Follows on from part four…
Two and a half weeks after the surgery I went to see the surgeon for the first time since the surgery.
I was nervous about this day, uncertain what to expect.
A friend took me to the hospital and dropped me off.
I checked in with the nurse at the Cast Clinic and she told me to check in with x-ray and then come immediately back to her. X-ray! Gah! The fear bubbled and gurgled in my gut, but I kept myself in check and did as she requested.
When I returned she unwrapped my arm, took off the cotton wool, and the hard cover that had been over the wound itself. Feeling the air on my arm for the first time was just as I remembered from the previous broken arm in primary school. My arm was weak and sensitive, as though every nerve ending was new and raw. Although this was not an unpleasant feeling, my instinct was to protect this “new” limb.
Then she sent me back to wait my turn for an x-ray.
Unwrapped, uncovered. I walked very carefully!
I hadn’t seen my arm in three weeks. Had no real idea what the surgery entailed or how much of my arm was affected, though I had an inkling based on the heat my arm produced and where the heat radiated.
So…the first thing I did was head to the bathroom to have a look-see.
What I saw was horrifying!
I had no idea what I was expecting, but this was not it.
My arm, with the 16 staples looked like something Dr. Frankenstein would have done. It was crusted with dried blood, and appeared gruesome with the flash of the silver staples at 1cm intervals! The wound itself was so much longer than I anticipated. At least seven inches of flesh had been sliced open in a line up my forearm that finished in a curve over and beyond my elbow.
I grabbed a hold of the basin to steady me as little black spots appeared in my vision.
Wow. Not at all what I expected.
Then I got out my camera took some photos and sent them to my closest friends.
All of them as shocked as me.
It looked bad. To me anyway, it was not what I was expecting.
(Thankfully, several weeks after this time with staples removed and when all of the scabbing fell off, the actual scar is fine and light, not at all how it appeared it would be at this moment!)
I went into x-ray and decided it didn’t matter; whatever it looked like was fine with me so long as the pain and swelling would eventually go away.
The x-ray itself was uncomfortable and a bit pinchy in the places that still hurt me – especially my shoulder, but was not the excruciating pain I remembered from before the surgery.
After x-ray I went back to the Cast Clinic where the same nurse told me she was going to remove the staples.
Panic swept me. What if it was too soon? What if the wound came open later today when I was at home and unable to get back to the hospital to have it fixed? What about all that dried blood?
She assured me that it would not come open again.
But she did tell me she would tape it with those little surgical strips after the doctor had seen me.
The staple removal was like 16 needle pricks. Truly not painful, more shocking, but my threshold was low and I made a big “baby” fuss.
Once done, she left me alone to wait for the doctor.
My arm was resting on a pillow. I wanted to see what it looked like now that the staples were gone but was embarrassed to pull out my phone to take a photo.
When the doctor came, he examined the wound. He didn’t look shocked so this made me feel less shocked too! He told me things were looking good and that we needed to amp up the movement a little more.
He said he was going to give me a referral to physio.
ALREADY?! It’s only been 2.5 weeks since the surgery!!
“Um…physio…ok…” I stammered.
He looked at my face and must have seen the fear and horror there, because he said “Don’t worry, just go, learn the exercises, do them at home and you’ll be fine. And don’t waste too much money on Physio either, once or twice then do the rest yourself.”
He also told me that they would wrap it again, and that in two days I was to take off the bandage and shower. And then I was to leave the bandage off for good.
That would have made it three weeks only since the surgery to have a shower and remove the bandage for good.
GAH! ALREADY!!?? Was he crazy?
I certainly thought so!
Romance novel attractive, but 100% crazy!
However, I had heard him giving this same information to other patients in the Cast Clinic who also had staples removed that day, so I knew that this was “normal” but still…
…the thought of stepping into a shower with the wound I’d just seen in the mirror only minutes before, made my stomach contract into a small ball and sweat bead on my forehead.
I wanted to quit this broken elbow thing and walk away. I was done. No more pain thanks, I’m good.
A shower? No way.
I have a cat that occasionally and accidentally cuts me with his sharp little claws, and when I step into the shower with one of those tiny scratches it stings like fire.
From a small scratch!
I started to imagine how the enormous surgical wound on my arm would feel when water touched it for the first time.
Then I imagined passing out in my shower from the pain and being found weeks later partially eaten by said cat.
Needless to say, I chickened out two days later when I was supposed to take that shower! I waited an extra day.
On the day I was supposed to have the shower, I saw the physio for the first time.
This was a big step for me, for two days I’d researched the different physio places in town, and it had taken me a full day to gain the courage to call one of them.
When I did call, I cried on the phone and was barely audible. The lady on the other end was patient with me but she had to ask me to repeat myself several times to understand me.
As kind as she was… I did not go to that physio place!
After hanging up with the first physio office, I called a second one and was able to hold my composure until I’d made the appointment. Then burst into tears after I hung up the phone. I was extremely scared of more pain. I’d had enough, I’d quit pain!
Fear of additional pain had become my new crying outlet.
I booked the appointment for the day after my call, afraid if I left it too long I would chicken out. On the day of the appointment I cried for fear of the pain I was about to endure.
Using this as an excuse I decided not to have a shower before the appointment even though it was “shower day”, I told myself I would wait until I got home safely.
Then I pulled it together and got ready to walk to the clinic. It was only four blocks away, and would normally take me 10 minutes or less to walk it, but I gave myself 30 to get there. And walked so slowly, so carefully, that I took the full 30 minutes!
The fear of falling again was still fresh in my mind, and anytime I considered walking somewhere the flash of those first few moments played like a show reel on repeat.
The Physio asked me how I was doing and I told him I was very scared. He laughed and told me not to worry we wouldn’t do anything too crazy.
He asked when the surgery was, and was surprised it was only a few weeks ago.
Then he said let’s get to it. I hopped up on the bed in the room at his request, and he promptly started unwrapping the bandage!
What? Wait! Why? What happened to “nothing too crazy?” This was crazy!
I asked him several times if he was SURE he needed to do that!
Yes, he said, he needed to see what he was working with.
I knew I was being silly, but it made me want to cry and I had to turn my head away to hide the tears that began pooling.
I knew that today I was supposed to take off the bandage and leave it off, but the thought of walking home without it made me almost pass out with fear. I didn’t say anything at the moment he took it off but if he didn’t rewrap it when we were done, I would definitely bawl.
He had a good look at the wound and decided he wanted to be “extra careful” with sterilisation and to ensure there was no risk of infection. I was already uncertain about him taking off the bandage, and now he was worried about infection risk!
Seeing my facial reaction to this news, he tried to assure me that the wound was closed perfectly, there was no risk of it opening or of infection, and that he was just being ultra-cautious. Uh… ok.
Once again in this healing journey I felt at the mercy of others. Not my favourite position to be. More tears threatened.
To hide my fear I asked how it looked and told him I hadn’t seen it since the staples were removed. He offered to take a photo for me with my phone. I had a brief look and said “oh wow” uncertain what else to say.
He took some measurements of the movement I had in my arm. I didn’t have much range in the bend or straightening of my elbow, but I was improving with the turning my hand over from face down to face up. I could get my hand turned so my thumb was almost pointed directly up. We weren’t all the way there, but it was improving.
He did this with me for a few minutes, using pressure to twist my wrist around until I could actually see the bottom of my hand for the first time in weeks.
I was delighted to see the bottom of my hand! During the healing you start to believe that things will “never” be right again.
Then I noticed huge bruising appearing on my wrist and pointed it out.
“That wasn’t there before?” he asked… NO! It wasn’t!
He explained that bruising would continue while I healed due to swelling and the scar tissue. He explained it in more depth and with more technical jargon this was just what I garnered from what he’d said.
At the end of the session, he wrapped me back up – phew – and sent me on my way. He wanted to see me three times a week.
Three times a week.
Physio is not cheap and I had not been paid for weeks, waiting for the medical EI to kick in and having received my last payment from work already.
Thank goodness for credit.
Still, three times a week seemed more beneficial to him than me I thought. So I booked the three times to humour him, and figured I’d slow it down the following week once I’d learned what I could learn as the surgeon suggested.
When I returned from physio, I put my arm “on ice” and fell asleep for a few hours. My arm swelled enormously that day, it was uncomfortable and overheated.
Bruising continued to come out all over my arm as it had since the surgery. The bruising on my upper arm that appeared only days after the surgery, did not appear to be reducing either.
The following day was shower day.
Fear is a great motivator, and I was afraid to leave it longer because the surgeon had stressed to the others in the clinic on the day I’d seen him that the showering was important to ensure infection did not occur and to clean the wound.
It was time.
Closing the door to the bathroom, I held the sink and took deep breaths to steady my nerves. I needed to steel myself for what I imagined was to come. Tears eeked out of my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.
Bravely, I unwrapped the bandage, then took a look at the wound. I couldn’t see too much because the surgical strips covered a good deal of the flesh.
The wound was not as horrifying with the staples gone. No longer “Frankenstein”-like.
Now for water.
The fear of the sting of fire was intense.
So I first ran the tap in my bathroom vanity and sprinkled a few drops on the wound with my eyes clenched shut, my teeth clamped together, and my gut in a ball – all waiting for the punch of pain.
It didn’t come.
Like a cartoon character, I opened one eye, then the other, unclenched all parts of me and tried again – watching this time to ensure I got the wound.
No pain at all.
I cupped my hand under the faucet and dumped a whole handful of water on the wound.
So far in the post-surgery healing, the fear from my perception of what was going to happen has been much greater than the actuality of the happening.
This was a good lesson to observe. Would I remember in the future? Who knows! It was still good to note.
Friends had dropped over some non-slip options for the bottom of my tub, I’d been frightened of stepping into the shower, slipping and breaking something again!
I put the mat in the tub and made sure that every little suction cup was secured to the surface. Then, I turned on the shower, feeling now delighted I was going to get to wash myself – albeit still one handed – in the shower! I could wash my hair even!
I stepped in and revelled in the feeling of the water on the rest of my body. I did hold my left arm out of the water and away from the rest of me until I was ready to wash it. But the rest of my body rejoiced in the feeling of the water streaming over me.
I washed my hair with my one hand and it felt great to be able to do this standing under the stream, not crouched over my kitchen sink!
Then I washed my injured arm gently with lavender soap and rinsed it under the cascade of water from the shower head.
NO pain. Yay!
The shower was beyond delicious, and I stayed in it with the water pounding on my shoulders and neck until the water was turning cold.
Showering was my new favourite thing.
I patted the wound dry as instructed by the surgeon, and then dried the rest of me – one handed!
Another task to relearn.
Drying my back was the most difficult with only one hand, but I worked out a few new and interesting moves that got the job done! Also drying my right arm and shoulder proved difficult and I came up with inventive methods for that too!
(If you’re ever stuck one-handed, let me know, I’ve got the moves!)
Being able to shower felt liberating, and was the catalyst to many new milestones in the recovery.
The next appointment with the surgeon was four weeks away and I was feeling hopeful that I would be well on my way to healing by then.
And so it continues next time with part six…
Warm smiles and Love,