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Hot Packs

Very early in my career (1982), I took the leap and purchased a hydrocollator. I don’t remember how much it cost, but I do remember that I had to save up for a long time to afford it. I was so excited to add this to my offerings for my clients. I had just moved to Champaign, IL a few months earlier and unfortunately, clients were very few.

Unpacking the hydrocollator out of the box had that air of Christmas, where you get something you had wished for and were not sure it would actually happen. I unpacked it and then was almost disappointed to find that the packs needed to be soaked overnight before I could use them. But, soak them I did until the next day, which was perfect since I had two actual clients that afternoon. All day, I waited impatiently for the first appointment. This guy had no clue what a wonderful experience awaited him as the first person to enjoy these fabulous hot packs.

I waited, and waited, and waited. As you all have experienced, there is a point when you realize that the client you are waiting on is not coming. In my case, this was devastating because this guy was screwing up my hydrocollator victory lap. I waited months to afford this thing and he blows off the inaugural appointment. I sat there in disbelief and disappointment. Ostensibly, I told myself that he missed out on something special for himself. Actually, I missed out on hearing the chorus of accolades from my first lucky user.

That’s when it hit me; why wait? If he is missing out on this experience, why should I? In fact, I could be both client and therapist, enjoying the act of giving and pleasure of receiving.


If you have never tried to put these hot packs on your own back, let me be the first to tell you that the process is more than a bit complicated. Since I was only going to see how they feel, I just decided to take off my shirt and pull my pants down to my knees so as to keep them from getting wet. Next, I needed to put the hot packs in their sleeves, but also arrange the protective towels between my back and the packs. When I would get one of the two situated, it would displace the other. This process seemed to go on for an interminable amount of time before everything was in place. Once the process was complete, the heat and weight on my back felt incredible. “This guy did not know what he missed,” I told myself. “This feels incredibly relaxing.”

It must have been right at that point that I fell asleep. My office was comprised of two rooms, a waiting room and a treatment room separated by French doors. Hearing a voice, I awoke from my deep slumber and turned my head towards the sound.

“Excuse me, but is Doug Nelson around? I had an appointment at 3pm, and I have been sitting in the waiting room. Sorry to bother you, but I heard some snoring and I thought I should ask.”

Awakening, I realized that I am lying face down, pants at my knees, towels and hot packs on my back. This guy is my second appointment of the day, a new client who happens to be an important business owner in the community.

Someone much more clever than I could have had a plethora of clever responses.

Something like: “He left a few minutes ago to save a child from a burning building. Ever so kind, he left me with these wonderful hot packs while he was gone. He should be back shortly.”

I’d like to say that because of just awakening from a deep sleep, no reasonable explanation came to mind. Truth is, I’m not that clever and especially so in an extremely embarrassing situation.

I don’t remember what I mumbled, but the bottom line is that I asked him to please wait for another minute in the waiting room while I pulled my pants up over my butt, put the hot pack back in the tank, and cleaned the room for his session. I was so embarrassed about the spectacle that I didn’t even use the hot packs during his appointment, even though it might have been appropriate.

He didn’t return for another appointment.

I can’t say that I blame him. . .

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