19 June 2013

My First Fracture

Portrait of Caroline Murat descending the staircase of Élysée Palace by François Gérard, 1810

There is no Lifescouts badge for fracturing a bone, probably because fractures are something that you should avoid if at all possible instead of something to aspire to. For the first twenty-two years of my life, I was proud of the fact that I had never broken a bone despite being chronically klutzy. But as of last week, my perfect streak is broken--I fell down the stairs and, according to the orthopedic specialist I saw, likely fractured my elbow.

I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but possibly it had something to do with my flimsy flip-flops. One minute I was on the stair landing, heading to the second floor to fetch something. I realized that the object I sought was actually downstairs, so I turned around and all of a sudden the floor below was rushing towards my face. I remember having three very distinct thoughts at the time, which must have occurred in extraordinarily rapid succession since my entire fall lasted a matter of seconds:

My first thought was, I'm falling.

My second thought was, I can't stop.

My third thought was, I'm going to have to land on the floor as best as I can.

I suppose I was fairly successful in this objective. Most of the impact seemed to hit my right side, as I had stretched out my right arm and put out my right knee to buffer my landing. Despite this, my chest hit the floor with a thump, knocking the breath out of me. For a minute I didn't know why I was having trouble catching my breath, and worried that something was wrong with my lungs. But very quickly I felt my normal breathing rhythm return, leaving me to assess the rest of the damage.

At first I thought I had just sprained my right wrist, but as it turns out my right elbow got the worst of it. Although it hasn't (yet) shown up on an x-ray, the orthopedic specialist I paid a call to believes that I have a radial head fracture. It's mild as broken bones go, and I'm not even in a cast or splint--in fact, I'm supposed to attempt my normal routine in order to restore the greatest range of motion possible.

It's possible that my right elbow may always be slightly bent compared to my left, but if that's the worst that comes of falling halfway down the stairs then I'm grateful.

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