A (Not-So) Fond Memory of the Little White Coat

upland pipeline

I broke my arm while skateboarding as a teen.  The initial fall, at the world famous Upland Pipeline skatepark (albeit in one of the small pools), wasn’t painful.  It was just, well…shocking.  I dropped into the pool and my board came out from underneath, sending me flying backward.  I did what most people would do in that situation; I tried to catch myself with my hands.


In a moment I had cleanly broken both my radius and ulna bones in my right arm, just above the wrist. I didn’t hear it, but I knew something was wrong.  My arm looked funny, bent.  Arms aren’t supposed to look bent.  I didn’t cry (there was no pain) but I was kind of in shock.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  It was my first OH S**T moment as a teen.  I rushed to the park office and had them call my parents.

I sat on the curb, alone, waiting.

I wasn’t in shock shock, but seeing your arm all distorted messes with your head a little.  I don’t remember much of the car ride, but I do remember the emergency room.  Or rather, the waiting room for the ER.  The waiting.  Holding my distorted arm, pain starting to creep into my senses, waiting.

Not that things got any better once I was taken behind the doors and shown to a bed.  I was still waiting, mind you, but now I was in a room bustling with activity, though none of it for me.  Waiting.  I realize now that doctors are really only going to be rushing around on my behalf if I had a more serious injury.  For all intents and purposes I could have been taken to the Sort Of Emergency Room or the Not a Big Rush Get to Me When You Can Room.

My time did come, however.  I was first seen by an X-Ray technician who took me into a cold room, put my increasingly painful extremity on an even colder table while I wore what felt like a bullet proof vest and had my arm subjected to the radiation of The Manhattan Project, supposedly to capture pictures of my inner workings.  A few atomic photographs later and I was back to the ER…waiting.

Of course, once the doctor came in and started moving my arm around like I was part of an erector set, I probably would have preferred the waiting.  Nothing signals pain better than the arrival of a person who has endured years of medical school and is rewarded with a Little White Coat.

Uh, yeah, my arm really didn’t move like that before I broke it, thanks…

The hard part really was hearing the news the doctor had to set my arm.  What am I, the dinner table?  What the heck does that mean, you have to SET my arm?!  In a word, it means pain.  Bone jarring pain, to be truthfully (and quite literally) honest.  It means that a grown man is going to take the broken, frail arm of a little boy and twist his arm until the bones align.  And he is going to do this without giving said little boy any medication for the pain.  Why?  Oh, I don’t know, but that’s how it’s done the dark ages dungeon of a hospital my parents insurance could afford I guess.  All my dad’s long hours at work apparently weren’t paying dividends in the HMO department.  Or so it seemed…

But still, the worst part was that I was tricked.  A grown man, educated and supposedly wearing the Little White Coat in an effort to distract and/or appease my troubled mind into thinking he was there to help me when in all actuality was there to trick me.  Because that’s how it went down.  Bitter?  No, I’m not bitter…thirty years later.  What makes you think that?

I was tricked, I say.  Utterly bamboozled.  Either that or 12 years of medical school teaches students everything but how to count.  Because my doctor was a little quick with the “setting” of my arm.  I sat patiently, like I was asked.  I was not crying or moaning or writhing in pain.  I was in pain, but I was handling it like a big boy.  I was asked questions, my arm placed on an iceberg and zapped with radiation.  Still I was a good boy.  I was shuttled from this room, to that bed, to that room, back to that bed.  Then Little White Coat came and grabbed my arm like a caveman grabbing a chicken leg.  He poked here, poked there.  More questions.  A quick statement about setting the bones.  It would be done on three.  Was I ready?  Good, here we go.



(twist, pull, set…PAIN…OMG…PAIN! PAIN, PAIN, PAIN…)

What the HELL happened to three?  Did I miss it?  Good gracious almighty, the last thing that I heard was the wheels of the Number Two bus running me over.  And yes, I did cry out in pain.  It was more of yelp, actually.  It began in my toes, of which had still been tingling shortly after Little White Coat finished his not so friendly game of Tug-O-War with my arm.  Stars, too, were aplenty.  The tiny flashing kind that are there, but aren’t really there.

Of course, my day was not yet complete.  The Igor-derly shuttled me into yet another wing of the dungeon to have my arm covered in plaster.  I was waiting the Spanish Inquisition to arrive at any moment, a burning at the stake to follow.  Luckily I was only scheduled for plaster.

I was fortunate the only pain I endured for my 4-6 week recovery was an insufferable itching that could only be mildly remedied with a bent wire hanger and a foul stench emanating from within the confines of my cast near the end of its life.  I was positive that something had crawled into my cast while I slumbered and had subsequently died, but alas no body was found when the cast was removed.

Overall, the pain dissipated.  My once petite arm had atrophied to the point where I was somewhat skeletal and ashen six weeks later.  After a much needed scrubbing in the shower to remove all remnants of the Eau de Deceased Funk I was pretty much back to normal.  Which meant I was pretty much back on my skateboard.

And that’s the moral of my tale.  I never let the “What If’s” stop me from doing what I loved to do, in this case ride my skateboard.  I’m a forty year old man (cough, cough) and I still ride my skateboard.  I hope to ride it for years to come.

Of course, I will be careful.  The last thing I want is another visit to the Little White Coat.

1 thought on “A (Not-So) Fond Memory of the Little White Coat”

  1. Oh Greg, how I feel bad for your pain & your terror. However, I always love how you can still find the humor in a non-humorous situation.

    My worst memories are two: being shot in the eyelid with a BB gun & my recent broken leg.

    These experiences make us stronger.

    Keep up the skateboarding, my friend, although cautiously. 😀


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