I have been so lucky for most of my life with only minor health issues and injuries. But, a few weeks ago I broke my arm. Sure it hurt, but, all seemed ok on the Xrays for the past 3 weeks and it was very manageable. That all changed last week when my doctor didn't like how the bone was setting. She highly recommended surgery as she wanted to get the bone (radius) better aligned permanently, with a metal plate and screws to ensure the future mobility of my wrist.
Not sure what I was thinking, I seriously thought she could do this surgery with some kind of local anesthesia or nerve block...or something. Even after doing some google searches, I was surprised as this was going to be serious. And, on the day of surgery, I got the whole package of modern medicine, at its best, hospital bed, oxygen tubes, fentanyl, anti-nausea meds and the list went on. I even came home with a bottle of oxycontin, another source of stress for someone who hates taking any type of pill and who studies drug use and dependence for a living.
Today, I’m 5 days post surgery and have an early post-op visit on Monday. My doctor was reluctant to see me that early, as this is a week ahead of the usual treatment schedule. But, I’m traveling with my students to Uganda on Tuesday, so the remaining post-op care will take place there. Terrible timing, I know, but then no one would ever say that there is a particularly great time to get injured and in need of rest and recovery.
My orders were strict this week, do as little as possible and keep the arm above the heart, most of the time. It’s been a tough week, but here is my list of recommendations, if you find yourself in a similar position and can find a moment to smile.
- Buying a set of new and much larger underwear should be a high priority; it makes life so much easier and less is better (do I really need to explain this?)
- Writing on a keyboard is so much slower using only 1 hand (seriously, painfully slow)
- Accept that you will miss lots of deadlines (for those of us who are type-As, this is terribly stressful)
- Surrender to ordering takeout food (yes, you will gain weight, it’s expensive, but, there are also no dishes to clean)
- If you have a hard time putting on that favorite dress, there is no way you will get out of it on your own (don’t get stuck, especially when you are home alone)
- Makeup is tricky, may be best to go without it (that mascara smudge ended up looking like I had a black eye, not a great look, especially with a broken arm)
- Everyone will ask you how you broke the arm, strangers, colleagues and doctors, and all will seem disappointed if you only have a boring story to tell (my version of tripping while hiking in the woods was way too mediocre. I should have gone skydiving or trained elephants or something a bit more exciting)
- Enjoy public transportation/being driven to work (I could really get used to this which may have been the best part of my week, skipping rush hour in Atlanta and getting to know lots of Uber drivers)
- If you need a man to get you some pads or tampons, send him a picture of what you want (however willing he may be, chances are he will get lost with the many unfamiliar options, styles and types)
- Find a TV series with several seasons to watch (I hate to waste that much time, but it helps to rest and get into something)
- Get used to asking for help (very tough for those of us who usually don’t)
- Make sure the lid to the pain pills have been removed (and that also goes for all the jars and tubes, think shampoo and tooth paste too)
- If you have kids, make sure you have taught at least one of them to cook a meal you would enjoy eating
- Stay grateful for all the good things, health & happiness!
- And, know that everything will get better, especially if you have a sense of humor and can find a reason to smile.