Monday, July 05, 2010

Elbow of Doom…

Ok, so here’s how it all went down…

This past weekend was tremendously busy.  We had tons of people over to help wire up the general’s office, move furniture, put Penny’s furniture together, etc.  I mean, we were hopping!  Trips to Home Depot, running around to find tools, calling neighbors, kids running, it was a scene! 

By Monday, all the furniture was where it needed to be, the computers were back up and running, and I had had quite enough of painting for a while.  So my neighbor called around 9:30 to see if I wanted to take the kids over to the pool and to have a picnic.  I thought that sounded like a great idea.  When we hung up, I decided that it would really make me happy to come home and have all of my part of the chores done, meaning I could just hang up The General’s flag, posters, awards, pictures, etc. and be done with it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know where the step ladder had gotten to.  It hadn’t been put away, it wasn’t in the office or any of the rooms it had been used in.  I was feeling impatient, though, so I decided to just go ahead and use The General’s office chair.  You know, the one that tilts. And swivels. 

I grabbed my staple gun and the big US flag and climbed up there.  The first staple, no problem.  Leah thought this looked like great fun, so she sat right under the chair to watch.  I started lining up the flag for the second staple, and something went wrong.  The chair tilted and swiveled at the same time, and I just remember thinking, “don’t land on the baby” a split second before I mercifully crashed to the floor and avoided her. 

Pain rocketed through my arm and Leah started screaming.  I sat up and I knew I was in trouble.  I could not see the bottom half of my arm at all.  From my elbow on, it was gone.  I pulled my shoulder around and my arm flopped into sight, hanging loose like a floppy noodle.  I knew I had to get the phone from up on the desk, but i thought I had broken my arm.  Still, I leaned on the arm anyway, and it must have snapped back into place at that point.  I called 911 and they said they would send over paramedics.

Unfortunately I didn’t know The General’s new number at work, so I had to go find my cell phone, and when I dialed it went straight to voice mail.  I left him a tearful message, hung up, and called Melissa and told her I needed help.  She said she’d be right down to get Leah and would meet us at the hospital.  In an attempt to keep calm, I tried to call Lisa back and my mom, but then my cell rang and it was The General.  He told me he had called Lisa and she was coming to get Leah.  He was getting a ride and would meet me at the hospital as well.  I sat down in the living room and pretty soon a fire truck roared up.  I thought, “No way in hell am I riding to the hospital on top of a fire truck.”  Lisa roars in, the ambulance right behind her, and I’m yelling to the firemen to come in while Lisa is screaming to them that the back door is always open and pulling her son, clad only in a diaper, to get Leah.

Somehow, the paramedics had been informed that I had ripped my arm off, which is why they sent the fire truck, apparently.  The first fireman in was a left arm amputee, and that’s when I really started flipping out.  No sooner had Lisa gotten in than they stood me up and walked me out to the stretcher and loaded me into the ambulance.  I was hyperventilating and they kept asking me the same questions over and over and telling me to calm down, which I couldn’t.  Finally they decide to run an IV, which given my fear of needles was not going to go well.  The EMT kept telling me not to hold my breath, why was I so upset, but until she injected the morphine and strapped an oxygen mask to my face, I could not settle down.

Melissa got to the hospital no more than 10 minutes after I did and sat with me before and after the x-rays.  It got to the point that she could answer the questions as well as I could.  The answers were basically:

1.  No, I cannot possibly be pregnant.
2.  My birthday is 8.23.xx
3.  I fell off a chair.

The General arrived and then Dr. S came in.  He offered me some more pain meds, so I just asked for Tylenol.  Of course, just like with my leg, the meds never came until the bitter end.  Finally Dr. S came back and told me the x-rays were clear and I had probably just sprained it.  Here’s 20 Vicodin, you’ll be better in a week.

Now I knew damned good and well I hadn’t just sprained it, so I told Melissa to get me an appointment with Sunshine.  She got on her iPhone and found OSC but her phone wouldn’t dial out, so she used The General’s phone and made the call.  They weren’t able to see me till Wednesday, but we got an appointment with Joe Gowaty, who had helped me with my knee a couple of years ago, so I was happy with that.

I told Melissa I wanted some chicken mcnuggets, so we went through discharge, she dropped me home, and she and Mike headed out to get the Vicodin and the mcnuggets.  Lisa was upstairs with the little ones, so i went up there and let her know I was home.  She helped me into bed, and Leah snuggled right up to me and wouldn’t leave my side.  Daniel kept running around entertaining us and Melissa arrived with my nuggets.  I fed the fries to the babies and then Melissa and Mike got back with the meds, so Lisa felt free to go home.  I popped a couple pills and Melissa offered to take Leah home with her for the night, so I agreed.  I talked to both my parents, and my dad said he’d be down the next day, so Melissa said she’d keep Leah till Dad got here.  I passed out cold.

I remember very little about the next couple of days.  I remember Melissa coming back and my dad arriving and all of us eating Chinese food.  Wednesday morning, we dropped Leah off with Lisa and went to see Joe.  He had reviewed the x-rays and agreed that I hadn’t broken anything but listened while I explained exactly what happened and said it sounded like a dislocation, but that he’d need an MRI to be sure.  He also didn’t like the sling from the ER and prescribed a hinged elbow brace.  OSC made the appointment for the MRI that afternoon, and Dad and I went and got Leah and did the grocery shopping.  Melissa came down again to watch Leah so we could do the tests and we headed to the hospital.

Apart from the pain of getting my arm up over my head, the MRI wasn’t bad.  It was very noisy, but not bad.  When I got out, we decided to go see about the brace.  The pharmacy at the hospital directed us to Homecare America, which directed us to an orthotics fitter in Old Town (Mobility Prosthetics and Orthotics on Caroline Street).  We went and met with a guy named Donnie, who gave me the bad news that our insurance had a $300 deductible on the brace that I’d have to pay up front.  I told him I would rather meet with Joe again to discuss the MRI results.

Friday I went back to Joe for a final assessment.  It was bad news:  every last tendon, etc. holding my elbow and thus two halves of my arm together is torn.  Consequently, my elbow can dislocate itself again at any time.  This is the real reason, Joe told me, that I need the hinged brace.  It will hold my arm in place, giving everything a chance to heal itself.  I asked if I was allowed to drive, and I am not for at least a month.  If I were a professional athlete, I’d be a surgery candidate, but I am not.  As such, the don’t expect I will ever gain full extension of my elbow again, but I hope to prove them wrong on that account!  In about 3 months, I should be able to lose the brace. 

So we went back to see Donnie, I ponied up my $300 and got my brace fitted.  It is a monster of a thing, and when we went to the store afterwards, people were falling all over themselves to get out of my way!

I have done a good job keeping things in perspective.  For one thing, for weeks, I have been complaining of exhaustion.  I figure this is God’s way of making me take a break.  We have had to cancel our planned trip to RI and I cannot even think about NYC at this point. 

Secondly, my dad is here.  Considering that we spent half of this year not speaking, this time together now is an extraordinary gift and chance to mend our relationship. 

Third, it’s not my leg or something even more serious.  Yes, the fact is that I am in constant pain.  But unlike last time, I can independently get up and walk around.  I can (mostly) shower without help.  The things I can’t do are tough, I’m not going to lie.  I would love to be able to wrap my arms around my daughter and pick her up.  I’d like to put on a bra by myself!  I’d like to be able to put toothpaste on my toothbrush and chop up a tomato and take the lid off the Tylenol unassisted.  But in 5 days’ time, I regained the movement in my fingers.  I remember I got real depressed when I broke my leg four years ago, and my buddy Joe was visiting.  I was complaining to him about everything I couldn’t do and finally I said, “Why the hell did it have to be a leg?  Why couldn’t it have been something else?”  He replied, “Like what, your neck?”  I gained perspective in an instant.  I am mindful of the fact that i fell flat on my back from 6 feet in the air and all I did was dislocate my elbow.  That’s pretty damned lucky.

Finally, my main concern away from Leah beimg Ok and my own health was being able to sing with my choir on Saturday night.  I was devastated by the possibility that I might not get to perform.  I deliberately took fewer pain medications and slept during the day to conserve energy, but I got to sing with that choir, and I sang with all my heart and a huge lump in my throat.  I was so proud of myself, and I am so grateful to Dad, Mike, Melissa, Andy, Paul, and Kris for coming to share in that moment with me.  Honestly, it was one of the proudest moments of my life, thank you for coming and recognizing how important it was to me.  I was honored to sing for you.

So that’s where things stand.  Tomorrow I will post some answers to the question I am asked most often:  How can I help?  I know that we will need the most help July 12-19 when my dad is up in NY.  I just need to get over to the PT office first before I send up a cry for assistance.  Thanks to all who have asked!!!  I will have answers soon. :-)

1 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Manda said...

I'll come put your bra on for you. I'm so sorry I missed your singing. You sound accident prone?