Sunday, 18 October 2015

51 things I learned from breaking my arm

So, I broke my left humerus on 1 August. This is what I learned.

1. Breaking a limb can be done in a split second. I was putting things in my car for a run to the tip, turned to go home, tripped, crashed into a wall, put my hand done and it was done. I still don't know what I tripped on.

2. Breaking arms hurts. Like, really bloody hurts. In fact, it hurt so much, poor husband could not get me up and had to call an ambulance. I've given birth twice and I'd do that again not to endure the pain I felt.

3. Gas and air is marvellous stuff. They gave me some in the ambulance and I remembered why I loved it so much when I was giving birth. I was GUTTED when they took it off me at A&E and wouldn't give me any more.

4. When you break an arm, they put a slab on your arm for the first few days. (I knew this anyway). It's a rough plaster on one side covered in bandages. Putting it on was the MOST painful thing and the plaster technician said I went white when it was done. I remember saying "please finish soon".

5. Putting a slab on can make things a lot more comfortable but not for every type of fracture. Nope, not mine.

6. Getting into a car right after you've been strapped up to the nines is bloody uncomfortable. Well, it is when you're getting into an Aygo.

7. Any movement at all after breaking an arm is torture. Standing was painful, sitting was painful. Lying back was painful. Bending over was painful.

8. It does gradually get better though. Although movement can still be painful, the overall pain (for me) went away about a week after. I haven't taken strong painkillers since that point, and I was only ever on dihydrocodeine. I didn't feel the need for morphine based pain relief and didn't want to have side effects when left alone with children.

9. Sleeping is a nightmare. If you can't lie back with broken arm, you either have to sleep propped up or in a recliner. I took the recliner option for about 6 weeks.

10. Sleeping in one position most of the night causes other problems like pinched nerves in your legs that set off shooting pains and numbness. Lovely.

11. Fractures of the humerus can be treated with a brace. This is like a plastic cast. Mine was custom made for me by the marvellous occupational therapist at Chorley Hospital. It took a whole hour. It's made of plastic mesh, lined with fluffy stuff and secured with velcro straps. It's removable but not in the early stages.

12. The first two weeks are the worst. Around that week, things will start to feel better, even if your next fracture clinic appointment, they are not sure if it's healing and you might after all have to have surgery.

13. Upper arm (humeral) braces are usually checked weekly by the occupational therapist, relined and they wash your arm. Occasionally, they remould it.

14. Ah, washing. The brace not being removable means you can't shower properly. Someone has to help you shower and then it's cursory. Say hello to greasy hair.

15. When you're first braced up, you feel extremely vulnerable when you are walking outside. I was and am still terrified of falling again.

16. A boil water notice just five days after you've broken your arm is a royal pain in the you know where. Especially when it lasts 3 weeks.

17. Breaking your arm in school holidays is not ideal for fun, but at least when your children are 10 and 9, they can help you a bit.

18. Frozen chopped onions, frozen garlic and frozen mash are bloody useful when you only have one arm to cook. I may never go back to normal onions.

19. Not all fractures take the same amount of time to heal. Mine is in a "tricky position" (I am sick of that phrase - apparently quite distal, which means it's low down) which means it's prone to not healing. But it is healing. Slowly.

20. Not being able to drive when you have a broken limb is very boring but also isolating. If you know someone with the same predicament, do pop round, offer to do things or take them places. They will love you for it.

21. Working part time from home in a flexible pattern makes it easier to keep working. Typing one-handed initially makes it very sloooow.

22. Being able to take your brace off for the first time is liberating and having a consultant tell you you can shower is exhilarating. The arm snow shower you start by taking it off is not.

23. And only more exhilarating is that first shower - even if you can only wash your hair with one hand.

24. It takes at least 3 of those showers to finally rid yourself of that underarm sweaty smell. Even though it's been washed weekly by the lovely ladies of the occupational therapy department. Poor ladies.

25. When your arm has been in the same position for 10 weeks, you will need physio to get back your strength and range of movement. I start this week.

26. Getting your hand and wrist moving hurts but only stems from stiffness so the pain can be endured. Prepare to start each day feeling like the stiffness has returned.

27. Taking your brace off part-time is quite scary. Even though your children think you look "normal" again.

28. When you take your brace off, your arm feels solid. And weird to the touch. And that's not the dead skin.

29. With your brace on, some people will think you look like a stormtrooper.

30. People assume you were under the influence of alcohol when you broke your arm. This really pisses me off. I probably would either not have hurt myself had I been drunk or worse, caused myself a head injury.

31. It's easier to put clothes on when you've got your brace off. Except for doing up bras.

32. Non- wired bras are best when wearing a brace. Wired ones are rubbish when you cannot move your arm properly. You men are lucky.

33. When wearing wired ones again, having to undo it because your husband has gone to bed an hour before you is a challenge of Crystal Maze proportions. (See 31).

34.Your iPad will keep you sane. And so will late night sport when you're sleeping in a recliner and can't sleep. (Or is that just me? Anyway, thank you US Open tennis, USPGA, world athletics and world swimming championships).

35. Eating with one hand is messy. You will change clothes daily because of this. Even now with movement in my left hand, I can't fully get my left hand to my mouth but my weird brain, favouring my left, keeps making me put my fork in my left hand, so I have to swop to my right to shove it in. And loaded burgers are interesting.

36. When you break your arm, you become super-aware of others doing the same. Or maybe there is an outbreak of broken arms - I know 2 children with broken arms at present, and an adult with brace that holds his elbow joint in position. When we were on holiday in Devon, we saw two other women both with broken arms within half an hour at the same place.

37. Online supermarket deliveries are your saviour. Except when they introduce the carrier bag charge and don't supply it with carrier bags. Usually I wouldn't mind but I can't carry those big trays by myself. A bag full of stuff I can carry.

38 You realise how much packaging is bloody impossible with people who have problems with their hand and wrist. Ring pull tins are the worst. I can manage the can opener now.

39. Never ever take your arms for granted. 10 weeks down and although I can now use both hands, it is not perfect, I can't sleep in my preferred position (yep, lying on my left side), turning over in bed has to be done awake, and the break is not fully healed.

40. Yes, you can take a brace off before it's fully healed. Reading up on it shows you can get your arm moving and what the xray doesn't show is what is going on inside.

41. The highlight of your week(end) is a trip to the coffee shop, usually on the way home from hospital for the umpteenth time.

42. I'm better at frothing milk for a cappuccino with only one good arm. Weird, eh?

43. Fracture clinic can be the most frustrating and slow experience. Only once have people been seen to time. My first trip to fracture clinic took 4 hours, although an hour of that was having my brace fitted.

44. My children have hidden reserves of patience I didn't know they had. (See 43). They have mostly been stars except for the time Monkey said being asked to tie my shoelaces was "depressing".

45. The letters the consultant or registrar writes to your GP are hilarious. One of them refers to me as a "pleasant lady". My occupational therapist told me she was once referred to as "comfortably padded". I got off lightly.

46. Our local fracture clinic has a Costa attached to it. Useful although you can't hear them call your name.

47. Fracture clinic admin can be frustrating. They promise to ring you with an appointment time and then send a letter to confirm it. With a new appointment card every time.

48. Checking you in on arrival takes a lot longer than it should do and involve approximately 487 clicks and keystrokes. This may be an over-exaggeration.

49. People park in the drop off points at hospital. The clue is in the name, people. Jeeeez.

50. People on trains are very helpful when you've got this massive thing on your arm. Apart from the woman next to me who insisted on taking up so much space to send important emails and make confidential calls that my arm was right up against the side of the window.

51. You find out who your friends are when you are when something like this happens. Some have been nothing short of bloody marvellous. (You know who you are). Others have been conspicuous by their silence and absence. They too know who they are. Let's hope it never happens to them, eh?
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