Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Window Seat Elbow Room

On July 2nd, Dr Desert Flower and I flew from LAX to Covington Kentucky (Cincinnati's deserted airport, across the Ohio River), and Delta upgraded us from economy exit row seats up to row 14A and B in "Delta Comfort", which gives you i) 2 or 3 inches of more leg room ii) free carbohydrate loaded snacks [as many as you want, basket brought around twice during the flight... but sadly, very very little protein], and iii) free alcoholic drinks.  Delta says that it gives you "dedicated over-head bin space" in Delta Comfort, but I've frequently seen people in zones 1, 2, and 3 putting their over-stuffed roller bags in ANY over-head they can desperately find, "Delta Comfort" or otherwise.

I like window seats.  I need a window seat.  Let me lean up against the inside of the fuselage, and escape the morbidly obese traveller in the economy ticketed middle seat who hogs the shared arm rests.  I can look out the window, I can sleep against the cool plastic that lines the aluminum fuselage (I try and pick a seat on the North side of the plane when traveling across the US by air, to avoid the solar heating effect on the South side of the plane, mid-day).  I am a happy camper with a window seat.  DDF prefers an aisle seat to facilitate not having to bother anyone if she gets up to use the facilities.  In middle seats, I typically have to sit with my arms crossed over my chest (known as a "Polish Bra" within my family) because the arm rests have over-flowingly large Umerikun or European travelling passengers spilling over them.  Sitting cross-armed for 3 or 4 hours is uncomfortable, leads to over-heating, armpit perspiration, and makes working on a laptop impossible.  DDF took the middle seat 14B and I took the window seat 14A.

On a Delta 737-800, in row 14, Not Only do you sit directly in-line with the high pressure turbine section of the nearby wing engine (the fastest place to die if a HP turbine disk ruptures, but it would be instantaneous, and spare you the shock and horror of seeing the person in front or behind you being impaled / decapitated / cut-in-half while the pilot tries to quickly get the plane on the ground in one piece with the one surviving engine IF it is still operating... don't worry, less than 2 dozen commercial passenger jets have ever suffered a catastrophic HP turbine wheel burst... so it is more likely you'll be hit by lightning), but the 14A window seat includes a tapered "wedge" where the contoured concave plastic cowling around the window nearly meets the left arm rest in-line with seat 14A's backrest.  This forms a narrow triangle that is easy to jam one's left elbow bursa into, and the plane's vibration in flight then "embeds" your elbow further.  Make it a 4 hour flight, with or without turbulence, but always including a small amount of engine vibration, and you have a recipe for disaster.  I watched The Batman Lego movie, part of Silence (but found 17th Century Jesuit missionaries to Japan not an engrossing topic, sorry Scorsese), all the while with my left elbow wedged against the arm rest and fuselage.

On July 3rd, I self-medicated with whiskey, both Irish and Kentucky varieties, copiously, and my elbow didn't hurt too much.  On July 4th, my elbow was VERY sore, and swollen.  The evening of July 4th, I began to ice it as DDF, my mother-in-law and I watched more Twin Peaks on Netflix in Cincinnati.  July 5th, we flew back to LAX and DDF and I were lucky enough to NOT have a passenger in the middle seat between us so the arm rests went up, and I had nothing to bump my elbow.  July 6th, more ice, and compression, as the elbow was warm, painful and swollen to almost the size of my knee.  July 7th (last Friday), I sat in the outpatient surgery waiting room for 4 hours with a chilled wine sleeve (see below) wrapped around my left arm's elbow (providing both compression and cooling), and I was unable to get an appointment to have my elbow looked at, as it was Not getting any better.  I was able to secure a 3pm appointment for Monday, July 10th, where I hoped that my primary care physician would either inject my elbow with cortisone or aspirate the swollen bursa or both.  Throughout the weekend, I kept icing my elbow, about 50% of the time I was awake.  At night, I'd go to sleep without anything on my elbow, and wake up with the elbow aching, unable to straighten my arm, and in significant pain.
Use a freezer wine "huggie" for both compression and cold! (left arm pictured here)
Naproxen Sodium entera-coated 500 mg was taken 1.5 times a day - I could have taken it 2x a day, but I was not disciplined enough to stick to a schedule.  By the time I went to the 3pm appointment, my elbow was only 1.2X its normal size.  When my primary care physician saw it, she told me to continue to do exactly what I was doing:
- compression
- cold packs
- Naproxen 2x a day
She also told me to keep moving it, do light exercise if it is not painful. "Pain is nature telling you to stop".  I lobbied her for an injection, and after a few dozen seconds of her squeezing and pushing on my elbow, she said "there is a greater risk if infection if I do. Here, I can feel your bone. Continue to apply cold and compression."  OK.  Patience.  "3 weeks is the standard recovery time from an injured bursa" she continued.  Deep inhale...  patience.

So, if you hurt your elbow, and it starts to swell up, and it aches for 2 or 3 days, and you're not sure what to do, certainly go to your doctor.  If you wait too long - as I did - and you go to the doctor after treating yourself with ice, compression, and full-range-of-motion light exercises to keep the joint from locking up, be prepared to just endure it... for 3 weeks.

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