From Coconut/Old Scratch/Lil' Joe/Brokebone:
It's official -- I'm having surgery to repair my right clavicle. Right now, my surgery is scheduled for July 4. That's right. Independence Day. I think that was some British doctor's idea of a sick joke. It will be my first time ever under the knife.
A bit of background. On Feb. 13, I broke my collarbone on a ski trip. It happened on the Sella Ronda, a 36 kilometer circuit in the Dolomites, which are part of the southern Italian Alps. I was skiing on what was considered a blue circuit though I would have given it a black diamond. Anyway, we were skiing in very heavy snow with near-whiteout conditions. I hit a mogul HARD and basically rolled down the mountain in summersault style, landing on my right shoulder.
I heard the snap.
Like the sound of a pencil breaking in half.
It hurt like hell. Somehow I managed to ski all the way back to our chalet at Val Gardena ski resort. Pineapple Princess dragged me to the emergency clinic a few blocks away, where the doctors (who didn't speak a word of English, just Ladin and Italian) diagnosed my injury: Complete fracture of the middle clavicle. I was treated with a figure-8 brace and wore it for about 6 weeks.
After that, everything seemed fine and dandy until March. I was out pub crawling with Pineapple Princess and some friends on a very cold night along the south bank of the River Thames. Sleet and freezing rain had made the sidewalks slipper. It was I was a bit squiffy, walking faster than I should have. You can guess what happened. I slipped. And reached out to catch myself by putting out my right arm. The force of the impact rebroke my collarbone.
Fast forward to May. After 5 rounds of X-rays and check-ups, my clavicle has shown absolute no sign of bone growth. The only thing holding the bones together is scar tissue. Nearly 4 months since the accident, my shoulder is still sore, even if I'm doing something routine like washing the dishes or pulling a suitcase. I can't do anything like bike riding or weightlifting, which I used to do quite frequently at the work gym back home. I've been drinking my milk and taking my calcium pills but nothing has worked.
This is the last resort.
Clavicle fractures are actually quite common, as it's a very prominent bone. Unlike most bones in your body, it is not protected by muscle or tissue. Just skin. About 95% of clavicle fractures heal completely on their own. I'm one of the unfortunate 5% that need surgery to physically reconnect the bones.
The surgery involves reconnecting the clavicle with a small plate and screws. It's a one hour operation, an overnight stay, followed by two weeks recovery time with your arm in a sling. Most people can go back to work and resume normal activities within two days of surgery.
Doctor says in 85% of the cases, the surgery is a complete success and most patients are back to full function within 6-8 weeks. In about 7 cases, there are minor complications like infection. But in a handful of cases, there are serious complications like major infection or nerve damage. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that this time, I'll be in the majority.
This isn't my first fracture. I broke my left arm when I was seven. I was showing off for Suzie, the girl next door when we lived in Manassas Park, Va. I was jumping from the top of a sliding board onto the ground. What a dumbass I was. I'm not sure why I thought that would impress a girl. But as it turned out, it worked because a few weeks later, we "played doctor" and she showed me hers (I chickened out). To this day, my left arm is slightly crooked.
But that's about the extent of my health issues. For the most part, I've been pretty healthy all my life (knock on wood) and have survived some dicey situations in work and play (skydiving, scuba diving, suicide bombers).
At the moment, doctors say I'm as helathy as a horse and can go ahead about my normal life as long as I don't put too much weight or pressure on my right arm. So I'm going to go ahead and push on with my long-delayed business trip.
I'm heading to Baghdad the first week of June for three weeks. Before that, going on holiday to Amsterdam and Paris with Pineapple Princess' sister and brother-in-law. After Baghdad, plan to meet Princess in Amman, Jordan for some R&R. A bit of fun before I go under the knife!