24 January 2013 by Rachel Andrew
There is going to be a change of pace on this site – and in my life – for a while.
Last Sunday, setting off from the running club I slipped on ice and broke, in dramatic fashion, my right elbow. As soon as I landed on my hand I knew my arm was broken, and then some instinct kicked in and I remember thinking that I mustn’t hit my head and threw myself sideways rather than backwards. I managed to get myself up off the ice and back into the clubhouse – having done a lot of work on core strength is handy when you need to haul yourself up without using your arms – where an ambulance was called.
Despite the weather a lovely team of paramedics showed up while my details were still being given over the phone. They cut off my sleeve to see that not only was my arm obviously broken, but that I had an open fracture with bone sticking out. My First Aid training was a long time ago but I do know that is not a good thing. I was given morphine and moved as gently as possible into the ambulance.
At A & E it was obvious that people were concerned, an X-ray was done and by 3pm, after an afternoon of the most hideous pain I have ever been in, I was headed to theatre. I had been told I would have a three hour operation. I was actually in there for nearly six. Of course I was oblivious to this but it must have been a horrible wait for my husband and daughter.
It is now Thursday, I’m still in hospital. I have seen the pre and post-op X-rays and even my untrained eye can see what a horrible mess I was in. The post-op X-ray shows a marvellous, slightly steampunk looking contraption holding the bones together. My surgeon – an elbow specialist – said it was very tricky, “a complicated 3D jigsaw puzzle”. I saw the A & E Doctor the next day who said it was the worst one of a weekend of people slipping and breaking stuff. So it is bad, not completely hopeless but everyone has warned me I need to be aware it will take some time and may not be 100%, or close, again.
Initial positive signs are that I have feeling and movement in my hand and wrist. My hand is still swollen limiting movement but it looks as if I have escaped nerve damage, which was initially being muttered about by doctors. The reason I am still sat in hospital is that with a complex open fracture there is risk of infection. They replastered on Tuesday, so I have seen my arm, and they were happy with how it is healing, however they want to observe me for another couple of days.
Monday was a really tough day.
By the evening, everything had time to sink in. I realised how many of my goals for this year would be unmet, and how many regular normal things would be hard. I count myself a pretty resilient person, past experiences have shown that while I tend to worry about silly things, in an actual crisis I just deal with it. However being on your own, in a hospital room, totting up every little thing you won’t be able to do for weeks is probably reason enough to have a bit of a weep.
Getting started fixing this
I got a decent amount of sleep, thanks to a lovely motherly nightshift nurse who helped me figure out the best way to adjust the bed to be comfy. I woke up early and when she saw the light on she popped in to get me coffee and biscuits.
Lying in bed I realised that this is what it is. I’ve messed up my elbow. I can sit around feeling sorry for myself or I can stick a new goal of, “get elbow as good as it possibly can be” in front of my other goals and get on with it. There are many reasons why this is far less terrible than it could be.
- I’m fitter than the average 37 year old, this is already paying dividends in how mobile I am and able to do things one armed. It should help recovery.
- I’m used to training. That will help me to stick to all the physio that lies ahead.
- I work for myself with my husband. So we are super flexible in how we arrange our working day and the tasks I do.
- Workwise we’re product not services based now, I don’t have loads of clients to let down and there is a lot of non-coding work I can do while typing is hard. This won’t cause huge problems with income or the business.
- My daughter is capable and already self-sufficient at 15. She is happy to help her temporarily one-handed mother.
- The initial concern of losing some use of my hand looks not to be a problem. The main problem with my hand is just the swelling which takes time to settle.
- I have a ballot place for the London Marathon that I can defer to 2014.
- I didn’t hit my head, or damage my wrist and shoulder so I’m already quite mobile.
- We took out Bupa cover last year so I have my own room on a quiet private ward.
Also, hospital is a really good place to see how lucky you are.
What I know at this point
The short term concerns are of preventing infection, and over the next three weeks I will be in a cast wrist to armpit, while the injury and surgery heals. Everyone I have spoken to suggests that all being well I’ll be out of the big cast after three weeks, presumably into another kind of support that will allow movement. They don’t want to immobilize an elbow for too long as it will stiffen up.
So all being well I may be starting to move this in three weeks time. I’ll get a better idea then of my starting point.
Once I escape from the hospital I can at least walk to keep active, so my plan is to make sure I do the FitBit 10,000 steps a day while I am stuck in the cast. It will keep me getting out and about and not sat around fed up with not being able to run.
So that has been my week so far. Take care on the ice, runners!