Friday, June 30, 2006

My Arm...8 months later

(inner side of my arm...sorry, i don't know the technical terms)

This is my a picture of my arm, 2 surgeries and eight months later. This July 2nd will mark the 8th month since the car accident that shattered both bones in my forearm. I'm quite fortunate to be alive, though not so fortunate for my 6-month old car which didn't survive. Although almost a year has passed, November 2nd still remains a very vivid memory.

I was on my way to work. I left the house at 8:12am. There was an anti-war protest in Westwood that day. I remember contemplating whether I should miss work to go to the protest with Arash. He had been convincing me to go for the past two days and I still hadn't made up my mind. I was going to decide on my way to work. Alas, fate had decided for me. Driving west on Palms Blvd. on a Wednesday morning, I was surprised that traffic was light. There were no other cars and it seemed that I had consecutive green lights since I left the house. As I was approaching Motor Ave., one of the cars turned left in front of me. I started to slow down to accommodate the car and the car behind it started to turn as well. He hesitated at first because he saw me coming and then on the last second he turned. By this time, I was already about 5 feet away from the crosswalk. Then, to my disbelief, a third car started to turn...into my car! I instinctively tried to honk but it was too late so I swerved to the left. The right side of my car crashed into the right side of his vehicle, a Ford Bronco. I felt the airbag hit my face; the wind was knocked out of me. Then...I felt the throbbing and burning sensation of my left forearm as it hang limply on my lap. I started to scream! I was hysterical but I couldn't move, my arm felt so heavy on my lap. I started panicking. People started running from the sidewalk. Two guys tried to calm me down. They turned off the engine and told me that the ambulance was on its way. I was hyperventilating. I knew I had broken my arm. I saw it starting to swell up, it was turning red. I panicked some more. Finally, I heard the distant sound of police sirens, then the fire trucks, and at long last, the ambulance. I started to calm down, help is on the way.

The firefighters got to me first. They thought I had broken my wrist. When he lifted my arm to survey the damage, he had this look on his face that told me it was way worse than what he originally thought. He asked for a splint to stabilize the arm. They started looking around for a piece of cardboard big enough to support my arm. After stabilizing my arm, the firefighters put me in the ambulance and I remembered telling him that my car was only six months old and he told me, "Your insurance will take care of it, don't worry."

We finally got to the hospital and I was immediately sent to the ER. I thought it was a bit dramatic for a broken arm. Don't they just put cement on it and call it a day? Apparently not. I was in a lot of pain so the nurse injected me with painkillers. Then the cops came to take my statement. Great timing, I had just been drugged now I'm supposed to tell them what happened. They didn't have that many questions though. They just asked a few questions and gave me some information about the location of the junkyard that had my car. Yes, my car was towed to a junkyard. Oh, they brought me my purse and cellphone too. Yippee! After the 'questioning' was over, my phone rang. It was the office. By now it's 9:30 and they're wondering where the hell I am. I told them I just had a car accident and was at the ER. What hospital? I had to ask the nurse. Brotman Medical Center. After the phone call I fell asleep. I don't know how long I was out but when I woke up I saw Arash. I almost cried at the sight of him. Finally, a familiar face. He looked so worried that the ER staff permitted him to stay by my side. He asked if I had called my mom. I haven't had the chance. The painkillers knocked me out and besides I didn't know what to say. He urged me to let her know. I called her office and they transferred me to her extension. It kept ringing and ringing. No answer. I tried again. The line was busy. I tried for the third time and finally she picked up. I remember how irritated she was. I asked her why she wasn't picking up and she said that she's really busy. She asked me why I called. Pause. I told her. I also told her not to worry because Arash was with me. She told me she would come as soon as she can.

Details start getting a little bit blurry after that. I remember yelling at the ER nurse when they tried to put a more stable splint on my arm. I remember the looks on their faces when they saw the x-ray (I wasn't allowed to look at it). I remember Sassan visiting and Steve calling. I remember having In-N-Out for lunch. I remember Arash staying by my side until my mom came (around 4pm). I remember waking up at 5am the next day to be prepped for surgery, my very first one. I remember waking up in the recovery room and panicking, trying to take off the oxygen mask and thrashing about in my bed.

I stayed in the hospital for 5 days. My mom picked me up to take me back home. It was awful. I was so weak. I was helpless and my mom had to stay with me to help me along. I went back to the doctor's office after a couple of days to have the staples removed. I asked Arash to accompany me. I was screaming in my doctor's office as Dr. Page removed the staples, one after the other, 24 total. After a couple more days, I had to go back for another surgery. My arm was so swollen during the first surgery that they couldn't close the other wound. This time they were going to do a bone graft to connect my shattered bone and try to close the wound. When I woke up from the surgery, I remember asking the Dr. Page and the nurses if I could go back to my room so I can watch the USC game. I must've sounded like a raving lunatic since the game was actually at 11am (time I was admitted) and it was now about 5pm.

It's now 8 months later. I've switched doctors since then. I'm now with Dr. Chadwick Smith and he's a pretty good doctor (judging from his resume). He removed the staples from my second surgery, 19 staples. He also removed all the bandages and left my arm exposed. It looked so horrendous, scarred and skinny. My muscled have atrophied leaving my arm looking weird and disproportionate. It also turns out that I'm allergic to surgical tape and now I have burn marks in my arm where the surgical tape touched my skin (see picture above).

I also had to endure about 4 and a half months of physical therapy. The pain has subsided. My arm is about 80% functional. My shoulder is not as stiff. Soon, I'll be driving again. The nightmares are over but the healing is still ongoing. The scars are not only skin-deep. The psychological scars and the trauma have deeply affected me. I'm still jumpy when I'm in a car. It's so ironic. I used to think I wouldn't be able to survive in Los Angeles without a car. Here I am 8 months without a car and I've survived. Thanks to my mom, my friends, and co-workers who were kind enough to help me. My gratitude also goes out to the Blue Bus and the Culver City Bus lines, my main source of transportation to and from work. But most of all, I thank God every day that he blessed me to live to see another day.

(outer side of my arm)