That’s Just the Breaks
Winter is over, or so it seems. The grass is getting green and the daffodils are blooming. Last winter was a notable winter for me – maybe an “infamous” winter would be a better name for it.
As you may or may not know, I walk a lot. I tend to be a porker if I don’t exercise because, well because I love to eat. I’m sure it goes back to the way I was raised, but heaven knows back in those days my grandparents didn’t know all the secrets of good nutrition and the health benefits of staying slim. Slim was never my nickname, but I have managed to keep from going over to the obese side.
Nevertheless, there are reasonable excuses for an expanding waistline as we get older. For quite a while after my last diet, I weighed the same as I weighed in high school. But, I don’t remember my belly hanging over my belt in high school. I am quite sure it didn’t. I would have been mortified had that been the case. Geez – all those girls looking at me!
Now, no one looks at me, not even I look at me. But I digress.
I walk a lot and I walk a lot because I enjoy it and because it helps keep my weight down without resorting to living on alfalfa wafers and water. No can do!
Anyway, this winter came early. By late October, my walks found me bundled up in a winter coat, stocking hat, gloves and occasionally winter walking boots. I trudged through rain and snow and wind as November brought her worst to my neck of the woods.
Then December came and froze my world. All the ponds and streams I pass while walking we all glistening ice. And one December day, I went for a walk as is my custom. But this December day, this old man – meaning me – was having a hard time keeping the child inside. The rain that fell the night before had frozen into long narrow puddles on my walking path. Rather than deftly walking on the grass alongside the frozen water on my walking path, the child inside me dared me to walk on the ice to see if would “hold” me.
I will never know if it would have held me. One step onto the ice and I found myself lying on the ground in the grass with my arm in horrible pain. Thinking it was broken, I managed to lumber myself up off the ground and dig my cell phone out of my coat pocket with my good arm and hand and called for a friend to take me to the hospital.
I sat in the emergency room’s waiting area for a good 45 minutes, before I was called into the examination room. After the P.A. (Physician’s Assistant) determined I indeed really was in pain, she shipped me off, via wheelchair to get X-rayed. After absorbing a substantial dose of radiation – I’m sure of it! – I was wheeled back to the exam room to wait for the results. An hour later a real doctor came in an assured me that my arm was not broken, but I most likely had rotator cuff damage which can take a long time to heal. The doctor kind of said it in a way that made me think I’d have been better of with a broken arm than a damaged rotator cuff.
Anyway, they gave me a sling and a prescription for – you guessed it – opioid painkillers and sent me on my way.
[In case you’re wondering, this essay was not written under the influence of painkillers or anything else. ]
If that was all that happened to me this past winter, it would have been enough for me. But alas, it was not – worse was yet to come.
With my shoulder and arm hurting, I walked most of the rest of December. I ignored that child inside. From then on I avoided ice and slippery places, profoundly determined never to fall again.
[The “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” TV commercial kept playing in my head.]
One day in late January, we had a snowstorm, and though my right-arm was still very painful and movement was restricted by the healing(?) rotator cuff, I bravely went out to clear the driveway and sidewalks.
Luckily I have a good snowblower, but there are certain areas that demand a snow shovel. I had used the snowblower to clear most of the driveway and sidewalk, but there’s an area near the garage door that needed the attention of the snow shovel. It was a ridge of ice about 3 or 4 inches high. I was going to chop it up with the shovel and toss the icy remnants out into the snow in the yard.
I was on the way back into the garage to get the aforementioned snow shovel when I forget about the icy ridge, tripped over it and fell onto my left shoulder and arm.
I was in horrible pain. The Emergency Squad was called. The next thing I saw was red flashing lights and the next thing I heard was the sound of the siren. Lying on the garage floor in pain is not the greatest experience, but lying on the garage floor while a paramedic is shoving needles in my wrists was even worse. They whisked me off to the hospital.
I had dislocated my left shoulder and broken my left arm. They put my shoulder back in place and immobilized my arm in a sling. Luckily, they had me in conscious sedation when they jumped on me and pushed my shoulder back into its joint, or I’d make you experience that with me.
After several hours, they sent me back home with a prescription for opioids, a sling, post-release instructions to see an orthopedic physician within a week.
My right arm was not nearly healed when I tripped and hurt my left arm. I have never felt so helpless in my life.
Being old and hurt is no fun, but I was determined to get healed and get back to being able to care for myself.
And thanks to good friends, good doctors, and a really good physical therapist, I’m almost back to normal – well you know what I mean.
I learned that falling is no laughing matter if you’re an older guy like me. You don’t fall and hop right back up and go on like you do when you’re young and flexible.
Last winter was a really painful winter for me. But I’m old – and I am begging to realize that’s just the breaks!