Right Arm Down

Right arm down – January 12th, 2020

I am snuggled into Quentin’s La-Z-Boy. At this time, it is the only place in the house where I can get comfortable at night.

I broke my right wrist over the holiday. I was playing hockey at our annual family skate. As soon as I landed I heard the Crunch, I knew a new chapter was upon me. I was thankful it didn’t happen in the moments when I had tried to go skating with the girls from my trio, Boreal, while we were on tour in December. Here we are in January when I have very little to do except prepare for a CD release. Here we are in 2020 when I can write a blog by speaking into my computer. I can write texts by talking into my phone. I have not had to use my right hand to actually write anything! It’s a Remarkable era to be living in when I can lose the use of my right hand and still get by quite well. The most difficult issue is that I can’t drive a car. But even that doesn’t seem problematic. Things are quiet. Life is quiet. I think I’m Supposed to be quiet right now.

I wanted to write this blog for my fellow broken wristers. In the late hours of the night I search for blogs about broken wrists but there are few to be found. My theory is that people with broken wrists haven’t been able to write blogs whilst in a cast so there is very little play by play in the process. I thought I would share part of my story for anyone who looks for information late in the night.

When my wrist broke, I immediately held it up to my chest. I knew it was broken. Quentin (my partner) saw it happen and stood over me mortified. In no time, I was in the emergency room at Orillia hospital (My favourite hospital in the world!) talking to a wonderful doctor. I had done a FOOSH (fall on outstretched hand). The fracture was bad and the doctor said I had a 50-50 chance of resetting without surgery. Left-handed fingers crossed as they put me to sleep for a short time and reset my wrist and wrapped my arm in a splint. The splint felt warm and my wrist felt so much better once it had been reset. The next few days went by gently. I was given powerful painkillers but I didn’t need to take them. I felt like everything was going to be fine.

The emerge doctor had set up an appointment with the specialist five days after the reset. I went for x-rays and they looked good but the specialist wasn’t fully convinced so I went for a CT scan and again things looked fine but it was decided that the fracture was very bad and there was a chance that things wouldn’t heal properly. So six days after the setting, I went for surgery at Orillia hospital.

I wish I could find more pictures But, from what I understand I now have a metal plate bolted into my radial bone that has small metal pieces that stretch out and hold the small bones of my wrist in place. The above picture is not my personal x-ray. This is just the only x-ray I could find that demonstrates this metal plate concept.

I am now partially bionic.

The good news is, the surgeon noticed that one of the small bones in my wrist had actually moved and would have been growing incorrectly had we left it. This meant that the surgery was not in vain and the specialist made a wise decision in sending me for surgery. I have heard of other people having their bones reset only to wait 6 weeks and have them re-broken and re-set properly. I feel like I had some Universal power on my side for this.

Today is day nine with my new bionic wrist. I am unable to see it because it is under a plaster cast. On Wednesday, this cast will be removed and a new cast or splint will hold my wrist for the remaining four weeks. I can’t stress enough how much I want a removable splint. But I feel like I’m at the mercy of the doctors when it comes to this. “Just let’s do whatever we have to do to make my wrist work again mmm-kay.”

Let’s talk about pain and paranoia…

The first two days after surgery were totally fine but on the third day, I was experiencing a lot of pain at night. At first the pain was in my upper arm and into my shoulder so I assumed that it was the muscles of my upper arm that were getting overused by carrying the plaster cast around all day. But as the days went on, the pain at night moved closer to the wrist. I was very excited to try some of the opioids that everyone talks about. I tried both Tramadol and Tylenol 3, but neither of these seemed to make a difference in the pain. The only thing that sort of worked was ibuprofen. After day seven I started to develop a bit of paranoia around why this pain was so intense. In a world with Google, you’d think there would be a million stories about wrist healing. But there was nothing that seemed to relate to my situation so I started to assume the worst… like perhaps I had some kind of blood problem and it was causing pain at night. But, last night, after desperately taking another Tylenol 3 in hopes it would work this time, I decided to dig until I found something that my scientist brain could chew on. And so I started researching different medical journals and here’s what I came up with as far as my particular wrist pain was concerned: 

Firstly, sometimes the pain will cease within a couple of days after a break if the bone is set properly. This made sense with the initial break and why I only had a couple of days of pain. But when you have surgery, you can experience pain for 2 to 3 weeks… sometimes even longer…which makes sense since they bolted a metal plate into my bone. It should take some time to heal. It would be weird if it didn’t. 

Secondly, some studies have shown that some people are susceptible to night pain while broken bones are healing. There are a couple of theories around this, but the one that resonated most with me had to do with circadian rhythms. In some people, bone growth happens almost exclusively at night…and this can be very painful. I am certain I’m one of these people because I have little to no pain during the day… like we’re talkin’ a full day of working out, yoga, a little bit of playing piano, washing dishes, going out for groceries… all with relatively no pain at all. I have noticed the times when I have the most pain and they are like clockwork. 8-10 pm then 12-4 am then somewhere around 5:30-7:30 am…from what I can track. When your bones are healing there is swelling, and there is a signal going to your brain telling your brain that you should be feeling pain. This makes sense to me since ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and that seems to be the only relief of pain that I have at night. The T3’s serve to make me feel better about the pain. I still feel it intensely but I seem to have a better attitude around it! I can understand why people get addicted to opioids.

I’ve had incredible moments of solitude and peace while also experiencing challenges: Learning how to brush your teeth and put your hair in a ponytail and tie a shoelace (which is totally impossible) with your non-dominant hand is very interesting! Opening jars is very interesting. I have to put on my winter boots, brace the jar between my feet, and then open with one hand! Twisting is not an option of a movement for a broken wrist. It all seemed cumbersome at first, but I’m used to it now. I thought everything would take a lot longer but it turns out that I’m just more conscious of everything I do because I know it will take a lot longer if I make a mistake. I’ve been surprised by how much of our memory is mechanical. For example, a simple task on a computer keyboard such as “Apple” C or “Apple” V… copying and pasting is suddenly forgotten. It took time to remember which actual keys to press as I’ve used them so many times without thinking about them. I sometimes have to place my right hand on the keyboard to see if it can remember. There are many moments of surrender when realizing these memories won’t be coming back anytime soon and that I’m left with the unfortunate option of having to learn or relearn something from scratch. There doesn’t seem to be many shortcuts when dealing with your left hand.  

Having said that I’ve become quite fascinated and in love with my left hand.  She is rather incredible! Just the way she can twist and bend and lift things. I never realized how complex our skeletal system is. I’ve also become overprotective of my left hand since her value has increased as she’s the only one I have left! So strong. So beautiful. She’s really picked up the slack.

I thought I would feel more frightened or upset about this. I would have in my former years. But, 2019 was an unbelievable year of letting go. I’m certain the attitude I developed in 2019 has prepared me for this very circumstance and is preventing me from freaking out. I love to play the piano more than anything, but I’ve played enough piano for three lifetimes. I love to write songs and stories but I can do all that without using my right hand and I have many musician friends who would be happy to accompany or write songs with me. I’ve lived 43 years with two, healthy, strong hands! I have experienced a medical procedure that I would never be able to afford if I were in a different country. I have a warm house to live in, many devices that respond to voice commands. I have a kind and loving partner, family, and friends to support me. If there ever was a time to be grateful, it is now. 

I love blogs that have lists so here is a list of  tips for the newly broken wristed:

  1. If you’re struggling to put toothpaste on your toothbrush, stick the handle end of the toothbrush in your mouth and hold it with your teeth, then apply the toothpaste to the brush end with your good hand.
  2. If you need instant pain relief, hold your cast above your head with your good arm and squat down like an alpine skier for 1 minute. Sometimes you just need to get your heart rate up enough to pump blood through your veins and clean out some of the healing debris that is building up around your wound. One minute of Alpine skier will yield 20 minutes without pain…and you end up with some seriously strong legs. 
  3. If you’ve never tried Wim Hoff breathing, I highly recommend it. It takes about 6 minutes and it will give you almost an hour without pain.
  4. Get yourself a ball and roll around in the fingers of your casted hand as often as possible. You’ll notice huge relief from cramping fingers. Don’t do anything that hurts or feels stressful. Just a very gentle movement. Sometimes I hold the ball while I’m sleeping to prevent my fingers from clamping down and cramping.
  5. Be gentle with yourself in your moments of discouragement. I have found that the more resistance I have to this situation, the more swelling and pain I have in my wrist. It seems to be the ultimate indicator of resistance. If I have an argument with my partner, my wrist will hurt more! How cruel that can be sometimes, but also indicative of a body that wants to feel joyful as often as possible. Your process is perfect and working perfectly for you. Don’t give up on your amazing body. Iit never gives up on you.

Happy healing,

 XO

 Angie