July 2010
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Day 5: One-armed bandit

I didn’t think there were many new things left for me to try in Las Vegas, but I managed to find one.  I’ve now experienced the American healthcare system!

I’ve broken my arm.  Actually, it’s a fractured shoulder but the result is basically the same.  I’ll be functioning at a severely reduced capacity for the rest of the trip.

As I consider this a somewhat more significant event than not winning a pair of frog slippers, you may notice that I’ve bumped Day 5 ahead of Day 4.

Don’t worry, there’ll still be pictures of slippers.  Although sadly not on my feet.

Looking at this as an achievement, it’s my first ever sporting injury!  If you can call Geocaching a sport.  Apparently people do, but that’s a bit of a stretch for an activity that is basically walking or driving, interrupted by a hunt for plastic boxes.

For those that care, this happened round about GC26E6N.  The tiny cache was hidden in a hollow stick, tied to a tree.

Then I saw tracks leading up to the nearby mound of dirt and wanted to explore.  The Jeep was probably too large – although I was tempted to give it a go – so I decided to go up on foot.

About half way up, I did start to wonder how on earth I’d get down again but I really wanted to see the view.  Then when I finally got there, I realised that I was now the tallest thing for miles around, and as I’d just been taking photos of the surrounding storms a few minutes before, that this was quite a bad idea.

Even so, there’s a chance that if I’d made it down in one piece, I’d have gone back up there with my camera.

I tried to find the least steep route back down, which turned out to be still fairly steep and quite soft under foot, and a walk quickly turned into an involuntary run which ended up with me hitting the level ground leaning forward with too much momentum to get my balance and and slow down.  So I ended up diving forwards into the dirt.

I just couldn’t work out if I had done any real damage.  It hurt pretty bad but I’d sunk into the gravelly ground which suggested it was a (relatively) soft landing.  Plus I could still wiggle all my fingers, and eventually I managed to put enough pressure on my arm to stand up.

On the other hand, I could tell I’d ripped my knees to shit but couldn’t really feel anything apart from the pain in my arm.  As it was no better when we got back into town, I thought that getting it looked at was probably a good plan.

CSI fans will no doubt be disappointed to learn that “Desert Palm” hospital, mentioned at least once in just about every show as the place that every victim who doesn’t already have a toe tag goes to, doesn’t actually exist.  If it did, obviously I’d have made sure that’s where I ended up.  I actually went to Spring Valley Hospital, conveniently less than a block away from the house we’re renting.

It took 4 x-rays to find something, in between which I got mopped up, had a tetanus shot, handed over a credit card for a $1000 deposit and continued to hold on to the hope that it was just quite badly bruised, but eventually the doctor wheeled round his computer trolley and zoomed in on a picture of my bones to show something a little bit darker than it should be.  Apparently that means a fracture, and so I’ve got to keep my arm in a sling for about 6 weeks.

I’m not yet sure how the travel insurance is going to work for this.  By the letter of the policy, I was supposed to call them before turning up at the hospital so they could authorise the treatment.  But I wasn’t exactly in great shape to do that, and would not have been able to call overseas from my cellphone anyway.  As the cover is for emergency treatment, I’m not sure when it would ever be appropriate to call ahead.

The hospital said they’d deal with it, but took no more information from me than the name of the insurer, and when I called to make sure they knew what had happened there was no sign of any claim by the hospital yet.

You don’t expect to be ripped off by a hospital, but if the $1000 I already paid actually covers the cost of the x-rays, a jab, a painkiller, a few bandages and a sling, and about twenty minutes of combined time with medical staff why would they bother following it up for me?  Am I way underestimating how much money they’d want?

Anyway, this little accident changes the trip quite a bit.  Many of the things I like to do in Vegas require two arms.  Well, obviously, most things are easier with two.

I may get the hang of playing poker one-handed (it has to be worth a try – if the guy I met at Christmas with a metal claw for fingers can play, so can I) and video poker should still be possible, but a little slower.

But I can’t drive; I won’t be able to hold my camera without a tripod (and won’t be able to set up the tripod myself); can’t eat steak without skewering it and eating it like a lollipop; can’t go on any coasters; will even struggle to blog (I’ve found a two-handed typing position, but it’s not comfortable for any length of time).

On the bright side, I somehow didn’t land head first, and it’s my left arm that’s out of action.  It’s the one I’d pick if I had to.

And if all else fails, I can catch up on some of the shows I’ve never seen.  Or even try to figure out what the hell baseball is all about.