Bones

**If you’re not caught up on the never-ending saga that is my broken arm, you can read about what happened in the injury section here, and my most recent updates here and here.

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I spoke to the doctor who operated on my arm over the phone yesterday. The original surgeon in Ottawa who took five hours to piece my shattered elbow back together with screws. He took a look at my most recent x-rays and agreed with the surgeon I’ve been seeing in Moncton:

My bones just aren’t healing.

Mind you, there was very little cartilage left to heal, so this isn’t a surprising development. It was expected from the beginning. The surgeon I spoke to yesterday said the bones he could piece together were probably cut off from oxygen for too long and never had much of a chance.

He agrees the screws should come out. Having three screws sticking in all directions in a joint that’s constantly moving isn’t exactly comfortable. However, he also agrees that my bones will likely fall apart without the screws holding them together.

Which brings us to the big question at hand – should I get that piece of my elbow, the radial head, completely removed?

I’ve been diligently doing my research and even though getting a piece of my skeleton removed gives me the heebeejeebees, I think it’s probably the best choice for me right now.

My Ottawa surgeon said I could wait several more weeks to see where my progress in physiotherapy goes. Unfortunately, it has slowed significantly recently and I’m being cut from three sessions a week to just one. Any more significant progress at this point, four months out of surgery, isn’t that likely.

I’ve read that getting your radial head removed can cause more pain in the long-term, and my Ottawa surgeon couldn’t guarantee that wouldn’t happen. He did say it could give me more wrist rotation back, which is something I’m dying for. But he also said it wouldn’t make weight bearing activities any easier.

Specifically, push-ups are officially out of the picture. Like, officially. Forever.

I can’t say I’m that upset, because who likes push-ups? But that also means no more chaturangas. And more importantly, no more ashtanga yoga, my love.

It’s sad news to hear. I secretly want to defy all odds, but I also don’t want to set myself up for failure, because failure at this point is too depressing to deal with. This is the first time in my life a physical limitation will keep me from ever doing something, no matter how hard I train or try.

It goes beyond fitness too. What about carrying groceries? Moving boxes? Lifting my own children someday?

It’s really strange to feel like a “sick” person all the time. Spending so much time at the hospital for physiotherapy and x-rays doesn’t help. Even though I’m otherwise healthy, spending a large chunk of each week surrounded by sick people makes me feel like one too. After all the time and effort I put into being healthy, it feels so strange to have something so wrong with me. To know that no matter how hard I try, my body just won’t work.

I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding my “disability” from other people. I do it on purpose, because not having full use of one arm isn’t something common enough that others can understand right away. Just the other day I stuck my left hand out to accept change from a cashier, only to remember too late that I can no longer turn my palm up to get the coins. It’s surprisingly embarrassing for me. With my anxiety, I hate the idea of having people wondering what is wrong with me.

Anyways, I’ve consulted with one more surgeon from Halifax who I will hear from today. But it seems as if this next surgery will happen in the coming weeks. I’ll be losing a piece of my body, but hopefully gaining something in the end.

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Posted on June 14, 2011, in Injury. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. The Teenage Taste

    Sorry to hear about your arm, Susan! I know this can be very nerve-racking and upsetting for you, but remember everything happens for a reason. It will get better!

  2. I am so sorry to hear that you have to endure this. I’ve been through my fair share of surgeries and health issues over the past few years and I can definitely relate to always feeling like the “sick” person. I never felt like I would be the person I used to be after everything I went through, but you know what, after a year of pain and suffering, I realized that I came out of it all as a BETTER and stronger person because of it. And you will too girl! Hang in there, there is an answer! :)

  3. Sorry to hear about your arm. I hope everything works out for you, whatever you decide to do. Hang in there.

  4. Urgh, how frustrating for you to hear this news. Yes, pushups do suck, though. And maybe you can do your own version of the Ashtanga yoga if you go – eliminating the chaturangas?
    I could definitely see how you’re anxious about other people. That said, if other people mind they’re pretty ignorant! Hope to hear the next steps bring some good news. <3

  5. I’m sad for you and your loss of chaturangas (but not of regular push ups- they suck). Whether you defy odds or find the best way to work with what you have- I know you’ll figure it out.
    Stay positive :)

  6. Christina aka Mom

    I watch you struggle everyday with your injury and to be honest Susan it breaks my heart. But you are doing an amazing job dealing with your pain and loss of function. I went to University with a girl who was a Thalidamide baby and she had no arms – flippers where her arm should be. It was amazing to watch what she could do. But she did not know what it was like to have arms so she felt no sence of loss. You are grieving what you haved lost. The last stage of grief is accecptance. But accepting that you have lost your healthy arm does not mean you can’t keep pushing to see how you can improve it. That being said it really sucks that you have to go through this and I am there for you !!! xoxoxox

  7. Hi Susan,

    It’s hard to live with a disability and to know that life will never be the same as before. You will learn ways to adapt and overcome it, even if it is not ideal. I had a follow-up operation with my ankle and it did help improve my mobility. It did not bring me back to my original state.

    I accept the limitations I have and am grateful that I didn’t experience a worse outcome. There is so much that I can still do. Years later, I am still improving. The best thing is that I don’t take my health for granted the way others do anymore. I’ve changed into a better and more empathetic person.

    I hope the path leads you in a positive direction once you are past the next step.

    Good luck!

    Bev

    • Bev, thank you so much for the sweet comment. I am happy to hear you are still noticing improvements even years later. Hands down, the best thing this injury has done for me is give me gratitude and empathy. Because of that, I wouldn’t change a thing!

  8. I am so sorry you are going through this. I’m sending lot of prayers and good vibes your way. I hope in the end everything works out. I will never take doing a push-up for granted ever again.

  9. So sorry to hear the news about the arm – facing multiple surgeries is sure scary. Wishing you lots of health & happiness to come! And it’s probably best to focus on what’s possible for you now – like squats! ;)

  10. Sorry to hear that another surgery is on the horizon. You’ve been so strong throughout this ordeal so hang in there!

  11. I am so sorry you are still struggling with all this! I hope you feel better soon and stay busy doing stuff you CAN do. Injuries suck but when you figure out how to work around them it gets easier.

  12. I’m sorry Susan. The pain later on in life after a radial head replacement is going to be arthritis (posttraumatic arthritis) and really, you probably would have some of that anyway even with the bones as they are (sorry..). The replacement to me makes the most sense as you are so young and have so much to do with that arm that making as fully functional now at your age as can be. Of course, that is just my un asked for opinion.

    There are other options for that joint pain later on like viscosupplementation and steroid shots.

    Maybe you could work on 1-arm pushups and be totally kick ass :D

    • Oh, I’m not getting the replacement. They’re taking out the radial head and leaving it as is! That’s why it’s so scary to me. But because I’m only 25, my doctors are worried about putting in the metal prosthetic. I’d likely have to have surgery on it every 10 years for the next 60 years.

      Because the injury was only to the radial head, my arm can apparently still be stable without one. The radius will just twist inside the ligament at my elbow (which is what will give me rotation back!). But it’s also possible that my radius will migrate towards my elbow, shortening my forearm, and throwing my wrist off kilter. It also puts a lot more strain on the ulna. That’s where all the additional pain comes from, whereas now the pain is pretty manageable despite the mess of bones and screws in there.

      I’m definitely not opposed to drug injections for pain ;) Thanks Lori!! xo

  13. It sounds like you are really doing your research for this. I’m sorry that you will have to lose a piece of your skeleton – and the ability to do things you love – but hopefully, like you said, you will also gain something in the process. Having the rotation of your wrist back will be huge!

    Good luck with this big decision. You’re a super strong person!

  14. Sorry to hear your arm isn’t healing, you do what you gotta do lady, good luck with whatever you decide x x

  15. I immediately began Googling “alternatives to chaturanga for wrist injuries” after reading this post because I don’t want you to have to give up Ashtanga yoga. I have to modify a ton of poses in my practice because of my hip, and pigeon–once my beloved pose–is now out of the question. I didn’t get very far in my search, though (too many posts about injuring your wrist during chaturanga!), but perhaps you’ll be able to do some sort of modified chaturanga on the forearms?

    While I was Googling, I came across a random blog (http://yogaisforlovers.wordpress.com/)–not frequently updated–but the author seems to be struggling with a major shoulder injury and cannot do any major arm postures in yoga. He writes so eloquently about the psychological struggle of adjusting to this “new version” of him. I believe you’ll connect with a lot of his thoughts about trying to get over the ego and learning to be content with what he has; I’ll tell you, it really touched me!

    In the meantime, you should give Bikram yoga a shot, especially if you can find a compassionate teacher out there. Few of the poses involved weight on the arms, and you’ll still get the benefits of yoga, like steady breathing, focus, and cardiovascular fitness. I was really lucky to find a Bikram teacher who understood my body’s limitations and did not push me to do anything I did not feel comfortable doing. And, it may be pricey, but it may benefit you to find a private yoga teacher–someone with A LOT of experience, especially trained in Iyengar–who you could work with for a few weeks/months to learn ways to adapt your practice so from there you could go to any yoga class and have a toolbox of modifications and alternatives.

    Good luck, Susan!

    • Thank you Jennifer!! I’ve actually been thinking about checking out the hot yoga studio here because most hot yoga classes don’t do sun salutations to heat up (duh). I know there are a few poses in Bikram that may pose challenges, but at this point I think some yoga is better than no yoga! Of course, I will have to speak to the instructors first so they can offer me modifications when I need them.

      Will have to check out that blog!!

  16. This is hard, and it sucks. I know you don’t know why, but all in good time. There is a reason.

  17. Oh, I also thought you were getting ‘a replacement’. Hm. Gosh, I guess all you can do is go with the best doc that you trust. Somehow I know that you will work around whatever issues you have. You are so strong. Hugs. Huge, huge hugs to you, Susan.

  18. Oh gosh, Susan, I’m so sorry! It’s so hard putting your faith in doctors sometimes. But at the end of the day, I think it’s great that you are seeking out multiple opinions and looking at the situation postively. You’re right, something amazing may happen! The truth is we never know what tomorrow is going to bring. I strongly urge you to not think in terms of “forevers” because I’ve been down that road and I’m sure you’d agree that it is not a fun path! Each day is a new journey, and each day is unique. You inspire me with your strength girl! Keep being your honest, lively, lovely self. That will carry you through!

    • You’re right, thinking in terms of “forever” is not exactly helpful at this point! But it does help put my injury into perspective for others to understand. It’s definitely no quick fix. I can’t believe it’s only been four months since my accident. It feels like a lifetime!

  19. keep your chin up susan! i can’t imagine how tough this all must be for you, but you are taking it with patience and grace that i am positive i would never have. crossing my fingers for you!!

  1. Pingback: Bones. Part II. « The Great Balancing Act

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