Thursday, February 23, 2012

Everything Hurts

We’re getting pretty banged up here, in our little berg in Colorado.

As I've described in several recent posts, my daughter fell from a horse a few weeks ago and broke her arm in two places. Most serious was the radial head – the elbow, basically – which was so bad she required surgery.

Now my wife is on the disabled list, too.

She likes to ride her bike to work, even this time of year. We had a huge snow a few weeks ago but it's mostly melted. The temperatures are in the reasonable, global-warming forties, so biking this time of year is no big deal.

Except for yesterday. Yesterday she crashed on her way to work. Spent 3-4 hours in the emergency room. Came home in agony.

"Everything hurts," she told me earlier today.

Here's the inventory of her injuries: mild concussion and four staples in the back of her head; fractured rib; a series of bruises and scrapes, mostly on the right side of her body.

We think she hit a patch of ice and then went down, but we don't know. She can't remember any details – a telltale symptom of a concussion.

But everything hurts. She can't really walk. She is able to hobble about somewhat, but with great pain, and only by leaning against me with one hand while supporting herself on a cane with the other.

So far, she's spent most of her time in bed.

In the hospital yesterday, she was issued a set of blue hospital jammies made of paper, and she kept them on for the rest of the day. When bedtime rolled around, though, she wanted out of them. Because the slightest movement causes excruciating pain, we determined the best thing to do was for me to cut them off with scissors. "A fantasy come true!" I said. She was not amused.

I imagine it will be a few more days before she can move about more easily; maybe longer. And her full recuperation will take a lot longer than that.

Since the accident, I've been thinking of a line from Philip Roth's 1983 novel, The Anatomy Lesson. His protagonist Nathan Zuckerman, in a misguided attempt to self-medicate after months of a debilitating chronic pain, passes out from all the drugs he's taken. He smashes his jaw on stone and wakes up in the hospital with no recollection of what happened to him. His jaw is wired shut and he's given pain relievers.

"When the Xylocaine wore off sometime during the night, Zuckerman was alone and at long last he found out just what pain could really do. He’d had no idea."

Pain can do a lot. "Everything hurts."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Broken Arm: Loose Ends

My daughter had a follow-up appointment with her surgeon the other day. It was not quite two weeks since he cut into her arm.

The long and short of it is that she's recovering right on schedule. (She fell off a horse and sustained a serious break three weeks ago, and had surgery on February 3.)

We're all encouraged by her progress. She goes back for another follow-up appointment in a few weeks.

A few loose ends:

When we went in for the operation on February 3, the surgeon drew us the sketch at right; his felt-tip pen applied to a non-absorbent surface accounts for the smudging. I can't remember why he drew this. The lower circle is the elbow and the rectangular part jutting up is the forearm.

He told us at the time of surgery – or at least,  I thought he did – that he would have to insert a metal plate in Dana's arm. But no such plate was needed; we learned that at the follow-up appointment. He did, however, have to insert a couple of screws. Obviously these are a surgical type of screw; there is no screw head and the whole thing is beneath the surface of the bone.

Dana was fascinated to see the incision, which is healing quite nicely, the doctor said. It's still rather ghastly in appearance, with bruising and discoloration around the edges. There should be minimal scarring.

As she came out from the anesthesia following the operation, one of Dana's slurred comments was, "I need to get my homework done." Algebra, no less. We think your teacher will cut you some slack, we said.

Are these kids under pressure, or what?

Dana is aching to get back on a horse. She says she wants to get in the saddle even as she's healing, and have someone lead her around an enclosed arena at the most leisurely of paces. But at this stage, the risks are too great. If something were to happen – if she were to fall again, and on that same arm – well, the consequences are too horrible to even think about. So we ain't lettin' her do it just yet.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Big Fat Idiot: The Index

Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot.

We know this thanks to Al Franken's 1996 book of the same name.

Actually, we already knew it. It's never really been in dispute.

Senator Franken's book contains the only index I've ever seen that actually makes me laugh out loud. Not only laugh, but still laugh, uncontrollably, more than fifteen year after its first publication.

A brief excerpt is at right. I chose to include the portion with a Newt Gingrich reference because, you's just so damned timely.

The index to Franken's book, of course, was provided not as a means of guiding a reader to choice portions of the text, but strictly for laughs. Strictly for a series of very cheap shots at a guy who specializes in cheap shots of his own.

At first glance, it is an ordinary index. Nothing about its appearance suggests it is anything but. Some readers of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, I imagine, probably never even discovered it – which is a real pity.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Broken Arm: The Knife

Surgery on my daughter's right arm went ahead as planned on Friday.

She needed the operation after falling from a horse a week ago. A trip to an orthopedic guy a few days later revealed the break was worse than first thought.

But the operation almost didn't happen, after an estimated eighteen inches of snow blanketed my town. About fourteen of those inches fell in the hours preceding the scheduled surgery.

It was scheduled for midday Friday at a surgical center on the same campus as, but separate from, a nearby hospital. On Thursday evening we knew a major storm was bearing down on us. By 7pm the snow had begun falling steadily. At 10pm someone from the surgical center called us and said we needed to reschedule, because the center would be closed Friday due to the inclement weather.

Very disappointing – especially for my daughter, who had psyched herself for the knife, her first such experience.

And then – no less a personage than the godlike surgeon telephoned us just before 6am Friday. Luckily I was already awake, and answered after the first ring. The surgeon said he wanted to try going ahead with the operation. He would just move it over to the hospital and cobble together a team of nurses and assistants, like a pickup baseball game. Could we make it there?

We could and did, and the operation went off as planned. In fact the damage to our daughter's elbow was not as severe as it appeared to be in a C-T scan taken a few days before. The surgeon still had to insert some screws and a thin metal plate to help fix the break. But it could have been far worse.

Today my daughter is resting comfortably (as they say), relaxing with TV, an ice bag, and Percocet. She longs to get back on the horse that threw her.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Broken Arm: The Aftermath

As I wrote in a previous post, my daughter fell off a horse and broke her arm a few days ago.

Yesterday I took her to an orthopedic specialist to get a cast on it. Odd thing about his office: the waiting room and the examination rooms are adorned with poster-sized photographs of athletes in extreme reach, like the one at right: straining to slalom and carve, catch and kick, leap to the max – the very activities that bring the doctor most of his patients!

This orthopedist examined the original X-rays, decided he needed a better look, and sent us to a neighboring hospital for a C-T scan.

So we walked over to its Imaging Center. We had about an hour's wait, so I let Dana get something to eat in the hospital cafeteria. She chose a tuna sandwich, a bag of chips, and something to drink.

We had to register at the hospital. One of the many forms I filled out asked whether the patient was there as the result of a fall. Dana fell off a horse, so technically, the answer was yes – and I checked the little box.

What it really meant, I later learned, was, Will you need a wheelchair? We didn't. Nevertheless they banded Dana with the wrist strap seen at left, which she thought was pretty damned funny.

We expected to be waiting about an hour, but hospital folks amended that to we'll take you right now. They ushered Dana back to their little room and left me waiting in a chair in the hall.

As I waited I consumed half of Dana's sandwich. As soon as I bit into it, it began falling apart. A blob of tuna salad plopped onto the open (library) book in my lap. I cursed through my mouthful – "Fuh!" – and tried wiping it up with my hand. The sandwich continued falling apart. My cell phone rang and I answered it with slimy fingers.

But that's where the merriment ends. The C-T scan revealed the radial head fracture, by the elbow, is more severe than the X-ray showed. Surgery is required. El Daktari is not worried about her wrist, which is the only good news we got.

They cut her open on Friday. Slice into the elbow and muck around. They may insert a metal plate. They may remove bone chips. We don't know yet.