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Them's The Breaks

by Stephen Lautens


October 3, 2003

I’ve just come back from a hospital visit. Unfortunately the person I was there to see was me.

I lasted 43 years without breaking a single bone in my body. Stupidly, it was the school yard’s monkey bars that finally did me in. A slippery stair sent me flying while out for a walk with my son. My body hit the ground, but my arm apparently stayed on the railing. I say apparently because the whole thing was over faster than a Liberal leadership convention.

We have a hospital in the neighbourhood, which is a mixed blessing. It’s great because we can get there in a few minutes if there is any kind of emergency. It’s not so great because as hospitals go, it’s a little old and under-equipped. In fact, when you arrive they suggest you bring your own bale of clean straw for the floor. It looks like it was furnished out of neighbourhood garage sales. The inside walls appear to have been painted with gallons of pastel house paint that were returned to Canadian Tire for being not quite the right shade. Maybe they could do better with proper funding, or at least get rid of the depressing booth in the main lobby selling creepy hand-made dolls and collections of walnuts with pipe cleaner legs and glued on googly eyes.

In fairness, I did get great service in emergency, once I got past the talkative yet surly front desk nurse. I don’t know why your first contact with a hospital always seems to be the employee with the fewest people skills. Dealing with the public is never fun, particularly if they’re gushing blood or anything else on you. Still, you wouldn’t think seriously ill people should be treated as an inconvenience, especially if you’re in the hospital business.

During my own visit, I knew something was wrong from the number of people who kept asking me if I was okay. Maybe it had something to do with the fact I was apparently going into shock, meaning I was a shade greener and colder than usual. They "fast-tracked" me, which was great until I really thought about what it meant. It also wasn’t very encouraging when the two doctors who looked at my x-rays turned and asked me if I was sure I didn’t want to lie down.

In the end, I was in and out of the hospital in less time than it takes to deliver a pizza. It turns out I broke my arm, right up at the shoulder. It’s in a place where they can’t put a cast, so I get to let it dangle painfully out of my sleeve for the next six weeks without even the benefit of a sympathy-inducing lump of plaster. Having been out in public a few times makes me think my shoulder has actually become magnetic, judging from the number of people who now seem intent on bumping into me. At least a cast lets people know to stay clear of an injured body part, or in the alternative gives you something to thump them with if they get too close.

If it was the summer I could wear a short-sleeved shirt to warn people off and get a little sympathy. The whole arm is now the same colour as a supermarket banana on final markdown, only squishier and less appealing.

Someone suggested I sue the monkey bar manufacturers. I quickly dismissed the idea for two reasons. First of all, accidents happen. Second, I’m not sure I want to be remembered as the 43 year old who broke his arm playing on the monkey bars at recess.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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