June 20th I shattered my elbow falling off a ladder doing an art project. Staying inside was never much of a problem for me – I always have projects in the works – writing, art, writing and art projects for clients, marketing projects for small business… So I took on a big one I’ve been putting off – a 6 by 6 foot wall hanging – a fabric collage – a personal project made up of old fabric artwork and t-shirt swatches from some of the places I’ve traveled or lived over the years. That is now on hold indefinitely, yet still hanging on the wall stuck with 500 pins.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to shatter an elbow, I’m going to document some of it here. Maybe it will be helpful as well as a cautionary tale about ladders.
The doctors kept asking was I dizzy, drunk, or just completely uncoordinated. Truth is I’m actually quite adept at wrangling ladders and have been up on some quite high doing hi-vaulted ceiling painting. I was simply wearing grippy shoes that caught on the bottom step as I turned to get down, so you don’t have to fall far if you fall just right.
I had a monteggia and olecranon fracture, open reduction surgery and now I have a bunch of metal in there including a new radial head, a couple of plates and a few dozen screws. The whole thing is terrifying but then I hear other people’s stories of broken pieces and hospital visits and I count myself lucky. Good thing it was my left arm and not my head. If all goes well in physical therapy, I will have significantly limited use of my arm in the future.
The first scary thing – I was in a Tucson hospital during the pandemic. I had numerous doctor and nurse related visits plus x-ray technicians and other walkabouts through my hospital room. They were all wearing masks, as I was most of the time.
Some sort of upside – my anesthesiologist was amazing. He asked me details about pain and nausea before surgery and said he was going to make sure I had none of that, and he was right. I woke from surgery with no pain and was able to eat dinner without a problem, and that comfort continued the whole time I was in the hospital.
I was only in the hospital 3 days mostly because I wanted to get out of there. The pain was minimal the whole time and I stopped the oxy on my first night home.
I’m writing this on July 4th – two weeks postop and no covid symptoms. I’m still in the splint which is uncomfortable and I’m having a hard time sleeping, but I’m not in pain, although my arm feels tingly and itchy. The hardest thing is just realizing all the things I can’t do with one hand, so I sit and watch a lot of TV or buy things I think will make me more comfortable from Amazon.
The biggest problem is trying to control the fear and anxiety – which is constant. I have nightmares that I’ll fall down again or roll out of bed and break something else, or, worst of all, that it won’t heal right and I’ll have to do this all over again.