>> Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It occurred to me as I was washing it: "Wait a sec... it's been exactly one month since I washed this arm myself." No lie, no exaggeration: between Saturday morning, May 16th of the year 2009, anno Domini or Common Era (take your pick, you reactionary/revolutionary/"what is he talking about?", you) and June 16th of the same possibly misbegotten year, the only time my right arm had been cleaned (presumably) was on the same day it was operated on and a screw set into a crescent-shaped bone in my wrist to keep it from flopping around in exactly the sort of unfortunate and tissue-destroying way that æons of evolution have programmed most-or-all vertebrate wrist bones not to.

And there was much rejoicing.

The occasion of the celebratory bathing was the fitting of a plastic, easily removed splint this afternoon at OrthoCarolina; this is a piece of thermoplastic, don't you know, that's softened in hot water and molded to my forearm, and fitted with velcro straps so I can easily undo it. I was specifically told not to leave it in the car on a sunny day (the heat would allow the thing to deform), and I asked if it was rated to withstand bears or sharks (it isn't; I shall have to ward off large predators with my good left arm, I'm afraid, though I suspect such an act will render me even less threatening than I am now--mostly 'armless, if you will). The previous splint, fitted last week by Dr. Perlik, was technically removable--held in place by an Ace bandage--but I really didn't trust myself to be able to rewrap myself so I left it in place. But this thing--zip, zip, zip and it's off, and 'alleluia! I can clean it and rub cocoa butter into it (I was told to do this by the doctor), and wonder at how much dead skin keeps coming off, like the whole arm is going to deglove1 at some point (at which, to paraphrase Sheriff Brody, I think we're going to need a bigger splint).

The arm itself is still more useless than not. I put the splint back on so I could type this with more than one hand, and I can hold a few things and sign my name (sadly, my signature looks much the same) and write a little (my handwriting, meanwhile, looks childish and uncertain). I still can't wipe my ass properly, which is something I thought about writing an entire blog entry about but it may be enough to simply say it here: wiping your ass with your off-hand turns out to be a laborious and unrewarding task, one which I distinctly don't remember Mr. Meriadoc Brandybuck grappling with during his stay in the Houses Of Healing in Gondor after his arm was paralyzed while he assisted Éowyn in slaying the Witch-King of Angmar.2 Dressing myself is still a challenge, and sometimes requires cheats like buttoning my left shirtsleeve before I put my arm into it or buttoning a loose pair of jeans before working them over my fat ass.

You never know what you have until it's gone, somebody once said (repeatedly, eventually making it a contemptible cliché, albeit true nonetheless). Who knew I'd taken my right arm for granted these long years since we'd been introduced? Once, it was so close it might have been attached to me! Now? Oh, alas, alack, poor miserable right arm! Whither hast thou gone, o withered limb? When shalt thou return?

When I was young, I remember being exposed to some terrible old ghost/revenge story about a woman with a golden arm who was killed by a paramour who desired the limb; in the nature of such tales, she of course returned from beyond the grave, demanding the arm be returned to her three times before the man was dealt his overdue justice.3 The impracticality of a gilded prosthesis4 or the obvious challenges in fencing a hot arm aside, I've come to sympathize with the monomaniacal ghost--it's hard enough (and cold at night!) wiping your ass with a metal arm. She needed that arm.

Anyway. I'm off to rub some cocoa butter into this thing and re-watch a few eps of Outlaw Star (I own the series, this past weekend something put me in the mood to watch the whole thing again). Welcome back, arm, at least partway, and let's never squabble again....

1This definition is so much nicer than the one used to introduce me to the term: at a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) one-hour seminar on forensic science featuring photographs of natural degloving occurring out in the woods somewhere--the term is also used to describe the point in decomposition when the skin begins to naturally separate from the body.

That particular session was well-attended and more attentively than most; one suspects that had less to do with the number of North Carolina Public Defenders handling murder cases and more to do with a shared fantasy of being the next Grisham.

I feel bad writing that, because you know I fancy myself a writer and all, and not a future Grisham, who I think is an utterly terrible writer. Not to mention I have no interest in ever writing a legal potboiler myself. (That is an understatement: I'm actually hostile to the idea and would rather not write at all than pen a "legal thriller." A horror novel with degloving corpses, on the other hand....) But there it is--most people want to write and few ever bother to get around to actually doing it, and probably a hundred-plus attorneys looked at those slides of purplish skin sloughing off stiff, cold limbs and contemplated some heroic investigator considering a corpse for clues.

2Considering Professor Tolkien's usual thoroughness in conveying the mundane details of Hobbits' lives, it's possible that the "omission" was intentional and Hobbits don't, in fact, shit, or if they do they don't wipe (which might explain Saruman The White's peculiar rage against the species--perhaps a Hobbit once borrowed one of his robes). I will leave the question for the more dedicated Tolkien scholars in the audience to resolve for once-and-all.

3A quick bit of internet research suggests the version I heard was based on something Mark Twain probably wrote as satire: the story, written in a ludicrously heavy "Negro" dialect, is ostensibly used as an example of how to tell a good story, but the hamminess of the whole thing suggests Twain was having a Spinal Tap moment at the expense of his readers. (The genius of Spinal Tap being that the members are actually fantastically talented musicians and the joke not being that Tap songs are bad in a technical sense--the songs have hooks and are well-played--but that they're so tasteless on every level, including aesthetically.)

4That said, Tycho Brahe famously had a golden prosthetic proboscis for special occasions, having lost his real nose, if I recall correctly, in a youthful fencing mishap.

The conventional story of Brahe's demise is that he hosted a lengthy dinner party and refused to leave to micturate, leading to some sort of catastrophic renal or bladder failure. Others have suggested more mundane causes of death, like kidney stones becoming infected or somesuch, although Joshua and Anne-Lee Gilder attempted to make an unconvincing case for Kepler's complicity in murdering Brahe, an account which is ironically less-interesting than the traditional tale that Tycho held his water 'til a gasket blew in the pipes. (The Gilders' case seems to rest largely on the claim that nobody liked Kepler; I came away from their book less convinced of Kepler's guilt than I was convinced that the poor guy sounded like a lot of the people I played D&D with in college--none of whom, so far as I know, have ever murdered a noseless astronomer to steal his notes, I might unnecessarily add.)

Anyway, I prefer the traditional account that Brahe died from a resolute refusal to drain the lizard while he told one more bawdy anecdote and sent for another ill-advised bottle from the cellar, just because it's a story that ought to be true. Because it's just another example of how Tycho Brahe was made out of awesome. (Dude had a gold nose--how many examples do you need?)


Random Michelle K Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 8:01:00 PM EDT  

YAY! How exciting!


Regarding scarring, two things to keep in mind. Aloe is very good for healing.

Also, you'll want to keep the scar out of the sun for a year or two. UV can exacerbate the scarring and make it more prominent.

Unless of course you want to scar to be prominent.

And definitely use lots of moisturizer. That'll do two things: one, keep the skin flexible which will help with movement, and you'll also be manipulating the muscles, which will also help a teeny bit in regaining movement.

But YAY for your arm!

Nathan Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 9:58:00 PM EDT  

Yay! We're all pleased for you and your arm...but since you've withheld your beloved froth from me, I'm beholden to contradict you on your blog.

Two of Grisham's non-legal books are quite good...A Painted House and Playing for Pizza were both enjoyable as hell. The first is even...gasp...moving.

Now go reglove and speak of it no more.

Random Michelle K Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 10:03:00 PM EDT  

Also, I liked some of Grisham's earlier books. :p

John the Scientist Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 8:21:00 AM EDT  

I'm afraid the Gilder's are correct, in that Brahe most likely died of Hg poisoning.

But serious scholars believe he poisoned himself with one of his own alchemical medicines.

Sorry to...errr... burst your bubble. :D

And you forgot to include that perennial Saturday Kung Fu Theater favorite, The Kid With the Golden Arm

John the Scientist Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 8:33:00 AM EDT  

Huh. Someone else is advancing a different murder theory. And if Brahe was the real father of the king of Denmark...

Jeri Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 9:31:00 AM EDT  

Oooh, footnotes, this must be a science post!

And, you know, the trollops were prepared to perform many services for you in your sad, sympathy-inducing one-handed state, but I've got to say that's one we never planned on. ROFL

I shattered a wrist at 12, skateboarding. I battled a lot w/ range of motion, and still to this day have mild carpal tunnel in that wrist, so I wish you a complete and uneventful healing.

All the literary references to Tycho Brahe made me think of Austin Powers. LOL

Eric Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 9:41:00 AM EDT  

Heh. Well let's put it this way: if the facial hair identified as Brahe's is in fact his--the hairs in question only came into a traceable chain of custody around 1901--then there's a high level of mercury which would be consistent with either accidental self-poisoning in alchemical experiments, misguided (but at the time reputable) use of mercury or mercury compounds for medical purposes, or homicide by persons unknown.

From a historian's perspective, it's reasonable to say Brahe probably died of mercury poisoning and we don't know why, and multiple hypotheses have been advanced but none can be proven. From a lawyer's perspective, the prosecution can't even prove it's Tycho's hair that's been analyzed beyond a reasonable doubt, case dismissed at the closing of State's evidence. As you can imagine, as a history major who went to law school, I'm amenable to both viewpoints.

As a storyteller, on the other hand, I'll stick with Brahe being, as someone said in one of the articles John provided, "a martyr of shame and urine." Because from a fabulist's perspective, the traditional accounting of the great scientist's death is rare and bizarre, funny and sad, and somehow manages to be both in keeping with Brahe's mythic qualities and just a little ironic.

So it depends on which hat I'm wearing, but for now we'll stick with mythology. ;-)

Jeri Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 10:37:00 AM EDT  

Ah, Eric, one of my twitter friends just posted this product link and it's MADE FOR YOU in your current predicament:


Eric Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 10:54:00 AM EDT  

Sadly, I'm not sure it would help: considering how poor my left hand coordination is, do I want to be poking at my nether regions with a plastic stick?

(In case the answer is insufficiently self-evident: no, no I do not.)

(I mean, try explaining that to an EMT and see if he believes you.)

John the Scientist Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 11:21:00 AM EDT  

Well, Eric, the last article shows they are going to exhume the body again this year and do some tests on the bone and hair in the actual coffin. So no more chain-of-custody arguments from you, Mr. Lawyer Man, unless you want to argue the body in the tomb is not really Brahe's. :p

But I've walked on his grave in Prague, man, and it says right there in big gold letters: Tycho Brahe. Argue against that evidence. :D

Come to think of it, the wrong body scenario might make an even better story...

M. L. Kiner,  Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 11:28:00 AM EDT  

"The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.

Eric Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 12:08:00 PM EDT  

John, as your first article notes, there have been rumors that Brahe's grave was tampered with in 1620 and that the (partial!) remains returned to the Danes in '91 were from a damaged coffin exhumed in 1901. There's some strong circumstantial evidence the remains are Brahe's, but who knows for sure...?

...Except Brahe's vengeful, noseless ghost, returned from beyond the grave to commit horrific reprisals against all of those who have failed to embrace the Tychonic system! Take that, everybody who denies a model of the universe in which everything except the Earth revolves around the sun which revolves around the Earth which is at the center of the universe, thereby partially reconciling Copernican and Ptolemaic astronomy depsite despite continuing problems with the recorded data on the apparent motion of Mars! MWAHHHAHAHAHAH!

Nathan Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 3:48:00 PM EDT  


Re: the ButtStick:

I'm informed by informed sources that medical personnel will accept, "Honest, Doc! I tripped and fell onto it. What're the chances? Must be one in a million"

This is closely related to accidental pregnancies in which the man claims to have fallen on her.

Falling, apparently forgives many sins.

John the Scientist Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 4:20:00 PM EDT  

Yeah, the grave was tampered with, they dropped his wife in with him!

Given his history of whoring, I'm not sure that was a happy pairing for all eternity. :D

Carol Elaine Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 2:39:00 PM EDT  

I've got nothing to add re: Brahe.

However, yay for exposed skin! WooHoo!

I also agree with you about Grisham. Snore.

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