March 10th, 2007


My Body Is a Blunderland

Friday was gearing up to be a pretty good day, really. I submitted the majority of a year's worth of a work; all my blood, sweat, and tears was going to make it into a Major Document. And my very first performance review was positively glowing. Apparently, I'm a really hard worker, and my work is awesome. Or something. Who knew, right? I even got to go home early.

I was all ready to go down to Belmont for the weekend, but my car wouldn't start. I tried for about half an hour to no avail. It had been giving me some problems for the past month or so, but in most cases, after a few false starts, it would finally vroom up and let me drive. This past week, however, it just wasn't catching. I was able to get the battery checked out, and it was good. My uncle said there was a loose cable somewhere.

Defeated, I futzed about in my apartment before giving it another try later. As soon as I got in the car, my uncle called for an update. It still wouldn't start. He told me to jiggle some of the wires, and I had already tried that, but I decided to give it another shot.

I popped the hood, cell phone in my right hand. With my left hand, I lifted the hood up.

The next thing I knew, my right hand was holding the hood up, my left arm was bent, and my cell phone lay atop the engine.

As hard as it was to believe, I had just dislocated my fucking shoulder again.

I had heard a neighbor pull up a second ago, so I called out to her: "Excuse me!! Help!!" When she came, I told her to first please retrieve my cell phone, which, thankfully, had not fallen into the damn cracks. It was dark, and my phone was dark grey, so I had to guide her hand to it. Then she helped me close the hood.

In those first few minutes, my shoulder didn't actually hurt. It just felt uncomfortable and strange. I tried sliding it back into place myself, but it wouldn't go, and I didn't want to risk doing it wrong.

My uncle called, and I told him what happened, and he was as incredulous as I was. He told me to get to the hospital somehow; if he came to take me, it would be forty-five minutes. I first called gymble, who I had just pestered earlier that week to come jump my car even though, in retrospect, it wouldn't have helped (the car magically started while she was on her way). She was having dinner with her parents, however.

I rang the doorbell of a neighbor, hoping they were in. They were. I asked if they were particularly busy, because I had just dislocated my shoulder. They asked if I needed a ride to the hospital, and I said I would really appreciate that. I came in to sit, and immediately, their dog came and obliviously nudged my left hand, which OH MY GOD NO! (That's actually what I said.)

The hospital was only five blocks away, but the road had some nice bumps for me. We found the ER. I walked through a metal detector and into the waiting room, trying to figure out where to go. I asked a woman who directed me right behind me and to the left, which was an unmanned station she claimed would be manned soon. House was showing on the TV, amusingly enough. I waited for a while, cursing myself. My neighbor came in and asked how I was getting back, and I said I hadn't thought that far ahead. She gave me her number in case I got out when she was still awake. For the first time, I was going to have to go through this all alone.

I finally got tired of waiting where I was and realized that the booth marked "Registration" was probably a good bet. I told the lady I had dislocated my shoulder, and, unlike before, I was called into triage immediately. They set up a bed for me and began all the vitals and stuff. My male nurse was pretty cool; he explained what he was doing, which I think was a neat trick he had learned in order to take the patient's mind off the pain. He talked about the vein and the needle, which only punctured the skin to allow a thin plastic tube to remain in the vein. He took some blood for cultures and flushed with saline to keep the blood from clotting so they wouldn't have to reinsert the IV.

I waited and waited for them to give me some pain meds. "It's not hurting, it's not hurting, it's not hurting," I chanted. When that got tiring, I switched to singing Gilbert and Sullivan. There was a little kid staying with his mom beside me, so I didn't want to let loose with the profanity, although his mom said he was probably worse than I was. The night appeared to be both hectic and understaffed. There was a disagreement on whether or not I needed to be X-rayed, since I hadn't fallen. However they got it sorted out, I didn't get any X-rays.

Finally, after maybe an hour, after my initial assessment of my pain as a 6 rose to maybe a 7 or 8, a doctor came and gave me phenergan, an anti-emetic to keep me from throwing up when I received the morphine. I told her I was a medical writer, so I had written about phenergan quite a few times. I made a joke about hydromorphone and prodrugs. The morphine made me feel very lightheaded and funny, but it didn't actually seem to make my shoulder hurt less. So later, I got some Dilaudid too.

I went through like three different doctors, I think, but eventually I got an Indian guy who had some crazy plan on how to relocate my shoulder. I was wheeled into another room, where I stayed for a while until...they wheeled me into yet another room. I was in and out of consciousness, struggling to stay awake while really wanting to just fall asleep.

The nurses were to flip me over onto my stomach, which was quite a painful process. They picked me up by the belt loops and dragged me from side to side. My left arm was to be hanging over the edge of the bed, elbow straightened. It was difficult, but we managed. Then I clutched some weight as they slowly raised the bed. This was supposed to elegantly slide my shoulder back in place. Except it didn't work, despite their best effort. The doctor said that usually, it worked. But I'm special, obviously. So they had to flip me BACK over. Which hurt again.

They put a breathing apparatus on me for reasons I don't even know. I slipped in and out of consciousness a couple times, each time wondering if my shoulder was back in place. It wasn't. I had thought the apparatus included sedatives. Finally, they gave me some fentanyl and a drug whose name I didn't catch, and when I woke up, I was in a different room, and my shoulder appeared to be back in place, though sore. I was very groggy.

The nurse, a sweet woman who had been sympathetic to my pain, asked me who was coming to pick me up. I said I would take a cab, and she said no, no I couldn't take a cab. Couldn't I call a friend? I said I didn't want to wake anyone at four in the morning. "That's what friends are for," she answered. So I called gymble, who didn't answer. I fell back asleep and woke up and fell asleep and woke up. So groggy. I tried gymble again around six and got no answer. I couldn't think of anyone else who was close and would come.

Just before seven, my phone rang, and it was gymble's husband, who had noticed I'd called. I asked him if he could pick me up from the hospital and take me home. He said sure. I'm lucky to have friends like that.

I told the nurse I had a friend coming to pick me up, so she began taking all the goddamn cables off of me. And after all that shoulder pain, I got even more pain when she tried to take the tape off my hairy arms. I had been given a bottle of Vicodin, though. And a fancy-schmancy Velcro-immobilizing sling in addition to the regular kind. No doctor came to give me a proper discharge, so she herself recommended I see an orthopedist. Because if raising the hood of my car dislocated my shoulder, that ligament was stupid weak, and I might need The Surgery. The last two dislocations, I never got around to seeing an orthopedist afterward, but I'm not making the same mistake this time.

In one fucked-up moment, I just changed my life for the next six to eight weeks, as I'm going to have to keep my arm in a sling for at least a couple weeks, and my shoulder's going to be healing after that. Just like that, everything changes. And it all goes back to one stupid prank on a football field on September 28, 2002. It's scary, how much influence things can have, even years down the line. Life really keeps you on your toes.