Saturday, January 26, 2013

Musings On A Broken Arm

Exactly a week ago, I slipped on an icy road, fell on my back and broke the radial bone on my right elbow. 6-hours later, accompanied by my daughter Ankita, who endured the long wait for a doctor to see me, I walked out of the ER with my right arm in a cast and a sling. It is immobilized for about 3-weeks until I go back for a review. But that is not the point of this blog-post.

Now that I can move my fingers, which are sticking out of the cast, with minimal pain and am able to type, I want to record some of my experiences during this past week.  

I have learnt a lot about society in general and acquaintances in particular during this week. 

Learning #1:  The conversations which I have with people follow a pattern:
Person X: “Hey, What happened to your arm?”
Me: “Oh! I slipped on ice and fell.”
Person X: “How did this happen?” OR “When and where?”
Me: “I was coming out of ABC store with a bag of heavy grocery and stepped off the curb and hidden beneath the fresh snow was solid frozen ice. And Swwooosh…..! I landed on my back. My entire right arm numb with pain. Luckily my elbow took the knock and possibly saved my head from hitting the curb behind.”
Person X: “Oh My God! Yes last Saturday was particularly bad because of the freezing rain the night before. You just can’t be careful enough!”
Me:  “Yeah! I’ve slipped and fallen quite a few times but every time I’ve managed to get up and walked away. This time the law of averages clearly caught up with me, eh!” I chuckle.
Roughly at this point every person I have met immediately starts narrating a personal story about a time (1, 2 5, 10 or whatever) years ago when (s)he slipped on icy road/ pavement and had a serious injury.  

This I guess is supposed to cheer me up and aimed at making me feel that it is alright to slip and fall on ice. It happens to all of us all the time. This is Canada, what do you expect? And yes it does help. Suddenly this person and I are part of a common club – call it ‘Slippers Anonymous’. And we are trying to get over the common feeling of pain that slipping causes!

(Disclosure: This experiment in societal interaction involved upwards of 50 interactions with colleagues, acquaintances and random people on the street.)

Learning #2: Recently there were a quite a few posts on Facebook which read:
This is a short experiment to see who reads posts and who just scrolls. So, if you read this, leave one word on how we met. Only one word, then copy this to your wall so I can leave a word for you. Please don't add your word and then not bother to copy. It should be an interesting exercise.

Such posts have received an average of 5 likes and 3 shares. Is it then that people don’t read posts? Is FB that over-hyped?  Or is it that people don’t like to be treated like (free) guinea pigs in someone’s social experiment?

My own recent experience suggests it could be the latter. My post about my injury elicited almost instantaneous responses (many while I was still in the ER) and I continue to get comments wishing me a speedy recovery. My friends care enough to be concerned about me, take the time to offer me advice and also offer prayers and best wishes for a quick recovery. What more can one ask for? These friends are like stars in the universe. We may not always see them, but we can be damned sure they are there! Thanks everyone for your messages, calls and good wishes. As I mentioned in one of my responses to all the messages: For the pain and inflammation, there's acetaminophen + ibuprofen. And for the spirit, I am blessed to have so many caring friends. Your thoughts, wishes and calls have lifted my spirits immensely.
And Facebook is a fantastic social medium. It builds on the ubiquitous nature of the Internet to bind our own social eco-system together, regardless of time and distance separating each of us.

Learning #3: We live and are part of a big network, taking what we need and giving what we can. Case in point: I am not the only one who feels the effect of the loss of use of my right hand. My family too has been feeling that loss. My wife, daughter and son have had to step up to the plate and take over some of the tasks that I was doing at home. Additionally they had to take care of me and my needs.  My colleagues at work have been very understanding too.

Learning #4:  A lot of colleagues now routinely step up to open doors for me – even though only my right arm is in a cast & sling and my left hand and two feet are perfectly capable of doing the needful. I am still trying to figure out what inner emotional need motivates such behavior? Is it out of a sense of chivalry or charity? I have always felt that people generally feel charitable towards the visibly disabled but I am now confused. I must read up some more and address this issue in a future blog if I can sort this out.

Learning #5: We have to be grateful for small mercies. During the 6-hour long wait at the ER of one of Edmonton’s best hospitals my daughter and I were exchanging our grumblings with other patients about the slowness of the supposedly world class publicly funded and totally free health care system. But when I finally saw a doctor and later the cast-room assistant, I realized in conversations with them that they were having a terrible day attending to people with hip bone, thigh bone, back and head fractures! I was low priority. All I needed on an urgent basis was an ice-pack to control the swelling and pain which they repeatedly provided me. And I am grateful for that!  The Canadian health care system is in my eyes still the best in the world. If you are involved in a serious accident and are in imminent danger of dying you can be sure they will spare no effort or expense to reach you –whether by road or air-ambulance- to a medical facility. That is how much a human life is valued!