(Beware! Gory pictures ahead)
I was originally going to title this post PINKY PROMISE. Pinky promise – Judy will never ride an electric scooter again!
My succinct story is this:
I took a nasty fall on April 7th.
I dislocated my right pinky. I am right-handed.
In the last three weeks, I have had 18 doctor visits, (which includes 2 urgent care, and 2 ER visits.)
Working very slowly with a splint on, I drew another maze on my computer to add to my maze book in progress.
I had two online live performances.
I wrote a new song. I named it: “Take My Hand.”
The spring weather was lovely and my oldest son was visiting from out-of-state. In the evening, we planned to go to my brother and sister-in-law’s home for a beautiful Passover meal.
After breakfast, he told me he wanted to walk around the college campus where we both had graduated. It seemed like a lovely idea.
For over an hour we walked, and he enjoyed pointing out all the new buildings. It was amazing how much had changed in the 42 years since I’d graduated. We stopped for a light lunch at a café he remembered well.
It was time for us to head back. My son pointed out a pair of electric scooters nearby for rent. He absolutely loved them and told me how he felt deprived because I wouldn’t allow him to have one growing up.
I can’t remember exactly how this all played out, but I was open to his suggestion that we rent one to go back to the car. With the wide-open campus, the path back seemed smooth and easy.
Last summer, I rode a bicycle near the beach for 8 miles – so it didn’t seem like this would be difficult for me. But in retrospect, I threw all caution to the wind. The strict helmet rules I imposed upon my children growing up suddenly didn’t seem to apply to us in this situation.
After a few moments downloading an app, we were off!
Immediately, I didn’t feel that certain about what I was doing; I wasn’t in control. It was easy to go too fast and I kept letting off the gas. But if I went too slowly, I couldn’t stand and balance. The key was to go slow and steady and not turn much.
But after a few minutes, I felt more confident. I buzzed along with my son nearby and he was grinning to see his mother joining him. This was my joy – seeing my child happy and enjoying our time together.
We came to a slight incline and the breeze lifted my visor. I had forgotten that this wasn’t a bicycle with handlebars. I thought I could hold on with one arm, while fixing my hat with the other. I wish I had listened to the voice in my head that told me to let it blow off and stop,
I raised my arm to grab my visor. In a flash, the scooter tipped sideways and went out from under me.
The next moment is forever embedded in my mind. I was thrown with no control over where I was going. I flew through the air and hit the ground with a thud and felt my teeth clack loudly together. My first thought was that I hoped I hadn’t knocked my teeth out.
Although I was stunned, I was determined to prove I was fine. I knew I was alert and my brain was intact. I pushed myself into sitting position. The only problem was that sticky blood was running down my face and my hair was also wet.
And then there was the problem with my right pinky. It was so grotesque that my son begged me not to look at it. That poor pinky had taken all the impact.
People came running and surrounded me. My son was frozen with fear. He looked like he was about to cry and tried to avert worry with humor. “Oh, my God! I almost killed my mother!” he wailed. “My siblings will never forgive me!”
I was calm and certain I was okay. My legs didn’t hurt, although I had a stabbing pain in my ribs. Waiting for the campus police and then an ambulance seemed interminable. A few wonderful people hung around to help. A nice man helped me move to a shadier area and I moaned as he pulled me up. I walked shakily, and was elated I could do that. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the safest idea.
This was all a replay of my broken ankle in 2019. It was the same time of day. Waiting for the transport took hours. I would spend the rest of the day and evening in an emergency room. I’m certain I’ll continue to write more insights about this ordeal.
The emergency room was noisy and packed with patients. My bed was in a tiny space with a curtain on either side. Time stood still as the hours ticked by.
Over and over my son kept apologizing, saying it was his fault and he’d never forgive himself. I reassured him that I would be fine and it wasn’t his fault. I had made the decision and he hadn’t exactly twisted my arm.
But having to explain this accident was increasingly embarrassing. Here I was – a 63-year-old woman riding an electric scooter. What was a thinking? The answer was – I wasn’t thinking!
There was a lesson here I couldn’t ignore. It was time for me to put a greater value on taking care of myself. I had risked it all and that fact alone overwhelmed me with emotion.
As the hours marched on, my twisted pinky was my worry. I was surprised that it was so numb, almost as if it wasn’t part of my body. I wasn’t looking forward to it being pulled back into place and wanted to get it over with. The nurse came and put morphine in the IV; I felt my veins burn, and then I was very cold and tired.
I was taken for a CAT scan of my brain and x-rays for my other body parts. I had a cut above my eyebrow, and a bump and scrape on the back of my head. I had badly bruised my ribs, both palms and one cheek. Unbelievably, nothing was broken and my head was okay. I learned later that a dislocation was more serious than a broken bone.
Eventually, an ER doctor came to yank my pinky back into place. She was surprised that it also required suturing. My wound was open for five hours. How was that missed? Obviously they were busy. I prayed my finger would be okay and everything would work out. After a few shots of anesthetic, she sewed up my pinky.
My son talked about how sad he was our day turned out this way. We both wouldn’t be attending the dinner we had looked forward to. I told him that even with difficult times, there were beautiful parts to remember.
I had never felt closer to him. When I was cold, he walked a long distance to the car to bring me a jacket from my trunk. He also went to get us snacks from a vending machine and we enjoyed them together.
We were finally discharged at 9 p.m. and went out to dinner at one of his favorite places. We were so hungry and grateful for the calmness of a quiet restaurant after being in the noisy hospital for seven hours.
“Mom, just so you know – I’m planning to sell my two mopeds. This whole situation has changed my thinking,” my son announced. He wanted to please me and I thought that perhaps this was a very good outcome from what had happened to me on this day.
I awoke the next morning and began processing my injury. The shock was wearing off and reality was setting in. Now it became clear to me how much I had risked. My art, my music, my writing – all of this was affected without the use of my pinky.
My first cancellation was my upcoming tennis game. I loved playing women’s doubles, but most of all it was about being with my friends. Tennis was my exercise, my therapy, and truly helped me through the pandemic. I wondered when I would be able to play again. I made a mental note to start looking for replacements for the games that were already scheduled.
My discharge instructions said that I should be checked within 3 days by a hand surgeon. I had no idea that getting an appointment through my insurance that soon would be impossible. This was my new challenge – to advocate for myself. I had been a great advocate for my children, but now it was time to focus on me. I had value. My life mattered.
When I was offered only appointments that were weeks away, I made an urgent request to have someone call me back that could help me. No one called. I tried again the next day without any luck. My finger was throbbing and nothing helped.
I cried for an hour, and then I marched myself to urgent care. I waited for three hours and eventually a compassionate doctor checked my sutures and helped connect me to an orthopedic doctor.
That doctor sent me a message that we would only have a phone appointment. He had never examined me, but stated in his message that I would be forever limited by my finger.
I was not prepared for that same doctor to tell me later on that I would never play tennis again. When I asked why, he said I wouldn’t be able to grip a racquet and the pinky was an important stabilizer.
The first week, my ribs were so painful it was hard to breathe. As a struggled through the other aches and pains, I kept imagining myself with my teeth knocked out and brains scrambled on the ground. I thought of how horrible this would have been for my son to witness.
On Sunday, I pictured my friends playing tennis without me and I cried in bed. I wondered if I would be able to do my painstaking artwork again. I wasn’t sure what I would do with my time as I recovered.
But slowly the revelations of my injuries and what could have been worse were replaced with what I could still do. I was able to type and use the computer with the other 4 fingers. I could hold a stylus and draw a maze.
And amazingly I could play guitar. There was only one finger that I didn’t need for that – it was the right pinky.
That is why my pinky is my hero. It took the fall. It suffered, but it left me with the ability to do music and so many other things that brought joy to my life.
“It could have been worse” is a true statement.
It allows for gratefulness at how things turned out. But for me it wasn’t comforting, because it reminded me of the foolish risk I took. I searched for a more comforting replacement thought.
My mantra became: I would definitely make it through.
Writing a new song was a perfect way to uplift my soul. The last time I wrote a song with lyrics was 2016, seven years ago.
I was amazed that I had penned most of the lyrics two years earlier during the pandemic. I wasn’t satisfied with them and the song remained unfinished. I overcame my perfectionism and made a few changes. I heard a new melody for a bridge and it was a spiritual experience to finish my song.
Only a week after my accident, I performed my new song live for my wonderful Insight Timer audience. I was able to be vulnerable and weepy. Connecting with my “tribe” uplifted me and I was incredibly grateful to my friends from around the world.
I named my new song “Take My Hand.” It turned out that I was reaching for music to give me hope and healing.
And it certainly did.