Never Arm Wrestle

Part 1 of 2

So, what's wrong with arm wrestling? Allow me to bend your ear (so to speak) for a little while with a true story from the curious life of a grumpy old fart.

At the ripe old age of twenty-four, I became the art director for a little local advertising agency. I'd finally achieved a goal I'd had since high school, and I was quite proud. I had a staff of two young guys who didn't know me and thus rightfully didn't trust me, so I made it a point to "bond" with them. On one slow afternoon, we got into a friendly round of arm wrestling. I faced a fellow just as tall and skinny as myself, and I suggested we go left-handed (for some odd reason, my left arm was stronger than my right, even though I'm right-handed).

He was a lot stronger than he looked—he had the same lean muscle type as I had, so it was a very well-balanced match. Slowly, he began to take me down, and in the back of my mind I thought this just wasn't right. So I closed my eyes and focused all of my energy into my arm.


The sound startled us, and we both jumped back away from the work bench. Thinking we'd broken the bench top, we both studied it carefully. It looked fine. Then I glanced down at my left arm—it had two elbows!

My arm was broken. I didn't know because I felt no pain. My mind raced. Aside from a hairline fracture in a stubbed toe, I'd never suffered a broken bone. And clearly this was serious. My opponent and I were both mute from shock, so thankfully the third fellow had the good sense to grab me and drive to the hospital, just a couple of miles down the road.

At the emergency desk, things quickly began to go sideways. The receptionist greeted me with, "What's the problem?" "My arm is broken." "How do you know?" "It's my arm."

Meanwhile, as the oblivious receptionist kept interrogating me, my body's natural painkillers were beginning to wear off. The fellow who brought me in interrupted sharply: "Look, this man is turning white. You'd better get him into the ER right now!"

Indeed, I recall the room beginning to melt and swirl around me, and almost immediately I was placed on a gurney and wheeled into the emergency room.

I'd picked the wrong night to pay the hospital a visit: there was a veritable avalanche of emergencies, many of them far more serious than mine, including head trauma and heart attacks. The nurses went to work, cutting my (favorite) shirt off of me, and placing an air split on my arm. The split was something of a relief, bringing the pain from a solid nine point five down to a slightly more tolerable eight. But they could not give me anything for the pain without authorization from a doctor, and all of them were tied up. All the same, one of the nurses filled a syringe with something very strong and held it at the ready.

Finally, after what seemed like a year, a doctor showed up. Without a word, he took one look at me, nodded to the nurse, and swiftly moved on. The nurse immediately rammed a telephone pole deep into my right arm, and for a split second I didn't know which arm hurt worse.

The nurses did a good job of keeping my spirits up until the drug fully kicked in, at which point I was ready for X-rays. I don't recall much about that process, as my mind had turned to glop, but things suddenly became vividly clear when the results came back. The doctor held up an X-ray, and I could clearly see what remained of my humerus: it looked as though someone had twisted a broom handle until the wood shattered into a hundred shards.

"This will require a rod and multiple plates to rebuild," he explained. My life came to a standstill. I had no health insurance.

Then came something much worse. "We have to take the split off and bend your arm to put on a temporary cast."

"No!" I yelled as they began removing the air splint. "No!" I begged over and over. Then they bent my arm, and all I recall is a horrific, blood-curdling scream before I woke up the next morning. I'd learned what a true ten was on the pain scale: you pass out.

Continue to Part 2 | Index

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