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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

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Adding insult to injury: The psychological trials of a dislocated shoulder

This week, I dislocated my shoulder playing interhall basketball. Somehow, even though the regular season for the Interhall B-team is 3 games, I could not even make it through half of the season. In that sense, I compare myself to players like Dwayne Wade

I would like to say that a player on the other team dislocated my shoulder, but the referee did not think it was foul. I was going for a reverse layup, and when I was under the hoop, I put up an armbar against the defender who pulled a “football move” by pushing against my arm to try and get me out of bounds. In doing so, my arm bent backward and pushed my shoulder forward out of the socket. Luckily, one of the kind rugby trainers who happened to be in Purcell rolled it back into place.

I do not mean to bore you with the details of the injury, but my explanation is relevant to the purpose of this column.

Since this is the second time I have dislocated the shoulder, I have to go through a few months of physical training and may need orthopedic surgery, which would further extend the recovery period. It is hard to be at the start of the road to recovery, dreading the physical therapy I will have to do and missing out on the Alumni snow football on the South quad. Besides the annoyance of recovery and the inhibitions that come along with resting my shoulder, it is a rather inconsequential injury. 

Although I cannot go to Duncan eight days a week to lift anymore, the greatest tragedy resulting from this injury has been my interactions ever since. Every time I see someone I know, I get asked what happened to my arm since I am still wearing a sling. Alone, I am slightly annoyed because I have been telling the same story without ceasing this week. 

When I am with someone who already knows what happened, I cringe when explaining the situation because it feels like I am milking the injury for attention. It has been an inconvenience for me this week, but knowing that I will take off the sling in a few days reminds me that this is all only temporary.

What if it was not?

Imagine my story was slightly more glorious: I am going up for a dunk and hook my arm in the rim like Vince Carter. Then, with some terrible luck, I did irreversible nerve damage to my arm and it was amputated. Could you imagine the torture of having to tell everyone you interact with the same story? Every new friend, professor, employer and insensitive little cousin would be asking what happened to your arm. 

Losing the arm is painful enough, but having to explain what happened for the rest of your life is a horrifying thought. From my limited experience, I have also found it annoying when people are pitiful towards me when I explain what happened during that fateful game. Even though they are coming from a place of empathy, it feels like I am being coddled by people my age when I walk around campus.

Although I do not have anything close to an understanding of what life with a life-altering injury or illness is like, I can assuredly say that as an outsider, I have not considered the mental impact that these kinds of things can have on people. Particularly with chronic illnesses, treating a patient is not only about providing remedies to reduce harmful symptoms but also involves providing psychological care. I have personally witnessed how serious health scares, such as strokes or heart attacks, have derailed family and friends. 

Sometimes, when I am sick, I look at other people and think, “they are so ungrateful for their health today. When I get better, I am going to be grateful every day that I am not ill.” I think this is one of those times. It feels a little weird being prompted to write about amputees or people with chronic illnesses from a shoulder dislocation, but I think that we could all use a little bit of injury here and there to remind us to be grateful for our regular conditions. It is also good for reflecting on how we would like to be treated in our conditions. 

It is not necessarily rude to ask someone about their condition, but it might be more welcoming to not immediately broach their injury or illness during an interaction.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.