Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Accident, Chapter Three

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!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We interrupt this life’s disastrous run for a brief announcement…

I have been tagged for a Blog Game. Share a phrase that you would live by in six words or less. I am so excited! I’ve never been tagged before!! Games are fun!

I sit down to write something sarcastic and witty. You know, my usual hilarious chronicle of my usual hilarious misadventures and foibles. Only shorter. Something snarky and negative, because that is how I have been feeling lately. Something like “Have low expectations and you will never be disappointed”. Ooops, more than 6 words. Ok, “No expectations, no disappointment”. Ha ha ha.

Because I am a horrible copycat, not to mention a coward who doesn’t want to be too far off the mark, I sneak a peek at Jessica’s (, the blogger who tagged me, and then at Cynthia’s, the blogger who tagged her. I read their earnest, lovely, encouraging words. And I feel ashamed.

For the most part, life has not been fun for me over the past year. Over many years, truth be told. I lost an eye when I was a little girl and it was very hard growing up with that disfigurement. Although I have four spectacular children, my marriage was a difficult one. And then he died, leaving those four children devastated beyond words. And me to clean up the mess.

Things got better. I grew in my career and in security and in self-assurance. I bought my own house. I was proud of myself and I was happy.

In 2005, I found out I had Multiple Sclerosis. To say I did not take it very well would be a vast understatement. I was utterly shell shocked. A year and a half later, I lost my job. Another blow. I found another job within two months, better than the one before. Six months later, I was laid off from that job.

That was eight months ago. I still have not found a job. The mortgage company is breathing down my neck. My MS has gotten worse. My children, who I adore, have separately expressed to me I have left much to be desired as a parent, which has shattered me. And then…I fell. A fall that did incredible damage, to my body and to my spirit and to my faith. Because I could not figure out how on earth so many bad things could keep happening to one ordinary, relatively harmless person. The physical and emotional pain have been relentless. And my downward spiral has been building speed.

Then sweet Jessica’s tag shows up in my e-mail. Jessica's five words encourage us to take action: “Action brings happiness and success.” She, wise beyond her years, points out that a crucial action to take is deciding to have a good day. How simple. How beautiful. I picture this lovely young girl, perhaps cycling in the Swedish sunshine, unknowingly lifting my spirits from thousands of miles away. And it makes me smile.

Cynthia says “The time is always NOW!”. From Christine, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” AsktheDietician, “Stick to your guns”. “I am woman, hear me roar” from LisaN. Uh-oh, sound of screeching brakes interrupts the violins! I listened to waaaaaaay too much Helen Reddy when I was in college, so this is not my favorite quote. But I give Lisa the benefit of the doubt and read her post. And I discover something to love there, too.

Each of these women have struggled or are struggling with things, some which they have shared and some which remain known only to them. But each one gave me a gift today in words of cheer and hope and determination. They speak of connections and motherhood and being real and being beautiful and being happy.

I will speak of being gifted – gifted by love and serendipity and grace.

This is a very, very hard time in my life. My heart and confidence and health are waning. However, today someone I trust and deeply love gave me the gift of her time and her compassion. She is holding hope for me while I cannot, reminding me I am loved and helping me to be ok. I think she would say this is an easy thing for her to do, a small thing, although it is huge for me. So here are my six words (or less): Be thankful for small blessings.

Life happens in tiny increments. Those small, quiet moments of blessing, while perhaps fewer in number, can far outweigh those other moments of struggle and despair and questioning. It can take work to recognize them, accept them or appreciate them, but they are here for us.

I received several today and for that, I am grateful.

Game Rules:
Write your own six word or less memoir or words to live by…
post it on your blog….
Link to the person who tagged you..
Tag 5 or more bloggers…
Leave a comment on the tagged bloggers site with an invitation to play….
If you would like to read the postings that I found so sweet and inspiring:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Accident, Chapter Two

After falling and retrieving Bella from her lark through the neighbor’s yard, I staggered into the house. The sweet college boys that were doing odd jobs for me were eating the pizza I had ordered for them. One of them looked at me and said “Did you know you were bleeding?” No one can accuse his parents of wasting their tuition money.

I advised him I indeed was aware that I was bleeding and, additionally, I had broken my arm. They all clamored to drive me to the hospital right away. But my daughter Mary Kate had just run to the bank and, unreasonably, I wanted to wait for her. So, I assured them, I would be ok for the few minutes it would take her to get home. And I went to sit in the den. As usual, I was completely wrong. I was definitely NOT ok waiting.

I sat at my desk with everything in my body throbbing in concert with my heart, which was galloping. The minutes seemed to be weeks long. I was getting shocky and nauseous, there was no sign of Mary Kate, so I gave in and two of the boys drove me to the ER.

I must have looked ghastly, because one of them kept up a cheerful, nervous patter all the way there. Every bump in the road reverberated through me and I focused on not throwing up, which would have been the final ignominy.

At the hospital, I was seen right away, one of the perks of my daughter working there. The boys stayed until Mary Kate arrived. That is when the dam broke and I, someone who NEVER cries, began to weep in horrible, hiccupping sobs.

I could barely answer the questions the doctor was asking me. When I went for x-rays, the tech was incredibly nice and gentle, but I involuntarily shrieked every time she moved my arm. This is just one sample:

Me: sob sob hiccup sob
Tech: Ok, Marie, I am just going to move your arm a little (gingerly moves the arm 1 centimeter).
Me: loud scream I’m sorry, sob, sob, I’m so sorry.
Tech: That’s ok, I just need to move it a little more (even more gingerly moves the arm ½ centimeter).
Me: loud scream Oh sorry, sob, sob, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Tech: Ok, just let me see how this one came out.
Me: sob Is it broken? sob
Tech (grimacing): It looks like it…

Before this, back in the exam room, I had told the nurse the pain was nine out of ten. Hey, I didn’t want to be greedy. When I returned from the x-ray I said, sobbing all the while, “I have to change it. Can I change it? I need to change it. It’s a ten. It’s a ten. I was wrong about the nine, it’s a ten, not a nine. The nine was completely wrong, it’s a ten. Can I change it? Is it ok to change it? Because I have to change it to a ten…” And I kept going. I NEEDED PAIN MEDICINE.

The doctor eventually came in and mildly confirmed it was broken. So be sure to follow up with your orthopedist on Monday. Like I had a bunion or something. And I meekly said ok, they gave me a sling, a single Percocet and sent me on my way with my smashed arm and mangled body.

Much, much later I started to process the ER visit. The Percocet, predictably, did nothing to touch the pain. I was in agony. Every movement hurt. And, I thought, “my” orthopedist? Like I keep one on retainer? I couldn’t have even told you the name of an orthopedist in my county. But there was nothing I could do until Monday morning. They had sent me home and I had acquiesced. This was Saturday night. I suffered through another day, just waiting for Monday morning, and, I thought, some relief. Silly me.

The next hilarious, fun-filled chapter in The Plucky Adventures of Marie, Casualty Girl:

Marie Tries to Find Adequate Medical Care

Ha ha ha ha