I wrote this for one of my creative writing classes. The assignment was to tell a story about myself…
I am the queen of freak injuries. I mean, I injure myself in ways that make me fear going to the emergency room because I am sure someone is going to think that I am lying to cover up some kind of domestic abuse. Like the time I broke my nose in my sleep. I would much rather deal with the pain of my injury until I can get into my doctor, who asserts I keep his practice interesting from both my freak injuries and my body’s ability to work in spite of itself. The exception is stitches. I always go to the emergency room if I need more than two stitches, like the time I cut my finger while slicing butter. Yes, butter. This kind of thing takes real talent and clumsiness. I am a solenodon in world of swans. It gives me character.
Knowing this, it should be no surprise that I completely mangled my shoulder falling over my own feet. It was a dark and stormy night. By dark I mean it was probably 9pm and by stormy, I mean it was raining. The walkway going into the house was wet; the ground next to it was wet and muddy. My foot hit something; and hit it hard. The thing is, there was nothing blocking the walk, unless one can trip over ghosts. If it were a ghost, it was probably a ghost squirrel. The only other thing in the walkway that my foot could have hit, other than a ghost squirrel, was my other foot. As I tripped, I put my arm out to catch my fall.
It didn’t work.
I landed face first in the wet grass and mud, with my arm outstretched above my head. At least it wasn’t the concrete walk. I could have done some real damage to myself there. I realized rather quickly I hurt myself. As I stood up, I mentally ran through every sort of pain I ever experienced in my life to decide if I could just walk it off. As I put my arm down the muscle cramps started.
I was not going to be able to walk this off. I needed the emergency room. Did I mention this was just as Covid-19 began its visit to the United States? There was no getting into the emergency room, as there was no place to park, not even handicapped spots. Even the parking deck was filled. Much to my relief, there were only three people at the Aftercare Clinic, all wearing face masks, probably sick with coronavirus. I was more worried about getting sick than I was in the state of my arm.
A couple x-rays later I learned I had a greater tuberosity fracture. It’s a common enough injury but only accounts for something like 2% of all arm/shoulder breaks. What happens is that the knobby bit at the top of the arm, the ball part that fits into the socket part of the shoulder, breaks off. You don’t break your bone, you break off a piece of your bone, and it’s the piece that the main rotator cuff muscle attaches to. I would have to go to an orthopedic to decide if I would need surgery and screws to put my shoulder back together. The mesh sling I was given at the hospital would have to be replaced. Amazon offered a more stylish black one that would match my wardrobe. This was, after all, a major life milestone. I had broken my first major bone!
As luck would have it, I didn’t need surgery, but part of me was disappointed that I wouldn’t be setting off random metal detectors. I was told that it would take 6 months to heal and that I would need physical therapy. Covid-19 took over the world, everything closed, and physical therapy didn’t happen. While TeleDoc is nice, it doesn’t work for PT. My orthopedist told me I had great timing.
6 months later I was still in pain and my doctor ordered a MRI. I was given the directions, “Wear a mask, and come alone.” Under non-pandemic circumstances, those directions would sound really suspect. The MRI revealed the extent of what I did to myself. This is when it was explained to me that I didn’t break my arm when I fell, that I did it when I put moved my arm down to my side getting up. In order for the break to happen my shoulder had to be dislocated first. Dislocating my shoulder also meant tearing my rotator cuff in two places. Tearing my rotator cuff meant surgery.
I was hoping that surgery would be done long before university classes started back up, but because Covid-19 has ruined everything, my orthopedics schedule was backed up and the earliest he could put Humpty Dumpty back together was August 20. In that time, I had to have a lot of blood work, chest x-rays, and a Covid-19 test that I can only describe as a professional miner digging for nose goblins.
By my estimation, this was the 9th time I have gone in for some kind of surgery. No big deal. I had a pretty good idea what to expect.
I was traumatized.
My orthopedic was worried about the amount of pain I would be in after surgery because I am allergic to narcotics. Basically, I was having surgery without pain medication afterward. I assured him it was really no big deal, that I had done this before, more than once, including having my gall bladder removed. Besides, it couldn’t hurt any worse than when I broke it. He wasn’t swayed and ordered a nerve block.
I was not told what to expect from a nerve block, or what it did. By time I thought to ask what was going on I was being administered the knockout gas. When I woke from surgery I was already dressed, my arm was in it’s new and improved immobilization sling under my shirt, and I couldn’t feel my arm.
At home I discovered that the sling hadn’t be adjusted properly and wasn’t serving it’s purpose. There was no preparing me for what came next. I took the sling off to discover my arm was paralyzed from the shoulder down. It dangled as if it were a broken doll arm. The rational part of my brain reminded me that I had a nerve block and it would wear off. The irrational part of my brain went into overdrive.
OH MY GOD! MY ARM IS DEAD! I HAVE A DEAD ARM! IT’S GOING TO FALL OFF! WHAT DID THEY DO TO ME?! IS THAT WHAT LEPRACY IS LIKE BEFORE YOU LOSE A LIMB? I’M GOING TO BE ARMLESS! I WAS SUPPOSED TO GET MY SHOULDER FIXED AND THEY KILLED MY ARM! MY ARM IS DEAD!
I was given help getting my arm back into the sling and getting the sling adjusted properly. Rest of the day I avoided looking at my arm, not to acknowledge my arm, not to think about my arm, because, if I did, I would be reminded that it was dead, and was probably going to fall off.
I am happy to report that my arm survived, that it was not killed while I was in surgery. My shoulder was repaired, or at least that is what my doctor claims. I’m not convinced yet as it doesn’t move. I was told not to move it, but even if I wanted to, I can’t. The muscles and tendons don’t work yet. It took 5 incisions and just over 3 hours. I am currently being held together with that medical tape that replaces actual sutures and I am bruised to the point it looks like a MMA fighter, or a bear, tried to rip my arm off. There is at least another 6 months of recovery ahead of me.
I have learned one important thing through this. Don’t be clumsy…and watch out for ghost squirrels.