On injury and idiocy

So why haven't I posted in weeks? Well, in a way, because I went to Hawaii.

Sunset 3

Early September was taken up with planning, and the rest of the month we were there, and since then it's been all about recovery.

But something else was going on as well.

As I finally realized while talking with my younger son last week, there's just no easy way to write about doing something really stupid, especially when one's stupidity results in major surgery for oneself and major inconvenience for a number of others.

But as my older son pointed out, no one would even know I'd done something dumb if I'd kept my mouth shut. People would just have thought I'd been unlucky. Accidents happen, after all, and cliff-diving isn't a risk-free activity. The dive was not in itself particularly outrageous: the cliff wasn't that high, we'd checked for rocks in the water, and I know how to dive. Ah, but there's the rub: diving badly was really really dumb.

To put it in a nutshell, I had surgery about three weeks ago to repair the rotator cuff injury sustained two weeks before that when I dislocated my shoulder diving off a cliff in Hawaii, which we were visiting because my father-in-law's idea of celebrating his 80th birthday (more hobbit than human) consisted of taking his whole family—three sons, two daughters-in-law, two grandsons and one girlfriend, nine people in all counting him—to the Big Island for eleven days, all of which were grand, yes even the last, when the five of us who hadn't gotten on a plane that morning—our tribe of four plus the youngest of the three brothers—headed for the afore-mentioned cliffs, where everyone else save yours truly had the sense to jump.

So for any of you out there who want to rub it in, believe me, I am paying. I'm strapped to a triangular piece of some high-tech descendent of foam rubber swathed in black, about five inches thick. One side rests against my ribs, and one has my left hand strapped to it, keeping the arm at right angles to my body. My physical therapist, an old friend by now, calls it the “gun-slinger,” since it keeps my arm pointed straight ahead, but bent at the elbow, as if I'd just pulled a pistol. I've already been in this thing for almost three weeks, and I'll be in it for another three. I wouldn't mind so much if only it had a depression on top for a coffee-cup.

This sling is so high tech that no one in the hospital knew how it worked. The folks who had strapped me into it on Friday had all disappeared by the time I was trying to go home on Saturday, and though my husband and I did manage to get it off and get me dressed, it took two nurses, me, and my husband to figure out how to get it back on. It's the sort of thing that requires a team of engineers and a blueprint, and we'd been cut loose without so much as a photocopied sheet of paper.

I'm lucky it's my left arm, but even so, everything from dressing to typing takes about four times as long as usual, and then at the beginning there was all the pain and the drugs to deal with the pain and the exhaustion from the drugs and so on. Fun times all round.

Now there's one area in which I'm unusually unfortunate, but this area has not so far brought me what I consider my due in sympathy. Indeed, when I related this particular to my younger son, he didn't stop laughing for five minutes, the little twerp. Here it is: other people can drive while confined to this sling. I, however, being significantly challenged in regards to height, need to sit quite close to the steering wheel (to reach the pedals, get it?). And this sling sticks out so far in front of me that I can't reach the pedals. So I can't drive.

Go ahead. Laugh. I'm used to it.

My long-suffering husband had to help me dress at first, and of course has to do all the shopping, not to mention turning the compost and covering the green house and carrying plants inside and innumerable other autumn tasks that are usually mine. I'm happy to report, however, that great strides have been made (by moi), though it's weird to celebrate my independence in tasks I've taken for granted for fifty years. For instance, I can now take a shower all by myself (yeah!) having figured out that one can flip a soapy washcloth up under the right arm, catch and clamp it with the arm, and pull it out in order to wash that pit, all without moving the left hand. It's amazing what qualifies as an accomplishment. Set the bar low enough, and the simplest things count.

I've become master of one-handed shovel work, for there's only so long potatoes can remain in the ground. I'm cooking again as well, for these are the last weeks we can eat from the garden, and those last little broccoli sprouts make a wonderful addition to a stir-fry. Indeed, it was the garden that first lured me outside, and got me moving again after a week of inactivity.

As for What Happened—where we were when I dove and all that—the story itself will have to wait, as I'm about typed out for the day.

6 Responses to On injury and idiocy

  1. Awww, I’m so sorry to hear that you have been hurt! I tell you, though, there is nothing better than a stupid, self-inflicted injury to amuse people with after the fact.
    I just heard about a friend of a friend who, through his own stupidity, ended up in a situation where his finger was torn off. Amazingly enough, his response was to laugh and exclaim “look guys, I’ve been de-fingered!” Surely shock was involved, but wow, I’m an admirer now!
    I just recently made the stupid mistake of letting my 2-year-old hold a rock while I put him on my lap to fix his shoe. Bam! With one quick move, he broke my tooth. I should have known better. But oh well, the dentist fixed it up, and I got a great story out of it!
    I hope the cast comes off soon!

  2. Do you mean to say that Hobbits are not human? I am outraged!

  3. Did you go to any garden centers in Hawaii? I visited Maui 5 years ago and had a wonderful time talking to a garden center owner about the plants.

  4. Hey! I am with the Baltimore Free Farm, an organic community garden and sustainability collective. We are trying to win a greenroof from a local roofing company. Could you please help us by voting at the website (only takes a minute, and you can vote once per day). There are a lot of other great organizations running as well but we feel as though we could put this to good use on the rooftop of our sustainability center. Thanks!!

  5. Greetings, Michelle, and thanks for the reassurance that I'm not the only blundering idiot wandering around loose. I'm amazed someone could joke about being “de-fingered” a minute after the fact.
    I took a look at your blog (very nice!) and am astonished to see a snow-free environment in Massachusetts this late in the season. You seem to be taking advantage of it!
    Now, now, Sally, don't get your knickers in a twist. I have the greatest respect for hobbits. In fact, as an under-five-foot-human, I've been mistaken for one on several occasions.

  6. Oh no that’s rough. Hawaii is so beautiful. Too bad your trip was a bummer.

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