Not Quite Swan Lake - 10.27.97

Last week, we had one of those picture perfect fall evenings that you can't help but liking. The temperature was about 45 degrees, the sky was clear, and there was a slight enough breeze to drop a few leaves off the trees. After eating a little dinner and writing some, I decided I would get off my arse and go for a bike ride. In order to stay warm, I put on long underwear with shorts over them, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a stocking cap, and a pair of thin gloves.

I stepped out the door of my apartment building with my bike at about 7:30. The air was crisp and I could see my breath ever so slightly as I exhaled. It was a little cold for my lungs, but it actually felt kind of good. Since it was dark, I rode along on the sidewalks, carefully watching the traffic as I passed through intersections and driveways. Every once in awhile, I would glance toward the sky. The stars were shining brightly and I could see them winking through the treetops.

Knowing I could get a better look, I veered off my course and headed toward the rather large reservoir that was just a mile or so away. I took off toward it and got there in no time. I rode my bike down the trail than ran around the rim of it, but soon decided I would sit down for awhile and look at the stars. I got off my bike and sat down. The water in the reservoir had a few ripples in it and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. As I was picking out the only constellations that I knew, I was startled by someone walking on the trail just behind me. I turned around quickly, but it was just a couple out for an evening walk. I was going to say 'hello' to them, but decided I would just remain quiet.

After a few more moments of relaxing, the cold started to set in a bit more. I picked up my bike and started heading down the trail again. I somewhat startled the couple that had passed by me only a few moments earlier, but kept on riding. Just ahead, the trail intersected with the sidewalk and a street and I would soon be on my way home again. Just before the trail met the sidewalk, a pole had been placed across the trail about 2 feet from the ground to keep motorcycles out. I had seen it before while riding by, but it wasn't on my mind as I rode directly toward it.

I was just about to the end of the trail when I glanced down in front of me. Suddenly, I saw the pole, and my defense systems went into overdrive. I thought of swerving to dodge it, but I instead hit my brakes and hoped that I would stop. As my brakes locked up, my tires slid and my front tire slammed into the pole. I went flying over the handlebars and landed on my right hand and knee. As I rolled over onto my back, I started laughing at my stupidity.

When I tried to get up, the reality of the situation really hit me. There was an intense pain in my right shoulder, and my arm felt completely limp. I could move my fingers, my wrist, and my elbow, but my arm as a whole wouldn't work. I reached up with my left hand and started feeling around to see what was wrong. When my hand went across the large bump, I knew that I had dislocated or separated it. By this time, the couple had made it to where I was sitting and they asked if I needed any help. I told them my diagnosis and they said I could use their phone at their house.

As we walked the 2 miles back to their house, my arm went through varying stages of pain. At some points, it felt kind of like it was slipping back into place, but other times it felt like my whole arm was on fire. I found that if I walked in a sort of hunched over way, it didn't put as much pressure on it and I could stand the pain. Fortunately for me, someone else was pushing my screwed-up bike and I could use my left arm to try and support it. There was some simple conversation on the way there, but it was quiet for the most part. I kept wishing I could just fix the problem myself. I thought I knew what was wrong, but it hurt entirely too much to mess with it. I thought about how easy it looked in the movies, but decided that bashing my shoulder against a wall would do more damage than good. It was something that seemed simple enough to fix, yet was completely out of my hands.

When we got inside the house, I called a friend and they were on their way to get me. My host offered me a glass of water, but I didn't feel like doing much of anything except hope that my friend arrived soon. It hurt to sit down, so I kept standing in my hunched-over position as the television was turned on. Somewhat reluctanly, my host said to me, "I think you cut your leg." I looked down and saw that a large part of the long underwear on my right leg was a dark red. I hadn't noticed it until this point, but my leg was cut open also. I also felt a burning on my face at this point and reached up to find blood there also.

After about 20 minutes, my friend arrived and we zipped off to the emergency room. As soon as the receptionist saw me hobble into the entryway, she said, "dislocated shoulder?" I nodded and she took me back to an exam room. When I sat down on the bed, I noticed my breathing was a bit off-kilter and I was feeling a bit shaky. The nurse told me to try and breath deeply through my nose and helped me take my shirt off. As she poked the IV in my arm, I looked over at my now-exposed shoulder expecting the worse. Instead, all I saw was my shoulder, with a rather large bump protruding off to the side. There was no bruising, no swelling, and the skin wasn't broken at all.

After getting an X-ray to make sure there were no broken bones, they brought me back into the exam room and started getting ready to get my shoulder back into place. They placed a counter-sling under my right arm and someone stood on my left to apply pressure. The doctor then took my right arm and lifted it away from my body. I was told to relax as much as possible to make it easier for everything to go back into place. Instead of being a quick motion like I had expected, the process was very gradual. There was some slight pain, but the combination of drugs and a focus on breathing helped quite a bit. After a few moments, my body was in a sort of wishbone with my right arm being pulled up and away from me. Just as I was wondering when something would happen, I heard a wet, popping sort of noise and knew that it was over. One of the nurses said that, "I've never heard it sound like that before," and we all shared a somewhat stifled laugh. It felt a lot better, but there was still a dull pain. It had been out of place for almost 2 hours, so I knew there would be some sore-ness.

I was told what I expected for treatment. I had to have my right arm in a splint and apply ice to it for 30 minutes every 4 hours for the next 72 hours. The socket was sore, but all other functions were normal. Over the next few days, I learned that it was much more of a hinderance than anything else. Although my shoulder hurt, the pain wasn't unmanageable. The sling, however, was a major hinderance. Normal activities such as brushing my teeth and cooking dinner took two times as long, and I couldn't even tie my own shoes. Worst of all, I couldn't drive myself anywhere because my car has a manual transmission. Right now, everything is healing as normal (I was able to type this out) and I should be back to normal in just a couple weeks. Although I've whined a bit, I'm thankful that it wasn't anything worse like a head injury or broken bones. Through everthing, I've had several times where I just kind of laugh. It was a stupid accident that was caused by a split-second of in- attentiveness on my part. I guess it probably won't be so funny when I get my insurance deductable.