Back home, I had the first message from my claim contact. She had called while I was still dealing with the accident, and I thought she must really be on top of things. That was the last time I thought that. Her message said she was calling to get the details on my accident, and I was a little surprised she hadn’t heard already – either from the rep I’d spoken to earlier, or from the police report. Regardless, I couldn’t call her back, because her office hours were 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and it was past 6:00 by that time. So I decided I’d leave her a message in the morning – she wouldn’t have been there if I’d called at that moment, anyway, plus my finger was hurting too much to dial a phone.
Its purple color concerned me, especially with the pressure it was giving off. I felt like it might pop like a tiny purple balloon. I told Kim I was going to urgent care; she told me I shouldn’t be driving. I told her I wasn’t drunk, but there was a very real possibility that I would be after coming back home. She opted to drive me, anyway.
At the urgent care place, the first thing I had to do was use a touchpad to input my contact information. That wasn’t too bad, but then I had to sign it. Granted, the ring finger is not vital to using a stylus – but it helps. My signature was unrecognizable, but it’s a medical place, so I guess they’re used to interpreting illegible scrawls.
They called me back, where a technician asked me what had happened. I’d already typed this on the touchpad, but I told her again – I’d been in a wreck, and my ribs, chest, and finger hurt. She asked what had hit my torso, and I told her I didn’t know for sure, but it was probably either the air bag or the seatbelt. “Oh, your air bag deployed?” Yes, I told her, just like I had typed on the touchpad.
Next, she asked how I had hurt my finger. I told her I had no idea, I wasn’t looking at my finger when it happened, but I assumed either the air bag had hit it, or my hand had flown into the dashboard.
She asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1-10. I told her 7-8. I’m betting they hear that estimate a lot. To me, 7-8 sounds high enough that they know I’m in pain, without being so high as to sound overly dramatic.
She took my blood pressure and told me I was obviously in pain. I wanted to say, “No shit,” but instead I asked how she could tell.
“Because your BP is 155 over 77,” she answered calmly.
“And that tells you I’m in pain?”
“It tells me you’re in a lot of pain.”
Then why the hell did you ask me to give a subjective number, I said to myself, as she was leaving.
The nurse practitioner came in about a minute later, and asked me what was going on. She was holding my chart, which, interestingly enough, would have answered that question for her. I told her I’d been in a wreck, and my ribs, chest, and finger hurt. She asked what had hit my torso, and I told her I didn’t know for sure, but it was probably either the air bag or the seatbelt. “Oh, your air bag deployed?” Yes, I told her, just like I had typed on the touchpad, and just like was probably indicated on my chart.
Next, she asked how I had hurt my finger. I told her I had no idea, I wasn’t looking at my finger when it happened, but I assumed either the air bag had hit it, or my hand had flown into the dashboard. She arranged for a couple of X-rays.
The X-ray technician came to collect me. She asked me what was going on. She, too, was holding my chart, which I can only assume had been filled out in invisible ink. Or perhaps handwritten with a broken finger, rendering the information indecipherable.
I told her I’d been in a wreck, and my ribs, chest, and finger hurt. She asked what had hit my torso, and I told her I didn’t know for sure, but it was probably either the air bag or the seatbelt. “Oh, your air bag deployed?” Yes, I told her through gritted teeth, while inside my head I was screaming, YES, THE FUCKING AIR BAG DEPLOYED! IS THAT SUCH A SURPRISE IN CASES WHEN A CAR RAMS INTO SOMETHING AT FULL SPEED?!?
I think you know what she asked me next. Internally, I answered, HOW THE HELL SHOULD I KNOW HOW I HURT MY FINGER?!? DOES NO ONE HERE KNOW HOW QUICKLY ACCIDENTS HAPPEN, AND WHAT THE BRAIN GOES THROUGH DURING THAT TIME?!?
Externally, I said calmly, “I hurt it on my car.”
We got through the X-rays without further incident and she led me back to the exam room, where I wondered if my BP was still as low as 155.
The nurse practicioner returned to tell me my ribs, lungs, and heart looked fine. As an aside – the NP didn’t say this – I have a weird torso. It’s oddly shaped, and I suspect a little frail. It’s too round, having earned me unfortunate nicknames like “Bird” and “Turtle” in the past, and takes up far too small a percentage of my 6’4” frame. That’s fine; I’m not out to impress anyone. But I’ve often felt there’s something wrong with it.
If I bend or twist the wrong way, it causes pain for days. And a heavy impact? Months. In June 2018, I had a cycling accident that resulted in similar torso pain. I couldn’t sleep on my right side for months, because the resulting pain was unbearable. By the way, I’m a right side sleeper. If I fall asleep on my back, I’ll wake up later on my right side. After that accident, if I fell asleep on my back, I’d wake up the moment I rolled onto my right side, due to the jolt of pain it would send through my side. This lasted for 6-7 months last summer and fall, and into the start of this year. (Come to think of it, that accident was an interesting story, but I never got around to blogging about it. Maybe after this one.)
So far, it’s been the same since the car accident. But nothing was broken, punctured, or otherwise damaged. I guess I’m just a wimp. I’ve had bruises last for years; why not an internal bruise that lasts for months?
Regardless, she gave me the good news about my torso. As for the finger, she said, “You have an acute, non-displaced fracture through the distal aspect of the distal phalanx of your right ring finger.”
“Oh,” I replied.
She told me I’d need to wear a splint for several weeks, but I could remove it for hygiene. She was going to send someone in with the splint soon, but in the meantime, I should take some ibuprofen. She wrote me a prescription for it, told me to go to an orthopedic specialist the following week, bade me well, and left.
Another technician came in to splint my finger. You’ll never guess what questions she asked me. I tried my best to be polite, as she was the one tightly wrapping the finger that hurt with only the slightest pressure.
So I left with a flimsy splint, a prescription for an over-the-counter pain reliever, a newfound sense of incredulity at the medical system, and at least a little bit of bragging rights. Sure, that long-winded diagnosis of my finger meant I essentially had the lamest kind of bone breakage possible – a small fracture, just north of the last knuckle. Nothing out of place, nothing unusable. It hurt me a little to type for a few weeks, unless I left the splint on or used my middle finger for the ring finger keys – which resulted in extra typos. Overall, nothing too traumatic. But that didn’t matter.
See, I’d never had a broken or fractured bone before in my life, and I felt like suddenly I’d joined an elite group of people who’ve looked pain in the face and laughed – sort of. That’s what I told myself, anyway. And when I went to see the orthopedic specialist, I received even more affirmation – after testing my rage with the same questions and sending me to another X-ray technician who did the same, he told me it looked more like the tip of my finger had been crushed. Yes, crushed.
I have no idea how anything could possibly have done that in my car – especially during that split second of time in which the collision occurred – but by God, something CRUSHED my finger. Something ground that bone into dust, people, and I walked away as if it were merely a fracture.
Maybe things weren’t so bad about this accident, after all. At least, until I had to deal with the insurance company the following week….