Sticks & Stones Didn't Break My Bone

After nearly sixty seven years of living on this earth, I have become a statistic. If this statistic had beaten the odds and I won $10 million in a lottery, my smile would shatter my face. However, this unfortunate numerical reality reinforces the fact that I have acquired some age.

In early December, while walking my dog, I slipped and fell on a patch of ice and broke my left arm just below the shoulder. In doing some research on falling after this hapless incident, I discovered I had joined the ranks of other seniors my age. It seems that one third of us over the age of 65 suffer some sort of fall, and our chances of falling increase as we age. By the time we reach 85 years old, our chances of falling have increased to 50%. One out of five falls have serious consequences, as the faller breaks a bone somewhere in his or her body. Falls head the list for those who go to the emergency center, with 2.5 million people treated for falls in 2013. 31% of falls, mine included, are due to accidents, like slipping on ice or tripping over a curb, and the vast majority of these falls occur in or around our homes, the very place where we expect to find peace and safety.

These are not promising statistics, and a reality I never expected to experience, but we don’t always have a choice in what happens to us, and fall I did. I did break a bone, I did end up in emergency, it did happen within a half mile of my house, and I hate the thought of joining the ranks of just another statistic.

I broke my upper arm, the humerus. Let me assure you, at the time I found nothing humorous about this incident; it made me wonder why on earth a bone that can break and cause discomfort should ever be labeled ‘humerus’ in the first place. Just goes to show why I never would have made it as a doctor, I guess.

When I fell, my feet flew out from under me and I landed on my left arm and shoulder with all my weight. I had no time for the comic gyrations that can slow a fall and potentially minimize the damage. One minute I hiked along at a vigorous pace and the next minute I lay on my back, staring at the sprinkling of stars visible in the twilight of a dark winter evening. I had no warning, no hesitations, just a huge smack when I hit the earth. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know I broke a bone, as I heard it crack when I hit the frozen ground with a mighty thud. When I tried to get back on my feet, I floundered and flailed (now I totally understand that old cliché about a fish out of water….) until I could move myself into a position that allowed my right arm, and my right arm only, to help me slowly, very slowly, get back on my feet with ice all around me, just waiting for the opportunity to best me again. All the while my confused dog, trying to figure out what the heck I was doing, only succeeded in regaining an upright position a lot more difficult for me.

I did manage to find my feet, get them back under me, hoist myself upright without falling again, and turn my face towards home. My poor useless arm hung painfully at my side, so I stuffed my hand in my pocket to take the tension off the arm, and I made my way back home.

Some background information is needed here. Just one week prior to this ill-fated little dog- walking excursion, my husband had undergone rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder, so he had no use to speak of in his right arm. He obviously did not feel at the top of his form, and had spent most the past seven days since his surgery recuperating from his ordeal. When I walked into our house that evening after my fall, he was resting in his recliner, wearing only boxer shorts and a pair of socks, under the mistaken assumption that he was nestled in his chair for the remainder of the evening.

I remarked to him that I thought he probably needed to get dressed, as I figured I ought to go to Ennis. He literally leaped out of his chair, demanding as he did so, ‘Did you fall?’

I answered ‘yes’ and he replied ‘did you break anything?’

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I figured I broke my arm, so I prevaricated and said I didn’t know, but I thought I needed to have it checked out just in case I had broken something.

So, here we are, two old cripples with a useless arm each. Someone has to drive, and I know it won’t be me. Fortunately Rod prefers to drive anyway as he spent his adult lifetime behind the wheel of various pieces of heavy equipment. So we climb into the car, he in the driver seat and me in the passenger seat, where we discover to our chagrin that neither one of us can fasten our own seat belt. Fortunately we had one functioning right arm and one functioning left arm, so he fastened my seat belt and I fastened his. I thought at the time that at the very least, together the two of us made one complete person with a functioning set of arms, so who could ask for more?

We arrived at the emergency entrance at the hospital in Ennis. The nurse asked me if I would like a shot of morphine while I waited for the doctor. My ears pricked up at the thought, as four decades ago my brother-in-law had a motorcycle accident and the paramedics who treated him at the scene gave him a dose of morphine. My brother-in-law still comments about the rush that morphine gave him and how good he felt. So you bet, I wanted a dose of morphine and I waited in great anticipation for my high to start.

Let me assure you, either morphine is greatly overrated or I received such a miniscule dose that I have no idea why anyone would bother in the first place. I waited and waited, my anticipation turning to disappointment as nothing happened. When the doctor arrived and offered me another dose, I agreed, figuring NOW I would get my high.

It never happened. I endured the entire exam, had x-rays taken (which confirmed what I already knew, that my not-so-humerus had broken), I got my pain medication prescription, and left emergency with no high and no real change in pain since I first hit the ground. By the way, the pain meds didn’t really do much either, except screw up my bodily functions, so a week later I chucked the prescribed pain meds in the garbage and relied on over-the-counter Ibuprofen to help me get through the days, which it did very well.

Fortunately I did not need surgery on the arm; I just had to wear a sling for six weeks. I also had to schedule a few doctor appointments to monitor the healing progress. At the first appointment, my doctor insinuated that I had some age on me, which is why the arm broke, but that I wasn’t quite ancient enough for bones to break so she wanted me to schedule a bone density test.

WHAT? I have good bones. People half my age break bones, so you want to tell me only old people with brittle bones have problems? I can no longer claim spring chicken status, but I agreed to have a bone density test done just to prove my doctor wrong, which I did, incidentally. My bones, although not those of a twenty-something are not yet at the osteoporosis stage.

Speaking of spring chickens, I emailed my sister whining about my doctor implying my age had something to do with broken bones. She emailed me back reminding me that I am NOT a spring chicken any longer. Incensed, I asked her if that meant I was an old hen. Her response? No, it just means you can cluck about the antics of youngsters.

I decided I did not want to pursue this conversation any further.

I also began using stabil-icers and Kahtoola micro spikes worn over my footwear, both of these anti-slip strap-ons work marvelously well in slippery conditions. Don’t waste money purchasing YaxTrax as they are not meant for serious walking, but the stabil-icers and Kahtoola micro spikes more than pay for themselves in safety. Of course, after I started wearing this footgear, a friend commented that wearing these devices seemed like closing the barn door after the horse got loose. I pointed out that I still had another arm, two legs, two hips, and a back that functioned quite well, and I didn’t want to break any of them.

I had two sessions of physical therapy and used my arm every chance I could. It has healed and I can do just about everything I could do before I became a statistic. I learned from this little episode what I already knew: if I keep moving and stay active, my arm (or whatever bone I may break) will heal. I have my full range of motion and my arm has strengthened itself through daily activities and movement. I know that we can’t sit in a chair and wait for bones to heal. We have to move and stay (or become) active so our bones will heal and regain their former strength.

Besides, didn’t someone say that quitting is for sissies?


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