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Blood Sweat and Fears

Blood sweat and fears after an arm or elbow injury

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Art of the Arm by DJ Lynn

It was June 2020. Bored, deep into the pandemic and with all my clients in holding patterns, I decided to do a large fabric art project I had been thinking about for 15 years. With the aid of some grippy bottom shoes, I fell off the ladder onto the pointy tip of my elbow. Had an ambulance ride, given some delightful drugs and had surgery the next day. I had a Monteggia fracture and a comminuted olecranon fracture which in ortho circles is known as the terrible triad plus one. My new arm now consists of a variety of metal, screws, new parts, and possibly some duct tape.

It was the first break of my life in which I had gone five decades with nothing more than whooping cough, a dog bite, and a few root canals. I was warned that my arm would never be the same. My range of motion would be limited even with physical therapy. Nine months later I was told I could improve that with an elbow capsulectomy (removal of the scar tissue that formed during healing).  I was told it’s the “gold standard for elbow stiffness … a simple and reliable procedure …”.

But sometimes things go sideways. Today, I am two months post-op from that second “simple” surgery during which the doctor broke my distal humerus. Yes, the doctor broke a new bone during surgery. Read Arrested Development here.  Or Permanent Scars here.

The distal humerus is the final cog in a fully functioning elbow joint.  It forms the upper part of the elbow and is the spool around which the forearm bends and straightens. I now have more metal and duct tape and a much worse situation than after the first surgery. I am now not so eagerly awaiting the final blow which is post traumatic arthritis.

Yes. It’s been a really lovely two months. For the better part of it I laid on the couch binge watching everything on Netflix and Prime depressed and angry. Really depressed. Really angry. In between trying to cheer myself up with motivational platitudes, bad rom-coms, and anything else that might have a chance of making me feel better emotionally, I contacted several attorneys and surprisingly, didn’t get much good news. More on that in this post.

Today, my range of motion will always be severely limited due to the nature of the original and new injuries and my fear of aggressive physical therapy. I don’t know if I could handle all this metalwork falling apart and having to start over again. I am more afraid of reinjuring myself than I am of having a stiff arm forever.

After the first injury, I was suddenly afraid of things I’ve never been afraid of before – like falling out of bed. Just as I thought all of that was getting better and I would eventually be able to turn off the television to fall asleep, I had the second break. Now, more fears and the additional worry that they are permanent.

I’m trying to look on the bright side now, so I just bought a nice treadmill because walking outside is another fear. I’m afraid of stumbling over a sidewalk crack, having an unleashed dog jump up on me, being startled by a rattlesnake, or just falling over for some random reason. I also don’t like the noise of the street―it makes me anxious now.

Turns out there’s a name for this – kinesiophobia, the fear of injury or reinjury. Of course that is caused by my dystychiphobia, which is a fear of accidents, but the fear of accidents is really because of my agoraphobia, fear of leaving safe environments, and that’s because I have ophidiophobia, a fear of snakes, achluophobia, a fear of darkness, and bathmophobia, a fear of stairs or steep slopes.  And all those fears just add to my coulrophobia, fear of clowns, cynophobia, fear of dogs, and of course hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, fear of long words.

A few things that can help with fear . . .

OMRON Complete™ Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor + EKG