Pandemonium: a chaotic situation; tumult.
It all began on a perfect Friday night in February while out to dinner with my bff JP. One that started with laughter, my fave shrimp enchiladas and skinny margaritas, then went terribly wrong when we returned to my house to find my valuables stolen–along with my sense of security (see Pandemonium Part 1.)
I’d luckily never lived through a burglary before so wasn’t prepared for the feeling of betrayal (who would do this to me???), of being compromised and unsafe, all rolling together to form a hard knot in the pit of my stomach.
That night after JP and I closed up my house, the one that had been my safe place in a community filled with the best friends and neighbors a girl could hope for, we drove the few blocks to his house. He wanted me to stay until the broken lock was repaired and I felt okay about sleeping in my own bed again.
We walked in and I deposited my overnight bag in his tastefully decorated guest room off the front hall. “Let’s watch tv,” he said, trying to get my mind off of what just happened. “I can’t sit still,” I told him after numerous tries to focus on the screen. My heartbeat still felt like it was on overdrive, and I was so restless my skin prickled, like I’d been exposed to something toxic. “I’m going to bed,” I said, petting the dogs as I left the living room and shut my bedroom door.
I remember washing my face, putting my pjs on and pulling back the bordeaux-colored silky duvet, and nestling the pillow close as I slipped between the sheets, their high-thread count soothing to my bare arms. I closed my eyes and begged for sleep.
The next thing I remember is waking up on the carpeted floor of that room, near the foot of the bed. My right arm was under me and right-angled across my body, my full weight on top of it. I lifted my head and started to get up, sharp bolts of pain at every movement.
Shit, I thought to myself, I hurt my arm–then somehow crawled right back into bed as if it were happening to someone else. I woke up later, as light began to filter under the darkening shade of the room, to a right arm the size of a linebacker’s. Smelling the comforting aroma of coffee, I gingerly cradled my wounded wing and walked unsteadily out to the kitchen. “I need help,” I said as JP looked at me like, “Jesus, what now.”
“I’ll get the keys, you get dressed,” he said, shifting into caregiver mode.
Turns out, I had tried to get to the bathroom, sick to my stomach and blood pressure no doubt spiking. Disoriented and with no lights on, I made it to the end of the bed where it appeared I knelt down to throw up–and toppled forward.
Thank god for good carpet cleaner and a best friend who’s used to cleaning up after dogs. I was mortified.
Nobody wants to read about an ER visit anymore than they want to read about an unfortunate stain on a rug, but the nicest part about the hospital ER in our desert was the lady volunteer who greeted us upon arrival, procuring warm blankets for me and a hot cup of coffee for JP.
Four hours later, I had a diagnosis (fracture of the proximal end of the right humerus), the relief of a shot of morphine in my ass, a stingy prescription for 20 oxycodone lest I become hooked on pain pills, a sling to cradle my arm and directions to call an orthopedic surgeon on Monday.
When I finally got in to see a surgeon a week later, which was all because my concierge family physician made some calls, and I shudder to think how long I would have suffered without his help, the surgeon gave me two choices: “If you do nothing, it will eventually heal and you will have diminished capacity in your arm. I suggest surgery next week to repair the fracture giving you the best chance for future mobility.”
The physician’s assistant then came in to answer more questions, outlining the details of how long recovery would take. JP and all of my friends rallied, saying they would be my caregivers and would deliver food and bedside comfort, would drive me to dr. visits and therapy during the upcoming weeks that would probably stretch to months. But the more we talked, the more I felt like a burden on every one of them, all of whom had been bringing me breakfast, lunch and dinner and my daily Starbucks trenta black iced tea, light water, no sugar since the accident.
The next call was to DD, my darling daughter.
I heard the worry begin to creep into her voice as I explained what the doctor said, but after some comforting words, her take charge nature took over. “You have them as friends now, but I know you Mom, and you’re not a great patient. You still want those friends six months from now?” she asked, frustrated with my inability to make a decision. “You’re flying here. I’m calling my surgeon friend now, so start looking for a ticket.”
With an unrelenting throb in my right arm and unable to think clearly, I used my left arm to phone the airline and reached the nicest American ticket agent ever. I can’t remember her name, but I’ll call her Darlene for the purposes of this blog, since she had a hard Texas twang and sounded like a gal sporting the name Darlene. “Hon,” she said after I started crying as I explained why I needed a ticket asap even though it was a President’s Day holiday weekend, “I’ve had two shoulder replacements and that hurts like a s.o.b. I’ll get you a first class seat using the least amount of points–and I’ll put you by the window where no one can bump that arm of yours.”
She then told me how she threatened her two grown sons with their lives if they didn’t treat her like the queen she was during recovery from her shoulder repairs. “Your daughter will do you right,” she said before asking if she could pray for me.
I told her to pray away.
And with a few clicks of Darlene’s computer keys, I had a ticket to the midwest, my home for decades where I’d grown up and given birth to DD, where I married and divorced mr. invisible six years earlier and now where I faced an unknown that felt like peering over the edge of the same dark chasm I’d looked into after being single for the first time in 30 years.
I boarded the plane three days later, arm held close against my abdomen by the sling, and gingerly tried to keep my crossbody purse or anything else from touching it.
I settled into that first class seat, wishing I could accept the free cocktail but fearing the outcome while taking pain pills every 4-6 hours. I asked the flight attendant for a water with a twist instead, and then began to think of what else I wanted: An arm that would let me put my eyeliner on straight, feed myself without dribbling food down my front, sign my name in a legible manner–and one that could smack a straight-down-the-middle pickle ball shot, the kind where the ball streaks by so fast, your opponents never see it comin’.
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