Did I mention that I broke my hand?
Walking into the office on January 2nd, first day back after the office holiday closure, I was looking to the side when I stepped on a very smooth, very snow-covered maintenance hole cover. Wham, and I was on the ground. I landed on my left side and my left pinky hurt as I got up.
It happened so fast, I didn’t quite see everything. I felt like my pinky went out of alignment with my hand, and I was a bit worried that I broke the finger. But I felt it very carefully, trying to feel for breaks, and concluded that it was fine. But it hurt. I bound my pinky to my ring finger for a few hours and went on with life.
After the first day, I didn’t really feel any pain, but the hand became pretty swollen for about a week, and it was after the swelling went down that I noticed that the metacarpal bone didn’t feel right. That was when I started to worry that I’d broken it (spoiler alert: I’d broken it!)
Since it was now a week after the actual accident, I didn’t it was an emergency, so I didn’t go to the hospital: there’s a doctor’s office very near by that takes walk-ins, so I popped in there before work one day. When the doctor asked me what was up, I told her that I thought I’d broken a metacarpal — they happen to have a physiotherapy clinic on site, so they got a physiotherapist to poke and prod my hand for a while.
Here’s where I think it all went wrong. She asked me how much pain I was in. “On a scale of zero to ten, where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you’ve ever experienced, how would you rate your pain?”
Me: “I’m not in any pain.”
Physio: “Did you take any pain medication when it happened?”
See, I have a very high pain tolerance. I don’t know why; I just do. Health professionals frequently comment about how pain resistant I am. When I was recovering from SRS in Portland, the nurses kept going on and on about how I never asked for pain meds. (Apparently for the first few days, I had one of those morphine buttons, but I don’t recall anyone telling me that I had a button, so I never used it. After they removed the morphine device, I was supposed to ask for pain medication when I needed it — it bothered them that I never asked).
I never think to take pain meds, so I never really stock up on any off-the-shelf stuff. And because I never have any, I never think to take anything. It’s a weird, interesting circle. I got into the habit of keeping headache medication because I’ve had guests ask for it, but I don’t use it myself.
And, since that encounter, I’ve found myself wondering: “what is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, anyway?” Perhaps when I broke my collarbone when I was 12? Or when they reset the collarbone without anesthetic? (I can still hear that sickening crack of the bone as the doctor yanked my shoulders without warning me. Ah, lies we tell kids.)
I didn’t really experience much pain during SRS, but the Orch was more achy. Electrolysis has been somewhat ouchy in certain areas (most people find the upper lip painful, especially just below the nose; me, I hated the lower lip the most. The closer to the actual lip, the more the pain). But I don’t think I’ve had any truly memorable pain. So, uh, I don’t think I’ve experienced the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. (There’s a sentence that should come from Alice in ER or something).
Anyway, the physiotherapist declared that she didn’t think my bone was broken but said that I probably needed physio. But I think that declaration was based on her expectation that a real break would have caused more pain.
The doctor gave me a referral for an X-ray just to be sure and they set up a follow-up appointment for this past Tuesday. After the appointment I was briefly relieved. No broken bone! Yay! But the more I felt my hand, the more certain I was that it was broken: the bone just isn’t doing the right thing.
When I arrived at my follow-up appointment, the physiotherapist wanted me to start a physio regime. Me, I was, like, “uh, aren’t we gonna look at the X-ray?” It took some cajoling to get her to look at the X-ray. And then the real treat came. See, I was mentally prepared to hear that it was broken and I was mentally prepared to hear that it wasn’t broken. What happened instead was that she wouldn’t tell me what was on the X-ray. Because she wasn’t a doctor and couldn’t legally interpret my X-ray for me.
It was impossible to misinterpret the results based on her actions: she stopped recommending physio and urged me to get a brace for my hand, and told me I should come back in two days to speak to the Doctor who originally made the referral (and who wasn’t back in the office until then). I left there frustrated and rolling my eyes. I suppose I wanted instant medical gratification. It had already been a week and a half since my fall, and the diagnosis wasn’t in any doubt, so I just wanted to get the “fixing it” part. I’ve known a lot of people who express this sentiment: that being in a holding pattern is the stressful part of medical stuff. Me, I have it pretty easy. I’m sure that my broken bone is straight-forward to fix, and even in the unlikely case that that never happens, my hand is only slightly impaired. But the holding pattern is still annoying.
Almost-coincidentally, that Doctor phoned me Tuesday afternoon — she’d been reviewing lab reports remotely and saw the fracture in my X-ray. She told me that she was gonna fax an “emergency referral” to the fracture clinic at St. Joseph’s hospital. Now I just had to wait for the fracture clinic to contact me. And they did, two days later. The phoned to tell me that they’d set up an appointment to see them on January 31st. My hand will have been broken for 29 days at that point. I did express some shock at that date on the phone, but I couldn’t, in good conscience, claim that my hand was more urgent.
So, I’m in the holding pattern for two more weeks.