This is the fourth story in the series How to Cook with a Broken Clavicle. Part 1: Background. Part 2: The Play. Part 3: The Pain.
After three parts of the story including my return to the fields, the day is still Saturday. I’m still wearing the same jersey with the same dirt stains. The hospital set me up with a sling to minimize collarbone movement.
Slinging. This picture looks weird because my sister is walking behind me.
Major concern #1 was dressing myself. Specifically, undressing. I was wearing this dope jersey. I didn’t want to cut the jersey offwith scissors because I wouldn’t be able to replace it. I’m strongly attached to my number (#43). We were staying at a teammate’s parents’ house in Santa Cruz, and when everyone on the team had showered, it was my turn. I used the help of three teammates. One held my right arm in position across my body. One held the shirt from the right side and one held from the left. After pained grunting on my part, the thankfully-stretchy shirt was removed. No scissors required.
Concern #2 showering and toweling off was a painfully glacial process. Let your imagination run wild.
As I discovered when first laying down into bed, using my abdominal muscles is painful. I took painkillers and started reading a book. Fast forward. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Too much pain. One of the captains, bless his heart, scooped me out of bed because I couldn’t lift myself.
Revisit concern #1. I heard that button-down shirts are the least painful fractured clavicle clothing option. Problem: I didn’t have any with me. Remember, I’m 350 miles from home. I ask my teammate who’s hosting us for a button-down shirt. He doesn’t have one, but his dad does. Awesome. I’m given a late-1980s Patagonia organic cotton short-sleeve button-down shirt that would make me look like a tourist on a tropical cruise. I rocked the look. Two teammates dressed me, one to hold the arm and one to put on the shirt. Everything is painful.
I watch my team play all day. I give a painkiller-induced emotional speech at the end of season powwow on the fields after our last game is over. We arrive at the airport and thankfully the uneventful plane ride drops me back in Orange County with no additional pain. It’s Sunday night.
Obviously I’m not going into work on Monday. I’m in too much pain to focus on any task for more than a few minutes. Watching TV isn’t enjoyable, but I do that for many minutes. Meanwhile, I’m working in the medical system to get a referral to an orthopedist. The system turned into HMO hell. I had to whoop ass for 3 days with incessant pained phone calls to get an orthopedic surgeon to help see me that week. The doc from my first referral wasn’t available until the next Thursday, 12 days past injury. I was discouraged with the medical system.
I saw an orthopedist 5 days after injury, on Thursday. He took a look at the x-rays (radiographs?) and said yes, it was broken. Don’t do anything that hurts it and see me in 4 weeks. What! I just leave it alone and it will heal? My shoulder is slumped in and I can’t stand up straight. I make money playing a throwing sport and my throwing arm is hurt. This didn’t seem right to me. I endured another few days of HMO hell for a second opinion.
Concern #3: eating. Being unable to use my right arm caused cooking to be near impossible. Eating out twice a day and snacking for the third meal, I lost 10 pounds in a week.
Second opinion! One week later, 12 days after injury I saw the 2nd opinion orthopedist. He said yes, it’s broken and you need to get surgery tomorrow. I underwent surgery on Friday, 13 days after the play. When I woke up, my shoulder was in its anatomically-correct position. I was thankful that I endured surgery. My concerned friends asked if I was nervous about surgery. No. Why would I be nervous? I’m excited for surgery. I’m going to be fixed and I won’t remember any of it.
The surgery went flawlessly. A titanium plate and 7 screws are now a part of me.
I asked for gold screws and the plate inscribed “boss” but the surgeon respectfully declined.
36 hours after surgery, I was pain-free and drug-free. I returned to work on Monday with a new sling and a story to tell.
Next up: lessons learned.