Okay, so yeah. The broken wrist thing.
The morning of my doctor’s appointment arrived, two weeks to the day after the Turkey Bowl, and I still had a significant amount of pain in my wrist. I decided to go in and make sure it wasn’t broken.
The office was busy and although I arrived right on time, I spent a considerable amount of time, first in the waiting room, and then sitting in my own little disinfected compartment. Eventually Dr. Schwarting had the time to see me.
He had me take off the brace and began poking and prodding, looking for tender areas. With one exception, I didn’t feel much of anything at all; the swelling had long since disappeared. It wasn’t until he started in on the twisting and bending that I made the pain face.
After just a couple minutes, he decided that more X-rays were a good idea. Just like when I hurt my knee, I got the impression that he was asking me for permission – not everyone feels good about spending money to irradiate their body. I do. Or at least I felt that the merits of knowing for sure whether or not I had another broken bone outweighed the risks.
He left me alone again for a bit and I went back to reading my National Geographic. Before long, one of his assistants showed up and ushered me into the room with all the bulky machinery. She took four X-rays of my wrist in various positions and only one was excruciating (palm and forearm flat on the table, with the wrist bent about 45 degrees clockwise). While the images of my bones were developing, I was back in my room reading again about places in the world I’d rather be.
Before long, Dr. Schwarting came back in with the X-rays and popped them up onto the lighted wall panel. It seemed as though we were both looking at them for the first time. My eyes sought out the scaphoid bone, looking for the telltale signs of a hairline fracture. I couldn’t see anything, but that didn’t mean the guy with all the experience wouldn’t.
Rather than speculate, I asked him what he was seeing. He went over each picture and pointed out the relevant areas while he thought out loud. The long and the short of it was that he didn’t see any breaks.
Which was great news to me! The fact that my wrist still hurt was temporarily forgotten as I wiped the “six months in a cast” apprehension from my mind. I asked if I could do without the brace, as well. He even recommend it.
Knowing that I wouldn’t inadvertently be grinding any bones together, I was looking forward to flexing my wrist again. Though I knew it would be painful, I figured that forcing it a little bit farther each day would be the quickest road to recovery. My doctor agreed and showed me a couple exercises that would help (basically putting my hands in “prayer” and “reverse-prayer” positions and forcing my arms either down or up respectively.) I was happy to have something proactive I could do.
I asked him one last question: When should I worry if the pain hasn’t gone away? One month, came the immediate answer. Good enough, though I forgot to specifically ask when I could trust it in sports again.
I also forgot to bring my digital camera that day, so any knowledge of my left hand’s interior would have to be taken with me as a memory. It wasn’t long before my curious eyes were traveling back to the X-rays and, even though it was obvious that Dr. Schwarting was behind on his appointments, I was grateful that he still took the time to answer my questions.
The last time I’d looked at an X-ray of my fifth metacarpal, it was completely split in two along a diagonal line. Now, however, I could only see a thin white line running through it. Dr. Schwarting agreed that it had healed quite well.
I asked about a small white spot on one of the bones, specifically if it was the “bone island” that was mentioned by the ER doctor the week before. It was. I ventured my suspicion that “bone island” was another name (and a better one, at that!) for the “benign tumor” he had pointed out in my knee X-rays. He surprised me by pulling my knee X-rays out of the big manila envelope he’d been holding in his hand. Yep, sure enough, they were the same thing. Those crazy bone islands; they’re so asymptomatic!
Finally, my eye happened upon a tiny, spherical bone floating off the knuckle of my index finger. “What’s that?” I wanted to know. It was a sesamoid bone, an ossified node. I learned that they’re there to take the pressure off of joints in the fingers. Furthermore, not everyone has a full set. Sure enough, a quick look back at the X-ray confirmed that I only have them in my index fingers and Dr. Schwarting confided that he doesn’t have any at all. No wonder there’s no pat answer to the question: “How many bones are there in the human body?”
As if my wrist not being broken wasn’t good news enough, I discovered upon leaving the office that my portion of the bill not covered by insurance was only $17.50. Quite a relief after the ER bill (where they criminally charged me $136 for the bent piece of metal, long thin sponge, and Ace bandage assembly they call a splint.)
It’s been over 8 weeks since I was told that I should begin to worry if the pain hadn’t gone away in a month. That was an awkward sentence. There’s still pain, but I only notice it maybe once a day when I accidentally bend it too far. Surely, Dr. Schwarting meant constant pain, not any pain. I do believe that a single pushup is still well beyond the wrist’s capabilities, but I think indoor ultimate Frisbee would be okay.
I mean, it’s my left hand, right? I’ll only really be in danger if I use it to block a fast throw. Or fall down. Or run into a wall.
I’d by lying if I said that there wasn’t a part of me that’s a little disappointed in only being diagnosed with a sprained wrist. Don’t get me wrong; I have no desire to wear a cast, have surgery performed upon my person, or in even going to the doctor again. Why is it then that even a small part of me wishes for more pain?
After dwelling on that uncomfortable feeling for far too long, I’ve come to the conclusion that it all comes down to a need for attention. I’m not the sort that craves sympathy for my injuries, in fact, I’ve written about how I try to avoid it. On the other hand, a broken bone can be wielded as a sort of badge of honor. “See my cast? I really did break my wrist playing football! It’s a man’s sport, and I’m a man!”
And what about all those late-night social gatherings where the conversation turns to the injuries we’ve sustained? One person’s mention of the time they got stitches inevitably turns into a round-robin of everyone’s adventures in the Emergency Room. “That time I was in a cast for five weeks” will always trump “that time my hand swelled up for a couple days and got better on its own.” (I guess I’ll have to fall back to the tale of when a guy dropped a case of canned tomato sauce on my head. From three stories up.)
In varying degrees, we all want attention from other people; us humans are social that way. But I’ll be the first to admit that wishing I had a broken bone is a little twisted. It makes me think about uncomfortable subjects like scarification. Some people will get attention any way they can and, unfortunately, sometimes only extreme examples get them what they need.
I wonder how many degrees of separation there are between my not-broken wrist and a truly desperate cry for attention.
Then again, maybe I only want a cast as validation for the hundreds of dollars I spent on the medical bills!