Tag Archives: injury


Yeah, I’ve lost that. I used to have it. Now? Gone.

Me ten years ago: Yes, I am going to go Rollerblading in traffic! In Manhattan. At rush hour.

Me on Saturday morning: No, I do not want to climb up that six feet of embankment…overlooking a sheer drop to the ocean…that is marked with a sign warning me of possible death.

I did it anyway, but only because I’m stubborn.

Me: I think my nerve took off when I got seriously injured. It proved I’m destructible.

R: You were always destructible.

Me: Before, “destructible” was theoretical.

R: Only to you. Normal people know they’re destructible without having to prove it.

That’s a valid point. Maybe I just got lucky all those years, not getting killed and so on, pushing an envelope that didn’t need pushing.


“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
– G.B. Shaw

I’d like to have my nerve back, but, in hindsight, that particular nerve was definitely tied to willful obliviousness to risk, mostly physical. You can’t be courageous and think a lot. The thinking will get you in trouble, without exception, whether it’s stepping off into the void of actual air (trapeze) or into the void of the unknown (in my case, writing and not corporate life).

If you remain rational, you remain cautious. There isn’t a way to think through to a successful outcome on anything you haven’t tried. You can see it in the distance maybe. You can state a goal, have a plan even. But you can’t taste it yet. You can’t know that you won’t fail or fall. Your mind and, likely your parents, will remind you – with the best intentions – of the likelihood of risk ending in broken bones.

Here’s my Monday morning calculus on risk:

  • Which risks are needless? Recreational risk is optional. Changing your behavior to save your marriage or changing your career to save your sanity are different. Taking someone’s word for the hot stove is probably fine but staying in a dead-end job that you hate are too different categories that deserve different consideration. Decide what’s actually important to you. Be smart.
  • How risky is it actually? Get a second opinion: maybe you are safe and you’re just risk-averse or just used to your current situation. Maybe you just like standing right side up on solid ground but you’ll have a safety net and health insurance.
  • Mitigate risk where you can. Bike helmets? Yes. Vaccines? Yes. Full-body scans every month or cryogenic freezing after death? Ummmm…
  • Related: see the small. Build up to it. Take the first steps first. Focus on the next step in front of your foot. Get in shape for the big risk and when it comes, it’ll only be the final step in a series of small, daily steps.
  • Figure out how much risk you think you can stomach. Risk a little more than that.

Accidents happen

bathtubcar.jpgIf 70% of all home accidents occur in the bathroom and 77% of all car accidents take place close to home, what’s the overlap, if any?

Like, how many of those bath incidents involve your Volvo? Or vice versa: how many of those auto collisions involve your jacuzzi? People have to get their jacuzzis back from Home Depot somehow and sometimes your car gets stuck in reverse just outside your bathroom wall. This could totally be happening and no one’s saying anything about these hidden crossover numbers. Maybe they’re double counting and misattributing the actual dangers. Keep your eyes open, that’s all I’m saying.

Pump You Up

steriods-sergioOliva.jpgI got my first shot of steroids today. It was kind of a letdown because it was not paired with a Major League Baseball recruitment letter or a yellow jersey, but I can still report that the experience was a pleasant one for the fractured rib.

Dr. Luke, my excellent Canadian sports medicine doctor, had offered a steroid shot into my sternum as a last resort if the pain got to be too much but the shot itself sounded so painful – needle to bone?? – that I didn’t jump on it. Today’s injection wasn’t quite that brutal. The cheerful assistant physical therapist taped two pads to my body, one with an internal pouch filled with steroids on the fractured rib, the other flat one on my abdomen. Both patches were hooked up to an electrical current. The vibration and heat force the skin to osmose the steroids into the wounded area and the flat pad acts as a ground. How cool is that?

I wish I could think of another application for the technology. If we could liquify common sense, perhaps we could send the patches out to minimum wage workers and they’d all vote Democratic?


MRI.jpgI’ve been benched. For twelve weeks. First six, now twelve. “No hanging from anything,” were her exact words and by “anything” she meant the trapeze or other bars of any kind.

I’ve seen more doctors and trainers and acupuncturists and physical therapists and chiropractors than I care to count and the verdict is still frustratingly fuzzy. What was first thought to be a sprained fifth rib that might have caused a strained muscle became a torn pectoral minor on further examination. Now, they think it’s a stress fracture in the fifth rib and a dislocated first rib that has resulted in an arrangement of strained ligaments and muscles. I have sheets and sheets of films from my MRI, none of which I can read, but I do see the big white spot where that first rib is protruding like a mini alien out of the top joint on my sternum. It’s disconcerting to see in the mirror, more so to feel the bump, but, strangely, it doesn’t hurt. The places that do hurt are just outside the range of the MRI, which it seemed like they would be when I was at the hospital. There is no protocol for scanning the chest. The lab has instruction sheets for every place on the body where there are joints. I saw them. But there’s no chest slot, so they made it up as they went along. Apparently if you want the top of the chest, you can’t have the side too. Cake. No Eating.

Since the fifth rib isn’t in the picture, that leaves the stress fracture as pure conjecture, but it hurts like it’s cracked, so I’m going with it. I’d be more uncomfortable with an unsubstantiated diagnosis if I thought it would make any difference in the treatment plan but it won’t. There is one plan for cracked, broken or stressed ribs: don’t move it. This is the same plan as the one for torn chest muscles or ligaments. Not very inventive, if you ask me, but I see their point. To immobilize it, they’d have to put me in a body cast for six weeks to prevent me from lifting my left arm. The strain of living with me might break R, so I’m glad we’re not doing that. Keeping your ribs from moving is well near impossible. My rib cage shifts when I do anything. Arms, abs, shoulders, all of it. The only things I can move without danger are my legs. Riverdance, here I come.

The Pain

Life is different now. Every day I get up and consider my options. Wait. First, the getting up.

I unfolded, testing my weight. Today, I could not raise myself by resting and pushing on my right arm because last night I ran the full weight of my body into a metal pole with my elbow. Sitting up, I twisted to place my feet on the floor. The pain in my lower back made me careful. As I stood, I shifted my weight to my left foot because the largest toe on my right foot will not bear weight, having been slammed into a steel bar yesterday morning. As I ease out of my pajamas, I take mental note of the bruises scattered across both legs – random across the thighs, concentrated behind the knees and down the lower calves – and my abdomen just above my pelvic bone and across my hip bones. I raise my arms to ease off my tank top and the wing of my left shoulder aches and then sends out a stab of pain over the top of the shoulder, through my chest and down my arm. I wince as the spandex scrapes lightly along the swollen scrapes on both forearms.

When I get dressed, I have two alternatives: jeans and a T-shirt or another day in a leotard and trainers. I take a breath, trying to infuse my muscles with some enthusiasm for what’s ahead. They flip me off and I pull on the gentler leotard. Jeans means belts and belts mean pressure on the bruises on my stomach. I wash my face and don’t shower. There’s no point. Within an hour, I’ll need another one. I pull my hair back into a ponytail.

As with most sports, you’re shooting for grace and smooth execution on the trapeze. The cost of that is hours and hours of conditioning and mornings like this one. I sprained my toe kicking up over a static trapeze yesterday morning. Last night, swinging back to land on the platform from the flying trapeze, I was late sweeping my shoulder around and drove my elbow into the support pole of the platform. My back still hurts from compressing my lower spine last week on the trampoline when I landed flat on my face. Twice. I have a tear in the palm of my right hand the size of a dime that I didn’t notice when I did it because my palms are so calloused that the rips only take off the top layer of skin and I don’t bleed.

Last night was no different than most nights. I soaked my hands in ice water and hot water alternately to reduce the swelling. I iced my shoulder. After about an hour, my body relaxed and was shocked to discover that it had been damaged. My skin went cold, my hands started to throb, the open wound on my hand whimpered at the touch of its bandage, my back stiffened and my chest and shoulder pounded. I put on warm clothes and lay down on the couch where I couldn’t find a position that didn’t hurt. In bed, I couldn’t lie on my stomach because rotating a shoulder northward to place an arm under my pillow was too painful. I couldn’t lie on my back because it flattens the arch in my spine and irritates the injury. I lay on my side, the least injured right side, compressing the hurt elbow into a fixed position where it could rest.

A Different Kind of Olympics

Two weeks ago, I tried a reverse back tuck off the flying trapeze. The twisting harness belt turned at an odd angle in the air (no doubt, my fault) and one of its side rings drove into the front of my right thigh as I landed. Never one to be put off, I tried the trick again. Same result, other leg. Two 6×4 bruises raised on each thigh, purple and yellow on the edges and blackish-gray in the middle. I decided the tuck would wait and moved on to a layout. Result? I over-rotated and landed off the mat in the net and directly on my neck. That was the same night that R. was the lead car in a four-car pile-up. I left the next morning to fly to upstate New York because there’s nothing a stiff neck and a bruised body likes more than eight hours of travel. Little did I know that the streak was just beginning.

Last Sunday morning, at about 2 AM, I fell down the last two steps of the front stairs at my father’s house in Buffalo as I was going to collect a book from the dining room. That step has gotten me before, disappearing into the dark wood of the floor ahead. Last time, I was carrying luggage. It broke my fall. This time, my full weight landed on the bent-back toes of my left foot as I pitched forward into the dark. I landed on my knees on the Oriental rug and issued an expletive that did not belong in a house with children. I thought my last three toes were broken. Verdict? Only deeply bruised.

The next night, back home at trapeze, I returned to the reverse back tuck with a different belt. No twisting = no side rings in the thigh. I was right. Instead though, I didn’t make it all the way around the tuck, having forgotten to pull my legs in, and landed with my body on the mat and my face in the net. Rope burn across my forehead, missing skin on my nose and lip and shoulder. Impressive.

On Tuesday, I moved boxes all evening. No incident, just sore.

On Wednesday, back at trapeze, this time static, not flying. I abraded the tops of my feet on the ropes. I bruised my bottom taking a pose called the Gazelle, which I look nothing like. For good measure, I laid down some new bruises on my lower thighs – just below the existing ones – doing crunches while hanging upside down. (My toe still hurts by the way.)

Thursday, I had to move to a new storage space because the building next door to my unit is going to be demolished. I have taken the opportunity to sort through everything I own. Since I am doing this in the dark of a storage building and most of this stuff is from a period of my life that is long over, it is not a pleasant task. To make sure I take the point, I hurt myself again. This time, I am using pliers to free a small dowel from the side of a bookshelf. I yank, the pliers lose their grip and my fist, with pliers, fly into my chin. My teeth jar but I assume I’m fine until I see that the hand which instinctively pressed the injured area is smeared with blood. Split chin. Excellent.

On Friday, at training, while stretching my shoulders by hanging from a bar against a wall – with my hands over the bar, not under – my shoulders give in to the pressure and flip around to the front. It’s hard to explain. Try this. Reach up and behind you with your palm down. Now turn your palm upwards and move your arm down. Feel that shift in your shoulder joint? Now imagine that sensation without turning your palm upwards first, without moving your arm down and with your full body weight on those arms. Nice.

Yesterday was Saturday. I managed not to get hurt by spending the better part of the afternoon sitting perfectly still in a movie. So far so good…