when you fracture a rib, there’s nothing that a doctor can (or will) do for you. they give you anti-inflammatories (not painkillers) and tell you not to move “too much.” this is very good advice considering that the last time i broke my rib it happened while i was fast asleep.
the fractured rib story (which is both impressive and hilarious) began almost three months ago when i was painting a very tall ceiling with an eighteen foot roller. i was leaning back, doing my best to use my “core” to hold the weight of the roller as i pushed it against the ceiling. half way through that unforgettable ceiling roll, i felt a sharp ping in my upper left rib area. i stopped, gently placed the roller down, and looked to my friend who was with me. he saw the pain on my face as i winced. he asked me if i was alright and thinking i’d likely just strained a muscle, i said that i was and, very carefully, continued to roll the ceilings.
the following day, i was given the task of hauling approximately two tons of steel down some stairs with the help of four (or was it five?) boys. at this point, i was in a great deal of pain and borrowed a back brace that i strapped around my ribs (as opposed to my lower back, where it was originally designed to reside). two weeks passed and the pain had hardly subsided. i was in the midst of moving the art store that i work at and decided a pulled muscle was really no cause for concern. a couple of days later, i called my doctor. i just wanted her to poke around and take a look at it and tell me what i wanted to hear, “sprained muscle. pinched ligament. take some ibuprofen and don’t move too much.”
she wrote me a prescription for an x-ray and told me to get one if, within a week, the pain wasn’t considerably better. being the whatever that i am, i assumed that i wouldn’t need the x-ray. a week passed and i was, as i’d expected, feeling less sore. until of course, i woke up one day with a very bad case of bronchitis. i proceeded to cough so violently one day that the once subsiding pain in my ribs came reeling back to me, ten fold. i looked for the x-ray prescription. lost. gone. nowhere to be found. that is standard protocol for me.
so i did what i thought i should do. i called up my doctor ::
me: i need another prescription for an x-ray i was written a week ago. i lost it. can you please just mail it to me?
secretary: the doctor needs to examine you again before she can give you this.
me: why? she saw me a week ago..
i had this conversation three times in one day with the same secretary. i had enough time to escape work for an x-ray, but i didn’t have enough time to schedule an appointment with this doctor. you make an appointment, wait in the waiting room for at least forty five minutes and get shown to your room (which is really only a glorified waiting room). wait in this room for another thirty to forty five minutes. explain, or in my case re-explain, why you are there. get poked at and receive the same prescription you’d be given a week prior (it’s not like i was requesting morphine). go downstairs, wait for fifteen minutes, undress, get the x-ray, leave with an enormous thank you, and wait for the results. i guess i’d have to wait a few more weeks until i could get this x-ray. thanks, doc.
a few more weeks passed. my work schedule simply did not allow me to (after doing the math above) take off for three hours during the day (not to mention, i do need the pay).
i’d found time to see a doctor at a clinic on a weekend to receive antibiotics for the bad case of bronchitis and sinusitis i’d developed. coughing intensely and sneezing every three minutes is not comfortable. it’s especially annoying if you have an extremely nagging pain in your rib that has not left your side (no pun intended) for about five weeks. every cough, sneeze, breath, laugh, or what-have-you was like a steak knife entering my rib. it had reached the point that it made me downright angry. irritable. the works. i couldn’t sleep, stand, turn, move, walk, talk, or breath comfortably.
a couple more weeks passed. once again, the pain seemed to have subsided. at this point, i was convinced it was muscular. ibuprofen didn’t work. the back brace was useful, but not a cure. but, whatever, i’m FINE.
when i was ten years old, i fell off a pony and broke a rib. the pain was awful. i remember going to skate king the following day (yes, a roller skating place which was likely started in the 70’s) because the school that i was attending at the time had these surprise field trip days. a “let’s celebrate the students” day. i went, i skated, and i was conquered (recalling a severe amount of pain). this forced me to quit skating rather early. well before the lights were dimmed, the disco lights illuminated – when real fun began. when i saw a doctor a day or two after, i remember the examination like it was yesterday. she looked at my rib (right side) and declared, “looks like you swallowed a goose egg.” it still looks like that to this day.
about a week ago, i was fast asleep in bed. around 4:30am i awoke with a sharp pain in my rib that caused every swear word in the english language to fall from my mouth (and, yes, tears were involved as well). it was a saturday night. i called the doctor (or doctor stand-in as it were) on sunday morning to schedule an appointment for monday – knowing full well that i couldn’t schedule an appointment on a sunday, but – at the very least – i felt as if i had reserved a seat on an overbooked flight (happy to become a member of the stand by crowd). come monday morning, i called again to confirm the appointment i had tried and knowingly failed to schedule the day before. by monday afternoon, i was booked to see the doctor at 2:00pm. eureka! is all i can say.
i waited the allotted ninety minutes i had expected to wait and finally received that same prescription for the x-ray to be taken that day (and another ‘script for those useless anti-inflammitories mentioned above). and i did not hesitate to inform her that those anti-inflammitories had done no good for me. i’m still convinced they were sugar pills. i’m familiar with the placebo affect.
by tuesday, while at work, i received a voicemail from the doctor.
“so, it appears you have fractured your rib. three times. at three different times. they are three separate fractures in one rib, all healing at three different speeds.”
her last piece of advice ? “try not to move too much.”
thank you, doctor. i appreciate your effort(s) at getting to the bottom of the intense pain i’ve been feeling for approximately ten weeks. thank you, also, for prescribing me more
sugar pills anti-inflammitories in the midst of my pain. i thank you profusely from the bottom of my, uh, rib cavities.
so, in the space of ten weeks :: i fractured one rib in three different places at three different times. it’s still healing. i still can’t take a deep breath without a sharp pain, but i’m back to moving, lifting, walking, laughing, and sleeping without a problem.
impressive ? i think so.
hilarious ? completely.
annoying ? doesn’t matter.