On Monday, March 6th, I spent the entire day at Urgent Care, followed by a stint in the hospital’s emergency room, getting my broken arm and wrist repaired. So by the time I got home after 9:00 that night, I physically and emotionally was ready to sleep for the next 24 hours.
Make that 124.
But the next day, a phone call from an orthopedic surgeon’s office ruined my chances for a peaceful respite. I was informed that an appointment had been set up for me at 2:00 that afternoon.
I had no clue why a surgeon wanted to see me…and so soon, so I felt just a tad apprehensive.
Make that scared half to death.
I had to call my friend again (the one who’d spent the entire day of torture with me the day before) to ask her if she could drive me to the appointment. She was in the middle of doing whatever it was she’d already fallen behind on doing, thanks to me, but dropped everything to rush over to pick me up.
We arrived 15 minutes late for the appointment, but luckily(?) I still was seen right away.
The surgeon smiled at me, introduced himself and shook my hand – which shocked me. I mean, no one had extended a hand to me for a handshake since the word Covid first was uttered. And to be honest, my hands always get so clammy whenever I have to see a doctor or a dentist, I hadn’t missed the whole handshaking thing at all. It had eliminated the need for me to frantically keep wiping my soggy palms on my jeans as I anticipated the doctor’s grand entrance
The fact the doctor was smiling and didn’t look worried, helped to ease my fears…that is, until he said he’d studied my X-rays and thought surgery might be an option.
Immediately I felt what little breakfast I’d eaten rise in my throat. I'd already had my bones yanked back into place and was wearing a cast that weighed as much as a bowling ball, so that was more than enough for me. I didn’t want to even think about going through surgery. Visions of all sorts of hardware, from pins and nails to clips, piano wire and rods holding my bones together, ran through my mind. I feared I'd be doomed to a future of setting off bells, beeps and alarms every time I had to pass through a metal detector.
But the doctor went on to explain that with patients over age 65, he’d found that whether he did surgery or not, the end result usually turned out about the same. So it was my choice. Did I, he asked, want perfectly symmetrical bones that would look stunning on X-rays, or did I want bones where one might be less than a millimeter shorter than the other, but its ability to function wouldn’t be adversely affected?
My immediate thought was it was highly unlikely anyone ever would point at my arm and comment about one of the bones looking a millimeter off, so why subject myself to any more pain?
I think I’ll pass on the surgery,” I said.
“Fine, then we’ll treat you without it.”
“And speaking of surgery,” I added, “I’ve been waiting six months to have my cataracts removed, and I’m finally scheduled to have the first eye done next week. Is it okay for me to still do that?”
His amused smile told me I’d probably asked a dumb question.
“Doesn’t that involve putting drops in your eyes something like 12 times a day for about a month afterwards?”
“Yeah, three different drops, four times a day each.”
“And you have someone who’ll be there to do that for you every day while your bad arm is mending and can’t be moved?”
At that moment, I realized that by the time I’m finally able to get my cataracts removed, I’ll have to train my dogs to be guide dogs.
“So are you having any problems with the cast?” the doctor asked me, returning to the subject of my arm.
“Plenty,” I muttered. “I can’t sleep with it, I can’t open jars, I can’t peel a potato, and worst of all, there is no way I can hook my bra.”
“Do you really need to wear one, then?” he asked in a matter-of-fact tone.
I wanted to say, “No, I suppose I could always just tuck my boobs into my waistband,” but instead, I blurted out, “If I don’t wear a bra, I’ll end up with black-and-blue kneecaps.”
To my relief, he chuckled.
He said he’d see me again in a week, when I’d be able to swap my bulky, torture device of a cast for a new, lightweight one in a pretty color of my choice. Meanwhile, he advised me not to get the current cast wet and to sleep on my back with my arm propped up on a few pillows so it would be higher than my heart. He also recommended that I keep the arm in a sling.
It was going to be a very long week.
It turned out to be a week of frustration as I tried to adapt to one-armed living. For one thing, I usually sleep in a fetal position on my side, so trying to get any decent sleep while lying on my back with my arm propped up on pillows was next to impossible. So was trying to squeeze any of my sweaters or shirts over the humungous cast. I finally gave up and wore my late husband’s size 4X shirts. And whatever I wore during the day, I also wore to bed because struggling to change what I was wearing took as much energy as running a marathon.
I also couldn’t type with only one hand, so I tried to use a voice-to-text computer program. All I can say is I must sound as if I have my mouth stuffed with marshmallows when I talk because every time I spoke to the voice program, it asked me, “What was that?”
It ended up taking me less time to use the hunt-and-peck method of typing with one finger than it did to have to keep explaining to the voice program that I was saying “cast,” not “cash,” and my dog’s name is Eden, not “Eating.”
Fortunately, I have kind and thoughtful friends who dropped by daily to help me out by doing everything from shopping and cooking for me to brushing my hair and even taking one of my dogs to her vet’s appointment.
Finally, after what felt like 100 years, the day of the Medieval-torture cast's removal arrived.
And so did the worst snowstorm of the year, with wind gusts over 50 mph, a foot of heavy, wet snow, and thousands of power outages.
So my appointment was canceled for another week.
By the end of that second week, I was ready to gnaw off the cast with my bare teeth, it was making me so miserable. For one thing, it became a bit loose, so it constantly rubbed and twisted until I was certain I had no skin left under it. Visions of my arm resembling a clump of raw hamburger ran through my mind.
But when the cast was removed at long last, all I saw was a wrist about the size of a ham in lovely shades of blue, purple, yellow and black.
“It looks much worse than it is," the doctor explained when he noticed my wide-eyed expression of horror. "Your X-rays kook good, and that’s what counts. So, have you decided on a color for your new cast?"
It had taken me days of careful deliberation before making my decision. “Turquoise,” I said, eager to have something more vibrant than the previous white one, which had stayed white for all of 12 hours. By the end of the two weeks, it was covered with everything from spaghetti sauce to dog hair and bed lint.
“Sorry," he said. "No turquoise. The closest we have is either light blue or dark blue."
I was crushed. I chose dark blue, mainly to conceal any future stains.
But this new cast is such a relief, I'd still gladly wear it even if it were a vomit-green color. I can sleep comfortably with it, all of my clothes fit over it, and it barely weighs a thing. My arm thinks it’s just been released from federal prison.
Which is great…because this cast is going to be my permanent fashion accessory for the next four weeks.
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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: email@example.com