Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


Vicodin vs. Research


I admire (and, yes, okay, also confess to a modicum of jealousy in) Kathleen Harrington’s authoritative research used in bringing her Scottish Highlander trilogy to life. She modestly states it’s just research.

(Secretly, however, I suspect time-travel may also have played a major role.)

About twenty years ago, I discovered how true her research comment was.

All told, in summary, I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life. Medically speaking. No broken bones. No hospitalizations. No serious injuries. Nada.

So… twenty years ago, I was mildly surprised during a routine physical exam when my doctor asked if I knew I had an abdominal hernia.

I smiled. Surely he was jesting.

No, he insisted. Just feel right here, and cough. I did. I still couldn’t tell.

Shortly thereafter, however, I found myself hospitalized. Same day surgery.

Tiny—we’re talking real tiny here—little three-inch incision and I was sent home with my very first ever bottle of Vicodin.

Vicodin: the dragon killer pain drug.

My eyebrows rose when he informed me I’d be out-sick from work for about three or four weeks.

Again, I thought he’s jesting. Same day surgery? Tiny incision? Out sick for three or four weeks!? Get outta here!

Admittedly, I was never the best, highly-motivated employee, but we’re talking a four week paid vacation? Right?

Bring it on, baby.

At the time I was plowing my way midway through my first novel. Set in the 1800s. It involved my heroine, Maggie McCarley, admittedly, a somewhat larger than life protagonist (my favorite kind of woman) enduring multiple serious injuries. Deep, self-sutured knife cuts and wounds.

Wow. Talk about an opportunity. For a budding writer. Four weeks of vacation. A minor stomach wound. Okay, so let’s see, first hand, what this thing called pain—without modern drugs and medicine—could possibly be like. Can’t be that bad, right?

Piece of cake. Walk in the park. Valuable research. Right?

I set aside my little bottle of Vicodin, and embarked on a voyage of discovery.

Of course, being the next Ernest Hemingway, I kept scrupulous research notes. Pad and pen close at hand.


Maggie McCarley, my dearest: There’s simply no way. I don’t see any way—on heaven or earth—you possibly could have done it.

Kudos to you, my love.

I could barely move in bed. Changing position. Twisting and rolling over. Excruciating! Not going to happen!

Let alone, getting out of bed, for the toilet.

I think the only word recorded in my exhaustive research journal was: Debilitating.



The following days fared no better.

How on earth our forefathers ever survived their injuries, I have no idea.

Nor do I ever want to pursue the subject again.

But God bless them. They did. Was it alcohol? Jimson weed? I’ll have to check with Kathleen Harrington. Maybe they were just made of sturdier mettle.

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with lumbar nerve damage. I think, possibly, I may be paying up for those seventy years of perfect health.

The last two months, especially, have been literal hell on earth.

I’ve been consuming, at double and sometimes triple doses, those unused bottles of Vicodin from my wife and myself.

My surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

Thank you Jesus!!!

Research is complete.


Bring it on, baby!