I thought it best to get something posted before my absence begins to cost me followers; hence this missive. After leading a fairly injury free life I suppose it was inevitable I was going to see the equation balance and that happened last week – in spades!
From my 03/27/15 email titled; “Stupidity 1, Me 0”:
In a glorious display of lazy stupidity I managed to take a serious fall just outside the Talkeetna PO yesterday at noon and severely damage my left elbow. Sadly, despite there being lousy ice everywhere I managed to do this on bare asphalt! I was kinda rushing so I had slipped on my heavy boots but not tied them and just tucked in the loose laces. As I exited the door I pivoted to the left and managed to get a loose lace from my right boot caught in an eyelet on my left boot; this is akin to having a practical joker tie one’s shoe laces together. I did a great imitation of a whale smacking water after breaching and there were two people talking that caught the whole event!
I landed very hard on my right side and have the bruises and road rash to prove it. The observers immediately came to my aid and helped me into a sitting position; at that point I agreed with them to remain seated while I assessed my condition. Initially I was concerned with my right knee as it was quite sore but within a minute I could really feel my left elbow starting to throb; I’m sure I did it no favors when the two kind people assisted me to my feet by pulling on each arm. In the four steps it took to get to my vehicle I suddenly realized I couldn’t move my left hand or any of those fingers and just trying to hold my left forearm level was a losing proposition. I was able to temporarily tuck my very painful left wrist into my vest pocket and get into the Escape using just my right arm but that was clumsy and a painful proposition; thankfully I could drive and managed to get me and the dogs back home.
My buddy Mark showed up a bit after noon and assisted me; he also fashioned a much-needed sling. Because I’m pig-headed about personal injuries I decided to give it few hours ‘just to see’. By 14:45 my left wrist and hand were swollen to half again the size of my right wrist and hand and a nasty blue-purple color; while I could wiggle my fingers my left forearm was throbbing terribly. I decided to call Sunshine Clinic; I spoke with Amy who told me there were no openings until today at 09:40. I told her I could wait and gave her my personal info. Silly me; somehow the realization that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep with such an injury escaped me. I spent a horrible night amassing maybe one whole hour of sleep in between yips, yelps and not few colorful expletives when I moved in the bed.
From my 03/28/15 email titled; “And the Verdict Is…”:
I am back in Talkeetna and actually returned Friday evening after making the 130 mile round trip. I finally decided to drive myself although no fewer than six people offered to take me. My arm was so badly swollen I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be held overnight if surgery was required; therefore it only made sense to me I should drive myself. At this point I want to truly thank the amazing people in the village in general and ‘Mark of the Wild’, Kirstin Merkley and Holly Stinson in particular along with my wonderful sister and brother-in-law Sal and Gene! Mark and Holly stopped by in my absence and walked the dogs, played with them and fed them. ‘The Kidz’ loved the attention and I was so thankful so many wonderful people have shown such an outpouring of empathy and kindness!!
Mat-Su Regional is a state of the art medical facility staffed with some of the most professional folks I’ve ever met; I cannot thank them enough for their empathy and care! I checked in at 15:20 and by 15:25 a nurse had me in an exam room and was prepping me for the doctor’s visit. To a person the staff was aghast I’d gone 28 hours without pain meds and had driven myself to Wasilla; as soon as Dr. Grove walked in and heard I was sans meds he immediately gave me an IM dose of a non-drowsy pain-killer. They were able to get three x-ray images which confirmed I completely broke both the radius and the ulna just below the left elbow. Dr. Grove confirmed I will need surgery and gave me a referral to an orthopedic surgeon who works on elbows; he contacted this doctor’s (Dr. Pace) assistant, explained my situation and set me up to call him first thing Monday morning to set up an appointment for surgery. Apparently the fractures are bad enough each will require a permanent pin to stabilize them. Then the staff splinted the arm and fashioned a huge cast using that oxygen activated cast material which allows a form fit. The icing on the cake came in the form of 25 Percocet tablets; if this gets tougher to read it’s because I just took my second one an hour ago and I can feel the pain is decreasing as my vision blurs a bit more. I used the first one last night and I was actually able to sleep four hours!! This might not seem like much but it sure beat Thursday night when I didn’t even get an hour of sleep.
So the plan is for me to call Dr. Pace at 09:00 AKDT on Monday (03/30) and hopefully set up the surgery for early next week. I’m hoping by April Fool’s Day I’ll be recovering and starting what will most likely be a 3 to 4 month recovery period. At least I’ll be able to return to volunteering at KTNA and working with the Pantry within a few weeks of the surgery. Running the soundboard with one hand could prove challenging as I’m already learning just how much I use my left hand but am developing acceptable ‘workarounds’. I tried to get a selfie of the massive cast but failed to do it justice.
Here’s the hilarious kicker; I was wearing my red vest and a long-sleeved poly pro shirt but there was no way the cast was going to fit inside the shirt sleeve. The nurse had me remove my shirt and offered me a ‘paper shirt’; given it was 52 F outdoors I declined the shirt so we removed my shirt and vest. Then the cast was fitted to my arm; once it hardened we carefully slipped my vest back on. Now imagine this big fat bald guy with a huge cast wandering around downtown Wasilla in just a red fleece vest with bare arms and hairy armpits exposed for all to see! As I waited for Walgreens to fill my prescription a rather large gentleman joined the line wearing a “Hells Angels South Bay” tee-shirt; he looked me over and gave me a ‘thumbs up’ sign. Never had this happen before but I guess he liked my sleeveless look! I’m going to be modifying a number of my older short-sleeved tee shirts by making them sleeveless on the left side; who knows, maybe I’ll create a new fashion craze..?!?
From my 03/30/15 email titled; “Not Good News…”:
Have to keep this update short as the Percocet is finally kicking in. Visited the orthopedic surgeon at 14:00 today; he had his first good look at the films taken Friday. He was not happy with the results! He said this is ‘a very severe injury’ and when all’s said and done he would consider regaining 60% of the former range of motion to be a success. The ulna has a very jagged break running the diameter of the bone; he is less concerned about this fracture. Although he couldn’t tell for sure he thinks the radius end that normally interfaces with the elbow broke into at least two pieces and probably more; if it is three or more than I will need an artificial implant at that interface. This is the fracture(s) that most worries him. He cannot say more until he cuts me and takes a look; this will happen around 12:00 AKDT tomorrow (03/31). Surgery will last anywhere from 90 to 180 minutes assuming no more surprises.
From my 04/01/15 email titled; “You May Now Call Me The $46,000 Man..!”:
I know I’m feeling better because my first thought was to send out some horrific message about losing my arm to a surgical mistake or similar given today’s date but I just couldn’t risk giving my dear friends potential MI’s or such in an attempt to be funny. I’m back home – actually was as of 19:00 yesterday – and surprisingly not doing too badly especially given the situation. My good friend Holly picked me up right at 09:30 yesterday morning and we had an easy trip to Wasilla. She is my realtor and a classic ‘Talkeetnan’; warm, friendly, down to earth and willing to assist in any and all ways to help out a friend or neighbor. Prior to making this run with me she’d walked Anana and Qanuk for me and left enough great tasting food for two solid dinners. She dropped me off at the clinic around 10:50 and spend the rest of her day, shopping reading and doing some trip planning but was right there when I was ‘cut loose’ and the nurses gave her all my release info. Poor Holly also had to get me to a pharmacy for another load of Percocet.
I was admitted and in the surgery waiting area by 11:50 but due to ‘situation’ with a credit card of mine this required an extra ten minutes. I’ll share what happened in the hopes none of you will be blindsided in the same fashion. I’ve had an AmEx Gold Card since ’81 which I used strictly in times of emergency. Its last use was during my relocation up here (August 2013) when I discovered many places in central and western Canada did not accept Visa; in this case it saved me as I racked up charges in the $4k range for food, lodging and fuel. I had used it to cover the roughly $3,900 in charges from Friday’s visit and was planning to fund the surgery and all associated charges on it as well. However, the card was refused for additional $19k Tuesday afternoon at the hospital. After borrowing the hospital phone and having one of the wonderful desk folks write out the AmEx security phone number for me – as I pointed out they told me to bring nothing but the clothes I was wearing so I’d left my reading glasses and cell in Holly’s car – I waded through seemingly endless menus and finally contacted a warm body wherein I explained my situation; my card did indeed have a ‘stop’ on it. Here’s what I didn’t know; such cards are not open-ended and have permissible charge limits based on credit scores and the use of the card the previous 6 to 12 months!! Based on how I used the card there was no activity the previous 19 months so this caused some limits to kick in. Because my credit score is 802 AmEx was able to authorize an additional $17.5k; this allowed me to cover almost all with the now maxed out Gold Card and pick up the remainder with my ‘regular use’ Visa.
Anyway, I spent maybe 10 minutes in the surgery admitting room and then was brought in and prepped for the work. By 12:55 I was wheeled into the operating room and things became a bit ‘fuzzy’ as they had to double the initial dose of painkillers to get me under enough to insert the tube and start the general. I know the anesthesiologist was a bit concerned because this was my first experience with a general so he had nothing to work from regarding my reactions. I’d had just one surgery previous to this one; it was to remove my tonsils and adenoids when I was 6 years old and ether was the anesthetic. Apparently I did okay and really enjoyed coming out of the general although I had to finally see the bright red ‘socks’ on my feet which were hanging off the end of the gurney to recognize I wasn’t dreaming and I had just undergone surgery.
Sadly I really did manage to do the number on my poor elbow; the radius had four fragments broken from its surface which interfaces with the elbow. This was two too many to repair so the fractured end of the radius was cleaned and resurfaced and then an artificial surface was molded into the elbow and the terminus of the radius which was further reinforced with a small plate and screws. The estimated 90 minute procedure ballooned to almost 200 minutes but the real ‘pain’ – pun intended – will be final billing. I did have everything covered yesterday by noon but was based upon no implants and around 90 minutes of surgery.
Not much I can do at this point except know I’ll get a huge write off on my 2015 federal taxes. I’m working hard to cultivate that ‘it’s only money’ perspective but I also know I’ll be forced into some major revisions in my financial planning thanks to this ‘experience’. And, of course, I’m trying very hard not to dwell on the fact this entire sad affair was initiated by being in a hurry and not following Mom’s teachings regarding tying one’s shoelaces!! So it goes…
By this point you should have a pretty good idea of what happened to me and why my blogging will be minimal for the next month or so. In keeping with always seeking that ‘silver lining’ at least I’ll have lots of material for my blogs once I can again type with two hands..!!!