It’s Humerus

Running BonesThere are 206. Though some might say 208 or 350, or even more and possibly less. It depends on what you read, and how argumentative you want to be! Why, in one of your wrists alone, there are eight: capitate, hamate, lunate, pisiform, scaphoid, trapezium, trapezoid and triquetrum.

Bones, the solid infrastructure of our body! Once, in a hospice team meeting, as we reviewed a patient’s concerns, a nurse mentioned the ulna.

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s a bone in the upper arm,” answered another nurse.

“No,” our doctor said, “the lower arm has the ulna and radius. The upper arm bone is the humerus.”

We all smiled and chuckled. How . . . humorous? Come on now, and sing with me:

The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone.
The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone.
The knee bone’s connected to the neck bone.
Doin’ the skeleton dance.

The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone.
The hip bone’s connected to the backbone.
The backbone’s connected to the neck bone.
Doin’ the skeleton dance.

The Skeleton Dance . . . a children’s song and a long 200+ list of Latin names we can barely remember and even a nurse will occasionally mistake one for the other.

In my thirties, I had a tib-fib spiral fracture, or so said the orthopedic surgeon that repaired my left leg. Before I tumbled down a mountain and busted my body, I probably could’ve told you I had a big bone above the knee (indeed, the biggest one in the body), and two smaller ones below the knee . . . but I had no clue about their names. Once my leg was damaged, I’d forever know the bone between the knee and hip was the femur, and the two south of the knee were the thin fibula and stouter tibia. And my brokenness meant I needed other people. When the body’s infrastructure is broken, we’ll only get by with another’s help.

As the laughter receded in the room, and maybe a nurse’s cheeks colored red because she forgot the difference between an ulna and a humerus, I thought of how all the bones are connected—just like the song says—and how I hope and pray each person is also connected with others.

But of course, intact or fractured, it’s not bones that truly hold us together. In the best or worst times, as the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche mused, “Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” We are made strong, even in dying or grieving, by the “invisible” connection of the family and friends that give us support . . . when we are whole, and when we are broken.

(Hospice vigorously protects a patient’s privacy. I’ll take care with how I share my experiences. Any names used are fictitious. Events are combined and/or summarized.)

+ Skeleton image from here.

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