Random reasons why I’m grateful for a broken arm

How a random accident made me face some life lessons

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Samson the camouflaged dog

On December 17, the day we were supposed to catch a flight from New Jersey to Texas, I tripped over a dog named Samson and broke my arm.

We’d been visiting our dear friends Scott and Heather and their two kids, but sadly it was time to leave and head to our next stop, my mom’s house in Texas.  The morning we were to leave for the airport, I was rushing around, making sure everything was packed and also feeling a general sadness about the imminent goodbyes.  What I was not doing was paying attention to where I was going.  That’s when I tripped over their dog.

Poor old Samson–their big, beautiful golden retriever, who blends in perfectly with the white tile of the kitchen–was just minding his own business, doing what he does best, which is lay in the middle of the floor and nap.

Needless to say, I didn’t see him and tripped over him at full speed, falling squarely on my elbow.  I also bonked my head.  We were in a rush to get to the airport, so once it was determined that there was nothing wrong with my head (no more than usual, anyway), we headed out the door.  My arm was achy and stiff, but it wouldn’t kill me or keep me from flying.

By the time we got to my mother’s house that night, my elbow was swollen to the size of a softball.  We went to an urgent care clinic the next morning, and yup, I had a broken arm, or, more specifically, a non-displaced fracture of my radial head (a.k.a, elbow).  They put me in a sling and told me to keep it still.

It’s now six weeks later, and I had a follow-up doctor’s appointment a few days ago.  I’m healing well and the elbow should be back to normal in another month or so.

So why am I grateful for this broken arm of mine?  Believe it or not, there are plenty of reasons to feel gratitude.  Here are some of them:

  1. I haven’t had to do dishes since December 16 (doctor’s orders).
  2. It happened after our trip to Europe, not during.  I certainly couldn’t’ve backpacked across Spain with my arm in a sling.
  3. The dog was unharmed.
  4. This is my first broken bone, and as far as broken bones go, it’s not a bad one to break.  It hasn’t been as painful as, say, a fractured femur or a broken head.
  5. It makes me appreciate how amazing our bodies are.  Try using only one arm for a few weeks and see if you don’t realize how remarkable your upper limbs are!
  6. When a bone heals, it gets stronger at the site of the fracture, which is a pretty cool side-effect of healing.  My elbow is now stronger than it’s ever been before.

And there are lots of other reasons for gratitude as well:

My husband has been even more wonderful than usual.  He has done all of the cooking and most of the housecleaning (including the dishes), and he does it all without complaint.  He also helps me with, um, personal stuff, things that I can’t do one-armed, like getting out of the shower or pulling up my skinny jeans (which is one reason I’ve taken to wearing loose, comfy pants).  Of course, the benefit for him is that he gets to tease me endlessly, and he asks me daily, “Who puts your pants on in the morning?”  Or he’ll say, “Gee, aren’t you a big girl now?” when I manage to get dressed all by myself. (Which is happening more and more, thank you very much!) 

Also, the accident could’ve been worse.  I landed very close to a wall; what if I had hit my head?  I might have incurred a spinal or head injury.  In my career as a speech pathologist, I’ve seen plenty of people who suffered life-changing injuries from something as random and stupid as tripping over a dog.

The truth is, this little accident freaked me out.  It happened so fast.  One second I was on my feet and the next I was falling uncontrollably, face first into the tile, the dog scrambling in fear to get out from under me.  It happened so fast.  I didn’t have time to think or to prevent it from happening.

By the end of the day I was in a lot of pain, and my elbow felt like I had stuck it in slowly hardening concrete.  I could barely move it.  The fears careened through my brain.  What had I done to it?  Would I need surgery?  That would mean going back to Seattle, where our insurance is in network.  And then I’d need months and months of recovery.  And it’d be a drain on our savings and an end to whatever exciting journey we had planned for 2016.

In the end, breaking a bone is not nearly as bad as damaging ligaments and muscle fibers, which I easily could have done.  We rejoiced when the doctor walked in the room and said, “You’re broke” and explained the radial head fracture.  She probably thought we were crazy for being happy about a broken bone, but like I said, it could have been so much worse.

There’s another thing to be grateful for: the lessons that I’ve learned from this fiasco.

First, I could have prevented it.  You know how?  By being in the moment, which is a place that I hardly ever inhabit.  If I had been walking with attention to my surroundings I would have seen Sammy and not scared the daylights out of him.  Life is always in need of our full attention.  We should be alert to each moment, living in the present tense and not the past or future: I am here, I am doing this, I am finishing that.  Whether it’s washing our hands or brushing our teeth or walking across the kitchen or spending time with our friends, we should be in the moment.

Second, worry is just wasted energy.  I was so busy worrying about the day that I failed to give my full attention to these friends that I love so much and see so little.  What a wasted moment.

It’s good to be reminded that we can almost always find positives in a bad situation.  I found plenty, including insights into how to live a more full life by being in the moment, appreciating the ones who love you, and accepting the way things are even if they’re not the way you want them to be.  And as always, it’s nice to get out of doing the dishes.  🙂