A doctor once said,
You clearly don't half-ass things.
Your arm's broke as shit

I think everyone has close calls: those situations where you were just a split-second or random happenstance away from total disaster. Well, I guess you also have those situations when the law of averages catches up to you and all the shit hits the fan. I managed to completely break my ulna bone and dislocate my radius bone after falling off my bike. Was probably going no more than 15mph, riding on flat ground, no cars around, no sudden distractions or surprises. Best I can figure: I slipped off my pedals while signaling a left turn and managed to jam my brakes somehow.

Luckily, a passerby saw me crash and was nice enough to stop to make sure I was okay. I most definitely was not. I definitely couldn't move my left arm and really didn't want to try due to the pain. He called 911 for me and stuck around until the police, firefighters, and paramedics arrived. The police actually thought he might've hit me with his car. I guess that was my first indication that I was in a pretty sorry state. Any doubt of the seriousness of my injury was erased once the firefighters arrived and started whispering to each other. Typically, I'd say that's a bad sign. I thought it was kind of interesting that all 3 departments showed up. It was a little more interesting (and annoying) that all 3 asked me the exact same questions over and over. This would be a common theme for the rest of the day. Where's that data management?!

My first ambulance ride was fairly uneventful. They put me in a splint for transport to the nearest hospital. I had a bunch of other scrapes, but I guess they didn't think it was too serious, so they left it for the ER. X-rays were super painful. The technician insisted on two views (standard procedure probably?), and he had me lift my arm to get the second shot. Aside from the pain, seeing half my ulna bone kind of poke up against my skin pretty much confirmed to me that I really fucked my arm up before the doctor had to say anything.

After x-rays, the hospital informed me that (surprise!) my health insurance required that I get moved to another hospital since I wasn't in a critical condition. They put me in a more proper cast and sent me downtown in another ambulance. Seeing as how I make (really) good money, you'd think I would've sprung for the full-featured, totally comprehensive healthcare coverage. Nope. I can tell you now that I'd easily give back the $10 or so a month I saved for the more premium coverage. That's the free market working as intended, I guess.

About three hours later, after going through the same thing at the second hospital that I did at the first, I got informed that since my fracture didn't break the skin, it was unlikely I would mess up my arm any further, so I could go home and schedule surgery later in the week. That was both a relief and disappointment. Things certainly could've been worse, but the last thing I wanted was to walk around with my arm bones literally side by side, not where they're supposed to be, for an unknown number of days.

In fact, surgery didn't happen until 5 days later, during which I got very little sleep due to the pain. I think I could only nap for 1-2 hours at a time before I'd reflexively twitch and send a sharp pain coursing down my arm. I've never been in a situation where I actually looked forward to a stranger cutting me open. I had surgery on my other arm for a ligament issue about ten years ago, so I wasn't too worked up about the possible complications of surgery. It was just another unavoidable thing that simply had to happen. However, the anesthesiologists did inform me that I apparently have a very weird nerve cluster arrangement around the primary arteries near my neck/shoulder, which is a little disconcerting.

Surgery went well, I guess, and here I am, 10 weeks later, slowly rehabbing a left arm that's probably at 50% of its former utility at best. Overall, I'd rate the experience a 2/10: would not recommend.

Some Actual Thoughts about Healthcare (the point of this post)

  • Shit could happen to anyone - I obviously didn't plan or expect to break my arm. I could probably ride that same route the same way a thousand more times and never remotely come close to how I managed to crash.
  • No one expects shit to happen to them - Absent any warning or signs of risk, I think it's natural to underestimate the odds of something bad happening. I believe that the vast majority of average people lead pretty uneventful, risk-free lives.
  • There seems to be very little natural incentive to get insurance - I don't rock-climb or even really go outdoors. I don't even own a car. I probably lead one of the more boring and safe lives on the spectrum of lives one could lead. I'd say I'm probably the poster child for someone who might elect to completely skip getting insurance if given the option to save some money.
  • I'd be financially hit pretty hard without insurance - Sure, I have pretty substantial savings (see: boring life), and it's not like this was some crazy disease that required state of the art treatment from specialists, but the ambulance ride alone was 1.2k, the surgery was around 5-6k, ER expenses added up to about 2-3k, and the weekly rehab appointments would've cost a good amount as well. A more thorough discussion could be had about price-markup and a need for more transparency in the healthcare industry, but I think it's a given that medical treatment can get pricey very quickly, and insurance (conceptually) is literally designed to mitigate that situation.
  • Recovery's physically painful but psychologically worse - Bones and muscles more or less heal for the most part, even in injuries like mine, but the worry that you'll never fully get your full range of capabilities back is one that lingers. Every bit of pain or stiffness triggers me to pull back or hesitate, and I can't shake this thought that the doctors messed up something.
  • Rehab's a full-time job and ain't no one got time for that - Man, it's really hard staying on top of all the rehab exercises. I swear, it feels like my therapist introduces new exercises every single week. I'm sorry I ever doubted the rehabilitation robotics field.
  • Everyone needs someone - Not many things exemplifies loneliness as struggling to take care of yourself properly, like tying your shoes or even getting into bed without pain. Healthcare, whether preventative or after-the-fact, can be as dependent on your community and support network. Don't know if this thought is more indicative of the disconnect in my own solitary life or society as a whole nowadays, but I really don't know how someone new to an area, away from family and a solid support network, can possibly deal with a major health issue.

tldr; When I was picking up my pain meds post-surgery, I saw a girl with two broken arms totally immobilized in casts. Sucks to be her.