Friday, December 16, 2011

Just What Happened Anyway?

Many people who have been kind enough to follow this blog noticed that I resumed posting yesterday after an absence of six weeks or so. Other than occasional family history blogs, I'm not really that comfortable talking about myself. But it would be selfish not to share an update.

Six weeks ago, in an instant, I stepped backwards off a landing and fell down a flight of stairs. I must've twisted in the air and somehow came down on my hand and wrist. Miraculously, I didn't hurt my back. But I did some serious damage to a knee and split my scalp along one brow deep enough to require 15 stitches and also shattered my wrist and broke off to of the bones in my arm the two bones in my arm just above the wrist.

The break didn't penetrate the skin but as I felt something to stop the bleeding on my forehead, I noticed that my arm and wrist were grossly misshapen. I'm 63 years old and this is my first broken bone. There wasn't much pain until, as explained in the ambulance, the muscles in my arm tried to move the two broken bones from just under the little finger back closer to the my thumb where they belonged.

In a flash I was in the suite in the Duke University Hospital emergency room where I would stay for nine hours while teams of doctors followed by medical residents and fourth year medical students and nurses sewed me back up, made certain with scans that nothing else was damaged that wasn't visible and moved my arm and wrist back into place while I watched in real time on a monitor and then finally, they immobilized everything with a giant cast.

Images of the break were immediately sent to Dr. Allen at Duke who skipped the usual consult and squeezed me into the schedule for surgery five days later. She skillfully inserted what looked like seven of the screws up into the wrist and another seven down the bones in the arm along with a plate and sent me home with a much smaller cast.

I took myself off the heavy painkillers within three days. Within a week of the surgery I was back in to see Dr. Allen where I got a cast I could remove when needed such as showering and began physical therapy therapy. I was also cleared to fly out west over Thanksgiving to meet my daughter and two grandsons, and mother at my sister and brother-in-law's house in Mill Creek, Washington.

Four weeks after the surgery I was given permission to eliminate the cast and put on even more difficult physical therapy and given a glove to compress swelling. In another week, or so the bones should've hardened around the screws and plates.

Still don't have enough mobility in the wrist or enough feeling in the last two fingers to be able to type so I am using Dragon premier which turns my natural speaking voice into text. I've been using a keyboard to compose since I was a sophomore in high school and people have often kidded me that when I write something, it seems I always need a keyboard between my brain and the creation of the document so this is a new experience.

I took out really good health insurance when I retired, but even so, the accident has cost me $7000 so far in out-of-pocket expenses, not to mention an incredibly heavy dose of humility. I've also gained a deep respect for people who really do have serious and prolonged injuries and unending pain.

As my doctors noted I've gone about healing with the same intense drive that I do everything but nothing but time will determine if the nerve damage will heal. I live alone and I'm forever indebted to a friend who cared for my English Bulldog Mugsy, and who came by each day to leave a series of plastic cups with all of my medication sorted so that all I had to was come downstairs and take them at the required intervals. Several neighbors also kept a close eye on me as I began to amble down in get the newspaper pick up the mail.

I read even more incessantly and got acquainted with Dr. Phil pretty good, but I've really missed the six hours I typically spend researching and writing this blog each day. I also missed riding the Harley Crossbones through what has been spectacular long fall. But I am so blessed to be healing and to know that an instant of carelessness didn't result in something worse.

I can't say enough about the efficiency, customer service and level of medical expertise here in Durham at Duke University. I have a long way to go before the wrist with all the hardware is as nimble and mobile and flexible as my other wrist but it's good to be back.

The facetious story about the accident occurring during a bar fight, which I posted in this blog in mid-November once it became clear how long the recovery would take came from a surgeon in the operating room who, after hearing me repeatedly asked to explain what happened leaned down and whispered that I should tell them it was a bar fight and that there were three of them and they would stop asking me questions. He was right. :-)


Trisha said...

Glad to see you're on the mend, Reyn. 'dem bones get real sore when they break. I also have nothing but great things to say about my experience at Durham Regional when I fractured my ankle seven ways to Sunday... as they say.

Rob Gillespie said...

Sorry to hear about the accident, and glad to hear you're doing better.