Until recently, I didn’t give much thought to my forearm. And I’m guessing that you haven’t either. Consider it with me for a moment. Take a minute to appreciate the engineering marvel that is your arm.
Roll up your sleeve and extend your right arm out straight in front of you, with the palm of your hand facing in, your elbow tucked to your side. Now run your left forefinger up the length of your forearm from wrist to your elbow. That is the radius bone –flared at the thumb-end and shaped like the head of a nail at the elbow end. That’s one bone, but there are actually two in there.
Now, keeping your arm out in the same position, run your left fingers along the bottom side of your arm from the wrist to the elbow. That is the ulna – bone #2. Your ability to grasp, rotate, pronate, turn, deliver all comes from the intricate interactions between these two slender osteo companions living in your forearm. Encircle your right wrist, with the fingers of your left hand and then turn your right arm to the left and right and you’ll see what I mean. The ulna is actually a fixed bone but the radius capers over and around it, twirling, like Ginger Rogers around a steadfast Fred Astaire, working together in a well-choreographed tango that allows you to do everything from turning a screwdriver, to opening a jar, to picking up an infant.
Yes, that arm of yours is an engineering marvel. Except when it’s not. When broken, your bones must be held perfectly still in order for bone-building cells to do their work and lay down new bone. Spongey, like tofu (I was told), at first then gradually, over weeks, to something harder and more stable. Like wet cement, it must be allowed to stiffen overtime, undisturbed. That’s where the cast comes in. It is only when you have a harder-than-steel fiberglass cast on your forearm that you fully realize how magical the movements of your ulna and radius are. Without their intricate gliding and swooning, your arm and hand become a robotic cudgel, capable of only the most primitive moves. Pushing, blocking, and just laying there. You have no grasping power. You can’t squeeze, pinch, or turn. Not only that, but your two hands can’t work in concert together.
You’d be amazed by the number of quotidian tasks that require the sophisticated enterprise of two functional arms working, ahem, hand-in-hand. Zipping your pants, tying your shoes, driving, buttoning, cutting vegetables, and basically any form of multitasking – period
I have growing superstitions over the pending removal of this cast. Once they cut this sheath off my arm, what will happen? Will the quivering lump of bone, sinew, and skin be able to return to all of those crazy functions? Will my ulna and radius resume they’re well-rehearsed choreography and glide over each other in rhythm? Will the reconstituted bone hold up to the rigors of my daily life? Will I be able to lift boxes, type, carry grocery bags, turn the steering wheel hand-over-hand, support a downward-facing dog?
And what if I fall again? Will that delicate patch of bone hold my weight? Has the word gone out to the other 205 bones – she’s breakable!