One week

One week ago I was getting ready to head down to the running club for my Sunday long run. I didn’t get home again until Friday lunchtime.

The last couple of days in hospital were fairly uneventful. I had some issues with my hand swelling, resulting in the cast being replaced and me having to sleep with my arm suspended from a drip stand. It seems that this is all par for the course with this kind of injury.

I was discharged on Friday and stepping out into the world again was disorientating. My husband Drew drove me home, made me lunch, then with the help of an amazing cast cover called the Limbo I got to properly shower. I’ve become very adept at a one-handed wash while in hospital but there is nothing like a hot shower. We then started to go through my wardrobe to see what I could wear and it became obvious that my regular uniform of tight t-shirts and fitted shirts with narrow sleeves was going to be unworkable. The cast is huge, my elbow set at a right angle. To get a top on the arm has to be big enough to pass over the cast, then the neck stretchy enough to get over my head before I wriggle in the good arm. Vest tops are fine, but it was below freezing on Friday and the only outdoor coat I can get on is my gilet which also leaves my good arm bare.

I found an old, stretchy dance warm up long sleeved top and Drew cut out one arm. That, over a vest top, was a temporary solution. To find some more things we could chop up in a similar manner required a trip to town.

I was very keen to have a walk outside after days of pacing the floor in my hospital room. What I wasn’t prepared for was how vulnerable I felt. I’m not a vulnerable person. The one constant through my life is my physical strength. I’m tall and a bit of an outlier as a woman in terms of the ease in which I build muscle. As a dancer that meant I always felt chunky, even when terribly thin, however I could lift people and do things normally danced by men. When I went backstage in the theatre my strength was what was needed to do my job. As stage crew your job is essentially moving heavy stuff in the dark. I’m good at moving heavy stuff. Until this accident I did a lot of weight lifting at the gym. I like being a woman who is able to do that. It’s a huge part of how I define myself.

Even when travelling, walking through a strange city on my own at night, I don’t feel vulnerable. My physical strength and the streetwise nature of someone who took care of herself from age 15, means I know how to look after myself. Walking through town on a Friday afternoon, even with Drew, was scary. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on my own.

We did manage to locate some clothes that would, with a little bit of modification, do for the next few days. Also, a sleeveless oversized sweater from the sale rail at Monsoon, that buttons up at the sides. A garment that may as well have been created for someone in my predicament! On release from hospital, my surgeon told me that I may be out of this cast as soon as the 5th February. So I don’t need huge quantities of clothes, but enough for a few days is helpful. Once I’m out of the big cast I’ll still have some mobility issues in terms of dressing, but won’t have this issue of how to get things over the cast.

The other difficult thing about being home is that all the things I normally deal with are here. I’m never not doing something. If I’m working at my desk upstairs and want to make coffee, I grab a pile of laundry on the way down to put it in the machine. While making coffee I unload the dishwasher. I never do one task if I can be doing two or three, and having to watch Drew running about trying to do all these things that he doesn’t normally do and so doesn’t have those time-tested efficiencies for, is hard. We share the workload at home normally. I almost always cook, he cleans up. I deal with the laundry and ironing, he deals with making sure the bins are emptied and the recycling sorted. We don’t ever think about it, but there’s a lot to do when one of us is out of action.

Each day I am getting more able to do things. My arm feels less fragile, and I have a lot of the use of my right hand. However I can’t chop veggies, deal with hot heavy pans, do dishes, carry laundry around, or drag wheelie bins down the steps!

I’ve been out walking yesterday and today, accompanied by Drew. I think he is just making sure I don’t try a sneaky jog. We walk my run routes, 5 or 6 miles takes a lot longer as a stroll but I noticed all kinds of things I don’t usually see when running. I’m starting to feel far less vulnerable and more of an inconvenience to myself and others!

I’m finishing up this post after a 5 mile walk along the Thames. This time last week I was being prepped for surgery. Things seem to be looking up! I’m going to keep writing about my recovery here. I’ve stayed away from searching any medical info online as that is always a bad idea. However I’ve read lots of stories of how people have recovered after nasty injuries on the running and fitness forums. No two stories are alike but perhaps my blog will be of use to the next fitness addict who finds themselves with added metalwork.

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  • 27 Jan 2013 20:49:21

    Glad you’re doing better. I empathise completely with your description of being physically strong / able to handle yourself being a big part of your identity (it is a big part of mine too!) and I also found that really hard when my shoulder kept dislocating. Having a shoulder in a brace and my arm in a sling made me feel vulnerable in a way I was really not used to.

    I’m glad Drew is able to go with you — and remember that half the “untouchableness” is really how you walk / act. You can still scare the crap out of people with an arm in a sling my dear! ;-)

  • 29 Jan 2013 11:16:47

    Hi Rachel,

    We wish you a speedy recovery.
    All at LimbO

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