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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fresh lychees! My officemate recently brought in a bag of fresh lychees, and I got jealous: why don't I live near a shop that sells fresh lychee?

My local green grocer, just 4 blocks from my house, put out a box of lychee this weekend. Of course.

I bought about 20, and now want to go back for more. They're perhaps the only fruit I've tasted that is completely identical to the canned version of themselves. Even fresh, they are tender and taste like they've been boiled in light syrup.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:55 PM

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Arlene wearing arm brace, shoulder pad, and camera


(Photo of my arm with brace, children's knee pad covering my elbow, and Yashica camera.)

Every spare moment of my life is usually filled with art projects, cooking, writing... and planning new projects. For the first several weeks after I broke my arm so spectacularly, all I could do was rest. I'm sure I needed it. But... It was like becoming instantly elderly. Everything became difficult; every activity seemed fraught with peril; little tasks I could once do independently, like organize my hair or connect clothing fasteners on my back, became impossible. To add insult to injury, my cooking didn't turn out quite right. Until I went off the prescription meds, even reading was difficult: my eyes had trouble resting on the lines of text. Plus, I went from biking at least 7 miles daily to getting winded on a flat walk in the park.

Happily, I crossed a line once I gave up on pain killers, and started to regain my grasp on my usual life. Though I'm still a little worried about my cooking.


Walking around with an enormous contraption on my arm has been unpleasantly novel. People stare. People try not to stare. People won't sit on my left side, where the contraption is. People shoot sideways glances at me while sitting on my right side.

The only really fun has been the stories that my overt injury has inspired. Those brave souls who ask me what happened usually have a story of their own to tell. Some examples:

-A used to be a skateboarder, and broke his left arm twice, his right arm once, and various ribs before becoming a tech.

-Dís wife crashed her bike during a long downhill the weekend before I returned to work. She endoíd (went over her handlebars), cracked her helmet, broke her racing glasses, and got a concussion. I havenít met her but I already like her: she was out biking the next weekend (with a new helmet and new racing shades), and rode the AIDS ride all the way from SF to LA the following week!!

-Jís mother broke her elbow as severely as I did WHILE SHOPPING. She slipped in some gravel outside a store and went down just the wrong way.

-C is disaster-prone, but had two great stories. While incinerating trash for his grandmother on a cold night in Texas, a can of Lysol his grandmother had failed to mention exploded, knocking him rear-first through a fence and sending the can into the air in a rocket-like fashion. Also, he once had trouble lighting a gas grill, and left it on while fumbling for matches: he insists the fireball that engulfed him once he successfully lit the match was blue, though his family insists it was orange. (I figure it was hottest in the center, where he was, and so really was blue in the middle.)

-S broke her ulna (the same bone I did) by jumping off the couch when she was 3, and coming in for a REALLY bad landing.

-Y also got stuck in the streetcar tracks while biking, and lost some teeth (and her pride).

-A woman who gave me a massage had her hand run over by a car, which left it flat and blue: it took more than six months to get it back to normal, hand-like functioning, though itís never been as strong since.

-N broke his arm while playing soccer, which he implies is a more dangerous sport than most people think.

-Even while I was in the hospital, one of the orderlies revealed that he had a plate and screws in his leg from totaling his motorcycle in a wreck: he is the one who advised me that the hardware doesnít necessarily set off metal detector gates at airports, though it does set off wants. (This was pre-brace, but you get the idea.) Yes, he bought a new motorcycle.

-M fell through a stairwell that had supposedly been repaired after an earthquake, and completely snapped her wrist: she also has a plate and eight screws there!! *We should form a gang!* :-)

There are others, but that's a representative sample.


What's with the elbow pad? Oh, I added that when I went camping last week in the Sierras. Yes, camping. I really needed the change from the work-sleep-ache pattern I was in. I needed to do something that either helped me spend less time feeling weak OR that gave me a better excuse for feeling weak. :-) Details to follow.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:20 PM

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

x-ray image of Arlene's broken elbow

Mending, mending...

It's funny how easy it is to misplace a few weeks, or a month, of your life due to an unfriendly experience with gravity.

My time is blurred from May 16th, and only came back into focus at the end of nearly three weeks. The 15th is sharp and clear: the fall; the trip to the hospital; the modern, empty waiting room; apologizing so politely for getting blood on the x-ray machine; waiting until the software glitch showed my caregivers the digital x-ray image, and then, finally, knowing they had seen it from the alarmed looks on their faces and offers of strong medications... Having my ulna described as "shattered..." Being ordered to stay; getting a plaster splint and the initials of the doctor who cast it written in my shoulder in marker; getting an intake interview (and being able to emphasize my vegetarianism); falling into a medicated sleep, and dreaming of the fall onto the streetcar tracks, over and over, as vividly as the fall itself; being wheeled to "my" room when Steven was away, and worrying that he'd have trouble finding me; meeting my darling young doctors (attending doctors? Residents? my co-workers would have adored them), who told me I could have surgery at odd hours of the morning, OR when everyone is rested and awake (my choice!); learning from them that I'd receive a plate and 8 screws to reassemble my ulna, which was also cracked lengthwise; listening to construction noises echoing outside; being allowed to eat dinner once my surgery was postponed until morning; having Steven try to console me, and bring me things to read; being afraid to use 'the pain button,' but using it anyway, often; having to tow my IV into the bathroom with me, with assistance, on and off throughout the night...

The 16th is less clear. Telling Peter I'd call him back in 10 minutes, when actually I was about to be taken to surgery. Leaving a voice message at home as my hospital bed, IV, and all of its trappings were rearranged for the trip downstairs. Moving through the hospital in the wheeled bed, in medium-slo-mo. New names in pre-op I wouldn't remember. Asking that I be unconscious when the plaster splint was removed. The nice anaesthesiologist warning me about the improbable but serious risks of general anaesthesia. Another computer monitor that couldn't show me my fracture, due to software or network problems. Meeting my grown-up lead surgeon, and having to reluctantly give him permission to take bone from my pelvis if there wasn't enough whole portions of my elbow left to reassemble. Having the nice anaesthesiologist tell me that she would give me something to relax. Rolling toward surgery...

Half-waking up back in my room in the evening. Steven. Peter. Larry. Having the world's volume adjusted: the sound turns up, I hear and ask a question, the sound goes down until it fades completely, the world goes black. Being violently ill (and perceiving, in the background, Peter fleeing the room at light speed). A day nurse I didn't know teasingly calling me a ''lightweight" (my tolerance for anaesthesia being lower than that for good vodka), which was stored in part of my brain to confuse me days later. Evacuating my friends; using a bed pan, and then another. Having the nurses change my gown and bedding. Having Steven & my friends, whose presence I was only intermittently aware of, go to dinner and home for the night.

The 17th. Having the night nurse introduce herself to me again (which I thought was funny for the brief period when I was lucid). Pain. Going to the bathroom 1,000 times, each time with assistance and several minutes of rolling-mechanical-island. Dreaming of biking along the Embarcadero without incident. Having the pain button fail. Having both night nurses working on my pain med dispenser at some ungodly hour of morning, and swap it out with another, switching all my IV stuff over. Dreaming of biking through the countryside on a pleasant day without incident. Listening to the pulse alarm going off over and over, because the sensor didn't stay taped to my finger. Being mildly annoyed by the breathing tube that gave me supplemental oxygen through my nose. Watching the sky get lighter through the blinds. Having the young doctors visit, and asking them to show me the x-ray: they brought in two, and each presented one to me, so I could FINALLY see what all the fuss was. Being relieved at Steven's return! Having the IVs removed. Getting dressed. Sitting in a wheelchair. Getting into the car. Having Steven drop me off at home with my modestly-sized cast while he got the prescriptions for vicodin and a stool softener (oh no). Having my parents visit briefly, and managing to stay awake for their visit.

Two weeks of taking 2 vicodin every 4 hours, each time my alarm went off, all day, every day, with murky unconsciousness in between.

It did not completely control the pain. Especially not between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

x-ray image of Arlene's elbow with plate and screws[And now, the introduction of the past tense.]

9 days after my surgery, I left the house for the first time and took a bus to the hospital. My half-cast, half-splint came off, my stitches were gently removed, and I walked down the block to the odd basement-o-gadgets where I was fitted with a wildly uncomfortable arm brace, which dwarfed my skinny little arm completely.

I went out to lunch at a crepe place, and unknowingly missed Steven (who stopped there while working nearby) by a few minutes. I went home and resumed my sleeping schedule, while cutting back on my pain meds with varying degrees of related pain.

Two weeks after my fall, I returned to work. My routine: sleep, take medication, commute to work, take medication, work, commute home, take medication, eat, sleep incessantly. I phased out vicodin (due to alarming internal bleeding and uneven effectiveness) to phase in Aleve (at double plus the usual dose). I gradually regained my sense of being sentient, but remained exhausted.


At night, I dreamt of biking: happily gliding through town, or along country roads in the East Bay, quietly, in warm weather, in the day or evening with friends. Smiling.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:16 PM

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