Dealing with Injury

Despite being very careful, I managed to get injured. With shoulders weakened by quadriplegia, two nurses’ aides assist me with transfers. I can stand with assistance and I want to as long as I can. The aides usually hold me under the armpits and provide minimal lifting while I transfer. My transfer regimen was modified for safety years ago when I was no longer allowed to pivot. Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago I felt severe pain and numbness in my right shoulder after a transfer. When the pain continued, I asked that it be x-rayed … something did not feel right.

I elevated my arm to help alleviate the pain and had a good bit of trouble sleeping at night. A couple of hours after the x-ray I was told I have a hairline fracture of my right humerus. I have had many falls in my life but have never broken a bone except for my nose. I knew that dealing with the injury would be traumatic. The pain is controlled somewhat with acetaminophen and ibuprofen and I declined stronger drugs because of their side effects.

My facility physician wanted me to see an orthopedic surgeon. I did not think there was much an orthopedic surgeon could do. I felt there was no way that he would operate on a woman who has been a quadriplegic for 40+ years. But I reluctantly set up the appointment. In the interim, I had to put my right arm in a sling. Since I have never worn one, I did not know how uncomfortable it can be.

My shoulder saga has a history. Five years ago, my doctor said my shoulder range of motion exercises had to be changed. He no longer wanted my arms raised over my head. He said my right shoulder was subluxed (it pops in and out of place). He felt stretching my arms would make them worse. But I was concerned that my muscle tone would deteriorate due to the lack of exercise.

Since it has been a while since I made an appointment with a specialist, I was frustrated by the maze of voicemails I encountered. I longed for the old days when a human being answered the phone. It took a whole day to make the appointment because the doctor’s office and I played voicemail for several hours.

I decided to forgo transportation by ambulette and have my recreation transportation driver take me. Then I can have lunch before or shop after the doctor’s visit, which makes me feel better and less like a patient. I was quite cold on my doctor’s appointment day. My van’s lift groaned loudly as it rose to the van’s entrance. I steeled myself for the trip on a two-lane highway. I knew there would be some bumping and I was concerned about extra pain in my shoulder.

The medical building’s waiting area looked like the great hall of the ‘crutch people’. Chairs were scarce and I was glad that I had my own. We had to fill out four pages of intake paperwork. I cannot wait until my healthcare information will be stored online where it can be easily printed out.

I brought my x-rays on a disk, which was pretty cool, and much easier than carrying x-rays. I sat and watched people chatting on cell phones and keying text messages. I also noticed that this medical building did not have regular TV but CNN’s health news channel.

The wait was not very long. The orthopedic surgeon was young, probably in his late 30s. He said he did not know if the shoulder was fractured but it is dislocated and has been for quite some time. He is unable to put it back in place or operate because of my deteriorated muscle tone. So I go this week for a CAT scan of both shoulders so the orthopedic surgeon will have the whole story. I will need to return for another visit, but he has already told me there is not much he can do. He says my shoulder will set in its own place, though not the way it should, and heal. He says the pain will diminish over time.

I continue to transfer the way that I have been, but we are very careful with my right arm. This injury has taught me that we can never be too careful when moving me from place to place.

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