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Broken Hip, Broken Laptop

Why a trip to the ER is like a trip to the Apple Genius Bar.

Spoiler alert: No one died.

My sister and I start almost every story by announcing the ending. “She’s fine,” or “He’s going to be all right,” or “They’re still waiting for the test results, but they’ve ruled out everything serious.” 

When it comes to two Jewish mothers telling a story, the punch line is never, “Kaput. Flat-line. By the time he saw it coming, it was too late.” We’re mothers, after all. We need to believe in both the everyday perils of life as well as the miracle of modern medicine. For us, the Holy Trinity could be the allergist, the orthopedist and that handsome fireman who carried the gurney like it weighed nothing. Nothing!

In that spirit, here’s how today’s column ends: “The surgery was a success and he’s already begun his physical therapy.”  So, who wants to know what happened? 

Broken hip. But is that really so interesting? No. Every orthopedic injury is only as compelling as the events leading up to it, and that’s why I barely ever refer to the fact that my catastrophic ankle injury was really a carpool injury. How pathetic is it to slip on black ice while walking from the front door to the mini-van? That’s why I’m not bringing it up. Forget I mentioned it.

Back to the broken bone du jour. The thing about falling and breaking something is that it tends to lead to emergency rooms, diagnostic tests and a team of specialists recommending several courses of action.

You see where I’m going, don’t you? It’s stunning when you consider just how similar a visit to the ER is to a trip to the Genius Bar. 

Consider the parallels. You start with fancy equipment that’s working and makes your life better – could be a hip, could be a laptop. Suddenly, you trip, and before you know it, stuff isn’t working. The “Five Stages of Grief” immediately kick-in: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, if you’re lucky, acceptance. 

The denial is brief and goes something like this. “Oh sh*t, I hope nobody saw that.” They did, and if they were young they snapped a photo and tried to stifle their laughter, and if they’re middle-aged they tried to help, and if they’re old they thought, “Thank God that wasn’t me.” 

Stage two: anger. Yeah, you’re mad. You either just broke a bone, which is painful and annoying and going to complicate everything, or you just broke your laptop, which is painful and annoying and going to complicate everything. Anger can last a long time. Some of us hang onto it like last year’s lottery tickets. It’s not necessary, but letting go just isn’t an option. 

Bargaining is an interesting concept. “I’ll give more to charity for the rest of eternity if this can just be a sprain instead of a break” doesn’t really make sense, and I don’t care what your religious perspective may be. Sure, it worked for Scrooge and Tiny Tim. But as any English teacher will tell you, you need three examples to support an argument. I’m still searching for that third successful bargainer. Until I think of one, no point trying to convince the cosmos to undrop your cellphone or unbreak your bones. 

Depression. Well, who couldn’t write a book about that one? Who smiles at the opportunity to sidle up to the Genius Bar for a few hours, only to be told there’s no way to access anything on your desktop? When’s the last time you and your buddies planned to spend a festive night in the ER, whiling away the hours as you wait for the nurse to talk to the physician’s assistant who needs to talk to the radiologist who needs to talk to the on-call doctor who needs to talk to your personal doctor who has to coordinate with the surgeon who needs to schedule with the hospital so that you can get a new part… tomorrow.  

And do you really get a new part, or do you just get the broken one fixed? Be honest. When your technology breaks down, it’s better to get that new part. Who wants a crashed hard-drive with a titanium screw drilled into it to keep it going for another five years? Now who wants a brand new hard drive?

Which is strange when it comes to body parts. Is it better to get those screws, or to opt for the shiny new replacement part? I worry about this when I consider my own battery life. The older my electronics are, the weaker the batteries. I’m lucky if my seven year old laptop has enough juice in it to make it through two episodes of Arrested Development without needing to be plugged in.  

In an alarmingly similar line of thought, I’ve always watched in awe as babies and toddlers nap and, basically, re-charge. Meanwhile, I wake up and have only about 3 1/2 to 4 hours of alert battery life. If I don’t get stuff done before noon, forget it. It’s not gonna happen. No amount of late afternoon latte drinking can mask the low-charge voltage in this gal. 

Does that segue into acceptance? I suppose so. How much can you argue with the Genius at the Genius Bar when he looks you in the eye and says, “It’s never going to be compatible with Lion or Leopard or Panther or Ibex or Narwhal or Emu or Leper or Spock,” or whatever operating system is currently in fashion.  It’s time to let go of the old and purchase the new.

But the hip? Well, that’s where it gets a little screwy. Literally, with three titanium screws. And the acceptance comes into play along with the morphine, drop by drop. 

Which leads to the exact point I promised regarding today’s news. “The surgery was a success and he’s already begun his physical therapy.”

J.S. Hoffman December 03, 2011 at 02:56 PM
On a gloomy rainy day, this story is like a shot of bubbly, making us laugh out loud! Of course, having made MANY a trip to the ER, its like an insider joke. JSH
Jill Goldstein December 03, 2011 at 04:58 PM
I have also drawn the correlation between doctors and apple geniuses. In fact, my goal is for my 2nd husband to be one of the two (and maybe my third hubbie to be the other).
Jacob Nelson (Editor) December 03, 2011 at 07:21 PM
I just got back from a trip to the ER for the lamest reason ever (an infected cat scratch I picked up while home for Thanksgiving) and have one distinction to make between doctors and apple geniuses. Apple geniuses tend to agree on what your problem is, while doctors seem to enjoy selling each other out left and right. I've seen three doctors for this stupid infection in a week, and they've all disagreed with the diagnoses given by the doc before. That said, so far I've had to wait far less long for a doctor to look at my thumb than I've ever had to wait for a genius to look at my iPod. So that's a plus. And no, for the record, I do not have cat scratch fever. I hope.
Sally Higginson December 03, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Time to visit the patient. Let's see if he thinks this is funny!
Sally Higginson December 03, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Infected cat scratch sent you to the ER? I'm no doctor, but let me guess: you got a Z-pack, right? I'm not charging the co-pay, but I'm wondering what the doctors suggested when they finally agreed.
Judith December 04, 2011 at 03:38 PM
After working in the medical field for almost 50 years before I retired, I can tell you that frustration is often a patient's worst malady! Example - you go to see your attending physician because you're having a problem, he/she will give you the diagnosis, and tell you that you need surgery. You really want to avoid surgery, so you go for a second opinion and get the same diagnosis, but you're told that surgery won't help. So you go for a third opinion and, lo and behold -- you get a different diagnosis altogether! So you go to a fourth, who admits he/she doesn't have the faintest idea and tells you to go back to your attending physician! This actually does happen more often than people realize.

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