3-1-16: An Unexpected Turn of Events

My friends,

As you will soon discover, I’ve got very little energy today to relate the accounts of the past few days, so I’m going to use an edited version of this email to post as a blog article so that those who read my words on a regular basis will know why they haven’t heard from me for awhile.

My sister Marie and I drove to Houston without incident to retrieve our sister Beth’s ashes and to join in grieving our loss and celebrating her gain with her daughter and our niece. Beth’s cremains were to be made available Friday afternoon, so while the women went to the facility to get them, my niece’s husband Jonathan and I went to the theater to see a movie.

When the movie was over both Jonathan and I had to go to the bathroom, so we left the darkened theater with that intent. As I walked out of the theater door and into the hallway I did not see that an employees had stacked booster seats against the wall three deep and slightly over the edge of the corner. My foot caught one of the seats and I went down HARD on my left shoulder.

At first I thought the pain I felt in my shoulder was 99% pride and 1% bruise, but when I went to get up the pain intensified to ‘I think i’m going to be sick.’ I could move my fingers and wrist, but not my elbow or shoulder. My nephew asked if I was all right and I replied that I think I had dislocated it. I asked for an ambulance, thinking some paramedic who had stayed awake in class would be able to reduce the dislocation. I’d never had one before, but it sure FELT like one. I heard my nephew (an imposing fellow) say to someone “What the hell are you doing? Call an ambulance, for Christ’s sake!” (I later discovered it was an employee who was brooming refuge into a small dustpan with a handle) From my position on the floor I could see nothing but the mountain of booster seats in front of me. In a few seconds my nephew barked “Don’t touch anything!” and I thought ‘good thinking, in case I die and CSI needs to process the scene’. I watch far too much CSI. The pain in my left shoulder was beginning to assert itself more by the minute.

Soon a wonderful young lady bearing all the markings of a Paramedic came and knelt down beside me just as a theater employee carrying a clipboard stood at my other side and bent over. They both began to ask me questions in rapid succession and I answered them. The theater guy wanted demographics, the Paramedic wanted a health inventory and I wanted to be knocked out because the pain had begun to affect the Richter scale. Soon enough, though, the medics cut my shirt and good jacket off and had me on a stretcher. The young lady started an IV on me and said she had given me something for pain although whatever it was didn’t come close to putting a dent into the agony I now felt.

We went to Bayshore Medical Center in Pasadena. My sister and niece were there waiting for me. I had Xrays and a CT scan – thank GOD no one asked me to move my arm which was planted firmly against my body – and when the Dr came back, she told me I had literally shattered the ball of my humerus (the humeral head) and that I would need surgery. This is where the situation became dicey. Because the only insurance I have is through the VA, I knew very well that the VA policy states once I am stabilized I have to be transported to a VA facility or the VA would not pay for it. Fortunately, the greater Houston area has a great hospital system. Unfortunately, my sister HAD to leave the following day to get back to Alabama, and if I were left behind in Houston I would be stranded. The VA would not pay for my transportation from Houston to Alabama, either. After my total hip replacement last year the VA sent me to the rehab facility in Florence in an ambulance, and I’m stuck paying the $2,000 bill.

SO, we decided to have the ER doc provide me with enough pain meds to get me to the Birmingham, AL VA hospital, and my sister and I set out to make the trip back. You can’t fully appreciate the quality of each state’s upkeep of their roads until you’ve taken them at 70 MPH with a shattered shoulder. All I can say is THANK YOU MISSISSIPPI.

The Birmingham VA staff were excellent, and even though they had to redo my Xrays and CT scan, the tests were performed efficiently and with great compassion. I was loaded up with even better pain meds, a better splint, and sent home with the promise that I would get a call the next day to set me up with pre-op workups (to make sure my ticker and other stuff could stand surgery – as if there were a choice) and surgery to follow the next day.

According to the Ortho doc, I will have to undergo a total shoulder replacement. There are a couple of downsides to this. First, I was suppose to have my right total hip replacement done next month. Now that will have to be put on hold. Also, I’m left handed, and it is my left shoulder to get rebuilt. That means I either have to get help, or if I can do it myself it will take twice as long (such as this letter).

Here is a question for you: should the theater be held liable beyond the cost of ambulance transportation to the hospital and the Bayshore ER visit?

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