I have always been accident prone. Like a real-life heroine in a YA novel featuring vampires and forbidden romance, my most benign character flaw is that I’m clumsy as fuck.
I guess I just never grew out of that stage of puberty where you walk smack into walls that have been there for your whole life and end up with bruises of mysterious origin all over your legs. I just don’t know where my ends are! I’m missing whatever survival instinct informs the human body not to grievously injure itself on a regular basis.
So I guess it was just a matter of time before I ended up in the emergency room, writhing and blinded by the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life.
You guys. I hurt myself really, really badly. And I’m going to be paying for it for a long time.
I spilled a crockpot full of boiling chicken broth on my right arm and hand.
The cord got stuck behind the microwave, and when I went to move it, the whole thing jerked out of my hands and spilled everywhere. I screamed, much like one would scream had one just been doused with lava, and collapsed like a drag queen doing her best death drop.
(It was probably a GREAT death drop, you guys. Not that I remember much of that moment other than the excruciating feeling of my own flesh searing away.)
I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, which soaked through with the boiling liquid. My husband heard The Crye of the Banshee, and ran in to rescue me. He tore the boiling shirt off me and thrust my arm under the faucet, which proved far too painful to be endured. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe steadily. And right around the time my husband mistook the degloved skin of my arm for a bit of cooked chicken skin, he decided to bundle me into the car and take me to the ER.
I think that’s when I fainted for the first time. I’m not really clear on the details of the timeline because I’d just melted most of the skin off my arm.
In the ER an awesome doctor and two nurses cleaned the wound, cut away a good portion of the skin, slathered me in goop, swathed me in bandages, and diagnosed me with second degree burns. Luckily, I’d missed my fingers, but the burns covered the complete circumference of my wrist. They told me I’d be looking at weeks of recovery before I could even begin physical therapy
Cool. Not like I need my dominant hand for anything in the meantime.
The monetary cost of a serious injury
I have insurance, which is sometimes pretty rad and sometimes infuriating. That’ll certainly help with my medical bills. But there’s not just a monetary cost associated with this kind of injury.
But yeah, there’s still a definite price tag associated with my lovely soon-to-be bad-ass scars. This is America after all!
At the ER that night, they asked to see my insurance card and then charged me $400 for medical care. I also paid about $1.50 for pain-relieving narcotics and $60 for a visit to my primary care physician the next morning. I needed a bunch of fancy gauze and medicated pads to cover the burns (look man I’m high af right now don’t ask me to get more specific than “fancy gauze”), which would have cost me about $80 to order from Amazon (because of course the pharmacy doesn’t carry such useful things), except that my friend who works on the ambulance brought me a bunch.
So let’s say that’s $541.50 out of pocket so far.
And a week after the accident, I’m scheduled to see my PCP again. Another $60. And I’ll need physical therapy to help with mobility in my damaged tendons and skin, at $60 an appointment. And I’m rapidly running out of magical healing goop and gauze, and I’m in too much discomfort to calculate that cost so let’s just say… it’s all adding up rather quickly.
Which is fine! … for me. I have an emergency fund. To read more about emergency funds and insurance, check out these excellent (if we do say so ourselves) articles:
- Dafuq is Insurance and Why Do You Even Need It?
- Pet Insurance: Is It Worth It?
- You Must Be This Big to Be an Emergency Fund
- On Emergency Fund Remorse… and Bacon
I’m well prepared to cover this kind of thing out of pocket. My husband handed over a credit card at the ER and I got to comfort myself by thinking of all the travel points we’d be racking up through a payment I could easily pay off in a week.
But as we’ve discussed before, the average American has a real hard time coming up with $400 in an emergency. What happens to them? Do they go into debt to get the medical care they need? Do they choose between new shoes for their children, or sell the family car? What do they do?
The nurses indicated to me that my husband was right not to wait—that if we had waited to seek treatment, the injury could’ve been much worse.
There was a time in my broke-ass student life when taking the time to decide if I could afford a visit to the hospital seemed perfectly reasonable. I’m really glad I didn’t flay my arm during that time. But I know there are people who still make this deadly math every day. And that’s fucked up.
The hidden costs of serious injury
My livelihood is editing. I work for a publishing house by day, and by night I work with freelance clients.
So damaging my dominant hand in such a way that makes typing both painful and difficult is… not ideal.
And did I mention the drugs? I’m on the kind of pain medication that caused the president to refer to New Hampshire as a “drug infested den.” The kind he must have been on to believe he won said bastion of ornery New Englanders.
Thinking—about anything—is hard on this medication. But for the first few days after the accident I welcomed the no-thinking, no-feeling, no-caring oblivion like a nineteenth-century British nobleman-turned-poet in a shady opium den.
But reality has a way of creeping in on even the most numbing high. I had to dictate several emails to my freelance clients, delaying their projects indefinitely. And since I don’t get paid in full until I finish editing my clients’ manuscripts, that means my pay is also getting delayed indefinitely. Which is super convenient because did I mention the medical bills?
Then I had to contact my boss. Because I’m a new hire, my benefits don’t kick in until ninety days after my start date… around early April. So I don’t have any vacation time accrued yet. My boss was kind enough to give me the day off right after the accident, but now I’m expected to work… somehow. And that’s proving difficult.
I answer a few emails here, negotiate a contract there, take a nap, write a memo, go back and correct mistakes I made in the morning during my drug-induced stupor, and then take another nap. It’s not what I’d call “productive.”
In short, I’m paying for my injury in productivity cost and opportunity cost.
I’m a salaried employee with a successful side business. But what of the minimum wage workers who don’t have health insurance through their employers? What about those who can’t take a day off from their three part-time jobs without losing those jobs? What do they do when the medical bills are piling up and their income dries up like a desert stream in high summer?
The burden of an injury on a household
We’re a household of three (yes, the dog counts). My husband and I both work full-time and split the chores and shopping.
Or we did, before I decided to play fast and loose with kitchen safety. Now my husband Bear is forced to balance his full-time job, all the chores and errands, taking care of the dog, and caring for me, a human adult who before now was generally pretty independent when it came to things like showering, opening containers, and hooking her bra.
Every day Bear has to clean and rebandage my wound. He trained as an EMT, so at least he has medical expertise, but it’s still a lengthy and unpleasant process. This delays the start of his work day, and more often than not he has to stop by the store or a friend’s place to pick up some random medical supplies or food on his way home.
He’s stretched thin and there’s literally nothing I can do to help. I can’t change the bandages myself. I can’t drive because of the aforementioned rich Victorian person drugs. And it took me three days to figure out how to open the pill bottles myself.
But we’re a power couple. What if we had kids? Or elderly relatives relying on our care? What if my salary was the sole source of income for our household? How could we manage with the primary breadwinner or caretaker out of commission?
What is a temporary inconvenience to us could plunge an entire household into desperate financial straits. And if I haven’t made it clear yet, that makes me lucky… which is not fucking fair.
So there you have it: the truth behind Kitty’s mysterious tweets about how I hurt myself. My arm basically looks like Deadpool made sweet, sweet love to a zombie and then gave birth to a necrotic limb that he subsequently neglected and malnourished. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s going to take a while to heal.
I’m on drugs.