You go a lifetime with the use of two hands, and take for granted the myriad of things that amazing combination of 10 fingers allows you to do, much of it with little thought: tying shoes, zipping a zipper, opening a medicine bottle, peeling a banana, cutting and eating food, driving a car, typing, opening a letter, and on and on.
Take one of those hands and five fingers out of the equation — particularly if it's the dominant hand — and enclose it in a cast from mid-palm to above the elbow, and all those simple, without-thinking, automatic actions become challenges that range from merely annoying to maddening to, in some cases, darn near insurmountable.
That is the predicament I now contend with as the result of a fall the morning of Feb. 20, when what I thought was wet concrete from the night's rain was, in fact, a coating of clear ice. Heading from the house to the car, I made about two steps, feet flew out from under me, and I landed full force on my right wrist.
I knew instinctively the sucker was broken. The ice was so slippery, I couldn't get enough traction with my athletic shoes to pull myself up to the car. Had to take my shoes off and get traction in my sock feet. My wife was out of town, so I managed to get in the car and slip and slide over icy streets (thank goodness for the flat, no hills Delta) to the emergency room, where they were beginning to bring people in from wrecks on the highway. After about an hour, I got X-rays and in another 30 minutes the ER doc confirmed, yep, it's broken in three places.
Luckily the orthopedist had made it in and after looking at X-rays, put me in a cast and sent me home to let the swelling go down for a few days, after which I returned for more X-rays and the good news that surgery and pins wouldn't be needed. But the bad news was that for seven weeks my right hand and arm would be immobilized in a cast that I already was hating with a passion.
Worse, the arm is crooked at a 90-degree angle at the elbow, and the cast won't allow me to bend my elbow. You think it ain't fun trying to do things — sit and watch TV; sleep, read — with your arm in a bulky cast and crooked like a rabbit's leg?
Ah, but the crowning handicap is typing — there's a whale of a difference in typing 70 words per minute with 10 fingers and pecking one painfully slow letter at a time with my left hand.
Would that we were in the Star Trek era and one of Doc McCoy's space age gadgets could be waved over my broken bones and they'd be instantly made whole. Barring that, I cope as best I can with my “challenge” and count down the days until the infernal cast is removed and I can use all 10 fingers again.
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