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‘I Don’t Deal in Probably’ How a broken arm reset my thinking

January 13, 2017 Barbara Ballinger

When you’re older and fall—or slip on ice, dealing with the decisions of a doctor to tend to your two major breaks, the surgery and rehab can be overwhelming. 

I first went to the ER in my small town where two Physician Assistants performed anatomical reduction—to move the bones back into place. The shot into my hand and bone burned like hot coals. 

Next, it was on to a recommended orthopedist in a little bigger town near my home, even though that doctor is more a generalist than specialist.  He said I required more anatomical reduction, and with another horrific shot moved my hand and arm three times. He also said he would operate the next week under general anesthesia and send me home the same day. 

I thought I’d probably be okay. But I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was scared, dealing with searing pain, and the inconvenience of not being able to use my right hand. That meant I couldn’t drive. How would I write at my computer, cook, or even dress myself? I wanted a quick fix, but was I being too complacent about the seriousness of this surgery? 

Friends pounced on me about my nonchalance. They insisted I head to a specialist at a major hospital in New York City. I resisted; they pushed. Thank goodness for my “pushy” contingent. I finally listened and called a friend’s boyfriend who is an accomplished doctor in New York. He said simply after hearing what happened, “You probably will be fine with that doctor and hospital, but I don’t deal in probably.” 

With that he called his highly skilled colleague who agreed to see me the next Monday. That doctor said the two reductions were one too many.  I indeed needed surgery but could have it under a regional block. I also needed to stay overnight for his staff to manage my pain and watch for numbness. 

I felt confident though nervous when I left to return the next day for the surgery, akin to the sinking feeling I have when I step on a plane and fear the turbulence. Of course, on the plane, I can drink. I can’t do that during surgery even if slightly awake. 

At my age, 50 plus, I’ve learned to ask the right questions and look for all the silver linings in all situations, including this one. For example, I am proud to say, I’ve typed this with my non-dominant left hand (good for my aging brain) and also downloaded voice activation on my computer.   

The best news: the surgeon said my typing is great therapy to regain movement and dexterity. I knew this profession would come in “hand-y” some day.



1 comment

  • Margery Leveen Sher

    Jan 13, 2017

    Good for you for Noticing a silver lining!
    Wishing you a speedy recovery, especially from the pain!


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