My Humpty-Dumpty Arm

I went to the doctor on Wednesday to get an update on my arm. The news was sort of disappointing. I’m not healing very fast at all, so the external fixator has to stay on another four weeks if I can keep the insertion points from getting infected. Apparently, I did so much damage that the arm/wrist/elbow can never be completely repaired. At the moment, the best we can be glad about is that the wrist and hand bones aren’t migrating. The real problem bone for me at the moment is the unbroken bone, the ulna, because basically it’s not attached to anything near the wrist, and it hurts even worse than the broken bone. Not only did I shatter my elbow, pulverized my wrist, break the radius in a dozen different places, I tore or destroyed multiple ligaments and even a tendon or two, including the ligaments that hold the ulna in place.

The surgeon still claims that my wrist will have only about a 50% mobility, but for the first time he admitted that most people generally don’t use more than 50% except for turning a doorknob or accepting change, so that part of my prognosis doesn’t sound as dire as I thought, though a two-year window for healing is daunting. He says it could also be two years before I have full use of my hand and fingers, and even then I will lose 10 to 20%, but how often do you need to make a tight fist or bend your fingers backwards? I guess boxing lessons won’t be in my future! (That was a joke — I never wanted to learn to box.)

He seems to be mystified by the scope of the injury. Apparently, it’s a bit of a physics miracle in that a single fall cannot create this much havoc. Generally the energy from a fall is dissipated by one or two breaks, so this sort of damage normally comes from something like a car accident. The only thing he can figure out is that I must have bounced, which I think is possible, though I don’t know for sure. All I really remember is complete disorientation and confusion as I was falling, then lying on the ground screaming in pain.

I continue to be left to my own devices most of the time. I still can’t drive, still can’t walk far, can’t concentrate well because of the pain medications, so all that’s left for me to do is piddle around on the Internet, read, do puzzles, and think. People keep accusing me of thinking too much, and yet why not? At best, I might come up with some interesting ideas. At worst, it’s cheap entertainment.

Ever since seeing the doctor, I’ve been pondering on miracles and other life-changing events. For the most part, it seems that life-changing events are of the “negative” variety — the death of a significant person in your life, severe injury, loss of a job, or loss of savings due to medical bills. I know there are “positive” miracles, the most common ones being falling in love or having a baby, but still I wonder why the negative life changers seem to outnumber the positive ones. I realize that positive and negative are judgments we put on events that happen to us, that inherently things are not necessarily good or bad, but you have to admit, falling in love is a heck of a lot more fun than destroying an arm, and the results are much more pleasant. (Falling in love isn’t always a good thing, especially if the object of that love turns out to be abusive, but it still feels good until it goes bad.)

We humans are myth-making creatures. We tell stories about our lives, the things that happen to us, and the things we want to happen to us. (If you doubt our myth-making capabilities, all you have to do is look at the current political milieu and the accusations of evil being bandied about on both sides — good and evil are mythic elements, and are not necessarily representative of a cosmic truth.)

When people say things happen for the best or that things happen for a reason, that is the beginning of their myth. I don’t think my fall was anything but a fall, no inherent meaning, no “best”. I have not yet created my “fall” myth, haven’t figured out yet how to turn this devastating injury into something positive. I suppose I could look at it as a way of facing my worst fear — stagnation. My problem is not that I hate being alone, especially with nothing to do, it’s that such a lifestyle suits me too well, and I do not want to spend the rest of my life in a cocoon of entropy. When you are with someone, they bring energy to your life, but when you are alone you have to work at garnering energy otherwise you succumb to entropy. But still, facing this fear in no way is worth the pain, panic, and poor prognosis of this injury, especially since I would eventually have to face such a life anyway.

I suppose it’s too early to create a myth surrounding this injury. That will come with time. Meanwhile, I try to remain as stress-free as possible, to eat as well as possible, to do what I can to foster healing. I’d keep my fingers crossed in the hopes that I don’t need the full two years of healing, but it’s going to be a long time before I can cross my left fingers. Ah, well, something to look forward to.

I hope the myth you’re creating for yourself today is a happy one.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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9 Responses to “My Humpty-Dumpty Arm”

  1. Sherrie Hansen Says:

    My husband tells the story of a study that was done of people who were in bad car accidents, and people who won the lottery. 5 years or so down the road, the people who were in a bad accident were happier and had better lives. What they had gone through had made them stronger and more content and appreciative of life. The lottery winners were divorced, without jobs, disgruntled with life and unhappy with the people in their lives. When Mark’s son Erik was young, he used to tell Mark, when he was going to the hospital to visit someone, that he should say, well, things could be worse, at least you didn’t win the lottery.

  2. Terry Allard Says:

    How about NOT trying to find the greater good in this crappy situation…perhaps one myth is seeking out such revelations will dramatically improve life. Instead try to find some relief from the boredom while you wait. I know that requires energy that you do not have. It might be easier if you do not expect whatever you do to give you more than it can. Where I live the colleges will have single lectures on a variety of topics and Uber gives rides at reasonable prices…just a suggestion…even if it sucks you will have killed a few hours…which is a worthy goal for we the bereaved.

  3. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    Sorry to hear the recovery period is so slow. One thing we can say: If you ever want to write a story about a woman whom the bad guys are following who falls and busts up her arm, you’ve already done the research.

  4. Dennis Says:

    I don’t know if this will help, but yesterday’s church sermon was about the woman who went to the prophet for relief from her anguish. The prophet told the woman he would relieve her anguish when she brought back a mustard seed from a household that had experienced no grief or sorrow. The woman searched household after household after household to no avail. In time, she forgot about her anguish and had committed herself to helping others deal with theirs. It has helped my journey of sorrow and bereavement for the better. I am 18 months out from losing my mate of 30 years; many have suffered like fates in that time. I am not alone, y’all are not alone. Draw strength from the fact that you are among many others of like mind and heart.


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