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Shattered Elbow / Catch 22

Skeleton of the arm and elbow

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Art of the Arm by DJ Lynn

I am now four months postop. Saw my doctor 3 weeks ago and everything is healing however, the catch 22 is now reality.

In June I fell from a ladder while doing an art project. I landed on the olecranon, that’s the pointy bone at the end of the elbow, shattering it into a bunch of pieces. At the same time, I broke the ulna and dislocated the radial head. They have a name for that, and it’s called a Monteggia fracture.  I had open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) surgery and now have a bunch of metal in my arm. My doctor called it a “terrible break” on more than one occasion. I sighed. I cried. Now I’m trying to learn to live with it.

My terrible break came with a catch 22. If I was too aggressive with physical therapy in the first six to eight weeks, I might have broken apart all those little shattered bones and that would mean more surgery. Not only are we in the middle of a pandemic and the last thing I wanted to do was be in the hospital for any reason, the thought of starting all over with the process of more surgery, the re-breaking of bones, and more pain and physical therapy, was the last thing I wanted to do.

My option was to take a more cautious approach to physical therapy. If I did that then internal scar tissue would form around the injured areas that would restrict elbow movement. And that’s where I am now. The bones have healed although the ligaments and ulnar nerve are still healing.

I will see my doctor again in two months to decide whether I want to have more surgery to remove scar tissue and then get aggressive with the physical therapy so that my arm will have better movement. Or I can decide if I can live with it the way it is.

My third option is to wait until the pandemic is over and maybe I’ll be more agreeable to another round of surgery. At some point this may be the better option because the scar tissue itself is likely to cause more problems down the road.

For now, my arm feels pretty good considering I have several metal plates holding everything together. It feels a bit like a robot arm. And I have limited range of motion. 

In the meantime, I’m realizing more things I can’t do. I had a couple of friends come to my patio for drinks last week and for the first time since March and the pandemic lockdown I decided to put on earrings. I tried you know, to step it up a notch and not look like a total house slug.

I discovered a few more things I can’t do right now like putting on earrings and other types of jewelry, buttoning, putting on contact lenses, doing anything with my hair or face that requires two hands, carrying things that require two hands, or give a bear hug …  Oh, and there’s also no golfing or kayaking, although there’s a website for kayaking with one arm and, apparently, it can be done.

As you can imagine there are about 1000 websites with work-arounds and I’m learning a few. I’ve already come up with the solution for the earring problem. I’m going to buy myself some tiny diamond studs and just leave them in all the time!

If you’re shopping for a diamond, make sure you are buying genuine. Meaning, read the description and title carefully. Look for the words: NaturalNature Made, or Genuine.

There are a ton of fake diamonds on the market (like CZ’s; cubic zirconia), diamond simulants (look-a-likes; white sapphire, quartz, crystal, and even glass), and man-made diamonds like Moissanite. Plus, there are also lab-grown diamonds (which are real diamonds, but created in a laboratory vs nature).

There is nothing wrong with buying an alternative stone, as long as you know it’s alternative. But if you truly want a nature made diamond, then only look for the word Genuine.

OMRON Complete™ Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor + EKG