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Where’s the Rewind Button?

You know that moment, right? The moment when you think "Aaaauuuuggghhh!! Thirty seconds ago everything was great and now it's not! Rewind!" but you can't, because life doesn't work that way? Well, last week we had one of those moments. 


We returned to Portland on Tuesday night. It had been snowing and temps were low, so by the time we got to our house it was a little icy. The truck made it okay up our sloped driveway and we were cool. I had a photo shoot scheduled for the next night (Wednesday night) but it was still icy. I opted to reschedule it, and we stayed in and made dinner at home. Later in the afternoon I went out to check the conditions. Yep, still icy. (We live on a hill that's at about 900-1000 ft elevation, and so even if the rest of the city is clear, it can often remain nasty up here for a few extra days.)

We'd been inside all day working, and Kevin decided he wanted to stretch his legs and walk down to get the mail. I'd told him it was still icy, and as he left, he said "Wish me luck" to which I replied "Good luck!" (and what I should have said, in retrospect of course, was "No, it's icy, don't go.")

He was careful (he said) and was walking slowly in the black tire ruts that didn't have any ice…until they had ice, and then he slipped and fell backwards. His right arm (the dominant one) of course tried to help catch his fall and it succeeded, and broke. (Hey, at least it wasn't his head!) He came back inside, holding his wrist, just as I was pouring wine to go with our dinner. "Honey, I fell and broke my arm."

Super sad face.

I put dinner (Mexican short ribs and green beans) on "keep warm" (a nice function on the electric pressure cooker, turns out), grabbed the car keys and off we went to the ER (sliding on the icy driveway a little bit as we made our way down). 

We checked in just before 7pm. They X-rayed Kevin's arm and then put a temporary splint on it, and we settled in for what turned out to be a 4.5 hour wait before they could get us into a room and do anything.

Note: During this wait, we passed some of the time by having a discussion around this scenario: What if this accident had happened on the boat in SE Alaska…say maybe in Ford's Terror, where you can get in or out only at high slack tide every 12 hours, and you're about a two-day cruise (weather permitting) from Juneau and the nearest medical services? We decided we'd have found something (spatula?) to splint the wrist with and then wrap it (we carry Ace bandages), iced it, and taken advantage of the pain med prescription we got from our home physician for just such emergencies. If the injury had been an open wound, we might have kicked in the antibiotics we keep on board as well. If it was more super-urgent, we'd have activated the distress signal from our DeLorme satellite device, since there's no VHF or cell service in Ford's Terror. Definitely good to have a plan for such an event, should it happen, which perhaps we just took care of right here in the comfort of our own driveway so we won't have any such drama on the boat, ever. One can hope. 🙂

Back in the ER, we got a room (in Pediatrics, because there was room). Eventually, the "do anything" consisted of a closed reduction of Kevin's wrist, which is a pretty cool procedure. They injected a nerve blocker into Kevin's hand, and then hung his arm by his fingers from these finger-trap style things, slowly letting gravity help straighten his wrist. They added some weights to it after a bit, and after they figured it was finished with the straightening it would do on its own (about 30 minutes or so), they gave him some Propofol (the Michael Jackson drug, but they assured us that they knew what they were doing) and once Kevin was out three ER doctors pulled and pressed and pulled and manhandled his wrist and got his bones back into an acceptable arrangement, then splinted it with a temporary plaster U-shaped splint (molded to his arm from his hand to above the elbow, keeping his arm at a 90 degree angle). He was out for 16 minutes total, and woke up with a splint. We left the ER with a prescription for Hydrocodone and the number of the orthopaedist to call in the morning. The nurse told us there was a 24-hour Walgreen's not too far away, so I mapped it out in Google Maps and off we went. (By now it's after 2am.) 

Kevin stayed in the warm car while I went in to retrieve meds. I handed the pharmacist the prescription and said something like "Hi. Nothing like spending the night in the ER" trying to make subtle conversation that would indicate our hardship, and that I had a patient in pain, waiting in the car. This guy was like a character out of a Coen Brothers film. He had a furrowed brow, tired eyes, and a creepy vibe (could have just been because it was the middle of the night in a fluorescently-lit pharmacy that was empty save for the cashier at the front door, but if this was a scene in a movie I was watching, I'd think "Something bad's about to happen here.")

The pharmacist was not chatty AT ALL, and when I asked how long it might take to fill the prescription, he replied flatly "Fifteen or twenty minutes, unless someone else interrupts me."

Okay. [shiver]

(I went back out the still-running seat-heated truck to sit with Kevin for those 15 minutes.) Apparently there were no further interruptions, because when I returned after 15 minutes the prescription was ready, and now he was ready to chat. "So, what happened? … "Oh, yeah that ice can be dangerous." … "I hope he heals up fast." … "Have a good night." 

We got home just before 4am and dinner was still on "keep warm" in the Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker, 8.5 hours later. (It'll stay kept warm for 10 hours, turns out!) So at 4am we had some delicious Mexican short ribs and green beans!

We met with the orthopaedic surgeon on Friday morning. He said the ER doctors did a great job, and that based on the X-rays there was a slight chance Kevin wouldn't need surgery. He wanted to wait a week see how things "settled" (or didn't) inside Kevin's wrist, get another X-ray, and then see where we were. That next appointment was for this past Wednesday, and things had settled a little past the ideal limits, so surgery was scheduled for Friday (yesterday). 

Surgery was successful, and we're home working on the healing process now. Kevin's got some new titanium parts, a shorter cast/splint (yay! he can bend his elbow!), and some pain meds (with a nerve block catheter in his shoulder that meters out small doses of anesthetic to help with pain and minimize the necessity for narcotics). We'll be focused on getting him healed up as fast as possible. This changes our travel plans a bit (business AND boat) but we'll be back and running soon (and I think this means that Kevin finally gets to drive the boat, while I do lines and fenders). 🙂

Here are a couple of photos we took along the way for documentation (and to amuse ourselves while dealing with a difficult situation…because that's what we do):

Kevin beginning the gravity part of the closed reduction in the ER:


X-rays (before and after closed reduction):


Pattern dizziness in the orthopaedic surgeon's waiting room at OHSU Physicians Pavillion:


Cool window view from the waiting room at OHSU's Center for Health and Healing, in the surgery center where Kevin had his surgery yesterday:


I won't post the initial broken hand photo. I already did that to all our facebook friends. It's kinda cool, but also kind gnarly.

Thanks everyone for all the well-wishes! It's very much appreciated. 


  1. Kevin McLaughlin Kevin McLaughlin

    The Boat Show. Darn, I’m in Mauai. Oh well. Check out Des Moines marina or Oak Harbor for super cheap diesel if you are heading back to Anacortes without any extended Puget Sound cruising. Enjoy the boat show, and see if there are any deals on the hook and moor lone system. Just got one as a gift but have not used it yet.

    • Yes, we aimed to stop at Oak Harbor on our way past, but it was Sunday and they were closed, so if we go back on the inside again we’ll try to time things better. Enjoy your time in Hawaii!

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