Friday, May 19, 2006

The fracture and surgery

Jan 30, 2006

"But I had a great race! There's no way it could be broken!" I protest to the physician. He then points out the floating piece of bone in the x-ray and it dawns on me that he might be right.

I groan and head to Orthopedics as instructed.

I'm at Balboa Medical Center in San Diego. By a stroke of grace I am classified among the sports medicine cases, and most all my medical team are athletes to some degree. They understand what it means for an athlete to be told to rest. In my case, it means hog-tying.

I'm sure my poor surgeon didn't know quite what to do with me, but I think at some point hog-tying came to mind.

First of all, I come in three days after the fracture, convinced that it is just a bad sprain. I did it Saturday afternoon while at downhill mountain bike race practice (don't get excited, I was in the staging area). I knew after I fell that it was bad. It hurt a lot, but I had mobility. I wrapped it in ice, took Ibuprofen, and returned to race two races the following day (pics 1, 2, 3 - pics of me racing on the fractured wrist, courtesy of

Secondly, although I'm at Balboa Navy Medical Hospital, I'm not military - my husband is. I'm probably a bit more... casual than they're used to. So when my surgeon, Dr P., introduces me to the Chief Resident (easily a Lt Cdr) and I don't catch his name, I ask if I can just call him "Chief." He is the Chief Resident, after all. The guys standing around him react to this with bulging eyes and suppressed smiles. Good naturedly, Dr D. (the Chief Resident) thinks it's funny that I call him Chief, probably because nobody ever did before.

These guys become my team.
I will trust them to put me back together, and fix the things I have broken. Years and years from now, when I am a little old mountain biker, I will remember them. Today, I try to find out their names so that I can pray for them. Partly because they will need guidence and wisdom in the surgery, and partly because they have to deal with me, and I' somewhat, ah, strong-willed.

As the Orthopedic team confers, one of them sits down in front of me with a clipboard and a number of forms for me to sign. He quietly and calmly describes the anesthesia procedure they will use (a block), tells me about the risks, and then reassuringly adds that I should regain full use of my hand and full sensation in my fingers. I look at him with a pleading and hopeful look.

"Will I be able to play the violin?" I ask.

He smiles gently and says, "Yes, if everything goes as we anticipate, you should be able to play the violin."

"Wow. You guys are great," I gush. "I never played the violin before."

Our eyes lock for an expressionless moment, and then I blink and grin slightly. He sighs, knowing he totally took the bait on that one, nods and says, "OK, so if you would just sign here?"

I take the clipboard and bite my lip, try not to burst into laughter. I've been waiting to use that line all my life.

Right. So the next day they wheel me in for surgery. I have done as instructed and removed all clothing to don their little peek-a-boo smock, but I keep my socks on... my black Surly cycling socks with the words "SMELL HERE" written clearly across the toes. I'm finding little ways to amuse myself, and intend to enjoy my surgical experience the best that I can.

The instructions for surgery say that all children should have a "comfort item" with them. Before coming to the hospital, I remove the handlebar grip off my bike and bring it with me. In pre-op, they are getting me ready to go in for anesthesia when I pull out the grip, tell them it's my comfort item, and that I want them to mold the cast around the grip. When the Chief Resident sees this, he breaks into laughter.

"Has [your surgeon] seen that?"

"No, not yet," I tell him with an impish grin.

A few moments later, my surgeon, Dr P., appears and I produce the grip, telling him that I brought it as my comfort item and that I want him to mold the cast around it. He looks positively shocked and scandalized. "You can't be serious..."

(continued in “Wrist Recovery and Rehab”)

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