So. Monday comes, after a torturous weekend. I called the first name on my insurance list, we’ll call him Dr. Smith. I told his clerk I had broken my arm on Saturday and had been advised by the ER I had to be seen right away Monday morning. In a bored voice, she told me they couldn’t see me until Thursday. Oh, I think, she didn’t hear the broken arm part. So patiently I repeated myself and said I needed to see someone today. Sorry, she said. I asked if there was anyone else in the practice. No, she said, sorry.
Starting to feel panicky, I was trying not to cry. I thanked her and called the next name on the list, we’ll call him Dr. Jones.
Dr. Jones’ clerk was very pleasant and told me they could see me that morning. I couldn’t drive, so my wonderful sister rearranged her whole day to take me. We get there and the door says ‘Dr. A. Smith & Dr. B. Jones’. Dr. Smith was in the same office as Dr. Jones. I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Their practices were separate but they shared the office and their appointment clerks sat next to each other. But that first woman, Dr. Smith’s clerk, with utter indifference, turned me away without an appointment. She never even asked the woman sitting next to her if Dr. Jones had anything available.
Dr. Jones was very sweet, very attentive and approximately 300 years old. I know, I’m being silly. He was actually more like 400 years old. He asked me how old I was so many times my sister started to giggle. Then he “lost” my x-rays, coming in and out of the examining room over and over, patting his pockets and muttering “They must be around here somewhere!”. I thought maybe it was a little comedy act he was putting on to help me relax. No such luck. He decided I needed another set to be taken by his technician.
The tech, we’ll call her Merciless Cow, told me to lie on the table, which was almost impossible for me due to the pain. I asked if I could have something under my shoulder to support it. The Merciless Cow acted as though she had never heard of such a request before. She finally roughly shoved a rolled up towel under my broken shoulder, took the x-rays while I tried to keep from passing out, then, without warning, she yanked the towel out from under my arm. I screamed so loudly my sister heard me in the waiting room and I actually briefly lost consciousness. The doctor ran and got me water and smelling salts.
He tells me that the head of the humerus bone in my arm is shattered into four fully separated pieces. That I will need shoulder replacement surgery. That I need a CT scan. That he doesn't do that kind of surgery, someone else will have to. But come back to see him, ummmm, Friday. After I have the CT scan that his office is arranging for Thursday.
My sister and I stumble back to the car in shock. I can hear his voice in my head saying ‘shoulder replacement, shoulder replacement’ over and over. REPLACEMENT!?!?!?! I am only 53 years old. Oh my God. I am in agony. My sister looks at me and says, "If you need surgery and a CT scan and your arm is broken in four places, why the fuck didn't he just admit you?!?!" So I start crying, because now I am in pain AND scared and I say I don't know. So all the way home she's yelling "I'm turning around and taking you to the ER" and I'm saying, "No, just let me go home and take some Percocet" and she's saying "You can't wait another WEEK to take care of four broken bones in your arm!!" Crying and yelling, crying and yelling, all the way home. Where I proceed to almost faint again.
Within a few hours, I give in. Mary Kate takes me back to the ER. Surely they will admit me. Surely they will help me. They give me IV dilaudid, which helped me sleep for about 2 consecutive hours, if nothing else. The doctor never even touches or looks at my arm. He does read the x-ray and tells me, you’re going to love this, “I’ve seen worse”. Come closer, doctor dear, so I can kick you in your testicles and then tell you I’ve seen worse.
At midnight, they send me home with oral dilaudid, promising it would help. I am too exhausted to dispute this. I wake up in pain at 2 am and it was too soon to take it again. Dozed. Wake up again at 3, still too soon. Dozed. Wake at 4, took one, dozed until 4:20, wake up in agony as if I took nothing.
So now I sat there doing Lamaze breathing with fiery knives of overwhelming pain slicing down my arm, which was three times its normal size and dark purple. Everything else, my cut and bruised legs and knees, my scraped hands and wrists, my cut face, are nothing in comparison. I am at my wit’s end.
At approximately 9 a.m. Tuesday, my son calls. His friend is engaged to the son of an orthopedic surgeon in my area, try that practice. I call there and that morning finally meet…Dr. Wonderful.
Dr. Wonderful is pleasant, handsome and take charge. He is also beautifully dressed. The whole package. (What can I say, I’m wounded but I still have eyeballs!) “First thing,” he says, “We have to get your pain under control.” Now I want to marry him. He then proceeds to list all the other things I will need: home care, a shower bench and, best of all, after the pain meds, a raised toilet seat. Heaven! It’s funny how your priorities change when you can’t sit down to pee without shrieking. Surgery is probably going to be needed, but not until the swelling and bruising go down over the next few days.
I float out of there on a cloud of optimism, with a fistful of prescriptions and a soft focus vision of Dr. Wonderful in silver armor on a white horse. Someone has listened to me. Someone is taking care of me. Someone cares!!!
I order my toilet seat and shower bench and they arrive so quickly it’s as though the guy had been standing behind a tree in my yard just waiting to be asked in someday. Because I cannot lie down, I settle, loaded with drugs, into an armchair in my sunroom. It is not too bad. I have the TV, a comfy chair, lots of light and as long as I DO NOT move, I am relatively comfortable.
I am blissfully unaware that I will be living in that chair for the next five weeks.
A sunroom during the day is a cheerful, cozy place, even if the weather is bad. Mine is full of overstuffed furniture to cuddle into whether reading or watching TV. A sunroom at night, when it is after midnight and all the lights are out and everyone else is in bed, is a spooky, gloomy place, full of the echoes of the things that happen during the day, a pair of the girl’s shoes under the bench, a book left by the reader that has slid to the floor. It is also unbelievably noisy. I live on a busy street, on a corner. There is nothing to muffle sound and many cars and trucks go by, even in the middle of the night. And I heard every one of them, even with all the windows closed. I would just start to doze off when some rattletrap would lumber by. It was hard enough to try to sleep sitting up, scootched into the left corner of the chair so my right arm was not touching anything but the pillows I had supporting it.
I went for a CT that Thursday. The doctor wanted to see if the pieces were displaced, or moved out of order. If they were all neatly tucked together, I might be able to get away with nothing more than a sling for a few weeks. I have to say, I was utterly certain this was going to be the case. I did not think, not for a single second, that I would have to have any surgery. That seemed preposterous to me. I was young and healthy. Well, young-ish and healthy-ish. My bones would never be so contrary as to be displaced! Honestly! The idea!
I was so out of it by Thursday, I barely remember going for the CT. I know I went to Dr. Wonderful on Friday too, but I hardly have any memory of that either. The medication, pain and lack of sleep were taking their toll. I know the doctor did tell me on Friday that he suspected the bones were displaced to the degree I would need surgery, but he wanted to check the CT results when he was at the hospital that afternoon. If they were, surgery would be early the following week. “Oh, like Wednesday?” I said. “No, like Monday.” he replied.
Hmmmmm. Well, that’s silly anyway. I’m not having surgery, I think to myself. As usual, as I have said on this site before, I was completely wrong, wrong, wrong.
Next: Under the Knife!