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The Emergency Room

Updated on September 27, 2009


We had planned an evening with some close friends. The decision was made to dine at a nice Mexican restaurant and then return to their home for a relaxing evening. The night was unusually cool and clear for the time of year, so after dinner and arriving at their home, we decided to retire to the backyard. They had recently purchased a trampoline for their children and, of course, our kids without hesitation were bee-lining straight for it. I was always a little nervous about trampolines, but we thought it would be great entertainment for the kids so the adults could talk and relax. My wife, Mara, and my friend’s wife, Jan, had decided to go into the kitchen to prepare some snacks while my friend, Jeff, had retrieved a couple of his fine Montecristo cigars and a decanter of sixteen-year-old scotch.

It was just a pleasant and enjoyable time for everyone. My nervousness about the trampoline was slightly subdued, probably from the scotch, and so I was enticed to climb on and try the trampoline. I started out slowly at first to build my confidence and comfort level by gently bouncing. My nerve was getting stronger, as I found myself going higher and higher. I decided to stop and try a simple bounce from my feet to my butt and back to my feet. I performed this trick twice with ease, bouncing higher and higher each time, but upon the third attempt I landed more towards my lower back, which flung me forward and across instead of upward. I sailed through the air, flailing my arms in a circular motion in a futile attempt to catch myself. I landed on the far side of the tramp with a thud and a loud crack that sounded like a two by four breaking. I lay motionless, my arms pointing forward and my legs straight back. I inched my feet off first from the tramp, and then my chest, and as my right arm lost support of the tramp it fell to rest not by my side, but in front of me on my collarbone. I was bent over in pain, clutching my injured arm, as I crept toward a chair.

Everyone was in total shock as to the events that had just unfolded, when they jumped to my aid. Jeff helped me remove my shirt to exam the damage to my arm. My arm was clearly dislocated and resting firmly in the middle of my chest.

I asked Jeff to attempt to pull my arm down and to move it back in place, but my arm was locked hopelessly in place. I had no choice, and asked Jeff to drive me to the hospital.

Jeff helped me into the backseat of my van, as we had pulled into his driveway last from the restaurant. He scurried to the driver’s seat and began the trip to the emergency room. In his exuberance to get me aid, he had forgotten that I was not belted into the seat, and he started to race through the streets of his neighborhood, sloshing me from side to side. I screamed in pain for him to slow down that “I wasn’t bleeding to death,” but he was killing me slowly by beating me against the inside of the van.

We arrived at the hospital shortly and Jeff helped ease me out of the van. It was a short distance from the van to the emergency room doorway; it just seemed to be miles away. My body was cramping, my normal six-foot-four stature was reduced to the hobble and look of Quasimodo. Every movement created pain and agony. It’s odd how the first thing I noticed about the emergency room was the ugly speckled tile; however, it was very clean for the traffic that had passed over it. Fortunately, I was immediately put into an examination room and the “candy striper” entered to gather my vital statistics.

My body writhing in pain and retracting into the fetal position, the nurse attempted to gather all the medical vitals and, of course, the insurance to get the paperwork started. Jeff pulled my wallet from my back pocket and retrieved my insurance card. I answered what I could, my body was going deeper into shock, Jeff answering what he could; he asked for the rest to wait until my wife could arrive. Then the foolish “candy striper” asked me to sign a release to proceed, and she received my wrath: “If you can kill the pain now I will sign your damn form. I’m right handed you dumb ass. It’s a little hard to write now.”

Jeff slid her out and took care of it. The doctor entered the room, but I couldn’t really describe his features because my pain had become so intense my eyes were tightly clinched. He made a quick examination and ordered a valium compound IV, which was for pain and to relax my muscles.

A few minutes later the doctor returned and made his first attempt to reset my arm. He helped turn me on to my stomach; my right arm was dangling off the bed. Rubbing and squeezing my arm from my shoulder down to my elbow in efforts to relax the clinched muscles, and without notice he pulled downward with enough force momentarily to pull my arm off my collarbone, but it snapped back to the same locked position.

The pain was becoming unbearable. If you can imagine, it was like a giant pair of pliers clamping down on the joint of your shoulder with enough pressure that the bone and tissue were being crushed and then multiply that ten fold. My legs started to curl underneath my body from the attempt, and my eyes shut even tighter in a feeble attempt to block the pain.

The physician ordered heavier medication to relieve some of the pain and hopefully relax my muscles, and then he attached a weight and hook to my arm. This device was about ten pounds in weight with a bent hook that wrapped around my wrist which was then strapped tightly to my arm, and then it was left to hang and pull downward on my twisted arm. My arm hung helplessly from the bed, and the pain went from heavy throbbing to knife-piercing that ran from the tip of my fingers and went throughout my entire body.

My wife and her friend Jan had arrived in the interim of this process and requested—no, demanded-- that I should be given more medication for the pain. The doctor informed them that he had administered enough valium/morphine compound that a man two and half times my weight should be out cold. He feared any more could put me into cardiac arrest. He then discussed the option of surgery if the weighted hook failed to pull my arm back in place. What seemed to be an eternity, about thirty minutes I was later told, my arm began to stretch and then a blood-curling crunch and pop and my arm snapped back in place. The pain was immediately relieved, and I blacked out from all the medication and stress of the event.

I woke wearily on a cold table. Dazed and confused, was I dead? No. I heard my friend in the distance yelling at me to be still so the x-ray technician could take the pictures needed for the post exam. I was then wheeled back to my room, and my arm was bandaged and placed in a sling. I was given prescriptions for pain and muscle relaxation and was requested to make an appointment the following week for a checkup. I was discharged approximately four hours after I had first entered the hospital. It had been a long ordeal, and something I wish on no one. The total recovery from the accident took over a year, and my right arm has never been the same.


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