Broken Arms

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Many people have never broken a limb. I'm not one of them. My left arm seems to like to snap like a twig. I've broken it five times. No, it isn't weak, and I don't have osteoporosis or brittle bone disease - I actually just do dumb things or get unlucky, and sometimes both. These are my stories.


Broken Arm: 1971

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The first time I broke my arm, I was about 7, on after school swim team. But it begs the question, "How did you break your arm on a swim team?" Basically, I was walking up the walls to the changing room (hands on one wall, feet on the other), and a bigger kid came by and smacked my arm, and I fell.

My Mom had the mothering skills of Nurse ratchet. After throwing me in the water "hoping the cold would help", and nearly drowning me, they took me to the doctors and found I'd broken my elbow.

They didn't cast me (because I needed mobility), so they stuck me in a Raggedy Ann and Andy sling instead. Yeah, that thing didn't last a week, before I was in one fashioned out of bed-sheet. The self shredded sheet thing looked very revolutionary war; I needed a fife player following me around -- but since I wasn't casted, other kids thought I was faking and would hit the arm causing agony.

Going both ways?

Before I'd broke my left arm, I was ambilateral (or ambidextrous). I used to write or eat with either hand, and was pretty cross-wired. It used to bug teachers. One hand would get tired of writing, and I'd just switch. Or a teacher told me to write "I will not do xxxx in class" a few hundred times, and I'd do two lines at once; writing with both hands. And many other human pet-tricks.

The break only took a couple months to heal, but I favored it a lot longer than that. (I didn't trust it). And I had gotten out the habit of using it, so I became far more right handed. I couldn't write well with the left at all, and because I wasn't using it as much, so I became far less ambilateral as time went on (re-inforced with later breaks).

Karate Breaks: 1987 & 1988

My next big break (pun), was when I was an adult (about 24). I was in Martial Arts, and doing a tournament as a blue/green belt. I took a kick to an arm block (never block a kick with an arm, if you can avoid it). I knew I had hurt it, but didn't know how bad. I kept going.

A while later, I was in the Forms Finals, and doing a weird wrist move and hand sweep, and I nearly passed out. I restarted, and tried again, to the same result. I bowed out of the competition, and drove myself to the Hospital (Kaiser). I hate Kaiser, this was one of a half dozen reasons why I considered them incompetent.

First the Nurse tried to move my arm in ways I told her it couldn't go (she was more concerned with a good X-Ray that the fact that the arm didn't move that way). I nearly hit her over that one. Then the Doctors argued with me over a hairline that was visible on the X-Ray, "that could be a suture mark, you probably just crushed a nerve, it'll feel just like you broke it, don't worry about". And I stupidly took their advice.

A week later I was in Martial Arts class, doing the same form that had caused me trouble in the Tournament, and the same wrist move, when "SNAP", like a twig. It bulged out, but didn't break the skin. I quickly (reflex) pulled on it, and set the bone back the way it should have been. Then looked around the class at the slack jaws of the other students that watched me do that. What? I said, "I can finish the class". (It really didn't hurt that much). The instructor suggested I move my arm in a way that immediately convinced me to go to Kaiser again. Where I got the same nitwit Nurse and Doctor, "do you believe me, this time?" when the X-ray showed a complete break. They admitted that it was broken. No kidding? As it had probably been the last time.

I kind of took the cast off a little early. It fell off from use after like 4 weeks, as I was still going to class, and I kinda broke the plaster one. They gave me a molded plastic splint (and ace bandage). And that came off a couple weeks later. Then 4 month later, in class; sparring, I took the same kick, to the same arm, that broke it the first time... well crap.

It felt straight, so I ace bandaged and braced it (they still fit) and a few weeks later my family freaked out when they found out I hadn't gone to Kaiser. So I went, and they said, "yup, it was re-broke -- but it's already nit and healing well, keep doing what you're doing".

I did.

I learned never block kicks with arms, be careful on newly healed arms (they break easier)m, and never trust Kaiser Hospital.

I count that as 3 breaks, over a year. The hairline. The complete break. And the re-break.

Loading a gun with a broken arm

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My first real gun was a hand-cannon Desert Eagle. And while I had a broken arm, I had someone run across the roof of our bungalow. I wasn't going to go out unarmed, but I had no easy way to "rack the slide" and put a round in the chamber if I was going to go out and see what going on. So I tried pinching the gun between my legs to work the action. It pinched back, and grabbed ahold of both inner thighs and wouldn't let go. With a tug and a rip, I was able to get out of the situation -- but it cut and hurt like hell. And reminded me that my other guns should be ones that I can work with a broken arm.

Stairway Break: 2015

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So I'm minding my own business, walking down the stairs and swoop -- my feet hit something slippery on the edge of the step, and shot out from under me. My arms go out, and my right catches the bannister, my left braces behind me on the stairs and I go down pretty hard. Ouch. After the agony of extending a frozen right shoulder beyond where it wanted to go, ended, the throbbing in the left elbow told me something bad happened there as well.

After an X-ray at a physical therapist, a trip to the worlds lamest urgent care, I saw an orthopedist who sucked out a lot of blood from my elbow (with a large needle) and confirmed that I had a radial head fracture.

The good news was that if the bone didn't fall apart in the next 6 weeks, then surgery wasn't going to be necessary -- and until then, no cast (just don't lift anything heavier than a Coffee Mug). There was some rersidual clicking/popping/locking that went away on it's own, and everything was fine. This was definitely the least annoying arm-break I'd had. But I'd still recommend avoiding it, if possible.

Conclusion

My broken arms weren't a big deal. They hurt more afterwards than during; the days of throbbing afterwards and that f'ing cast were far worse to me than the actual act itself. I got more cautious if for no other reason than the major annoyance of having to deal with being in a cast all that time. I'm still tender to that arm, decades later, just out of fear of going through that again.

Things could have gone a lot worse. I wasn't always bright about healing or risk taking. I wouldn't recommend cutting off of casts, or setting things yourself, or not just going and getting it checked out by a doctor. Any could have caused more problems than they did. But I got lucky and I have no lingering effect. It throbs occasionally, and can tell me of pending weather changes. I also have a little less range of motion in my left than in my right arm that comes with years of non-use (and the first elbow injury) - and I went from being ambidextrous to more right handed because of it. But all and all, it is fine - and sometimes we learn life's lessons the hard way. Those were some of my learning experiences.

Stories about me:
Health : Nose JobBroken ArmsPhobias and AnxietyOvercoming AnxietyRoad to Recovery

2003.06.04 addition 2017.12.20