Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Arm, teeth, allergies

So I have a good excuse for my blogging slowdown as of late: I broke my arm. This was two weeks ago, and there’s no exciting story behind it. I was walking from work to a hotel where we were having a convention in SF, and I wasn’t looking down and hit some uneven patch of sidewalk and fell. Landed on my right arm (I’m right-handed) and knee, and set off my Apple Watch fall detection. I went to the conference anyway, unsure if I’d actually broken anything, but within a few minutes, I knew I had, so I scrambled to find anything nearby that could see me at 4:30 without spending twelve hours in a war hospital triage room. To further complicate things, Sarah was out of town, and I don’t know where anything is in SF.

I found a Carbon Health clinic on Market, who bounced me to another branch with an x-ray a half-mile further out. I made an appointment on their app on the way there, and got in semi-immediately. This isn’t the first time I’ve broken an arm; I broke the left one in 1992, and the right one in 2009. Both of those were bike accidents, and it turns out all three were the same exact break: a hairline radial head fracture.

Like 2009, the urgent care folks shot some x-rays, took a look, then put me in a fiberglass splint that went from mid-hand to above the elbow. The doctor got this long strip wet, then molded it onto my arm in a U shape. It felt hot, and it looked like some emergency fiberglass repair strip you’d use to patch a hole in a boat hull. He then wrapped the arm in compression bandages, put it in a sling, and told me the name of an urgent orthopedic surgeon to see. I got on their web site and got in the next day.

And the question everyone asks: no, there were no drugs. I got no painkillers, no shots or IVs or anything, just the advice that I should take Tylenol and ice the thing.

Went to the ortho the next day for another round of x-rays. The bone wasn’t chipped or shattered in any way that would require surgery. He took off the splint and said I’d be better off using the sling, keeping on the ice, and trying to get it moving as soon as the swelling let up.

The only real problem was this happened Monday night, and I had my biggest product release of the year on Wednesday morning. I had to wake up at 3:15am to get this thing rolling, and I had to do the whole thing one-handed. I switched from my Kinesis Advantage keyboard to a small 65% keyboard for one-handed typing, and a trackpad on my left hand. I also used Apple’s voice dictation, which has gotten surprisingly good. The release got out, and without the cast, I was able to actually shower, which was nice.

Not having a right hand is a problem. The first time I broke my right hand, I thought I would have a ton of trouble because I could not write, and it turns out that’s not much of a problem at all anymore. Also, it turns out I can write without much difficulty, because that doesn’t involve moving my arm. The mouse is the big problem. Also, turning things is bad: keys, doorknobs, the ignition of my car. And I can’t do anything involving weight.

It’s been almost two weeks, and I’m out of the sling for the most part. I still wear it on the train so I don’t accidentally grab an overhead strap, and so people don’t bug me. Typing on the Kinesis is no problem. The mouse still is. I’ve got more x-rays Tuesday, and a list of rehab exercises I’m supposed to be doing. I think the timeline for total healing is maybe 6-12 weeks, but I expect to be largely up to speed by the end of the month.

* * *

I’ve also got some dental trauma blogging to do, although this one is largely done. I finished a course of Invisalign on Friday. This was largely a stupid idea and I have serious buyer’s remorse over it, although not as bad as when I was in the middle of doing it.

I did an extremely short course of it: 14 trays, a week per tray. I also used a different brand than Invisalign, which only required me to wear the trays at night. The huge pain with this that I didn’t know until we got down to starting the whole thing was that you have to have attachments glued to your teeth. These are little porcelain buttons that are bonded to the front of your teeth, which anchor your teeth into the clear plastic trays. The attachments were not totally visible unless you were really looking at them, but they drove me insane. I continually felt like I’d been eating a candy apple and got a chunk of crushed peanut stuck on my teeth. I had nine attachments, and I never got used to them.

The first two weeks were horrible, mostly because they also coincided with the worst weeks of allergy season. I have this thing where my sinuses drain through my upper teeth during the worst of the worst part of allergy season, and with the plastic trays blocking my teeth, it felt like I was being waterboarded with battery acid. This eventually passed, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought to wear the trays at night. I would switch to a new tray on Fridays, and those were the worst days, but things moved around that first night, and by Saturday, they would be fine.

I went in on Friday and they ground off the attachments, and it feels so good to have just smooth teeth now. I don’t feel like a magically changed person or proud of my smile or anything else, and it was far too much money for what I got out of it. I’m just glad it’s done.

* * *

Speaking of allergies… First of all, I had zero allergies in Vietnam. Same in Iceland. Maybe I need to move. Anyway, I was doing allergy shots for like a decade and had to stop when Covid started up in 2020. I need to do something, and I don’t care about needles, but the whole drill is such a big waste of time, driving to Berkeley, paying to park, sitting in the waiting room full of sick kids, etc. I recently started doing sublingual immunotherapy, though. I got a blood test for allergies, and they sent me some drops in the mail, which I put under my tongue every day. It’s the same stuff as regular immunotherapy: pollens, dust mites, and grasses. I just started, and it’s supposed to take months or years to get up to full speed with them. I never thought the injections were a magic bullet or anything, but I think once I got to top dose, it maybe took 20% off. If I can get that without leaving my house, I’ll take it.

That’s about a thousand words of medical updates, and I don’t like talking about medical updates. So, back to your regularly scheduled program, I guess.


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