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A Bed-Ridden Robin:
Treating Sciatica with Traction and Bed Rest

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Rick Jason's parents,
Miriam and Harry

We shut down production [of the TV Series The Case of the Dangerous Robin] for ten days around Christmas. I went to New York to visit my folks, who I hadn’t seen in over a year. While I was home, to my great surprise, my picture appeared on the cover of the magazine sections of both the Sunday New York Mirror and The Daily News. I was at my folks apartment when a friend of theirs called to tell them.

At my father’s request. my mother ran out and bought ten copies of each paper. He sat there, looking at the papers, my face taking up the full color page of each, shaking his head.

He couldn’t fathom it.

The First Warning Signs of Sciatica

Toward the end of the season, I was exhausted. One day, I bent over the wrong way and felt something like a long rubber band let go in my lower back. Nothing like that had ever happened before so I didn’t pay too much attention to it.

The next morning, at five-thirty, I couldn’t get out of bed. I finally slipped to the floor, onto my knees, and worked my way up to a standing position. After a hot shower, mostly on my back, I felt better, went to the studio and put in another full day.

We had about two weeks to go in the season. I found that if I kept moving around, my back didn’t freeze up. Every morning it was the same routine: onto the knees, up, and into the shower.

About a week after we finished production for the season, I was unable to put my right foot on the floor. The sciatic nerve, I later found out, was in a great deal of trouble.

Seeking Treatment for Sciatica

Aria drove me to an orthopedic specialist. By late morning, I was lying on my king-size bed tied into a boned corset that ran from just under my rib cage to half way down my thighs. I’d refused to go to a hospital.

I stayed in the corset for three days, after which Dr. Stephen Field had some equipment moved into my bedroom. I was put in pelvic traction, where I stayed for two-and-a-half months, twenty four-hours a day. By the end I had worked up to forty pounds of constant pull.

Every four or five days I’d begin to smell a little gamy. Our houseman would turn on the shower, I’d get out of traction, hobble into the shower stall where I had about fifteen seconds to soap up and another five to rinse off before the pain began traveling down my leg. I’d hobble back to bed where bath towels had been laid out, flop down on top of them, and grit my teeth until the pain subsided.

About a week after I was put into traction I called Jutta and told her what had happened. We wouldn’t be seeing each other for awhile. Up until then I’d made room during weekends for us to be together, if only for a short time.

Pain Killers: Demerol and Norflex

Stephen Field had put me on oral Demerol, fifty milligrams every four to six hours. About half an hour after I’d taken one I could drift off into dreamland for an hour or two. Periodically, the pain would get bad enough that I’d watch the clock on my night stand until the four hours were up.

My agent called and said Ziv wanted to go another year with the show. I told him what had happened and we had to cancel. After two months of lying on my back, depression began to set in and I had the feeling that I might never walk again. One day I got fed up being drugged half the time. I dropped the bottle of Demerol in the waste basket at my bedside and just gritted my teeth for a few weeks.

The traction had begun to release the spasm, so it wasn’t all that bad. The best part was that I hadn’t got hooked on the drug. I’m just one of those lucky bastards who can take it or leave it. And I’d rather leave it.

A few weeks later Stephen (I was, by then, on a first-name basis with my doctor) showed up one day. "There’s a new drug called Norflex. I’m one of six physicians in the Los Angeles area selected to run tests on it."

"And I’m your guinea pig."

Every day Stephen came to the house to give me an injection of this central nervous system relaxant. Ten days later, I stepped out of bed and walked, though not too steadily at first. I began physical therapy three times a week, plus daily exercises at home.

Throughout this time, my right leg had atrophied and gotten smaller around by an inch-and-a-half and my right buttocks had almost completely flattened out. Stephen gave me a series of exercises to do three times a day. I did them eight times a day. Having done weight training, I knew what exercise could do. In four months, I’d completely built back all the muscle tissue lost during my lengthy bed rest.

By then I was able to get back to my health club and light workouts with weights. Afterwards, I’d repair to the club bar and a good martini.

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