My Health Cracks Me Up!

In Columns, Features, Pieces to Peter's Puzzling World by Peter Webster

Where have I been, what day is it, and why do I have this silly- looking velcro and nylon brace on my leg? Maybe it has something to do with these interesting pills I’ve been taking…

At the end of October, I took a fall and broke my right tibia and fibula. I was over at the local pool, getting out of the hot tub; I usually go there three times a week for the arthritis water exercise classes, and afterward I sit in the hot tub for ten or fifteen minutes.

I got out of the hot tub, started down the steps on my way back to the dressing room, and the next minute I was laying on my side on the steps and I knew what had happened.

I hadn’t broken a long bone in decades, but by the time I realized I was down, I also knew what had happened. It was a feeling I’d had many times.

Those neural pathways from the past were half-forgotten and overgrown with time, but not lost.

What a sick feeling: knowing what’s wrong, that there’s really no way to change it, and it’s going to hurt a whole lot.

Within a few minutes the staff had blankets around me, ice on my leg, and the ambulance was on it’s way. The shocky-numbness didn’t last long. My leg began feeling as if there was something in it the size of a baseball bat and it was pushing a lot of things into places they shouldn’t be.

It took fifteen minutes for the EMTs to arrive. They gave me some morphine and I began feeling better…or just feeling less.

One of the lifeguards got my stuff out of my locker. I had all my medications written down, and a card identifying my insurance, my doctor, blah blah, don’t ask me questions, just let me drift as far way as I can…After the EMTs got my leg splinted and I was on the gurney, things seemed a bit better.

All the people at the pool waved good-by and wished me luck as I was hauled off. I waved back to them and said, “Thank God for Opiates!” as I went out the door.

Beth met us at the ER. Just before I was unloaded from the ambulance, the EMTs gave me another shot. I knew I’d be there for a long time before the ER staff would do much for me.

The staff remembered me from my visit back in August. We made bad jokes. Ha ha ha: gallows humor—laughing or crying, same release. I was too fur-brained to be angry.

After seven hours in the ER they sent me home. We stopped at the fire station and got the EMTs to come up and help me into the apartment and bed.

I was miserably stoned for the next week. A heavy fog. No attention span. Vicodin every few hours. I’d forgotten just how much something like that hurts. There was a chewing, medium-level ongoing pain that just wore me down, interrupted every few hours by some intense earthquake spasms.

The pain pills took care of that, once I got in the habit of medicating myself by the clock, rather than waiting to really hurt before I did anything about it.

Unfortunately, that low-intensity stoned state left me whacked. I had neither motivation nor focus to do anything serious—like write more than a few sentences at a time.

I’d also forgotten that the pain doesn’t decrease in a linear manner: it goes down a descending see-saw, zig and zag. The pain keeps diminishing, but it still has some bad moments.

It’s been four weeks now; another eight weeks to go before I can put weight on my leg. No surgery, which is probably a very good thing: I think just breaking my leg was enough trauma for this season…

Thank God for my iBook and wireless internet. I understand that the world has kept on going without my attention. The politicians still behave like politicians; the meat grinder in the Middle East grinds on, the crises that seemed so important and threatening a month ago are still there—not much has really changed.

That’s probably the big lesson: the world goes on with or without my permission and engagement. Darn it!

Anyhow, that’s what I’ ve been up to, lately.

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