Definite Progress

It is five months this week since I set off on that beautiful morning in the Alps to go skiing. Had I known how the day was going to end I would have stayed in the apartment that day. In my photos on my phone there are a couple of photos of Max, Lucy and me at the top of the run, just before I had my accident. I remember George taking them – it was one of those conversations where I wanted to ski on and he wanted to stop and take a photo.

‘We’ve got all week to take photos, let’s get going’ I said impatiently. ‘Yes, but the weather might not be so good later in the week’ said George. So we stopped at the top of the lift and he took a couple of photos of the three of us, arms around each other smiling in the sunshine, looking forward to the day skiing ahead of us.

There are three happy photos of us, and as I swipe through them the very next one is an x-ray of my fractured humerus, followed by the x ray of the pins and plate after the operation.  It’s a stark reminder of how fragile our existence is, of how one minute we can be happily enjoying ourselves and the next everything changes.

This weekend saw a horrific air crash at Shoreham. A stunt pilot had an accident and landed on the A27. No one is sure yet how many fatalities there are likely to be but it could be as high as 20. Two young men who died were in car on the way to play for their football team; there is no way that they could have expected to be hit by a freak accident such as a stunt plane landing on the road.

So, against the background of the daily tragedies and life changing events like the one at Shoreham, fracturing your shoulder whilst skiing is a minor injury. To me however, it has without doubt been a major event, not just this year but in my life so far. When I first saw the lovely Mr. F and he was laying out how long the recovery would take he said to me ‘It will be at least a year before you can forget about it. If you ever can.’

There is not a day, in fact, there is barely an hour where I don’t think about my shoulder; it is hurting me or there is something I cannot do because of it. Very occasionally I realise that I haven’t thought about it for an hour or so and I am pleasantly surprised! As I am so aware of my arm and my mobility all the time I do notice progress – or lack of it on a regular basis.

The last week or so I have seen definite progress. Firstly, my arm is getting stronger; I like to think that the swimming is paying off.  I can wring out my swimming costume. I can lift the tea pot and pour tea with my right arm. I can drain a pan of vegetables.

My arm is also getting more mobile.  Washing my hair is getting easier; I don’t have to bend my head quite so far forward. I can open the top cupboards in the kitchen and get a cup out.  At work, I have swiped myself into the car park – painful but possible. I can lean over the side of the bed and put my book on the floor.

So, five months on and yes, my life has changed. My career has been impacted because of the accident and I am still a long way from being recovered.  But I am recovering – and there is still progress to be had.

Ambidextrous and all sorts of Physio!

When I first had my accident I had to re-learn how to do a lot of things with my left arm. I learnt to write, put make up on, hang up washing all with my left arm. I was amazed how quickly I could retrain myself to use my left hand and I am now pretty ambidextrous. I use the mouse on the computer in my left hand without even thinking. This week we went to Chinatown and I realised that I was eating with chopsticks with my left hand without even thinking about it. My left hand has really become my dominant hand and I have to remind myself to use my right hand to do things. It is a reversal of how things were; now I am having to relearn how to do things with my right hand.

It is pretty apparent that my range of motion is not improving at all ‘not exactly dramatic’ is what the physio said at this weeks session. That doesn’t mean to say that I am not constantly trying to improve it by using my arm. If I am putting things away in a high kitchen cupboard I will use my left arm to push my right arm up, stretching it. I make myself wash with my right arm even though it is so weak its pathetic. I am still swimming every morning, come rain or shine and getting fitter as a consequence. I have to think about using my right hand in a way that was just natural before. Its tiring using brain cells to think about doing the things that I used to take for granted!

By thinking about using my right arm and making myself do things with it I am hopeful that it will improve in time. At work, I pull doors, try to drink and eat with my right arm. As I am mostly in meetings or at my desk for the majority of the time you wouldn’t spot that I even had an injury. This is great because it means that I am not thinking of my arm all the time but sometimes it has its disadvantages. Last week we had a new Director join the company I work for. He is a very tall guy, probably about 6ft 5″ and German. I went over to shake his hand and he had one of those hand shakes where he literally grabbed my hand and pumped my arm as hard as he could. Unfortunately for both of us he yanked my arm higher than it has been since March 29th and of course I yelped in pain. There was a stunned silence in the room as all those present looked shocked by what had happened, the new Director was mortified and I was embarrassed explaining why I had squealed like a pig.

The odd thing is, since then I have  been able to reach higher 🙂

The power of positive thinking..

It’s summer and, because of holidays, this week was the first week that I had physio for three weeks. Now, I have been swimming every day at 6am and am up to 800m each morning so I was really looking forward to her saying how much improvement she could see.

We did the usual range of movement measurements and to my dismay she said,       ‘There might be a fraction more movement but its plateaued – and in fact it has been at a plateau for a long time. ‘

Despite myself, some water leaked out of both my eyes.

I am an optimist, a positive person and this normally gives me loads of resilience. This accident has been a really interesting experiment in terms of sorting the optimists from the pessimists.

At work, I regularly come across people who want to hear about the accident and how I am – the most common reaction is ‘ Gosh, weren’t you lucky!” ‘Yes’, I reply, ‘I think I am really lucky, the skier that hit me could have broken my back or my neck or hit my daughter and he probably would have killed her’. We agree how fortunate I have been and I walk away feeling lucky. I am definitely surrounded by optimists in the office.

Others are a bit more considered. ‘That’s dreadful isn’t it, poor you, how unlucky. You must be devastated how bad your shoulder still is, it must be so frustrating for you, all the things that you can’t do’. These are the pessimists in life, you know them, those who suck the life energy out of you, dementors.

The fact is that I can now live life more or less as normal, I can drive, work, type swim. I can’t yet ride, brush my hair and so on – but I focus on what I can do.  I am a firm believer that everything will turn out good in the end and if things aren’t good then you’re not at the end yet.

‘You will get there’, my physio said, as she handed me a tissue. She told me that there are other options for me, but it is too early to consider them yet. ‘So’, she said, ‘ for now we will carry on, same time next week?’

So I carry on – because I am not at the end yet.