Thursday, July 9, 2020

"At Least I'm Wearing Underwear"

Broken Arm, part 3 (of who knows how many parts)

Part 2 is here.

So I was taken to a small examination/hospital room.  Someone helped me off with most of my clothes and put on one of those awesome hospital gowns.  Eventually a nurse came in to take some information.  Everyone had a mask of course (including me, still) but this nurse had the most elaborate mask of anyone I saw.  I think she could have gone scuba diving in it.

She ask me about my meds and what happened and all that fun stuff. She hooked me up to a blood pressure monitor and an oxygen monitor.  And then she left, saying that the "doctor will be right in."  Ha!

It was again quite awhile for before the doctor came in.  She finally showed up, she asked me a bunch of questions like what happened, where does it hurt, etc.  I described my pain and my fall and she gave me what I thought was a rather cursory examination. I mean she touched me but not as much as I would have expected.  She said that someone would come by to take me for X-rays of both my arm and leg. She left.

But she did come back to ask me about my pain—did I want something for it?  I said yes, rather emphatically. At first she was going to give me Norco (oral) but then she decided I needed something that worked faster, because when they were going to be taking X-rays, they'd have to move my arm and it would be quite painful.  Oh boy, something to look forward to. Spoiler: It ended up taking so long to get into X-ray that there was no need to give me morphine just because it worked faster.

So she sent a nurse in to give me a shot of morphine.  That would of course make me drowsy but that wouldn't be a problem, I wasn't driving anyway.  But she didn't warn me that it would make my stomach a bit queasy.  In fact, I did feel nauseated on and off a little while I was there through the afternoon. And in fact when I woke up (at home) the next morning, having taken the Norco she prescribed for me the night before, I did throw up a little bit. 

Anyway, now there was nothing to do but wait.  And wait.  And wait.  I really had no idea that it would take so long to get taken to X-ray, but it did.  By this time, all my worldly possessions, my pants, my shirts, my t-shirt, my keys, my wallet and my phone were in that plastic hospital bag they had given me earlier.  And that bag was on a chair that I couldn't reach.  There was a TV in the vicinity but I couldn't reach it to even turn it on.  And I didn't have any water and hadn't been offered any.

So there was nothing to do but just lie there in pain and wait, and stare off into the distance.  There was also no call button in case I needed anything (like assistance in turning on the TV, or getting my phone).  They had the curtain to my little room closed.  The only thing I could have done was shouted at the top of my lungs to try to get someone's attention if I did need help. 

I stayed silent, but after it had been more than an hour since I'd last seen anyone (the nurse who gave me the shot) I was seriously considering shouting to find out what was going on (and maybe ask for some water).  But I waited.  I did that thing where you stare at the clock on the wall and say to yourself, "Well, when it gets to be 15 minutes to, I'll start yelling."  Then that time comes and goes and you say, "when it gets to 10 minutes to.."  Well I dunno how many times I let it slide but I can tell you I really was about two minutes away from screaming when an orderly finally showed up to get me X-rayed.  It had been close to 90-minutes since I'd been in that room before they came.

It was a welcome trip for a couple of reasons.  One I was bored and ready to get going, and two, that little room was really hot. The mask was making me even warmer and sometimes I was having trouble breathing through it.  I admit I had to lower the mask every now and then so I could breathe. The trip through the hospital to the X-ray department was nice and cool.

There were a bunch of techs helping with the X-rays.  I was on the wrong kind of gurney (whatever that meant) so they had to have several people actually lift me from that gurney to the table where I needed to be for the X-rays.  That was fun (but probably even less fun for the orderlies who had to lift me up)..

And the Doc did not lie.  It was quite painful as they moved me so they could take the proper X-rays. Hell, when they lifted me from the gurney to the X-ray table it hurt pretty much all over, especially in the arm and leg.  Morphine can only do so much.  They took pics of my leg and my arm and moving the arm for them was sometimes excruciating. 

The first person moving me around actually needed help from a senior tech to make sure I was in the proper position for the X-rays to come out right.  But eventually they got what they needed (or so I thought) and they took me back to my room.  Note, from what I learned during my hospital stay for my heart problem in 2016, I knew to insist that I take the bag with my wallet and phone with me to the X-ray room).

When I got back to my room, the orderly was about to reconnect me to the blood pressure and oxygen monitors when I stopped him.  "Before you do that, can I go the restroom first real quick?"

I should have known this outside his purview.  "Let me get the nurse."  So I had to wait in the bed, unhooked up, until the orderly got the nurse.

Well, it was a different nurse than the one who had cross-examined me when I first got to the room.  It made a difference.  She asked if I wanted a urinal.  I said no, I could walk to the restroom.  She said, "Are you sure….you're here because you fell, what if you fall again?"  Sigh. I knew I could make it to the restroom, it wasn't that far.  I said I couldn't relieve myself lying in the bed.  She said she would put the back of the bed up.  OK, I relented.  Between the drugs and the pain I was not interested in arguing with her.  As she went to get the urinal, I realized the problem was that she didn't know I had been perfectly fine until I tripped and fell.  She probably thought I was some old guy who had trouble keeping his balance in general.  I mean my leg did feel lousy but I could definitely walk a little bit on my own.

Well she brought in the urinal and raised the bed.  But she didn't raise it enough.  It was very difficult for me to go, especially cuz I was also trying hard not to piss myself, or the bed, or my underwear.  Naturally, just as the flow started, I was startled by the doctor showing up.  Well she was more embarrassed than I was but you never want to interrupt someone in the middle of taking a piss. She said "excuse me" and disappeared.

I was pretty sure I wasn't done but I couldn't get anything more to come out (TMI?), so I closed up and then I had nothing to do with this damn urinal with my urine in it but just hold it!  I couldn't reach anything to put it on and I didn't want to risk spilling it, for obvious reasons.

I held it with me for who knows how long until a nurse finally showed up to hook me back.  In the meantime I had missed my window of opportunity to actually get a report from the doc as to what was wrong with me.

So that was another 10-15 minutes of time lost before she returned.  She brought with her several bits of bad news.  The main thing was that I had a fractured humerus. That's the bone at the top of the arm that connects to your shoulder. They would have to put an "immobilizer" on me.  She said that around 80% of the time they don't need to do surgery, it heals on its own.  Oh, and my leg was fine.  Then why did it hurt?  Well, it's like a pulled muscle.  No treatment needed, it will get better all by itself.  The issue was my right arm/shoulder.

The other bit of bad news was that the radiologist wanted to take a few more pictures.  He wanted pictures below my knee and also of my shoulder to make sure it wasn't separated.  The ER doc was pretty sure I didn't have a separated shoulder.  She also wasn’t worried about my knee but the radiologist wanted to be sure.

Then she told me what would happen going forward, assuming the additional X-rays didn't have any nasty surprises.  They'd send me home in the immobilizer and refer me to Orthopedics.  I'd hear from them in a day or two, and eventually get an appointment to see an Orthopedist. 

Really?  They weren't having me see an Orthopedist right away, right then and there, when I was already there?  Did that make any sense?  I didn't ask.  I just assumed it had to do with new procedures in place because of COVID-19.  Maybe they didn't even have an Orthopedist around.  Maybe they stayed home now because of fear of getting sick, and came in only on a limited basis.  After all, it was well known that hospitals were not doing "elective" surgeries and procedures any more.  It didn't seem right to me but that's what I get for breaking my damn arm in the middle of a pandemic.  Next time, I should plan it better.

In the meantime, I was to wear the immobilizer and keep my arm still.  But she did say that after a couple of days, I should start moving my arm a little (rotating it a bit) so that I don't get a frozen shoulder.
Well, getting ahead of my story, let me tell you, when I finally spoke to an orthopedist, about a week later, he told me no way should I be moving my arm at that point!  He said something like, "That's why you listen to your orthopedist, not an ER doctor."  I didn't say anything but I certainly wondered why an ER doctor, who would often see people for broken limbs, didn't know not to give such potentially ruinous advice.  By the way, thankfully I had not taken the ER doc's advice, not so much because I thought it was wrong but more because I was in too much discomfort to even try it, figuring it would be safer to have an Orthopedist tell me what to do.

So they came in and put an immobilizer on me.  I guess this is what they do instead of a cast these days (depending on the nature of the injury, I presume). I had no idea what it was supposed to look like when it was done but the last thing they tried to do was place my right arm across my chest (or maybe stomach) and put it in a sleeve that attached to the piece around my chest by velcro.  But when he tried to move my arm up like that, I let out a scream that would wake the dead.  So he left my arm "immobilized" down by my side.  But there was some other piece there that kept me from moving my arm (too much).

But I wasn't done—I had to wait around to be taken back to X-ray.  And waited.  It wasn't as long as the first wait for X-ray but it was good long while.  They took the immobilizer off so they could take X-rays, took a pic of my knee (or below the knee) and sent me back.

After a bit, they said I was ready to be discharged.  Wait, what?  What about the second set of X-rays?  Nothing there, you can go.

Well good to know I didn't have a separated shoulder.  But I wasn't satisfied. I didn't think I'd gotten enough information from the Doc, I wanted to see her again. So I insisted she come by before I would leave.

So more delay.

In the meantime, they had to figure out how to get me home.  There was no way I could lift my arm to get any kind of pull-over shirt on. The nurse had been looking at my t-shirt to see if there was any way she could put it on me, but gave up.  But she did notice my t-shirt was not exactly new, shall we say.  She said something like, "this t-shirt is pretty ratty."  That was kind of needlessly nasty under the circumstances.  I said, "Well, when I got dressed this morning, I didn't know I was going to undress for anybody.  At least I'm wearing underwear."  She laughed and said, "Yeah, that's a good thing."

They had put the immobilizer over my bare skin, but I couldn't be sent home shirtless. They finally realized that I was going to have to go home wearing the hospital gown.  So they took off the immobilizer, put the gown on me, put the immobilizer on over the gown.  I said, "How am I ever going to get this gown off by myself?"  They said I would be able to pull it through the immobilizer and then off my bad arm.  Yeah, right.

I wondered if they were going to charge me for the hospital gown they gave me (they did not).

I waited around for the Doc and she finally came and seemed surprised I wanted to talk to her again.  "You needed to see me again?"

I said I just wanted to make sure I knew what was going on.  "Yeah, yeah, you can be moving the arm a little in a few days, and you'll hear from Orthopedics in a day or two."  I kind of suspected that she wasn't telling me everything, like maybe because they had minimal staff to deal with anything not COVID-19 related. Like she would have Orthopedics give me the bad news.  But that was pure speculation.

In theory I could have walked out of there, but I had to go down to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription.  So they insisted that they have someone wheel me down there, then wheel out of the hospital to wait for my Lyft. 

So let's leave it right there for this chapter, and you can read the conclusion here.


  1. I'd liked to have seen the charge for the gown. 😄

    1. Man I was sure I had responded to this....I said that it would have been difficult for me to return the gown because I ripped it up pretty good when I finally took it off.

  2. So after 3 days in a hospital bed in Phoenix in the middle of February my last stop on the way out to catch an Uber back to my hotel was the hospital's pharmacy. There were two stations and one was just finishing up and I was pushed to the other in my wheelchair. Both stations were staffed with early 20ish women. After I presented my paperwork I was told my order was for 4 items. My pharmacy tech rolled back in her chair and grabbed one plastic bag then rolled back to the counterspace that was between us. She then dumped the bag and from left two right told me this is your first time, second, third and fourth for a total of four items. And three inches to the right of my fourth item was a small size tube of vaginal cream. The pharmacy tech was clicking on her computer and explaining my four items and then she bagged the last of the four items. Should I? Hmmmmmmm.... Why not????
    So I ask "excuse me but did that tube of vaginal cream fall out of my bag? You said four items but that vaginal cream would be a fifth item." She was somewhat flustered and was sitting there with her mouth open staring at the small box that had the small tube of vaginal cream in it. And now the other pharmacy tech is rolled back in her chair for a better view of what is going on. After that awkward moment of silence my pharmacy tech picks up the vaginal cream and puts it on a shelf behind them. Then she tells me "no, that vaginal cream was not part of your order". To which I reply "that's a relief, you dumped the bag and the vaginal cream was right there. I was wondering what in the hell am I going to do with that." Which in and of itself is not that humorus of a response. But... the timing of the grin I gave my pharmacy tech and the wink of an eye and she burst out in laughter which caused the other pharmacy tech to also burst out in laughter and then also the young guy pushing my wheelchair. Of course I joined in and we all had a good laugh about that mysterious tube of vaginal cream.....

    1. That's a great story, Lester!

      But tell me, were in the hospital for a sex change operation? Then it would all make sense!