The Most Occult Scaphoid (and its fashion choices)

I live in Idaho for 22 years. Everything is going along swimmingly. I graduate college and decide to issue forth and explore the world for a while and what do I get in return for my trouble? My first ever cast. Well, new experiences are what I was looking for, right?

The story of the injury is brief and unexciting. I’d survived my twelve day streak of holiday madness work shifts, and languidly shuffled around the town and apartment during my two days off. After a nine hour shift on Wednesday, I joyously realized that my energy pack was not yet drained and decided to start fitting runs back into my weekly schedule. Something about thirteen hour days and 300 person meals had briefly dimmed the appeal of outside exercise, but now it sounded fun again. I jogged and walked intervals up to the top of Beaver Creek Village and then started back toward the apartment. About halfway down the trail, my balance decided that while that icy spot hadn’t been an issue and that snow patch was navigable, this particular combination of winter hazards was unacceptable and sent both of my feet flying forward in a synchronized maneuver that left me seated on icy pavement with the dawning realization that I had fallen. Disgruntled from the clumsiness, shock of unanticipated pain, and snow damp seeping through my thin meshed running clothes, I growled a few words at the nasty hill, shook myself out and resumed the intervals.

I quickly realized that although I had fallen on my rump and both hands, the only body part that wasn’t backing off of its initial pain levels was my right wrist. I experimented with range of motion, inspected it for signs of scraping, bruising, and swelling, then decided that it was just jarred and called my sister to whine about the deceptive traction levels of iced-over pavement.

As the evening wore on, the appearance of my wrist went from fine, on to slightly swollen, on to a nickel-sized lump appearing on one side, just below my thumb joint. My medical consultant of choice, Mother Hen, recommended x-rays, but said if I could sleep though the current levels of pain, it could wait until the next day.

Thursday morning, I decided to go ahead and catch the snowcat up to work, just to see if I could function in the kitchen. Just getting my hair up into a bun had been a painful trial, so I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the longer I stayed at work, with my right hand either hanging by my side or cradled into my stomach, the worse the pain seemed to become. Seventy percent of the projects I would have considered became “oh, no, don’t you dare,”s from my throbbing hand and the thirty I did accomplish felt slow and pathetic. This was not helped by the co-worker hovering around every corner telling me not to do that or that he would finish this. I was beginning to feel pointless and distracting in addition to pained and inefficient.

Ziploc bags were a trial, I almost cried trying to work gloves on and off my left hand and after the first attempt, didn’t even worry about gloving my right. I could, barely, stand to support the weight of a knife in my right hand, but couldn’t twist my wrist far enough to hold it correctly, much less apply enough force to actually cut anything with it. After two hours of makeshift salad tossing and sandwich assembling, accidentally tweaking my wrist every ten minutes, I told the sous-chef I was useless and said if he would let me go, I would get my opinion verified by a doctor. After being ushered out of work with a combination of well-wishes, overbearing advice, and speculation on what my actual injury might be, I headed down the hill to the gondola.

Stress, pain, and paranoia are not good walking companions, if anyone was wondering. I called my mother to discuss insurance cards, since my latest copy was supposedly in Idaho, and after she reminded me that she was in Oregon, I called my brother and asked him to rummage through my mail while he was housesitting. With a call to my older sister to keep me distracted, I made my way down to the HR office. Here, I explained my plight of not being familiar with the area, not having a car with me, and not being sure if my ‘new’ hire paperwork at the beginning of the season had changed any insurance details.

After exclaiming that my wrist was “jacked” and surely broken, the HR lady settled down into a more helpful mode, conducting a monologue as she decided whether to call Urgent Care, or Colorado Medical Something Group before settling on an orthopedic office. “You’d just end up there anyway,” she declared across the room to me as she dialed. I sat and listed in a zoned-out fashion as she asked whether this doctor or that doctor was available, enquired after the birth of their babies, explained that she knew they were ankle specialists, but would they look at a wrist this once?, and finally procured me a 2:30 appointment in Vail. Wonderfully, the office ended up being in the U.S. Bank building, which was a place I knew exactly how to navigate to and the stress of having to locate a strange building on a deadline without a car was instantly lifted.

During this interval, the second HR worker had run over to Starbucks and procured a gallon of ice for me to lay across my wrist (and hand, and entire arm beneath the elbow, by the time it settled) and another, seemingly random, Beaver Creek employee had wandered through, pulled my chair off to the side counter and helped me elevate the injured arm.

Thus fussed over, I headed back to the apartment feeling somewhat diffused, although slightly more panicky over the thought of broken bones. I should have broken an arm trying to fly or a leg playing soccer back when I had childspeed healing and a centralized sympathy system, rather than face the threat of a broken wrist alone with a job that requires mobility from both hands. Serrendipitously, I came across a roommate at the bus stop, who insisted on carrying my backpack and the bag of ice that was now traveling with me, which made the isolation seem less extreme.

A pleasantly distracting Skype conversation with my one-year-old niece (“hi, hi, hi. Hi!” “Hi, Cori, how are you?” Flirtatious grin from urchin. “Hi,hihihihi, hi.”) passed most of the dead hours between making the appointment and having to prepare for and transport to it. Her mother may have contributed to the conversation here and there, as well… The bus ride to Vail was not pleasant, motion and pain combined to make my preferred method of distraction a no-go and I slipped the book back into my bag and stared out the window for twenty minutes instead. It was fun, though, to arrive in Vail and recognize locations.

I arrived at the office twenty minutes early, which was fortunate, since there were about twenty forms which needed to be filled out. One of the ‘girls in back’ sat with me and transcribed my answers until it was time for my awkward left-hand signatures. Then there were three x-rays, in manageable posiotions, and the PA came in. Being a medical professional, he looked at the swollen lump on my hand, poked it and asked me if it hurt. He took my exclamation of pain and recoil as an affirmative and decided that the first set of x-rays had been too easy. The fourth x-ray required pain, but ended up not showing much more than the original set. The PA explained his diagnosis, the possible options, and then disappeared. With my wrist elevated on my lab and a non-jouncing seat, I pulled out my book and amused myself for the fifteen to twenty minutes I awaited the doctor.

The doctor was slightly sneakier than the PA, poking the opposite side of my arm, opposite side of my hand, thumb, and under my knuckles before landing a finger on the swelling. Again, my jerk and cry seemed to make him realize that I didn’t appreciate the gesture and he, too, explained the theory.

My hand/wrist had enough welling and tenderness that they expected something to be broken, but all of the bones they could see clearly in the x-rays looked fine. It was possible that it was simply a bad sprain, but also possible that I had an occult (the PA took pains to explain that this didn’t mean it was Satanic) fracture of my scaphoid (bone between thumb and radius). Either I could schedule a nicely expensive MRI to determine instantly, or cast the wrist up for two weeks and take more x-rays after the cast came off. So, being the traditionally in-debt college graduate that I am, my right wrist is now in a stylish little black cast. In two weeks I will either have a healed sprain, or a fracture that they recommend casting for two months or, for a quicker fix, inserting a screw into. So now we wait.

Sadly, most kitchen tasks are designed for people with three or four hands. With ingenuity and experience, they can be managed with two hands, an elbow here and there and the occasional chin maneuver. In past kitchens, I’ve viewed people attempting to function one-handed and never been struck by an impression of efficiency or efficacy. Culinary paperwork is all well and good, but I doubt it can be stretched into 80 hours worth of busywork for the incapacitated employee. Not expecting to get much done on my leisure projects either – left handed running stitches might be possible, but I get frustrated with the sewing speed of my right hand, so unless the left has some hidden genius it’s ready to bust out…

Fortunately, I’ve already received offers of rescue should I end up unable to work and my pain levels seem to be decreasing, so I shall not yet despair.


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