In The Kingdom Of One-Armed Men, There Are No Fitted Sheets

I had my first physical therapy appointment yesterday.  I am feeling less optimistic about my rate of recovery from the broken arm than I was the day before.

I knew the arm's strength and range of motion have been strongly compromised since the accident.  Before going to bed, I've been doing some passive exercises each night.  I take the arm out of the sling and let it hang loose at my side, then rock my body back and forth to give the shoulder some mild range-of-motion exercise and keep it from freezing up entirely.  Not painless, but not sharply or intensely painful either.

At the PT place, my current range was measured.  I can only lift the right arm about 45 degrees to the front, and about 35 degrees to the side.  That was about what I expected.  But they also measured my grip strength for both arms.  The left (uninjured) arm was able to squeeze about 13 pounds on the gadget's dial.  Then I tried the right hand.

The needle barely moved.  Didn't even rise to the one pound mark.

That was unexpected.

In the accident, when I tried to break my fall with an outstretched arm, a shock wave basically travelled through my entire arm, from hand to wrist to forearm to elbow to upper arm until finally blowing apart the upper humerus.  The broken shoulder was agonizing (obligatory SF reference: "Your agonizer, please."), but the rest of the arm had been used in an overenthusiastic game of Crack The Whip and felt tender, bruised and painful to touch or try to use for weeks.

That slowly got better, and the lower arm, wrist and hand feel pretty much back to normal now.  So I've been using the hand and wrist for very light tasks, while trying to not move or stress the upper arm or shoulder.  But I was surprised to find out just how little strength I can exert with the lower arm and hand before accompanying muscle tension starts making the shoulder ache or stab.

But wait, there's more!

The head therapist told me there was a possibility that I won't recover the full range of motion I had before the accident, that I might only be able to get back to 85%, or even 75%.  (I've used this same PT place several previous times over the past decade, for back and knee problems; they're very good, so I trust what they tell me.)

That was not what I wanted to hear.   One of my main motivations for trying to stay fit and healthy thru the years is that, as Hilde's primary caregiver, I need to stay able to do what needs to be done for her, and to be able to do the things she's no longer able to do herself.  "Partially disabled" is not a label I want to wear.

It will probably also take longer than I'd hoped to get back to work.  Not so much because the job's so wonderful (doing graveyard-shift security is a lot of repetition and boredom), but because to get back to work, I'll have to be able to drive and I'll have to be able to write (to fill out daily logs and other reports) more than a few words or sentences without hurting.  (Locking and unlocking doors and other duties are things I can cope with left-handed, but driving one-handed is frowned upon and the security department's paperwork is all still done by hand.)

And both of those abilities are ones I want back for their own sake.  The writing goes without saying.  I could drive my own vehicle one-handed despite safety concerns, but the ignition switch is on the right side of the steering column, and when you can't even turn the friggin' key, the idea of driving oneself becomes pretty moot.  I'm getting a real appreciation for people who don't have cars or are unable to drive, and who have to depend on public transport or the convenience of others, because not having that ready and available transport on hand is a [ language! ][ such language! ][ oh, such language! ] hassle.

In the meantime, I'm still plodding along with life as a primarily one-armed man.  There are things I can't do.  And the things I can do usually take longer and use more energy.  (When changing bedlinens, working with flat sheets isn't that big a problem.  Putting a fresh fitted sheet on a mattress... that takes a while.)

1 comment:

Will Shetterly said...

It's too early to know. Emma broke her elbow badly and went through a long period of physical therapy. She didn't get back her full range of motion, but she got 95% or so, enough that she isn't hindered. Be patient and do the work, and keep hoping for the best.

I don't mean to be unrealistic. But it's too early to be pessimistic. Your therapist said not getting back the full range was a possibility, which means getting back most or even all of it is also a possibility. Being depressed about it is perfectly natural, but keep working through the depressing part.

Hoping for the best!