Advocate For Yourself When You?re Hurt

I?m typing this with one hand.

I was at a beach on vacation in Boston with family this week. Some kids were skimboarding, and it looked fun.

Not me. I wasn’t standing long enough for anyone to get a picture.

So I tried, and on my second attempt, fell backwards and landed awkwardly on my hand. I heard the bone snap, and then saw my arm totally displaced near the wrist.

The docs said the arm needed surgery to put everything back together, but it didn’t need to be done that day. It could wait a week until we returned to Milwaukee, and I could see the orthopedic doctor who put together my shoulder.

Pay Attention to Your Body

I?ve broken a lot of bones in my life, and I?m pretty used to the pain and discomfort that goes with that.

The next morning, though, my fingers felt numb, and the pain was pretty harsh. I called Massachusetts General, spoke to a doctor there, who managed to fit me in right away.

He didn?t like the numb fingers or the displacement and ordered the surgery right away. Thirty minutes later, the nurses prepped me for surgery. I was grateful to get knocked out!

The lesson here is to advocate for yourself when you’re hurt and things just don?t feel right.

Four Lessons to Advocate for Yourself When You’re Hurt

Lesson 1: Listen to your body.

If something doesn?t feel right, ask someone – a nurse, doctor, etc. Even if you?re imagining something, it?s better to ask and find out you?re imagining it than to stay silent when something is wrong. Advocate for yourself when you’re hurt, especially if the pain is severe, or something feels off.

Lesson 2: Stay on top of the pain.

I felt pretty good until the overnight. The night nurse seemed a little lackadaisical and didn?t stay on top of the meds. He kept giving me Oxycodone, and I kept telling him it doesn?t work well with me. 

I’m still clueless about what everything looks like under the wrapping.

By the time the day nurse came on, the pain was as bad as when I broke it. She heard the message, got the meds changed, added some extra Tylenol, and finally, the pain was better. 

The next day, I was down to ibuprofen and Tylenol only!

Lesson 3: Ask questions, demand answers

Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers. Residents and medical students from Harvard staff Massachusetts General, and one of the resident surgeons visited me at 5:30 a.m., and it felt like he didn?t want to be there. 

He kept talking about carpal tunnel release, and I had no idea what that had to do with my arm. I asked again, got the same answer, and then he left. I still didn?t know what the surgery was, what the carpal tunnel had to do with my arm, and even when I was leaving the hospital.

Finally, several hours later, my nurse got him on the phone. When he said he already talked with me, I responded, ?Dude, you spent all of three minutes with me.? The nurse laughed a bit as the medication was clearly talking.

He answered most of my questions, and he even made a little joke when he talked about the jenga puzzle nature of putting my bones back together.

Lesson 4: Get to know and thank the hospital staff.

Great conversations with the EMTs, several nurses, several aides, and admitting staff made the process better. I met some really interesting people, chief among them Brian, an Irish-immigrant EMT who gave me a detailed history of the Troubles and his thinking about Brexit.

Cape Cod Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital both provided great care. While there hasn’t been a ?silver lining? in this injury, meeting people like Brian helps. And my wife not only took care of me, but arranged ?placement? for our daughter. She was a rock star.

The adventure reminded me just how important it is to advocate for yourself when you’re hurt, or find a person to help you, when there?s an injury.

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