18 November 2016

A little over eight months ago I fell - badly - in our front hallway, dislocating my right (of course I'm right handed!) shoulder and biceps, 'jamming' my collarbone,  and breaking my elbow and three of the five fingers on my right hand. And later, when I went private, the catalogue of injuries mounted beyond the NHS determination of 'No big deal, you've dislocated your right shoulder and while you were waiting for xray, it slipped back into place by itself, so take two paracetamols and...'.

My injuries turned out to be far, far more than a simple self-resolving dislocation. When I went private and the intake nurse listened to me recount my fall, things finally took a turn for the better - full scans and xrays revealed a two page list of injuries, the consultant said it looked as though I'd been in a car or train wreck. In addition to the NHS diagnosis of a simple dislocated shoulder, the private care team found the dislocated biceps (which worried them the most, I discovered much later), the broken fingers and elbow, the jammed collarbone. They also found I'd bruised my bladder in the fall, and done some damage to my left kneecap - fortunately the knee seems to have healed quickly, so at least I was mobile in those first horrific weeks! Er, when I could move without shrieking from the pain in my right arm-shoulder-clavicle, that is. I only noticed the pain in my fingers when I tried to dry my hands - one of those 'Oh yeah, I hurt those too!' moments there. The bruised bladder meant, well, let's just say eight months on I STILL can't be too far from the bathroom if I've had more than a sip of water!

I'm not going to waste a lot of time moaning about the total cock-up at the local hospital but it will be a freezing cold day in hell before I trust the NHS again. It took going private to find out the extent of my injuries, and to set a treatment plan that didn't include surgery but did include dedication on the part of the medical team to restoring as much (and more) function as possible. Given the prognosis (owing to the monumental failure by the NHS service I foolishly entrusted myself to at first) of 60-75% restoration of function, the fact that I have 85% function restored is AMAZING, and down to the fine team members (primarily the orthopaedic consultant and the AMAZING physiotherapists) who compassionately but firmly kept/keep me going. Yeah, I still hurt now and again, and will always believe if the NHS had bothered to fulfil their obligation to 'duty of care' I might not have the near constant ache in my collarbone, the pain in my elbow when I bend my arm too quickly...

The first week after the injury is a blur of remembered horrific pain and waking several times a night (and day - I went into shock and after that was addressed, I spent a considerable part of that first week sleeping). EVERYTHING hurt, it was almost as bad as post-op when I had C-sections (medically mandated, I'm not one of those convenience cows!), in fact, come to think of it the pain with my right side injuries was actually worse. At least with the C-sections I had my infants and the reasonable expectation of full recovery. With my wrecked arm-shoulder-clavicle the prognosis wasn't that good. So along with pain, there was a very fear of a very limited future just when I was entering that last stage of middle-age and beginning the downward descent into being 'a senior citizen'. For the first time EVER in this life, I understood what 'being old' meant - and it scared the bloody hell out of me.

I clocked the prognosis even through the haze of shock and pain - I knew it wasn't good and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frightened and depressed. A large part of the fear and depression was brought on by knowing Paul completely unable to cope. I needed nursing and I'm SO kicking myself even eight months on for not taking the doctor's advice to go into hospital for the first few days! At the very least meals would have been brought, and the mechanical bed would have made the thought of getting out of bed to exercise (walking even the little bit I could meant my lungs stayed clear), or using the bathroom less, well, fraught. Seriously - getting in and out of bed with my upper right side hideously painful AND useless was nearly always more than I could contemplate.

Paul's Asperger's means he means well but is not up to the challenges inherent in caring for a wife short or long-term. He's the one needing a carer (not an easy job, really, considering he hates knowing he needs a carer and will need even more caring for as he ages). Yeah, I should have taken up the offer of hospital care. At least for that first week.

Right. It was not pleasant (oh, the understatement!). But...but every day I could see and feel improvement. Something I couldn't do one day I could the next. Exercises at physio I saw others doing and was sure I'd never have that much mobility again - well, I'm doing most of them now:) Even now, eight months later, I reach milestones: WOOT, today I brushed my teeth with my right hand! WOOT, today I pulled on a jumper without crying in pain! WOOT, today I took a lightweight parcel from the postie without dropping it! WOOT, today I rode in the car for 30 minutes without my entire right side screaming in agony! WOOT - WOOT - WOOT, today I thought I might be able to resume driving in the next month or so (the consultant isn't as sure about this as I am:).

Interestingly, had this happened to me when I was a younger person I might not have fared as well as I have - older now, and knowing my limitations, I knew better, for example, than to try showering until the online ordered shower seat arrived. I very highly recommend shower seats. The consultant and physio first ruled out tub baths completely - too risky to try getting in and out of the bath. In fact they told me I probably shouldn't ever think about a tub bath again - not a problem, I haven't had a tub bath in 45 years! Showers, d'uh - who wants to sit in bathwater, eeeew!

Once they understood I understood tub baths were a never again and I'd be showering for the rest of my natural life, they made me repeat the following mantra until they were sure it was engraved on my brain: Stand to soak - sit to soap! Harder than it sounds, surprisingly. Stand to soak, well, that's not hard, I could stand under a hot shower spray to soak all day. But it's such an instinct to reach for the soap, flannel, and brush while standing there! Their insistence I repeat the mantra paid off - I'd catch myself reaching for the soap whilst still standing, hear the mantra in my head and shift the shower seat into position. And yes, I'm still using the shower seat. I will for the rest of my life - dunno how I got along without it!

We're moving once the house sells, and the next house will have three things fitted before moving in - a fold down shower seat, a dishwasher, and a tumble dryer. I've regained enough use of my right arm to be able to do the washing up but it's still not the simple matter it once was, and the thought of climbing those narrow riser steps up to our back garden terrace to hang out laundry fills me with such dread! I do have indoor drying racks including a very clever reproduction of a Victorian hanging rack but I still can't reach my arms up to the top of these racks comfortably and as a consequence the laundry is piling up. A tumble dryer would be a huge help to keeping to the laundry done. Another 'new house must have' is a level, walk-out entry/exit, garden - no steps so when I can safely carry a laundry basket and reach high enough to peg out laundry I can just walk out the door to the clothesline (I use an 'umbrella' style line, so much more efficient!)

I honestly don't think I'll ever be able to play tennis again, and I know in my bones I'll never be able to tie an apron behind my back again.

But never say never - I'm doing things today I would have sworn yesterday I'd never do again!

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