Which happened to me Saturday 11 January, a bright cold day. I went out on my cycle intending to take the cycle path to Inverleith Row, felt that the air was cold, but saw that the puddles in my street were liquid, turned down a side street, turned down another and then fell sideways onto my right shoulder. The surface was a thin coat of ice. I got up and tried to push the cycle to the pavement. The street was frighteningly slippery. Then a foreign bloke spoke to me, and helped to the pavement. After a few yards he wandered off again but the pavement had dry strips and I pushed the cycle home.
Then I lay down to get over the shock, took a couple of pain killers and told myself my arm was only badly bruised. But it did hurt rather a lot and remembering a broken wrist a few years ago, thought I'd better head to A&E. It was Saturday morning so shouldn't be filled with violent drunks.
So I got a taxi to the Royal Infirmary and sat among the crowd at A&E. A couple had white-haired and bloody heads but most were holding limbs out at stiff angles and one fellow came in hopping. The young bloke next to me had a swollen hand. He too had come off his cycle, down a hill he said, and people had helped him into an ambulance. Another guy was with his wife, and someone had skidded into their car, writing it off. There had been four accidents on that stretch, the polis had told him, he said. It hadn't been gritted.
It's been a mild winter after several very cold snowy ones and evidently the Council had got out of the habit of gritting.
I was seen after forty minutes, and told to wait until I could have an X-Ray - another forty minutes or so. I returned to the A&E waiting room, and most people there seemed to have physical injuries rather than sickness. I was getting hungry but the vending machine held nothing but chocolate bars of the Snickers kind and crisps. I thought they could have risen to an oat bar at least. It was also cold, also filling up fast. After about two hours the nurse practitioner announced that people would not be seen for hours and some should go to the Western General or wait to see their doctor. There was groaning and heckling.
I was not in great pain and thought perhaps I should leave. I was ringing for a taxi when my name was called and I was sent to X-ray.
A guy in football gear, patched with mud, was sitting in a wheelchair. He was telling another fellow about the football match he (from Niddrie) had had with another team (from Craigmillar). It was organised by the church and had had to be abandoned. The other fellow asked if there had been any history between the two. "Nae feuds, nae vendettas," he said. "But they had nae discipline."
I was X-rayed, and then after another, shorter wait, was shown the break in my humerus, at the top, along the ball that goes into the shoulder socket. I groaned at this, as it means six weeks before it's mended. The nurse gave me a nylon mobius strip velcroed at the ends and sent me off home.
The mobius strip is simple and very effective - better than a more elaborate sling which has a cradle for your arm, a loop for your thumb and straps to hold it to your body. It keeps the arm braced and you quite naturally hold it to your trunk. When I take it off for washing or dressing I don't feel safe until it's holding my arm in again, like an animal in its lair.
I went to the out-patients last week, and was told it was healing straight, and there's certainly more play in it. I can say that a simple break in a humerus is better than a complex break in a wrist. It's not so disabling - I can still use a knife, for instance. There's more play in my arm as it heals. I'll know it's right when I can reach to my mid-back to unhook my bra - instead of using one hand, like a practised seducer.
However it is uncomfortable. It's not painful, but it throws the rest of your body out of kilter, so walking brings on back ache. Sleeping was at first difficult as I'd have to stay in one position so would wake seized up and rusty.
Also it's hard to write, not just in the obvious sense that after a while hitting keys starts to hurt, but because the whole attitude of writing is somehow bound to my thinking. I have an idea for a blog post, I hold my hands at their usual angle, and then I'm pulled back like a tethered dog. And the thought, whatever it's worth, seems to stop as well. It's not like having an idea, a line, and being deprived of a means to record it eg not having a pen and paper. It's more like suddenly losing vocabulary or the rudiments of grammar.
I have heard of how some writers of discursive prose- Henry James, Mark Twain - turned to dictation. They must have had to learn a totally new skill. Mark Twain got fiercely frustrated and so went back scribbling with his rheumatic right arm.