Growing Up / life

The sound of one hand clapping (Part 3: Don’t stop ’til you get enough)

This is super long, and I’m sorry, but this about does it for this saga for now.

For about a week after the burns, due to both injury and exhaustion, I was completely looped. I wouldn’t realize this, however, until late the following Sunday, when I finally started to feel like my old self. (I credit the restorative powers of a metric ton of Jersey pizza.) This was also the day my largest blister — the one across my palm — popped in the car in a manner so disgusting that the description of it made my mom nauseous. I, of course, thought it was hilarious, which is why I called to tell her about it.

As June progressed, I would find that my various hand traumas were sure-fire ways to literally bring my mom to her knees. She would find that I have an urge to whip off bandages and splints at a moment’s notice.

I have a feeling the phrase, “Wanna see?,” is going to have caused some long-term damage in my family.

Back to the ongoing saga:

I don’t feel like being cute about this, so I’ll just say it: the night I burned my hand was probably the post painful night of my life. I can’t describe the pain for you because I can’t actually remember it. Though, if I could, I probably wouldn’t say much about it.

After doing a sophisticated combo of shotgunning and mashing nearly all his McDonald’s fries directly into my face and playing a long round of urban disc golf with my friend Dennis^, I made my way home around 3am*. I filled my bed with cold packs, wet paper towels, and tried to get some rest.

Around 5:30 am, from either the pain, exhaustion, or the likelier combination of both, I passed out. When I woke up at 10:30, my phone was ringing and my hand no longer hurt. Even better, my friend Megan was on the other end of the call.

Megan’s job is to call people who have been discharged from the Emergency Room and make sure that they’re okay. She is practically the most perfect person for this job. While it’s hard to fully describe, the combination of her voice, demeanor, and Megan-ness makes me eternally glad that she was the first voice I heard that morning. I found out later that she wanted to call me right away; I was at the top of her list. But I’m glad she let me rest. The call — and the invite to a Movies in the Park showing of How to Train Your Dragon — almost immediately made things not so bad.

Here’s the thing: Hurting yourself like that can be kind of isolating, as is the experience of eventually going home alone and dealing with whatever your body is going to throw at you. While another person can’t take away the pain, anxiety, and stress, they can make it better by hanging in there and offering to hold back your hair when you’re rocked with waves of pain-induced nausea. When you’re alone and digging around for a headband in the dark while trying you keep your hand under a stream of cool water, it’s easy to think things seem pretty bleak.

That first phone call — and the actions and words of my friends throughout June — mean more to me than I can possibly describe**.  The general run of bad luck, injuries, pain issues, and groan-inducing moments could have sent me to dark place where I would have been justified in acting like a total pissbag. (Honestly, when I’m a little tired/hungry/cranky, I can be that pissbag. Then, I eat something and life somehow gets better.) Hearing familiar voices on the other end of the line saying, “Hey crazyface, what’d you do now?” and having so many offers of help and support via text, computer, and courier pigeon was overwhelming in a good way. Because of all the good eggs I know, I’ve made it to July feeling stable, well loved, and only mildly frustrated that I can’t type or lift a gallon of milk with my left hand ***.

For about 20 minutes, June was pretty calm. I wore a “courtesy bandage*^” to protect from infection and for the sake of others who might want to keep their lunches down. I avoided high-fiving with my left hand. I got my car back from the accident it was in on Memorial Day weekend, when someone backed into my parked car. It looked like things might finally settle down and that I’d walked away with some lessons learned and some new skin on my palm.

Boy, was I wrong.

When we fast-forward to the Monday in question, one thing is for sure: I was every place I wasn’t supposed to be. Here’s a brief summary of my feelings:

(Sorry about the quality. It was the best I could do.)

I don’t usually sleep over at my parents’ house. I never take Parkway North to 78 West because the last time I did I missed the exit and ended up in Irvington late at night, which is something I guess my parents know about now.  I don’t ever not stop for breakfast when I’m in New Jersey, because it’s nearly impossible to find a good bagel in Pennsylvania.

That morning, I did all of those things.  I had an appointment at the dentist at 10am, which is why I spent the night at Mom and Dad’s when I visited for Father’s Day.  Right before 8am, the office called my parents’ house (which was odd as well, since they know I don’t live there) and cancelled. I immediately decided to head to my place to get a jump on a Monday that I thought was more or less a loss. I didn’t get very far.

Without many specifics, there was stop and go traffic, another accident on the road, and I ended up totaling my car and breaking my hand.

While it’s clear to me now that my hand is broken (and it becomes more and more clear when I do things like lift gallons of milk with my left hand or wash my hair), at the time I thought I just had a ping pong ball-sized bump. When I first called him about the accident, and while we waited on line at the rental car place, and in the car on the way there, I argued with my dad about the need to visit the Emergency Room.  As I stressed to both him and all the doctors and nurses, I had just burned my hand exactly two weeks ago, I knew hand pain, and this was nothing.

After a urine test, a wheelchair ride to radiology, and some x-rays, the sports medicine resident arrived with bandages, the makings of a cast-like splint, and the news that Mondays weren’t my day. My dad nearly fell out of his chair laughing and asking me if I’d like to reconsider my argument about not needing to be there.  The next day, the orthopedist in Bethlehem cut me out of the generally awkward splint I was in and set me up with this sportier, removable model:

This is my life until late July. I’m more tired than I expected and when I don’t carry my hand-held water bottle in my right hand, alarmingly off balance when I run. But I’m happy to be getting by with only one small bone broken in my hand, even if it does encourage strangers to make domestic violence jokes (like, “So did your boyfriend or husband step out of line and you had to show him who’s boss?”) when I’m at the milkshake machine at Wawa. Maybe I need to cut back on those.

But you may be asking yourself, “If she got to pick her Velcro color, why did she pick orange?” Two reasons:

1. If I’m going to have to wear this thing, I’m going to WEAR the shit out of it.

2. If you had the month I’d had, would you pick any color OTHER than blaze orange?


^ This basically consisted of walking around a small section of the South Side and picking targets to hit with our discs. It helped with my frustration and gave us an activity that allowed to me participate and carry around my ice pack.

* I left the ER at 1:06 am, which I remember for some reason. Also, this should clearly indicate trouble, since I’m never up that late. I wasn’t given anything for the pain that night, so my plan, which sort of worked, was to hang out with my night-owl friend and kill some time. He was also the first person to notice/be concerned about my loopiness. Evidently, the fact that I spent a good three minutes looking for him while he stood still, in plain view, was both hilarious and odd. In my defense, he had moved since I had left the hot shop to go to the bathroom. Also, he is very skinny and was standing next to a column. It was practically like dealing with a chameleon.

** If this is too sappy for you, too bad. Deal with it.

*** Maybe I should make all of them casseroles of appreciation.

*^ This is what I called it. It’s not a real term for anything.


One thought on “The sound of one hand clapping (Part 3: Don’t stop ’til you get enough)

  1. Pingback: Goodbye, Summer 2011. We hardly knew ye. « Cardigan Enthusiast

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