A few months ago, I fell while running and broke my dominant wrist. The radius was in many pieces, but it somehow managed to stay intact. My surgeon decided to watch and wait, but four weeks later, even I could see on the X-ray that the bone was splitting lengthwise. It was time for surgery. This meant that four weeks after the injury, the plate and screws installed in my arm set me back to a healing stage of “minus one.”
Now that I’m nearly back to normal and have made it past my “lost summer,” I’ve learned some things from breaking my dominant wrist, and I’d like to share seven of them with you:
- Pain meds were necessary AND evil. In the recovery room, I rated my pain at a 10. The nurse said that a 10 would feel like I was having my hand sawed off. Okay, a nine, I said, not knowing that the next day, my wrist would feel like someone was taking a steak knife to it. The doctor increased the dosage and frequency of my oxycodone (I had requested this over Vicodin, which had done little for me after the break). The opiate was necessary and made the pain tolerable, but each time I was coming off a dose, I was thrown into a combination of agitation and hopelessness (my poor husband).
- It took twice as long to get half as much done. I’ve always been the type of person to try to get as much done as possible in the least amount of time. During my recovery, I had to resign myself to the fact that if I was going to try to get anything done (taking a shower or working one-handed on the computer), it was going to take twice as long to make half the progress I’d have made otherwise.
- There are plenty of Internet resources for one-handed living. Unlike when I broke the other wrist in 2003, the Internet has many hacks for doing tasks with one hand, including some dedicated to operating when your dominant arm is out of commission. I aggregated what I found in a blog post.
- I couldn’t do it alone. Well, maybe YOU could, but I never could have done it alone. My husband, who is my hero, became more so during my recuperation. He cooked, made lunches, fetched ice for my swelling, took care of the dogs, and so much more. He even showed extreme patience when I complained about how he did something, letting me know that he was doing A LOT already. And I had to agree.
- It was easy to get depressed. In addition to the opiate side effects, realizing that my body isn’t infallible, and being abruptly taken out of my active routine, messed with my mind. I went through periods of wondering if it was all worthwhile and doubting that I would ever be the same. Refer to #1. Then, I would feel dumb, because a broken wrist is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
- Physical therapy was worthwhile. My surgeon warned me that my range of motion would never be the same. Things were so bad that a week after surgery, instead of putting me in a cast, he sent me down the hall to physical therapy where I was given a removable splint and exercises for fingers that couldn’t even bend. Over an eight-week period, I not only regained the use of my fingers, but my wrist’s range of motion is nearly back to normal.
- In the end, I am more aware. For me, the “taking twice as long to do half as much” has made me appreciate each task when I’m doing it. Now, when I’m throwing a load of laundry in the washer, I’m aware of the look of the washer, the sound it makes when I press the buttons, and the whoosh of the water as it enters the machine. It seems that I have a new appreciation for each moment when I’m in it, rather than living in the one that hasn’t come yet.
So, there you have it. Seven things I learned from breaking my dominant wrist. When I think back over those months of recovery, it almost seems like another person went through the experience. I guess that’s quite accurate, because I certainly didn’t feel like myself at the time.
If you’ve broken a bone, or sustained any other sort of activity-limiting injury, I hope these seven things will help you.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Tell us about it in the comments below.