Rule 584

Ah, we meet again, my old nemesis…

Chairs with arms.

My elbows say hello, and they hate you.

Note from Uncle Dale: The Physiology of Interpreting, Balance and a Big Chicken Suit

Way back in 1994, I did not follow my own abridgment of the CPC (See Rule 80) and while interpreting at an all-day appointment alone (“we will give you plenty of breaks…” the break is a lie) I tore two ligaments in my right wrist. It happened at about 1:00 in the afternoon. There was this snapping feeling in my forearm and then it tingled in my fingers, the pain started about ten minutes later.

Oh, by the way I finished the appointment at about 4:30 that afternoon.

That’s not bragging about how committed I am. That is admitting to my stupidity.

Years of physical therapy, weeks in a cast and years and years of better judgment later, it still causes me problems. Again, if you didn’t look at it before, see Rule 80.

Memorize it. Live it.

Years after this incident I had the opportunity to design the course curriculum for the Deaf Studies-Interpreting Emphasis degree at Utah Valley University. I looked at the courses taught at ITPs all over the country and found a hole in the coursework that I couldn’t abide.

There didn’t seem to be any courses that focused on practical self-care for interpreters.

My grandfather used to say if you use a tool incorrectly it will break, but if you use it properly and take care of it, it will break much much later.

We work in a profession where our tools include our bodies and, no matter how careful we are, our tools will break. Hopefully later, much later, than sooner.

I knew my program needed a class that covered the basics of how to postpone that inevitable repetitive motion injury as long as possible. So I used my own experience, consulted with medical professionals, the physical education department at the university where I teach and (pah) The Physiology of Interpreting was born.

The course covers breathing, posture, balance, hand-eye-coordination, sleep patterns, nutrition (because you don’t want to die of heart disease before you have a chance to develop carpal tunnel), we discuss the anatomical structure of the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder and back. We also discuss early warning signs of the most common repetitive motion injuries, ergonomics, low impact sign production (I should not be able to hear the signs!) we self evaluate interpreted texts to identify dangerous habits and we discuss conservation of movement, rest and exercise.

This class is one of the most fun I get to teach, because there are so many cool ways to teach the basics.

For example, we explore the coordinated movements of the muscles of the hand and forearm by teaching the students how to flip-roll a quarter down their fingers and how to “palm a quarter” like magicians do.

I teach them how to tap into the brain’s ability to predict body placement in space and calculate movement (conservation of movement and hand-brain coordination) by teaching the students how to juggle.

And today we did this!

We use Wii Fit plus to evaluate balance.

Now it’s fun, but I have to admit for a video game Wii Fit is a bit… catty. Sometimes it’s downright bitchy.

When I stepped on the balance board today it went “ooff!” (Seriously? Why you gotta do a boy like that?)

Then it told me I was obese! (REALLY?)

In one clip you can hear it saying, “Measuring, Measuring, Measuring…” one of my students popped off with, “Judging, judging, judging…”

(I will admit I laughed so hard I may have peed just a little.)

We do the single leg balance test:

And we play games that require balance and coordinated movement, like hula-hooping, balance board and my personal favorite-THE FLYING CHICKEN CHALLENGE:

(Three comments. First, this class is taught in ASL but this always elicits some yelling from the studio audience-A little leeway, it was getting way crazy up in there; second the avatar on the screen can be made to look like the student dressed in a giant flying chicken suit (ooooh yeeeah! that alone is worth the price of admission!); and, third, yes, that is my foot and those are Captain America socks.)

Overall this is one of the classes I teach that students come back and rave about after they get out in the field and work for a while; because it’s fun and practical.

I can’t keep them all safe in this crazy world-but I can keep them working without pain for as long as possible.

If you have not paid attention to how your “signing style” may impact your longevity in this profession pause and think about it now. Start with this exercise from the course:

Document your life for one week, be brutally honest with yourself:

Everything you eat-use your phone camera as a way to document everything you put in your mouth from a tic-tac to a buffet. Everything and note the time you eat it;

All the water you drink-get a bottle with measuring lines. Try not to change your behavior but realize if you start to carry a water bottle you will naturally drink more;

Document how much you sleep. What time do you shut down. Not just get in bed but actually try to sleep. If you wake up in the night mark it. What time did you wake up? Catnaps? Mark them.

Record your aches and pains. Do you wake up each day with a pain you ignore? Do you get an upset stomach eat the same time each day? Document when you feel it. If something makes it worse or better mark it.

Exercise. First define what exercise is for you. Time at the gym? Walking to the next class all the way across campus… mark activity, time of day and duration.

Bad habits. So you smoke? Mark each time to take a smoke break and how many you smoke. Weed? Mark it. Alcohol? Mark it. Any chemical enhancement without a doctors note.

Medications. Do you take them on schedule and in the proper amounts? Document it.

At the end of the week look at your documentation. How different is your real life from how you tell yourself it is. What habits should you change?

This gives an honest starting place from which to develop a self care plan. Try it. It is usually shocking… mainly because we are with ourselves all the time but never remember eating that poorly or sleeping that little.

Take a workshop on self-care, or a course on healthy living. Even if you don’t have access to a class like that (or the one I teach), be careful out there, take care of your tools and watch out for each other.

Oh, and ain’t technology grand?! Cluck cluck.


ps. Ok I just had to add this. We did hand eye coordination exercises this week:

And last but not least this nearly awesome moment!

All work and no play!!!