Fractured Humerus: Not the definition of me

Next week I go back for x rays and to see the wonderful Mr F; a chance to discover how the healing is going. I am looking forward to it as it is some sort of confirmation about how I feel – it’s a bit like when you are pregnant and you go for a check up and hear the heartbeat. You hope and believe that everything is going well, you feel like everything is going well but it is only when you hear that heartbeat that you are sure everything is going well.

I definitely have good days and bad days, but I guess that is the same for everyone everyday.Some days I catch myself doing things I didn’t know I could do – on Saturday I put on my mascara with my right hand without realising it! Then the next day, I try to do the same thing and can’t. It’s two step forwards and one step backwards and I am convinced that the mobility of my arm is directly related to the weather. When it is cold and wet I am stiff and in pain. Luckily we are having a lovely June and the warm, balmy weather eases the pain in my shoulder.

Once again I am in a new routine, different from the housebound one which involved the double bill of Fraser but not the same as the ‘old’ routine, the one I had before March 29th. This routine involves working part time while I recover. What I have noticed is that I am putting limitations on myself all the time – I can’t wear that top because of my arm, I don’t want to go to that crowded place in case I get knocked, I won’t sit on the edge for fear of jarring, I can’t look at doing something new until I recover, and so on and so on.

As ever it was George who came up with the wise words – or rather reminded me what Mr F. said when we first saw him. What Mr F. said was ‘ If you are not careful everything will become about your shoulder, and it will take over your life’. It is easy to see how that could happen so I am determined not to talk of it every day, to notice what I can do, not what I can’t do and to ensure that I don’t become defined by this injury.

The mane tail

3 years ago my labrador dog died aged 16. I was bereft and never thought I would want another dog, but after three months I was ready. “I think I am ready to have another dog”, I said to George. “I’m not” he replied.

“Hamster then?”

“No, rodents, get under the floorboards, no way”. So I gave up asking and took Lucy to buy a horse. My brother told George he had negotiated the wrong way!

Anyway, the horse has been brilliant, and Lucy and I go to the stables most evenings and all weekend. We also spent most weekends at local shows where Lucy would try and stay on over a course of jumps. I love the grooming, and before the accident I would ride twice a week.

The first time I had physio, part of the goals set was to get me back to my hobbies, swimming, cycling and riding. The physio, however, was very reluctant to contemplate my riding again, as she said the trouble with horses is they are so unpredictable. She is ,of course, right. As a consequence although I have been up to the stable I didn’t go near the horse for ten weeks in case he knocked my shoulder. Now I am  trying to at least help care for him but  I can’t lead him as I don’t have the strength in my hand, I can’t tack him up as I can’t reach with my arm, and grooming is challenging – a left handed only job. I definitely can’t pick his feet out.

I still go to the stables and watch Lucy but I really miss the contact with the horse and I really miss the riding. It is so therapeutic coming home from work and going off for a hack on these long summer evenings, it makes all the times at the stables in the dark and cold in the winter worthwhile. This summer I am not able to go, a summer lost. Before the accident I used to cycle around the woods and bridleways following Lucy while she rode, it was brilliant and we loved it. Now I have to walk and this means we can’t go so far or as fast as we used to.  What makes it sadder is that I had a new bike for christmas! I have not ridden either horse or bike since March and I don’t know if I will ride again. The worry is, if I fall off what could happen to my shoulder?

Stolen times.

Last night I rang my Aunt – sadly her husband passed away on Monday night. Now, I am incredibly close to this particular Aunt and my cousins because as children we were all pretty much brought up together.

Two of my cousins have flown in from overseas to be with their mum during this time and so my Aunt has managed to change the funeral to next Thursday – my problem being I have physio on a Thursday.

When I went to physio this week I explained the situation, how close I am to my Aunt and how important it is to me to attend this funeral so I can be there to support her. The physio did that look that you get from mechanics when you take your car to the garage and ask for the quote, the ‘sharp intake of breath through the teeth’ one.

“Sorry”, she said shaking her head, “you just have to have the physio, you can’t afford to miss next week”. She went on to say that my arm is very stiff and needs to be used, exercised and have the physio regularly. Unfortunately, because the funeral is so far from where I live, an appointment at the beginning or the end of the session wouldn’t help as  I wouldn’t be able to get there in time.

So, Last night I rang my Aunt – of course being the way she is, she completely understood and expected me to attend my appointment, which is lovely, but it doesn’t help the fact that I wanted to be there for her. I also miss the chance to see my cousins, which now they are overseas happens very rarely.

This takes the arm from being a painful inconvenience to a thief, robbing my attending the funeral, supporting my Aunt and seeing my cousins.

A new obstacle course

Yesterday was my first official day back at work – I am allowed to work the hours of 10am to 3pm this week for two days and building up over the next two months.  What was fascinating is that as my world is slowly getting bigger again how difficult it is to make adjustments.

When I am in the house I am able to get around doing most of my daily activities as I have been making adjustments for them for the last 2 1/2 months so I don’t even think about hanging washing out, or getting something out of the oven – I automatically do it with my left hand.  A learnt behaviour, just like driving.

Yesterday though was a whole new obstacle course. I didn’t have to battle with the barrier to get in as I have been given a ‘disability pass’ ( imagine how that makes me feel) so that I can park at the front of the building. To get into the building you have to swipe ( card reader on the left) and open the door with your right arm. However, the doors are too heavy and as I am not allowed to push, pull or lift I cannot open the door with my right hand, and wouldn’t have the strength even if I wanted to. So for me it is swipe with left hand and quickly pull the door with left hand and whilst I am sure it is a movement that I will get accustomed to it was a little awkward.

Then the desk – I have to lean over the desk to plug in my laptop and all the connections are the right hand side where I can’t reach. The pen pot is on the right where I can’t reach ( not that I can write at the moment). At home I have an Apple mouse so have been easily able to use it with my left hand, but the one at work is contoured for the right hand so uncomfortable to use.

I went into a meeting and was carrying my briefcase in my left hand so went to take a swig of water out of a bottle using my right hand – but couldn’t do it as I couldn’t reach up –  to the bemusement of others in the meeting.

I had forgotten that we walk round the building carrying books, laptops, folders etc and pull open doors on our way. Tricky with one arm.

Because I look fit and healthy from the outside no one is really aware of the discomfort and awkwardness I felt. Add on to this the emotional drain of having to relive the accident and injury repeatedly as everyone is very concerned and kindly inquires after my health, and the mental challenge of using my brain after 10 weeks and it is no wonder I am exhausted.

I’m ready to go back to work – aren’t I?

So last week I phoned my boss and said I was ready to return to work this week, but could I work this week from home and come into the office next week. This innocent phone call resulted in a trip to Occupational Health today. I got myself in a bit of a muddle at the barrier – I tried to swipe my card to get into the car park but couldn’t reach, so I jumped out of the car to swipe my card but by the time I had jumped back in the barrier had started coming down again! Anyway, I did eventually get in.

The lady from OH was lovely and I told her my situation and symptoms. The upshot? I can’t work more than 10 am – 3pm and only two days next week, then three days for a few weeks etc until I see her at the end of July. Oh, and no travel for 8 weeks and then an assessment of locations after that. I was curious “Why do you  need to assess the locations?” I asked. She looked at me like I was a bit dim and replied ” To check there are lifts in the hotels.”

I looked at her like she was a bit dim. ” It’s my shoulder, not my legs.”

” I know, but you can’t carry bags upstairs.”

15 love to Occupational Health.

I was completely overwhelmed by the response I had walking through the office. It took me 2 hours to get from the appointment back to my car as everyone was so pleased to see me and wanting to know how I was. The best bit was that everyone I met did a funny little dance when the saw me – they went to go and give me a big hug but then realised that they might hurt me so stepped back. It was a little bit like Michael Flatley does Gangnam Style.

8 weeks post op tomorrow


This mug was given to me by my oldest friend just after I had the accident – it has kept my spirits up and I always feel stronger if I drink my tea out of this mug!

What a long way I have come since the accident. I am now driving well and have been for just over a week. It is great to be able to drive again and I am making the most of picking up the kids from school, something I am not normally able to do. At first I couldn’t lower the windows but I can now, I can’t shut the door with my right hand though and at the weekend got in a right muddle at the multi storey car park trying to get my ticket out of the machine, my arm simply couldn’t reach that far.

The range of movement I have got is still very restricted, I can touch the top of my ear but not the top of my head, I thought I was doing well opening cupboards until someone pointed out to me that all I was doing was bending my back to reach up. This also explained the back pain I was getting at the end of the day. I now engage my core muscles before reaching up – I am getting a lot less back pain but my reach is pathetic.

Typing is fine now but writing is still very, very hard – so when I write cards and cheques it looks awful. I can’t write more than a few words without the pain getting intense. The pain. I am in constant pain, it is now mostly in my muscles which are so wasted since the accident. By the end of the day it must be like my arm has run a marathon!  That’s what it feels like anyway.

My arm was completely immobilised for 8 weeks and the consequence is very stiff shoulder and no muscles. I can’t believe how quickly they have gone. George keeps telling me I am like an astronaut and that they all lose muscle in space. Last time I saw the physio she told me that the muscle would come back just by using the arm. I am certainly using the arm ( although I am not allowed to push, pull or carry) and all I am getting is very sore muscles.

I am also sleeping better. I was only up for about 1 hour last night and this makes so much difference. The nights that I was getting less than four hours and not more than two hours at a time are fading into a distant memory. It has been a very long 10 weeks since the accident but at last I am feeling some progress 🙂