The Greater Trochanter Rex?
Seriously, doesn’t that sound like a dinosaur straight out of Jurassic Park?
Yikes! Head for the hills! Here comes the greater trochanter rex!
But alas, that soubriquet is not of a big, toothy and dumb-as-a-door dino, but the top of the hip bone, the rotator cuff of the hip that attaches four heavy-duty muscles to the pelvis. Rex or no rex, I broke that sucker when I stubbed my sneaker on a street curb, went flying and hit the pavement. A beautiful day in my neighborhood, Mr. Rogers nowhere in sight.
A-sprawl and astounded on a slab of cement, terrifying thoughts beat at my brain: I broke my hip! I’m going to the hospital! I’ll die there of Covid-19! Masked and gloved passersby stopped to help.
The EMS truck came screaming down the block, took some history, asked to see my hip for bruising (a sign of a break). “Here?” I said. “Here,” the attendant said. What the hell! If I didn’t have to go to the you-know-where, I’d even ratchet down my bra so they could check out the girls. I’d put on display whatever they fancied—including my fancy. And so, there, in broad daylight, I yanked down my pants and flashed a dimpled thigh. No bruising. Yet.
I hobbled back to my apartment and fetched my cane from a prior break. Yes, dear reader, This ain’t my first rodeo!
In 1993, I slipped on ice in front of my house. Seven years ago I tripped over a blind man’s cane in the subway, this much from falling onto the tracks. Note to self: blind man did not trip, sighted lady did.
I do not relay these encounters with any pride, braggadocio, or Calamity Janeness, but rather a sense of awe at the mathematical workings of the universe. I’m too old for the new math. Borrowing from here, paying back there, is as far as my numerical genius goes, but to my mind, you’d need an Einstein to figure out how one person could break two hips, three times.
Settled down on the sofa, I was able to wiggle my toes. My last bone scan had bumped me up from osteoporosis into the osteopenia category; an older woman’s dream. A bad bruise, I decided. I’d be in real pain if I’d broken something.
For the next few days, I felt okay. So okay, I did a load of wash, the laundry room a long walk down my hallway. Wash done, I made the trek again and threw it in the dryer. Dry, I fetched it and brought it back to my apartment, folded it up and tucked it away. Walk, walk, walk. Cane, cane, cane. I was rocking! I was rolling! Where else could I go in my building? What else could I do? I know. The mail! Back down the hall to the elevator. Mail room rendezvous. Elevator up. Walk, walk, walk.
After dinner, I could not move my right leg without a pain that took my breath away. I clung to the walls, literally dragged myself into my bedroom and onto the bed.
I’d overdone it (my default M.O.). But how do you know you’re doing too much, if you don’t do too much? How do you find your edge without going over your edge? Beats me.
Next day, I latched on to my shopping cart for dear life and used it as a walker. When I noticed a nasty dark blue bruise the size of my hand on my inside thigh, I knew it was time to call in a pro.
Tall and bald in black scrubs and clogs, Dr. R manipulated my leg. I cried out in pain. He did an x-ray and MRI. I waited in my blue paper shorts for the results.
He powered up the computer screen mounted to the wall. Already my head was pounding. “See here?” he said. He tapped the upper part of the screen with his finger (ouch!). “The greater trochanter. You cracked it.” I’d been walking around with a broken hip for ten days. He gave me a look that I couldn’t make out if my ambulation was to my credit or my stupidity. “A wrong move to the right or left, [here he did a little hip action] could mean a partial hip replacement.” I should have babied it, he said.
Babied it! Cootchy-coo, trochanter mine. Give Mama a smile. I wanted to cry. “Don’t bones sometimes heal themselves?” (Was that a whine?) “What if I go home and get someone to wait on me hand and hip?” My humor did not amuse him.
“You need surgery.”
Blood rushed to my head. My throat went dry. “What about the virus?” I croaked out.
“Last month it was iffy.” He made a rocking motion with his hand. “But now it’s not so bad. You won’t be with Covid patients. I wouldn’t wait on this.”
Well okay then! Head of orthopedics at North Shore Hospital, hip trauma specialist, Dr. R was my guy. If he said surgery, surgery it would be. North Shore Hospital was my specialty too. The locus of my two previous hip surgeries, my lumpectomy, and where my husband died from a “virus unknown” in his aortic valve. Welcome back, Rita!
“I’ll schedule it for tomorrow morning. I’ll call Emergency now. Let them know you’re on your way.”
I could barely think. My phone charger, my eyeglasses, a change of clothing, I didn’t have a thing with me. But his diagnosis scared the life out of me. In the hospital I would be monitored, I would be safe. Get thee to Emergency.
Surgery went well that morning. A locking plate and a screw was all; Dr. R sewed me up and stapled me together. I was in my room in time for lunch and Pat, from physical therapy. ”Let’s see if you can make it as far as the bathroom.”
Dr. R had mentioned they might try getting me out of bed that night, but two hours off the table and I’m walking? I’m game.
Pat set up my hospital-issued walker. I sat at the edge of the mattress, pushed up on the side rails. Gingerly, I placed one foot on the floor, the other. No pain. Amazing! Watch out, here comes Twinkle-toes. I made it to the bathroom and beyond, down the hall. “If it was up to me I’d discharge you now,” Pat said. “Go on…” I said. He was serious. Were there steps where I lived? No, but I lived alone. Wasn’t I going to rehab? Isn’t that where you’re sent you when there’s no one to look after you at home? “Not today,” he said, meaning get out of Dodge. Now.
Nine o’clock the next morning a hospital social worker called to gather my data for release, while the day nurse wrapped the pressure cuff around my arm. My incision, not one day old, was a bright red bleed through the dressing onto the bedsheet. “Don’t worry about that,” she said, “I’ll fix it.”
She cleaned and redressed the wound, sent me on my way with a supply of sodium chloride, gauze pads, medicated occlusion strips, and peel-off transparent films, instructions given in French, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic, but not English (scout’s honor), enough to outfit my own DIY pop-up clinic.
I’ve been doing well at home, building my strength with my quad and hamstring sets, my straight leg raises and knee flexion extensions. Yesterday, I took my first shower in two weeks. Who knew water and soap could be a spiritual experience!
Right now I’m boning up on pre-human history and dinosaurs of all nations. Hmmm … here it is. Some experts believe that certain dinosaurs had a second brain in the tail responsible for controlling reflexes in the rear portion of the body. Now I’m no paleontologist, and I wouldn’t know a fossil from a Frisbee, but could it be that my imagined greater trochanter rex was a two-brainer, and one of those brains was up its hind end when I took that fall? A message there somewhere, but like I said, math was never my strong side.
Rita Plush is the author of the novels, Lily Steps Out and Feminine Products, and the short story collection Alterations. She is the book reviewer for Fire Island News and teaches creative writing and memoir at Queensborough Community College, Continuing Ed, Queens, New York. Her stories and essays have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, MacGuffin, The Iconoclast, Art Times, The Sun, The Jewish Writing Project, Down in the Dirt, Potato Soup Journal and are forthcoming in Backchannel and Chicken Soup for the Soul.