Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Da Count-3 Years? Really?

Three years ago today I thought I could hang onto a zipline without a harness and manage quite well since my then 10 year old son could do that with no problem. I failed to consider I have considerably more body mass and far less upper body strength than a wiry 10 year old boy. Gravity drove that lesson home quite emphatically when I plummeted to earth and completely demolished my left arm from the elbow to the fingers. If you'd like the gory details with a drug addled twist feel free to peruse them. The faint of heart need not worry, no pictures of the gore are included. If you want to chuckle over what I look liked stoned out of my mind on the remnants of anesthesia and lots of Percoset go here.

It was a complex enough injury (smashed head of the radius, compound fracture of same, dislocation of the elbow by several inches, shredded ligaments and tendons) that my surgeon gave a fairly grave report when he spoke to me the first time after reassembly humpty dumpty. At that time he wasn't sure if I had also sustained nerve damage or how much. He kept repeating that I may not ever regain full use. He described in detail the various repairs he had done the limitations I would notice once the cast was off...basically, expect it to be a useless appendage dangling off me. (Oh hey, bonus! After the other repairs my surgical punch card was full so he added in carpal tunnel surgery while he was at it.). At that time I also could not feel the three middle fingers on my left hand and finally looked him in the eye when he was done and said, "So what you're saying is when I can intentionally flip you the bird I will know I have recovered?" My surgeon finally let his mouth curl into a smile and said, "You're going to be just fine. It will be a long road, but you'll do well even if you don't get full use back."

My occupational therapist took one look at me during my first appointment with her and I caught a fleeting glimpse of sheer astonishment and total bewilderment on her face before she regained a professional calm. My arm and hand were completely useless. No strength, no range of motion to speak of, and I couldn't even touch thumb to finger, much less make a fist (the surgeon had not lied about the uselessness). When I was finally discharged from her care after 6 and a half months of therapy 3 times a week she admitted that on my first day she was a bit panicked. She just didn't even know where to begin because I was such a train wreck. She also added she was glad to see who my surgeon had been because she knew at least I had been put back together skillfully. I earned bonus points for using my bad hand (dubbed Janita by Lecram) to do things she didn't ask me to do like cleaning up various torture devices she used on me. I also asked innumerable questions about the anatomy and function of my hand and I truly celebrated each tiny increment of improvement. She and my other therapist celebrated with me just as much. The two of them were truly wonderful people who made a long and painful process something I did not dread.

There were a LOT of things I couldn't do for a long time. Even when I was discharged there were still several things I still was not quite able to do and I was still dealing with a certain low level of pain even when at rest. I was thankful for what I had gained though, no doubt about that. Winter was not at all pleasant because the cold and damp made Janita ache and throb. I figured that would certainly not improve with passing years since x-rays revealed a lot of post traumatic arthritis in the joint that first year already. I am pleased to report this past winter, harsh as it was weatherwise, was really not a bad year for Janita.

All that to say, three years out and I am still profoundly grateful for the things I can do again. I still find myself smiling and whispering a prayer of thanks when I can unstick a stubborn jar lid (although I have a slightly unorthodox method these days) or carry a bunch of grocery bags. I do not take for granted being able to gather up my hair into a ponytail when it's hot. I was actually thrilled to be the official "french braider" of the marching band last year. (The girls are not allowed to have their hair loose. It all has to be neatly tucked up under their hats.) That was a major accomplishment of manual dexterity in my book. I am so glad to be able to give decent back rubs again (but just for the record I am every bit as glad to be on the receiving end of those too!) I have done tons of tie dyeing in the last year which also requires a certain dexterity. I am sure I would have been able to figure out how to do that one handed, but being able to use both my hands to do it is a gift. This year I started the big job of making a quilt. I wasn't sure how well Janita would hold up for the demand of cutting out 900 blocks of fabric. She done good and I was again very thankful. There are a hundred little things I can do that I continue to be amazed by 3 years later, things I never thought twice about before. At the same time, I rather like that I learned how to do certain things one handed. You guys out there may think it's pretty impressive to release your dates from their brassieres using only one hand but I can get a bra ON myself and hooked properly with only one hand. Ok, I realize none of the men are impressed by that because it defeats their purpose but dat's mad skillz, baby.

I have come to realize I am never going to be able to do a proper push-up. Then again I couldn't do them before I mangled my arm. Janita just will not bend that way AND bear weight at the same time. Ain't gonna happen. No great loss. In fact, I am rather glad to have a justifiable excuse for NOT doing push-ups. I am not sure I will ever do a cartwheel off a diving board again. Yes, that I did every summer until I broke myself. One must celebrate the commencement of pool season. I shall have to celebrate in alternate ways now. Waves sweetly to the crowd, gently brushes the hair out of my face, smiles demurely, and.....CANNONBALL!!!!!

Janita may never be 100% but she has done so much better than anyone expected. So this week, a couple of days early, I am offering up a count of the myriad skills I have regained and those I learned anew. I just don't take any of them for granted any more.

28 comments:

jinksy said...

Full marks for perseverance and many healing vibes from me for any residual, not-quite-right-bits! x

G-Man said...

LIME: "Doctor, will I ever be able to play the piano?"

DOCTOR: "Why yes you will Michelle, you will be able to play perfectly"!

LIME: "Awesome! I never could before!"

NYD said...

I was re-reading my New Year's resolution today it pretty much jives with what you are talking about. I just wish I was as good at appreciating the good things life gives us as you are.

Desmond Jones said...

Gratitude is a beautiful thing, Michelle. . .

I had actually gone back and caught up with your posts on The Accident (and, just for the sake of saying so, since I wasn't around here 3 years ago - What were you thinking?), but I hadn't realized just how severe it was, or that the lingering effects of it are still with you. Mad props to you for persevering thru the therapy - stubbornness hath its benefits, eh what?

And the bra thing. . . well, God bless you, is all I'll say. . . ;)

Anyway, thanks for this. . .

Jazz said...

Owww.

Kudos to you for getting all that back!

VE said...

I'll bet you're recovered enought to try that zip line stunt again...

Moannie said...

Please don't EVER do a Bungee jump.

Suldog said...

I absolutely adore tales of triumph over physical incapacitation. Hooray for YOU!

Personally, I feel that God is behind these miseries, and I am thankful that He is. When we lose something, we learn to appreciate the myriad of good things we have. I suspect much of our time in Heaven will be filled with thoughts concerning how magnificent our heavenly bodies are compared to what we left behind.

I was sad about having no shoes, until I met a man with no feet, etc.

(MY WIFE once said, "I was sad about having no shoes, until I met a man with no feet. I asked him, 'Hey, can I have your shoes?'"

Another reason why I married her, of course.)

furiousBall said...

that's awesome, glad you got it all back

S said...

If it makes you feel any better, I cannot do pushups either, or cartwheels because of various injuries. Once you get over 40, stuff doesn't heal so quickly!

I remember that incident well, Mowgli!
I am so glad you have an arm at all!

;)

Craver Vii said...

What? Lime is over 40?? ;-)

Lime, your attitude and perspective is such a blessing. There is wisdom (and humor) in Suldog's comment.

Cocotte said...

I had no idea, Lime! So glad to hear your story of perseverance and strength!

lime said...

jinksy, thank you very much :)

gman, an oldie but a goodie

nyd, gratitude is like any skill, the more you practice it the more natural it becomes ;)

desmond, i don't believe there was a whole lot of thought involved at all. clearly what little occurred was faulty.

jazz, big oww, big thanks

ve, actually i really do want to go ziplining....just with a harness and a helmet...not on some jerry rigged contraption in my own back yard.

moannie, no bungees don't appeal, the snap back looks positively whiplash inducing and i've already endured that from car accidents.

suldog, having met your wife i can so totally hear her delivering that line now! she's fabulous. and i do think you're right about heaven

furiousball, mostly yes, very grateful

s, hahaha, but you can bend yourself in half, i've seen it!

craver, over 40 inches, over 40 lbs, over 40 years...you name it.

cocotte, it was a long haul but i had a wonderful doc and the 2 best therapists i could have asked for.

Lulda Casadaga said...

I salute you for being able to do cartwheels in the past! I don't think I ever did a cwheel in my life! :D

You were very fortunate to have a great surgeon and therapists to help you recover...I think the physical therapists get enought recognition. It is a miracle what they can get you to do when you just don't think you can!

Keep on tye dying & quilting away...;)

Breazy said...

Hey Lime, sorry I haven't been by in eons, things are crazy busy here right now.

I can't believe it has been 3 yrs already! And what an accomplishment. I can remember when the first reports came in on Janita, they didn't sound good at all but look at you now. This is a great Da Count!

Have a great day! :)

Seamus said...

Does Janita sing "Zippidy-do-da" yet???

How about a front clasp bra, hmmm?

truckdriver_sefl said...

I remember like yesterday when you first wrote about this....

lime said...

lulda, i couldn't have picked a better set of people to help me recover if i tried

breazy, good to see you. yep, the prognosis was not terribly good.

seamus, LOL, my new theme song. as for the front hook models...shall we say the engineering provides insufficient containment...

trucker, and the stoned posts too huh? ;)

Jeni said...

Boy, can I ever relate to your issues with your arm injury! Back in 1999, on the Fourth of July, I fell, as I was walking into the freezer at the restaurant where I was working and I broke my right wrist. It almost got me fired because I was not allowed nor able to drive while the arm was in the cast but aside from that, when they took the cast off, my right hand was virtually frozen in the form of a claw from the position in the cast. I still was having a lot of pain in the wrist and also even in the upper arm, which got pulled somehow out of whack due to the cast. It took six months of therapy, three times a week, to get things fairly well back to normal. I still can't form a complete fist with my right hand, can't handle change with it as it slips right through. But the therapist I had said the same thing to me later about her initial reaction to the state of my hand and arm! Took a whole hell of a lot of therapy and bending, stretching, pulling on those fingers to straighten them out as much as possible and to be able to bend them again! A lot of pain killers along the way too!
But by gosh, by golly, aren't physical therapists just about the best thing since sliced bread too!???

lime said...

jeni, i can totally empathize. and i presume it was your dominant hand?...so much more frustrating.

Cheesy said...

I offer up a gentle ^5!

Desmond Jones said...

Well, OK, I wasn't gonna mention this, but. . .

Having seen a woman or two take her bra off, and put it on, by reaching around behind her back in some kind of contortionsist maneuver, I was stunned the first time I saw Molly just fasten the hooks around her waist, then spin her bra around her waist, and slide it up into position, before putting her arms thru the straps. Likewise, taking it off, she'll just slip her arms out, then slide it down to her waist, spin it 180-deg so the clasp is on her belly-button, and it's simple. Sorta made me wonder why other women did it 'the hard way'. . .

lime said...

des, yes, i put it on the "easy" way you describe but it still was a great challenge when one arm was dangling uselessly. i felt very accomplished the first time.

Beach Bum said...

So I guess skydiving isn't on your to do list?

lime said...

beach bum, actually, it is.;)

lecram said...

Jimmy is proud of Janita... and you. Yes, you gave us all quite the scare back then. And once again a big BRAVO on how far you have come.

Jocelyn said...

That it's still profound enough to write about so thoughtfully three years later shows the depth of that injury.

So glad you can type.

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