People keep saying I need to create a better story to explain my fractured arm. I’m no good at improvisation, and my fiction-writing skills are lacking, so I don’t have a better story. The sad truth is that I tripped over my own shoe in my own front yard, trying to scare away a stray tomcat who had chased one of our “adopted” feral cats up a tree.

No one else was around, so I have no one to blame. No alcohol was involved, no tree roots to trip over, and the cat was several feet away, so I can’t even say he tripped me. I know it’s a pathetic story, but it’s my story anyway.

The underside of my left elbow hit the ground first, which caused my humerus to jam against my shoulder and fracture at the top. The trip to the ER resulted in a brace that fits like a corset around my midsection and has Velcro straps to hold my upper arm against my side and my wrist against my stomach. It’s good for the posture but severely limits the movement of the left arm.

These are the things I learned immediately you can’t do without the use of your left hand and arm: fasten the button on a pair of pants, tie your shoes, fasten bra hooks, sleep on your left side, cut up a steak, close the driver’s side wide-open car door with your feet inside the vehicle, apply deodorant to your left armpit, or wash your right arm. Washing your hand(s) is difficult, but only the right hand is touching anything, anyway, so that’s a bonus.

You can’t use a curling iron or put your hair up in a ponytail. Applying deodorant to your right armpit is possible, but it requires thought and flexibility. I drove past several drive-thru restaurants and asked Frank to run a couple of bank errands for me until I realized I could experiment on how far my right arm would extend out the car window by checking our mail. I can do it! And fortunately for the drivers behind me, the turn signals on my car are fully functional.

You can shower, wash your hair and even dry it with a blow dryer with only one hand, it just takes twice as long. Drying off after the shower is an exercise in creativity. Applying makeup is possible, but requires a stationary mirror. Cooking is also possible if your pot or skillet is heavy enough that it doesn’t move around when you stir the contents or try to dip them out of the pot.

I’m old enough to have learned to type very well in school, but only using one hand to do so severely cuts down on the words-per-minute output. Opening a jar is possible if both knees can be utilized. Performing that task in a seated position is much easier, but if the jar is full of liquid, it’s advisable to just get someone else to do it for you. Trust me on this one.

I am extremely fortunate that the prognosis is good, and I was able to start using my left hand and wrist after only a few days, and the elbow soon followed. I now use a sling that allows much more movement, including typing this column with both hands, and I’m told I can begin physical therapy and shoulder movement next week if healing continues to progress.

I can’t decide what I look forward to the most – a full stretch with my arms over my head, or being able to sleep on my stomach, which has been my preferred sleeping position for years. I can’t wait to be able to use both hands to wash and rinse my hair again, and to just not have to be conscious of every move to make sure I don’t reinjure it.

I will try to remember the things I can easily do with only one arm, though, because those are things that I forget most often in the kind of lives we lead. I can keep my humor intact, even when my humerus isn’t. I can sit quietly on the deck, watch the birds, and enjoy the breeze on my face while I rest. I can pet a cat that’s lying on my lap while listening to a good audiobook. But most importantly, I can appreciate my sweet family and friends who will do anything they can to help me, especially Frank. We never know what “for better or for worse” is going to entail, do we?

Greeneville native Paige Mengel is a Tusculum College alumna, CPA, arts admirer and Business Coordinator of Greeneville Theatre Guild. A Look Around is published every other Wednesday in Accent. Contact Paige at

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