Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Long Story of a Broken Arm

My broken arm is my first major incident, well sort of. I did roll off a couch when I was six months old and fractured my skull. Mom said the swelling on the side of my head was half the size of my head. I had a few other accidents growing up, but not much that required a trip to the ER or a doctors visit. I was electrocuted once and not by the electric fence. The power line to the barn had fallen and I stepped on it one evening rounding up cows. I was barefoot as I spent most of my childhood that way. I got a jolt and fell flat on the ground, screaming incoherently. My mom came to see what was wrong and was thrown 20-30 feet. She started screaming for my father, who picked me up, asking what was wrong with me. They did call the family doctor, but no ER or other visit. I just had some legs cramps off and on for a few months. I also got run over by a tractor once. I fell off and the tire ran over my foot and lower leg, but they were just bruised a little. Fortunately, my dad got stopped before he ran over me with the hay baler or I'd been filled with holes. I had lots of cuts, overall minor accidents to me. There a scar on a big toe that I sometimes get asked if I had surgery on. No, I chopped it with an axe. I think we put kerosene on that cut. I cut my thumb basically to the bone once, but didn't even tell my parents until it was mostly healed. I just bandaged it myself and kept going. The worst cut was to my right leg from falling off a corn planter we were cleaning. It has left a 14 inch scar that is 1/4 inch wide for about 4 inches. Mom still regrets not taking my to the doctor for that since it left such a big scar. I did get stitches when I bit completely through my upper lip in 8th grade.

My freshman year in high school, I had what was my worst and most painful accident until 2006. I wrecked a dirt bike going about 40-45 mph. I hit a ditch and got launched head first over the handlebars. I landed head first and then flipped wildly about 100 feet. I'm sure that did nothing to help my future back issues. I rolled a car over once, but it was a very gentle roll over. I fixed that car and kept driving it. I've hit a car head on once which moved my drivers tire into my floorboard space. That car was not fixed. In December 2006 I was hit by a pickup truck while cycling on the road. The truck was going about 50-55 and said they never saw me. It took a hour and a half to fill my face with stitches, but no broke bones. Alison asked how many stitches there were and the plastic surgeon just said, "You don't count when there's that many stitches." I looked gruesome for a while, but even surprised the surgeon in how well I healed.

So about the broken arm, I was building a shed here at the farm. I was using a log for the beam to set the rafters on. I was using two bobcat loaders to place the log on top of the 13 foot high post. The log was about 65 feet long and weighed a ton or more. I had the log braced on a post at one end and had lifted the other end with a bobcat. I was somewhere in the middle using another bobcat to get the log on top of the other post. I was standing in bobcat bucket and had used a pry bar to get the log on top of the post. I had it up and was getting ready to come down. The next few moments seemed to happen all too quickly. I noticed the log rolling off the post and thought that shouldn't be moving, this is bad. A rope had broken at the other bobcat loader. In a fraction of a second the log had fallen. I don't know where, how, or why my arm was under the log, but it was. The log dropped on my arm with edge of the bobcat bucket under it. My very first thought was "I can't believe that didn't break my arm." Then I looked at my arm and it was quite obviously broken, though I hadn't noticed the hole in backside of my arm. The immediate next thought was regret. Regret that I'd broke my arm. Fortunately, I quickly thought the same thing I think when I run, next step. I'd had a flood of thoughts in those 1 to 2 seconds.

I grabbed my left hand with my right, took two jumps to get off the bobcat loader, and told my nephew to turn the bobcat off. I told him that I needed to go to the ER, my arm is broken. As we walked to the house, the arm started to hurt. Scott, my nephew, said later that I just said, "There comes the pain." He ran to the house to get Alison. I walked in and noticed the blood dripping. I looked at the hole and told Alison to get a towel. It was kind of funny that I was giving various instruction of get me water, get me a change of clothes, shoes, and other directions. It was a 50 minutes drive to the hospital I wanted to got to (I don't like my local hospitals for anything major).

That is probably the major details of breaking my arm. The worst part is just regret or disgust with myself for screwing up this badly. The best part was feeling real pain. Nothing that had happened to me before even compared to the pain my arm produced. A week after my arm was broken, the pain was similar to anything before, including the cycling accident. I have a fascination with pain, how we deal with it, how others perceive pain. The ER folks said I had a very high pain tolerance. They said most people with that type of injury would scream uncontrollably. One guy said I should try comedy with the jokes I was making. Seemed like every nurse or staff person was coming by to look. I'd here the ER attendant tell others it was fine to come by as I was okay with it. Not to confuse anyone, I was requesting pain medication when they give me some. They said they needed to wait until a doctor could examine the arm more. It was 2 hours before I got anything and looking back I wish I hadn't been given anything. I was given Dilaudid which screwed me up to the point of not being able to give my name, age, or other information. I didn't like that, I didn't like being out of control of my mind.

After surgery, I took half doses of the pain medication for the first 24 hours, then didn't take any more. I'm just strange as I don't like taking stuff especially if it just decreases feeling, not increases healing. My break was a comminuted fracture with bone loss in the ulna. I looked that up later and a comminuted fracture is a higher pain producing accident. I guess all that is to say it hurt a lot. At the hospital, I thought a lot about a deer that I shot and skinned a couple of years back. It had completely broken a rear leg at some point and the bone had healed back kind of overlapping, leaving a big knot at the spot. I couldn't help but think that that deer never got any pain medication. I'm just strange in some ways. So for anyone who doesn't know me, don't be impressed with my pain management. No one would be impressed with the deer. I'm just sharing my experience and fascination with pain. I had thought some about how much more pain one could experience. Though someone who had experienced a worse accident than mine said that there comes a limit to the amount of pain sensation the body can produce. I did like finding that I could stay calm in a severe situation and handle the pain. I think that if you're really honest with yourself, you know how you'll respond. I was nice to really be how I thought I'd be.

I just think it is good to feel. Whether that feeling is pain or joy or something otherwise. So now I guess my real trial is to deal with my disappointment with myself. I keep flashing back to that first moment of looking at my arm on the bobcat. It's not seeing my arm that troubles me, but that gut wrenching feeling of failure. Alison has commented that I'm not invincible. So I'll have to follow my own philosophy, feel this mental pain and move on with it. Maybe at some point I'll get back to acting like I'm invincible.

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