On the last Friday of my summer holiday in Vermont, my friend Dawn and I went hiking on Camel’s Hump, the iconic mountain just a few miles from our homes which we’ve hiked together several times in the past few years. We planned to hike a new-to-me section of the mountain because I had never taken the trail that leads to an airplane wing left from a devastating plane crash in the 1940s.
We had just started down that
part of the Long Trail when I slipped on a moss-covered rock and fell. I tried to catch myself, but as I had once broken my right arm in a fall doing the same thing, I immediately tried to release my left arm and let it extend straight out behind me. I felt a sharp pain in my wrist that hurt like the dickens and just sat there on the offending rock for a few minutes holding my arm and assessing the damage. After a few minutes, the pain eased up a bit, so we decided to hike back up to the main trail to call my mom, a nurse at a family practice doctors office, for help. I felt very Girl Scout-esque as we tried to put a splint on my arm and then tried to wrap my arm in my jacket as a sling, but those methods of support actually caused more pain. When we got to the clearing at the juncture of the trails, another hiker let us use his phone and we called my mom. At this point, it was hard to tell if I’d sprained my arm, broken it, or just hurt it from falling on it. So mom said we might as well finish the hike to the summit, since we were only .3 miles from the top, and then call her at the base if my arm felt worse and I needed to see a doctor.
So I learned that it is in fact possible to hike Camel’s Hump with only one hand. It’s a bit tricky, but possible.
By the time we got to the base of the mountain, my arm felt stiff but it wasn’t particularly painful. So I didn’t call my mom–my first mistake.
Dawn and I went into Richmond and bought ice cream at a new restaurant–they serve maple ice cream with real bacon sprinkles! (For the record, my parents and I ate at Hatchet the next night, and it was fantastic.)
I started to realize that something more was wrong with my arm than I had thought when I dropped some of the sprinkles and tried to catch them with my left hand (my second mistake) and realized that I couldn’t turn or twist my arm. By the time I got home just a little later, there was an odd circular bump on my hand, my wrist was swollen and misshapened, and I couldn’t pull or grip anything. I also noticed a nasty bruise forming on the underside of my arm. (I didn’t take any pictures of the swelling, for some reason).
When Mom got home she measured my wrist and it was 1 inch bigger than my right wrist. She said, “Why didn’t you call me?” She thought my arm was broken. Later when I couldn’t cut my meat at dinner, she said, “You really are in denial that something is wrong with your arm.”
Because I was leaving for China on Sunday, I somehow managed to pack two suitcases that night while only using my right arm.
In the morning we went to Evergreen Family Health and saw the very kind Dr. Johnson. He felt up and down my arm and immediately knew that it was broken. Because I needed x-rays and don’t have insurance, he said “Let’s think outside of the box,” and he recommended that I go to an urgent care clinic that could do x-rays for a very inexpensive price ($50 as it turned out), while they would cost hundreds of dollars at the hospital. He gave me a splint, and my mom and I went to the clinic.
I found out at check-in that the visit would only cost a maximum of $250. I couldn’t believe it! I had to wait a while to see the doctor, but once I did everything went very quickly. The nurse did the x-rays for me, and I could tell by her expression that something was wrong. She said, “Yep, it’s fractured.” After taking the second x-ray she said, “You really did a number on that one.” They also x-rayed my elbow, because of how I fell and some lingering achiness, but it turned out there was nothing wrong with my elbow. The doctor said that I needed to wait 3 to 5 days to have my arm put in a cast because it was so swollen, and said that I was okay to fly back to China. He gave me copies of the x-rays to show the doctor in China and a prescription for pain medication.
I’m going to save the story about flying with a broken arm for a separate post, but for now here’s a picture of me packing while wearing a splint and headlamp, because as if it wasn’t hard enough to pack with one arm, the power went out during a thunderstorm, so I had to use the headlamp for light.
Other parts of the story coming soon: finding an orthopedic doctor to cast my arm, getting ready for school with a broken arm, and finding a doctor to take the cast off.