capable team chugs right along with or without me. Some would argue better without me.

Anyone in this business will tell you that working with stone is punishing on the body.  It’s certainly taken its toll on my brother and father as well over the years.  Now more than ever, I can appreciate the insight we had when we built our building seven years ago now, that besides a fancy showroom and machinery, we focused on innovative material handling systems to keep our valued employees from suffering the same fate as ourselves.

Our facility is the poster child for material management within our industry, and has been the focus of national magazine articles on several occasions.

We utilize six overhead cranes, vacuum lifters, automated conveyor systems, unique machinery for flipping stone upside down, as well as a computerized vertical storage system that reduces the amount of cut stone on the work floor.  This system, when we installed it, was only the third of its kind in the entire world, and with this new hotel project, we have it filled to capacity.  Less clutter, less accidents, happy OSHA.

Mike and I have been working like madmen, seven days a week, trying to get ahead before my surgery. Working through the pain and overcompensating with my left hand, I’ve felt the unmistakable “pins and needles” in those fingers too.

Hmmm…maybe if I ignore it long enough, it’ll just go away…

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