A year and a month ago (The day after New Years. My birthday), I drove to Falls Church to pick up some new suits. On my way back to my car, I took… a shortcut? over a curb. This curb was painted (thus slick) and it had recently rained. I slipped. I was holding my new suits with my right hand, and so put out my left to catch myself.
That decision (more like instinct)– I won’t say it was necessarily bad. Someone more experienced in falling down probably knows how to fall safely. I’ve successfully avoided the kind of situations where one learns how to fall safely (sports?) and extending my arm to catch my fall seemed like a reasonable idea at the time. I got up, but was in a lot of pain. Something was wrong with my arm– I assumed it was broken.
I called Patty, and she drove me to the emergency room. My experience of the INOVA emergency room was anticlimactic, and even almost.. pleasant. We waited in line a few minutes (during which I pulled out my phone, and let Matt and Travis know I was going to be “at least” late the next day, and called Mom), sat down for about 5 minutes, and was talking to a nurse and succession of doctors.
Someone quickly noticed that my shoulder looked “squared off”, a symptom of dislocation. After some discussion, I consented to having them try to “just” pop my shoulder back in place– which was a pretty freaky experience. One person held me down as the doctor pulled my arm into a position that felt wrong wrong wrong, and then: pop!
I don’t know if I actually heard a “pop”, or if I’ve embellished that memory with sound effects. It felt like a pop. If there wasn’t a popping noise, there should of been.
Either way, I instantly felt 1000% better. I was smiling, laughing, and back on my phone providing my coworkers and family with an updated diagnosis. I let Patty take a picture.
I left the hospital with a snazzy new sling and a recommendation that I see an orthopedic surgeon ASAP.
Leaving the hospital, we were faced with a Car Situation. I drive a stick shift, and Patty doesn’t. I was in no position to drive, and we had two cars we needed to get home. Thankfully, a call to Dana and Brian produced a solution (it usually does. My family is pretty great)– They helped us get home, and we traded cars for a few weeks.
I wore the sling for about a month, and then graduated to physical therapy. After a few months of PT, the doctor decided I had gotten all of the benefit out of it that I would, and I was done. Fixed, or something like it.
In August, while doing something not particularly strenuous, I had (what I later found out was called) a partial dislocation– it was over in a second, and there was no pain. It was weird, but not too troubling.
And then it happened a second time a few days later.
The doctor decided that I need an MRI. The MRI indicated that I had a torn labrum– the piece of cartilage that keeps your shoulder in it’s socket. The surgery to repair the labrum basically involves anchoring it back to the bone.
The surgery went well. Being anesthetized was not at all like I expected– I had always imagined it being like a deep sleep, or being awake but cut off from your senses. It was a surprise to close my eyes, and then suddenly be several hours in the future, groggy and nauseous.
After that, it was much like the first time: About a month of wearing a sling (and borrowing Dana’s car), and a few months of PT, which I finished about a week ago.
Back up in the second paragraph, I said I wasn’t sure that the decision to stick my arm out was bad. This is because I’ve had time to imagine what could have happened: What if I broke my arm, instead of simply dislocating it? What if it was my right (dominant) arm? What if it was my face, or forehead that hit cement? There are a dozen or more ways this whole thing could have been worse.
I have developed some skittishness about falling, though: If the ground I’m walking on is the least bit slippery, I’m much more mindful and careful of my steps. I think about wearing a sling, and I think about all the time I spent in PT. It’s a fear of doing this whole routine over again. I really hope I’m done with it.
And, I don’t walk on curbs.