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Shouldering the pain of a dislocation

Note to self, add to the “Things I Know for Sure” list: A dislocated shoulder is painful.

Sad to say, I know this from personal experience. It hurts. It hurts as if some type of angry alien is trying to burst out of your shoulder. That hasn’t happened to me, but I imagine it’s the same pain as a dislocation.

How do those cowboys in the movies do it? They fall off their horses, a shoulder is hanging down, they hit it against a tree, and it pops back into place. Or think about Mel Gibson putting his shoulder back in the socket by hitting it against the wall. All I could do was hold my elbow and sweat profusely while saying a couple of unladylike words.

I was about to leave the house, but I needed something in the basement. I was holding on to the banister, and whoosh, my foot slipped. I held on for dear life and managed to crank my shoulder right out of the socket. I would have been much better off landing on my rear where there was plenty of padding. Of course, it all happened in a matter of seconds, but I knew I couldn’t do the cowboy/Mel Gibson thing, so I called my husband and left a blubbering voicemail.

For lack of other ideas, I also called 911. I told the nice woman what happened. No, I wasn’t bleeding; no, I didn’t hit my head; yes, I was alone; yes, I could get to the door to let the EMS folks in. So there I was sitting on the steps by the garage door. I punched the button and opened the big garage door. Before long, I heard the sirens. It was weird to think that this time they were coming for me. At least, I hoped so.

James, Mary and Haden were the EMS workers who were so nice and efficient and shot me up with pain medicine as fast as humanly possible. Mary was a comfort because she knew the importance of having my purse with me and kept me updated on its location.

It hurt to breathe, it hurt to move, and all three were very sympathetic. I had enough sense to see that Haden was very young and handsome. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, he would have been fun to look at. Then the guy I really wanted to see showed up: my husband, who did his “I’m calm” act, but I knew he wasn’t. His furrowed eyebrows gave him away.

Once in the ambulance, I hoped with the small part of my brain that was working that I didn’t have a fracture and that I wouldn’t need surgery. Then came the visual image of my datebook page for the week. At that very moment, I should have been on my way to meet Polly to work on the exhibit at the Center for the Arts. The next day, I had Girl Power with fifth-graders at Jefferson Elementary, a meeting on Wednesday and two evening events on Thursday.

When I muttered “I don’t have time for this,” I realized some things are completely out of my control. I hate that realization.

No lights and siren were used, because they said my injury wasn’t life-threatening. I wanted to disagree, but the drugs were kicking in. I knew I couldn’t be convincing slumped over holding my elbow.

James said we made it under the wire. He had called in to tell St. Francis ER we were coming, and shortly after that, they got the message the ER was full. No one else would be accepted. I was afraid that meant I would have to wait to have my joint put back together. I was right.

Once it was finally my turn, up first were X-rays. Mmmmm, ugly pic. The good news was I didn’t have a fracture. And more good news: The doc would put my humerus back in the socket where it belonged right there in the ER. I usually hate the thought of being put to sleep, but I couldn’t wait this time.

Bam, out like a light. And just as everyone kept telling me, once my shoulder was back in the socket, I was in less pain. “I had to put it in twice,” Dr. Jeffrey Bell told me. “The first time I did it, it slipped back out, but it’s good now.” The term “good” is maybe not what I would have used but certainly better.

I rarely go on Facebook, but as I lay in my recliner the next day (yes, I have a recliner, but it’s a pretty one) while feeling sorry for myself, I posted what had happened. Wow! I got all kinds of get-well wishes and heard from people I’ve been missing. Now I see why social media has some real fans.

Many told me of their experiences with dislocations, and some were much worse than mine. Bet all of them added the pain of a dislocation to their list of things they know for sure.

I’m right-handed, so of course it was my right shoulder that was dislocated. Many things are manageable, such as making the bed, folding laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, typing slowly and putting on makeup. Boy, painting my face left-handed is slow going. Filling in eyebrows is a trick. I went around one day looking a bit inquisitive.

But the real problem is trying to do hair with one hand. I know it can be done, but not by me. In three days, my hairstyle could be described as “solitary confinement escapee.”

Also, using the computer mouse with my left hand makes the little arrow appear to be drunk. Half the time I can’t locate it on the screen. All these years I thought I was fairly coordinated in both hands. Ha!

People who lose an arm or a hand or any limb, for that matter, adjust remarkably well. That’s why when I get “down in the mouth,” as my mom used to say, I remember how lucky I am this is temporary.

Before long, this sling will go the way of big shoulder pads – discarded, never to be worn again. And when something hurts, I can say, “Shoot. This is nothing compared to a dislocated shoulder.”

I do know for sure I don’t want to do it again.

Reach Bonnie Bing at bingbylines@gmail.com.

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