The Poor Little Me Diaries
I read somewhere, not long
ago, that the three worst types of bone
fracture -- in terms of pain level/recovery
time/*sympathy value* -- are broken toes,
broken ribs and broken knees, not necessarily in that
order. I imagine it's because you can't
completely immobilize a toe or a rib or a knee, the way you
can other broken body parts, so it takes longer to heal. I
can certainly vouch for the broken toe. Many times
over, as a matter of fact. Over the course of my lifetime, I
have dropped everything from a four-pound rotary telephone, to a wooden
warehouse pallet, to a six-pack of Hire's Root Beer onto my
poor unsuspecting feet, fracturing my
toes more times than I can actually count. I can absolutely
attest to the fact that a broken toe is one of the
more miserable and inconvenient fractures a person
now, thanks to karma and the AC Transit System, I can also vouch
for the broken rib.
last month I broke two ribs when I fell off a platform
seat on a #51 AC Transit bus. Two varieties of
irony at play here: one, that the accident occurred
while I was riding home from a routine doctor's appointment (my annual
mammogram-and-pap-smear combo platter), and two, that just
moments before it happened I
was congratulating myself on the efficiency and
all-around grooviness of my life. I remember sitting
there on the bus, riding along in the
Alameda sunshine, listening to Social Distortion on
the MP3 player, looking forward to the weekend ... thinking Everything is in order.
Everything is good. And then
all of a sudden I saw my stop coming up, a little sooner than
I'd expected, and I grabbed my purse and slid off
the seat and stepped out ...
forgotten that I was sitting on a platform.
An integral feature of AC Transit's recent bus
re-design ("Bus of the Year!,"
proudly proclaims the sticker in the front
window), the new platform seats are staggered
throughout the bus in groups of four, facing each other: one set at the
front of the bus, one in the middle and one near the rear.
Ordinarily I eschew the platforms and sit on a
'regular' seat, lower to the ground -- call me
snooty, but something about sitting an extra foot off
the ground just strikes me as undignified, especially
when one is wearing a nice suit and uncomfortable heels
and carrying 20 lbs. of laptop bag slung
over her shoulder -- but on that
particular afternoon I slid into the closest platform seat
without even really thinking about it. (Mainly I
think I was interested in distancing myself from the group of noisy
teenagers in the back of the bus. My music was much
cooler than theirs.) When I distractedly stepped off the
seat, twenty minutes later, I expected the floor to be right
where it always is ... but
instead, my foot *connected* with solid air. I lost my footing
altogether and fell sideways, smashing chest-first
into the metal frame of the seat directly across the aisle from
For one long moment I actually saw stars. Dark, rabid, shrill little
stars with sharp teeth and
pointy spears, shrieking in anger.
you all right, Ma'am?" the bus driver said.
"I think so," I gasped. I wasn't sure, actually. I was
winded. I was hurt, somewhere: I wasn't sure
exactly where, yet, or how badly. My MP3 player was
in pieces on the floor. (Thank GOD I didn't have the
new laptop with me that day. I knew in advance that I would be doing a lot of
walking, to the doctor's office and back, and I didn't want to
carry the extra weight around.) Still, I think I was
more embarrassed at that point than anything: I just
wanted to get off the bus, right now, and go home.
I could hear the teenagers snickering in the
back as I gathered up my stuff and exited the bus,
one excruciating step at a time. The
driver idled at the stop for an extra minute while I stood
there, doubled over on the sidewalk.
"You're sure you're OK?"
she asked again. I waved at her -- It's
OK, go ahead, I'm fine -- and a moment
later the #51 blew off in a cloud of diesel fumes and indifference.
hobbled home from the bus stop -- it took me forty
minutes to walk three-quarters of a mile -- and the minute I got to the apartment I started damage
control. I was more concerned about my wrist, just
then, than I was about my ribs: the
wrist was shrieking like
a 500 bagpipe
orchestra, whereas the ribs were more of
a muted cello solo. Luckily David and I
still keep ice bags in the freezer, a holdover
from the bike-riding days, so I
grabbed one of those and wrapped it around my
wrist. Then I called David at his office to let him know I was
"I had a little accident," I told him
After that, I
called Jaymi at her
office at the hospital in TicTac. She's not a medical
professional -- she works in customer relations, designing newsletters
and organizing fundraisers -- but she's the closest thing we've got to
doctor in the family at the moment. I told her what happened,
and I endured her good-natured jabs about her clumsy doofus of
a mother, and finally I got around to
the purpose for the call: asking whether I should
take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for my injuries. I can
never, ever, EVER remember which to take as a headache remedy and which
to take as an anti-inflammatory; I ask her this same question
at least once every other month.
She told me to take some
ibuprofen -- "Take three of them, with
some food," she said -- and she also told me to
call the doctor, right now, and make an appointment for an
"I'll consider it," I told her.
crawled into bed with my laptop and my ice pack and my Motrin
bottle, and I waited for David to get home from
work. He came through the door around 6:00,
looking all cute and concerned and flustered.
"Are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital?" he asked
repeatedly, and I kept telling him no, let's wait and see how bad it
gets. My ribs were definitely beginning to hurt
by that point, but I wasn't sure it really warranted an emergency room
see how I feel in the morning," I winced.
woke at 5 a.m. feeling as though a truck -- or an
AC Transit Bus of the Year, maybe -- had run over
my midsection. I tried rolling over in bed to turn on the
headboard lamp, and I literally SCREAMED out loud.
"We're going to the hospital, aren't we?" David said from his
side of the bed.
I nodded. Fifteen minutes
later he was loading me into the passenger seat of the
Subaru, like an antiques dealer loading his prize Empire Period Meridienne into
the auction van.
fifteen minutes later, we were signing me into the Kaiser Permanente
Emergency Room in downtown Oakland.
don't need to relate the specifics of the next few
hours. Anyone who has ever found themselves
sitting in a hospital emergency room, in pain, at an odd hour
of the day or night -- in this case, a sleepy early
Saturday morning -- knows the drill
already. It's a lot of stop and start and hurry up and slow
down and "May I see your member card, please?" I spent most
of the morning laying on an uncomfortable exam table in an ugly
hospital gown, listening to the elderly woman in the bed next to mine
berating her adult children for allowing her to be
catheterized. ("It was that or a bedpan, Mother," her son
told her sternly. "You remember what happened the last time.")
For nearly four hours I tossed and
turned on the exam table -- trying to find my
comfort zone, wishing I had something to read, waiting for David to
bring me a breakfast burrito from the hospital cafeteria -- as a
veritable parade of Kaiser doctors and nurses and respiratory
therapists came and went, poking at my
ribcage, asking me to rate the pain between 1 and 10 ("8.765," I said
pleasantly), ordering me to breathe into bizarre plastic
contraptions to measure lung function, asking
endless questions about the accident. I must have
told the story of the platform bus seat at
least 43,897,621 times that day.To their
credit, not a single Kaiser Permanente Health
Care Professional snickered at my tragic story (although two of
them asked me if I planned to sue, and another suggested that I take
BART from now on).
one point I was rolled downstairs to the chilly basement
radiology department for X-rays. As I
climbed off the guerney and stood to pose against the
lead curtain backdrop, the rear of my hospital gown
suddenly flapped open, exposing my goosepimpled derriere.
The horrified X-ray technician flew across the room and
re-tied my gown, "so all your goodies ain't
"Are you kidding?" I told
her."In the past 24 hours I've had a mammogram, a pap
smear, and now this. I don't even care
Eventually, after hours of tests, I was
released in a flurry of paperwork and last-minute
instructions. The diagnosis? Two broken
ribs. The prognosis? 4-6 weeks' recovery time. The
prescribed course of treatment?
the thing about a rib fracture: there is no real way to 'treat'
it. Rest -- and time -- are the only treatment. They don't even "wrap" the injured
rib any more ... there's the danger that it will inhibit breathing and
lead to complications, like pneumonia. "Go home and go to
bed," the ER doctor told me. "You won't be going to work on
don't need to relate the specifics of the next couple of weeks,
either. Anyone who has ever found themselves stuck at home,
unexpectedly recovering from a ridiculous injury for a prolonged period
of time (hiya, Bev!) knows the drill already. Let's just say
that the weeks passed in a blur of lumpy pillows and hydrocodone
5/500. In an extraordinarily serendipitous
development, our new cable TV and high-speed
Internet service were installed the second day I was home with
my injury. I basically spent those
two weeks propped up in bed with the remote control in one
hand, surfing through a bazillion channels'
worth of garbage -- "Sixteen
Candles A to Z!" "The 50 Hottest Blondes of the 20th
Century!" Forty year old episodes of "The Andy
Griffith Show!" -- and
the computer mouse in my other hand, mindlessly
downloading Sims furniture off the Internet. No alarm clocks.
No ringing phones. No Main Nerdy Geotech Guy. No Maybelline or shoes or uncomfortable
was like my *dream vacation.* Except for the
brutal, agonizing, sick-making pain, I mean.
nearly two entire weeks of work
altogether. JoAnne was really great about the whole
thing, right from the beginning. I called her at home that
first Saturday, after we got home from the emergency
room, and I told her exactly what had happened.
have good news and I have bad news," I said. (The "good" news
was that I wouldn't be taking the following Wednesday
afternoon off for my dental appointment, after
For the first week I was home from work, my
contact with the office was virtually nonexistent. I
called JoAnne every couple of days, usually at home in the
evenings, mostly to catch her up on my 'progress' and to snag the
latest office gossip (The Suit turned in his resignation!! The
Main Nerdy Geotech Guy is getting a divorce! The
new photocopier broke down!) ... but there
was no expectation, those first few days, that I would so much as log
on from home to check my Dirt Company
"We're handling it," JoAnne assured
By the second week after the accident, though, I'd
decided that I wanted to try coming in to work at least
part-time. Mainly I was worried
about the financial ramifications of all those sick days ... especially since I'd used all of my
available vacation time and most of my sick time for the
TicTac trip in June. (My paycheck this week wouldn't cover a triple-cheesburger
and the latest issue of "US Weekly.")
JoAnne is the one who
suggested that it might not be such a good idea for me to come
back too soon. "If you're going to file a claim with the bus
company," she said -- an idea that I have not
completely discounted, even though 1.) I'm not sure the bus
company is at fault for *my* inattention, and 2.) the
legal logistics of such a thing seem more than I'm
interested in dealing with right now -- "it might
look better if you've missed more than a week of work."
the truth is that I still felt absolutely wretched at that
point. It still hurt to breathe. It still hurt to
laugh or sneeze or pee or sit in an office chair and type teeny-tiny
numbers into an Excel spreadsheet. So
I did a couple of half-days that second week, just to
put something on the paycheck -- mostly I just came
into the office at lunch and sat around reading magazines until 5:00,
for those two days -- and the rest of the week I
was back in bed with the laptop and the remote.
week has been closer to a "normal" work week: three full days (Tuesday,
Wednesday and Friday), plus two half-days (Monday and
Thursday) to accomodate follow-up medical
appointments. Next week will probably be my first
full work week in over a month. I'm not sure I'm ready for a
fullblown forty-hour week, but I don't have a
lot of choice.
gotta pay the CABLE bill, after all.
the meantime, I'm struggling this week to get back to 'normal' in all
of the other important areas of my life: my family
obligations, my finances, my laundry, my personal hygiene
regimine ... and yes,
my website. I didn't write anything while I was
recovering from the platform dive, obviously. I thought about
it -- I certainly had the time, the opportunity,
the warm glowy Vicodin-induced creative *spark* -- but ultimately I held off because I knew it would be just
one pathetic mewling entry after another,
all about how "sore" and "achey" and "bored" I was
feeling from day to day. I don't want *FootNotes*
to turn into The Poor Little
Me Diaries. I've never wanted
that. So whenever I felt the urge to do something
*FootNotes*-related, during my extended convalescence, I stuck to
behind-the-scenes stuff: adding ancient high school journals to the
archives, for instance, or messing around with The Cast of Characters
page. (And yes, the Vince and Ryan pictures are
coming soon. Stay tuned.) I figured I
would get back to the regular journal narrative as soon as I could
catch a good deep breath again.
that's pretty much where we are now.
determined to get back on track with *FootNotes* as soon as I
can. We have so much catching up to do, after all.
There are so many interesting, relevant, IMPORTANT
subjects I would like to write about. (How about that Big
Brother 5, huh? Can you believe how fast The "Dream Team"
went down the tubes?? And what the heck was up with Jun's
eyeliner in that "Where Are They Now?" segment last night: is she
applying it with her FEET?) So, starting in the next week or
so, I'm really really really going to try and get back into the swing
of things, writing-wise ... and in the
interest of keeping things from deteriorating into The Poor Little Me
Diaries, I'm deliberately going to keep things as
non-medical as possible.
I fall off a sidewalk and
break my knee tomorrow. Then I
might not have any choice.
a great weekend, everybody. Talk to you next week.
want to throw a rock?