I opened my eyes and looked around. I was in a bed I didn’t recognize. Slowly, it dawned on me that I was in a hospital recovery room. I had no recollection of how I got there. I wasn’t in pain, but noticed bandaging on my right shoulder. I tried to think about why I was there. Had I been in a car accident? I figured this would be the way one would awaken from that kind of nightmare; alone in a recovery room with no memory of what happened. I was obviously injured in some way. I took inventory of my body. Everything was there and still seemed to work. I pondered what might have happened to my late model luxury car. Now I knew I was ok but still wasn’t sure how I got there.
Amid deepening confusion, an angel appeared. A nurse came over to my bed, touched my left arm, and said, “Honey, how are you?” I must have looked confused because next she said, “You fell, remember? You broke your arm”.
The memories of a nightmare that was much less serious than a car accident all came back to me in a hurry. Clearly, the anesthesia during surgery had clogged my memory.
It was 3 weeks before Christmas in 2009. I walked through a hallway in my house I had walked through hundreds of times. It is an empty hallway. It was very dark. I tripped on something on the floor that didn’t belong there. I fell forward like a tree that had been cut down. My right shoulder caught in the doorway ahead of me. It didn’t stop my fall. I kept falling but my shoulder stayed in the doorframe. I landed flat on my face. My glasses pressed hard into my nose and forehead. There was unfathomable pain in my shoulder. For a minute, I thought I could get up and forget about this accident.
I yelled for help from my family. When they came to help, I told them about the intense pain in my right shoulder. My left arm is nearly nonfunctional due to a long ago stroke. Now my willing arm was badly injured. My husband suggested maybe I had dislocated my shoulder. I hoped so as this kind of injury is quickly and easily corrected. We made some hopeless attempts at getting me off the floor. I didn’t have use of either arm to help in this regard. I was slowly realizing I was seriously injured, but really didn’t want to face it. Losing the use of my willing arm was not acceptable.
In the spirit of “accept and move on” I told my husband I needed to get to the hospital. He hoisted me up to my feet and it was immediately apparent I could not use my cane to walk since I hold it with my right hand.
It was a cold December night. We put my coat on half of my body and got me in the car. The 20 minute ride to the hospital was excruciating.
I remember the young ER doctor coming into the X-ray room telling me he had good news and bad news. The good news was I didn’t dislocate my shoulder. The bad news was I broke my arm.
My first thought was “No, doctor, you don’t understand. I can’t have a broken right arm.”
He showed me the X-rays which revealed a compound fracture of my humerus. It was very ugly. The bones in my shoulder looked like they had splintered.
They gave me a sling to keep my arm immobilized. They suggested it would take 6–8 weeks to heal. I was told to follow up with an orthopedist. They gave me a prescription for pain medication that we were unable to fill on the way home because the pharmacies were closed. To say it was a miserable night would be a major understatement.
I went to the orthopedist’s office the next day in my pajamas because changing clothes was exceedingly difficult. I figured they see it all at the doctor’s office, and I have no shame having spent three months in hospitals in 1999.
We met a friend in the waiting room who told us the doctor had a terrible bedside manner. She had had her knee replaced and said he was a curmudgeon.
He looked at the X-rays and without hesitation told me I needed surgery. The bones in my shoulder joint would not heal correctly on their own. He had to put them in proper place with some hardware, or my arm would never work right again. So much for a 6–8 week recovery with my arm in a sling. I was 46 years old, and acutely aware of how slowly we heal when we are a little older.
I woke up 2 days later with dim memories of how I got to the hospital. All the doctor would say about my recovery was it would be “a very long time”. He seemed to have zero sympathy for the fact that I couldn’t just use my left arm during my convalescence.
The winter of 2009–2010 will go down in history as one of the longest of my life. It felt like I had no arms for a good 6 weeks. I was forced to cheat a lot by not keeping my arm in the sling all the time. I was lucky to be able to hire help. It seemed to snow 3 times a week. I couldn’t use my cane. I had to take senior citizen transportation to physical therapy sessions. Family life came to a screeching halt with mom out of commission.
The good news was I had not been in a car accident, wrecked my car, or lost my arm. Things can always be worse.
Thank you for reading :)