Friday, June 17, 2011

Coping with a broken right arm – the dominant one of course

Back in June 2010, I was having wild and passionate sex and swinging from a chandelier. No one told me you had to reinforce the chandelier first ... and the next thing I knew, I had a displaced fracture of my right humerus. If you prefer version 2, I was out walking and tripped, lost my balance and fell off the sidewalk and broke my upper right arm – so that it was in two pieces.

This started the process of not having any use of my right arm for almost three months. I was lucky and didn’t need surgery, for all but 3 weeks got to wear a plastic (Sarmiento) cast as opposed to an “old fashioned” plaster cast. However, my arm was held to my side with a strap and held in place with a sling that I was not allowed to remove (24 hours a day).

There were loads of coping mechanisms that I learned – and here some of them are. Please feel to pass them on to anyone you know who might find them useful.

• Did you ever try to brush your teeth with your left hand? It was humorous. An electric toothbrush came to the rescue!
• With only one functioning arm – I discovered the easiest way to put on powder was with a powder puff.
• To wash myself, I switched to liquid soap and a face cloth from the bar soap I had used before. (I didn’t drop the soap and I didn’t have to chase the bar soap.)

• For the first three weeks, I needed to wear my top over the plaster cast – off to Value Village to buy some extra large men’s shirts with buttons up the front. Once the cast was changed, I could put my arm through the sleeves, but still needed a men’s shirt to fit over the cast – and the buttons as I couldn’t put anything over my head. Fortunately it was summer and short sleeves were fine – and I didn’t need a sweater or jacket.
• Pants – I couldn’t do up the zippers on my pants – so I needed pants with elastic waists. I went one step further and bought scrub pants as they have loads of pockets and therefore I didn’t need to carry a purse.
• Shoes – I converted to rubber soled loafers. My balance was off, so the flat shoes were essential and the loafers were easier to put on one armed.

Men – you can skip the next point.
• As for bras – if you can get away braless or with a sports bra – that would be my recommendation. You can also try bras that fasten in the front. I went with a size larger and assistance to put them on.

• I converted to preparing foods that only required heating with a microwave and that didn’t require much cutting. I also purchased shelf liner to put under my plate to prevent it from sliding around. I used a pizza cutter instead of a knife as I could do it one armed.
• My left arm was not strong enough to pour from containers larger than one litre – so I had someone pour liquid into single serving containers.
• When it came to washing dishes – I bought a smaller container of cleaner and used a protector in the bottom of the sink so that I could wash one handed.

Now that it’s almost a year post injury and I’m able to do almost everything I could do before the accident, my main suggestion to everyone is to do all of the exercises recommended and find a good physiotherapist. I’ve spoken to a number of people who had much less serious injuries and lost a lot more mobility than I did. So - persevere with your exercises. If you have any additional suggestions – please let me know and I’ll pass them on.