Our Lives

If it’s fixed, she’ll break it

August 11, 2012 


Christine Gilbert.

JULI LEONARD — jleonard@newsobserver.com

I know how to pique doctors with interesting injuries. When I lived in Alaska, I fell off a horse in an area called Chitna, and successfully dislocated and broke my left arm, broke my collar bone, and shattered my scapula. It took a long while for the ambulance to come, given the distance from the clinic and lack of communication (the nearest phone was up the road several miles). When I finally made it to an orthopedic surgeon in Anchorage 10 days later, he said he was in awe of how I had completely disintegrated my joint.

Aside from the shoulder injury, I also broke four teeth. I did not know they were broken until years later as each slowly came apart, but a dentist confirmed that the impact of the fall most certainly was the cause.

Moving here, I had the opportunity to meet another orthopedic surgeon while I was explaining to him that the dog bite on my left wrist was my fault. Having recently been convinced to foster a stray Shiba Inu, I stupidly put myself into the middle of a dog fight. As a result, I received a perfect impression of the young dog’s teeth on my left forearm. I thought nothing of it, but eventually took the advice of friends and saw a doctor. He took one look at the X-ray and rushed me to an orthopedic surgeon. He determined there was no permanent nerve damage but that I required observation because “it is a significant injury.”

I went home, and thanked the foster puppy for introducing me to Raleigh medical care. For the record, the speed at which I got from the doctor to the orthopedic surgeon this time was much faster than when I lived in Alaska. But now, I have injured the wrist and the shoulder of my left arm. I think my left elbow is becoming worried. It has already received stitches from when I fell off the horse in Chitna, but somehow it escaped its destiny of becoming incapacitated with the rest of my left limb. My elbow knows it’s time will come.

One would think lessons are learned through experience and knowledge gained, but being the independent spirit that I am, neither apply. My latest medical adventure involved my decision to mount my roommate’s harpoon on the wall. Don’t ask why my roommate has a harpoon, and please, do not inquire about my intelligence or the plan I developed on how to do this. Like most good intentions, it seemed like a great idea at the time. I got the ladder, hammer, nails, measuring tools, and started my task of hanging the special object so that it would blend with other antique artifacts we have around the house.

Remember the foster puppy? She is still here, and she thinks that play-fighting with the other two dogs is an excellent way to spend an evening. Remember me? I was on a ladder, holding a hammer, a harpoon, and several nails in my mouth. Three dogs start to play, hit the ladder, and you can imagine the rest of the mess that followed, except the part where my jaw met the iron table we have in the living room, and I immediately realized how teeth get broken during accidents. The dogs just wandered around thinking this was all part of the game, and alas, I had to explain to my roommate how the harpoon did not survive the fall.

So, I met my dentist. Two of the teeth involved in this accident were two of the same teeth injured 10 years ago in Chitna. After a few X-rays, I was whisked to the orthopedic surgeon to ensure there was no damage to the swollen jaw (which fortunately there was not). I have decided to keep my orthopedic surgeon on speed dial. It seems a proper mandate for my life.


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