Happy Birthday, Let’s Go to the ER

I broke my left arm when I was eleven. On my mother’s thirty-sixth birthday.

Wow, that just drives the nail right on in the coffin, doesn’t it? I was eleven when my mother was two years younger than I am now. And she already had two children and two husbands–not that I’m trading my husband in, mind you.

But yes, that’s what happened. We went to the park, and I fell off some playground equipment and snapped that sumbitch pretty dang good if I do say so myself. I freaked right the fuck out.


My mom claims she heard it; I’m glad I did not. She and my stepfather gathered my sister from wherever she was playing and loaded everything up in the car. My mother rode in the back seat with em, supporting my arm since we had nothing to splint it with. Not a fun ride, take my word for it.

That ER has changed so much in the past twenty-seven years. I’m not sure that there’s anything left of the place I went that night, where I kept whimpering as a team of doctors struggled to set my arm, giving me more and more sedation until finally I was unconscious and they could push and pull as needed. I woke up a bit when they were X-raying my arm inside the first cast and finding out that I’d moved enough that it was no longer set properly, and they had to cut that cast off and start over. I don’t remember the ride home with my new cast.

But I do remember the next three days of being out of school, and being allowed to watch TV which was an absolute no any other time I stayed home from school. I don’t remember it hurting very much after the first day, but who was I to insist on going to school when I could stay home?

I welcomed my celebrity status when I returned to school, which was completely out of character for me. I talked to kids I’d never spoken to before and let them sign my cast. It was glorious. My sister had broken her arm the year before, as had my mother, fortunately at separate times, but living it firsthand was a new experience for me. I’d had ‘surgery’ before, but it was just tubes in my ears and my adenoids out, no stitches or anything else that kids would be fascinated by.

I’m left-handed, and I broke my left arm. I loved not having to write my spelling words three times each. That was probably the best part of the whole broken arm thing. No damn spelling words. I’d been reading years longer than I’d been in school, I knew how to spell. Except receive, of course.

I clearly remember the day I got my above-elbow cast off for a short-arm. My appointment was early enough that I was dropped off at school after, and my class was in the library playing Oregon Trail. I walked over to the library and waved at everyone, using my newly-freed elbow. that was quite the ballsy move for eleven-year-old me. Quite.

But it wasn’t nearly as exciting for the rest of the sixth grade as it was for me. I didn’t get half the signatures on my new cast that I did on the old one, even accounting for the lack of real estate to collect them.

And two weeks later, that was it. The cast came off, and I had the stinkiest, skinniest, flakiest, palest arm I’d ever seen. The wait began to see if it would grow, since the doctors were concerned that I’d damaged the growth plates, but no one outside the hospital cared about that. I was no longer the sideshow freak at school, and I faded quickly back into obscurity.

P.S. It grew just fine to match the other.


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