Navigating Life’s Unexpected Turns: Lessons from a Recent Injury

Navigating Physical Injuries in the Golden Age
The Unforeseen Physical Accident: Lessons in Longevity
Physical Injuries, Longevity, and Lessons Learned

Introduction to Prediction and Reality

On June 15, I posted an article titled “The Perils of Falls and Fractures in Older Age.” You can backtrack to my post from June 16 to preview it! Then, on July 3, at the worst possible time, it dawned on me—little did I know that I was about to experience something akin to what I had predicted, both for myself and for many others walking alongside me on the Passage for Conquest of our Longevities!

Am I the star of my own cautionary tale?

The Unforeseen Accident

My immediate family, including my grandchildren, were all over at our house for the holiday. In the mid-morning hours of July 3, as we assembled on our back lawn for a special family photo, my son’s dog chased a few deer that passed through the back of our property. My son, daughter-in-law, and I hurried in the direction of the dog. Had I hesitated for a few seconds, I might not have wheezed along with them. But without any hesitation, I briskly jogged through the backyards of several neighboring houses along the riverbank, covering about 250 yards (230 meters) south of my home. As I was scanning through dense trees and calling out her name, I tripped over a hidden tree stump camouflaged by grass. I fell hard into the unforgiving ground, causing a blunt injury that started with my right hand, wrist, and forearm and extended to my shoulder and right chest. The difficulty of raising my right arm laterally or above my chest reignited the agony of my left rotator cuff injury from a fall on my ice-glazed driveway on January 9, 2022, which led to open surgery on February 24, 2022. The thought of another rotator cuff injury was by far the most concerning to me at that moment.

Chasing a dog who’s chasing a deer—what could possibly go wrong at 75?

Navigating Pain and Priorities

Despite the excruciating pain, which I would rate a 7 on a scale of 1-10 and is concerning given my history of physical mishaps, I refocused my energy on the joy of being with my children and grandchildren, trying to sublimate my physical discomfort. I’ve encountered numerous memorable accidents in the past and have subjected my body to physical extremes, so I understand that a score of 7 is significant for me. However, I had to balance my self-inflicted pain, stemming from my own recklessness, against the potential of ruining a celebratory holiday family gathering. I felt it was only fair to accept it as another scar of my life, one that will better equip me for future challenges and help shape me into the person I am, and I want to be hereafter!

Lessons Learned

To make a long story short, after quickly assessing my injury, I continued searching for the dog, knowing the psychological anguish of losing her would far exceed any physical pain I was experiencing. As it turned out, she got back home on her own, which was a great relief for us all. When did she get back? Ironically, almost at the same time that I incurred my fall! How did I learn about this? About five minutes after I fell and as I was walking like a zombie and shouting her name, it occurred to me my search with pain is all in vain, and that’s when I started walking back when I heard my wife shouting my name and saying, ‘come back, she’s back!’ How long did the whole ordeal take? Must have been less than 15 to 20 minutes tops!

In retrospect, I’m progressively convinced that no matter how careful we are, accidents can still happen, albeit less often. However, we should always be thankful that the worst has been avoided! Why do I say this? Because I know that wherever there’s bad, there must be worse! I must confess that I tend to hurt myself so often with my chosen lifestyle, either through physical injuries or by exposing myself to extremes and SISU-like conditions. What disappointed me most was that my silly and sloppy action, considering my chronological age, placed my son and daughter-in-law under much moral pressure. I didn’t want them to feel even a shred of guilt, thinking that if it hadn’t been for their dog, I wouldn’t have incurred that accident. I made the choice to act recklessly, and only I should bear the moral responsibility for its consequences. In retrospect, I want to thank them for teaching me a lesson: I should never again charge like a dog chasing deer on unfamiliar terrain, as I could have shattered my hip or suffered a much more serious injury, such as a concussion, head injury, or open fractures. I know that my injury may set me back physically for some time. But this time, I hope I have finally learned my lesson: my physical limitations are catching up with me. Had I been younger, instead of diving onto the ground, I would have one way, or another avoided the accident. Honestly, in retrospect, I don’t even recall how I have dived into the ground, and all I know is that I was on the ground with excruciating pain. I know that it all must have happened in just a matter of a second or two, but when I was younger, I could pack a lot more into a second or two of my life. Some may like to say that my reaction time has become slower! I like to say that time has progressively started to fly faster for me. We all mean the same thing. And we just have a quarrel on the semantics. But let me tell you one sure thing, those of us who can live longer are the ones who can tolerate the pain for longer!

Road to Recovery

As for my injury, I was left with the dilemma of how to mend it from the start. My plan was straightforward: I have incurred much worse physical injuries to know that treatment is almost the same irrespective of my diagnosis. Radiology can assign a name and diagnosis to my wrist, forearm, upper arm, shoulder, and chest. The key important issue for me is this: can I perform my major daily functions without medical or orthopedic interventions? Personally, I would like to give it a few more days for the initial inflammation to subside and to see if it improves or not. If not, I would consult my sports medicine doctor and possibly undergo radiology to assess the extent of the injuries. For now, I know that I have to make some radical changes to my workout routines. This includes avoiding activities that engage my right hand, wrist, forearm, upper arm, and shoulder. I’m considering adding more to my hot dry sauna and cold plunge routines and stationary biking efforts. The top two concerns of mine are a hair fracture in my carpus (wrist) and a partial tear in one of my rotator cuff tendons, most likely, the supraspinatus! Can they heal on their own? I just hope so! Can you guess what has been keeping my inflammation under check? Did you say, ‘harpagoside?’ If so, then you must have been following my blogs and posts quite closely! Then all I can say to you is, ‘thank you for walking alongside me, I want to assure you that we will do much better than what we have so far done for our holistic longevities.’

As for how I survived the first few nights after the incident, the first night was miserable, the second night was much better, and July 4, 5, and 6 showed slow but steady improvement. As the general inflammation in my right hand, arm, chest, and shoulder receded, the epicenters of my physical injuries became clearer, with the most affected areas being my shoulder at the top and my hand at the bottom. Interestingly, as the pain in my entire arm subsided, the pain in my hand and wrist became progressively excruciating, to the point that even airflow would ignite pain on the night of the 6th.

Is it because all the inflammatory cells and their products are accumulating in the lowest part, the “gutter,” of my arm due to gravity? Or as some might say, when it rains, it pours (and it floods the gutters!). Is it simply that inflammation begets inflammation? Have I incurred a wrist fracture? Is it possible that one or two of those eight tiny bones in there might have fractures that are now becoming apparent as the inflammation in other parts recedes? I know, as many golden agers do, that our physical injuries take longer to heal. As long as the trajectory is in the right direction, we should all say, ‘hallelujah!’

For now, I am happy that my physical musculoskeletal indices appear to be heading in the right direction. What do I miss most? My routine workout! What do I regret most? The setback in my physical activities! What do I know deep in my bones? Whenever life gives me lemons, I should make lemonade!

One final note: a few minutes ago, I texted my sports medicine and rehabilitation doctor—it’s awesome to be able to do that, especially on a Sunday that wraps up one of the most common vacation weeks in the United States—to see if he could squeeze me into his busy Monday, July 8, schedule for a post-incident consultation. Actually, he returned my text and scheduled me for 8:15 AM tomorrow morning. I will keep you all posted about how my story unfolds hereafter.

My lesson? I shall never run on terrains like this again!

Dr. Eftekar (Dr. E) is the founder and head coach of the Center for Conquest of Longevity and Northwestern Medical Review. A unique attribute of Dr. E is his well-rounded academic background that, in addition to the science of medicine, extends over several other disciplines such as physiology of aging and longevity, philosophy of science and medicine, and integrated kinesiology.

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