2021 came to an unpleasant end for me when I tripped over a paving stone in the street and fractured my elbow. I had to have surgery and would be at least six weeks with my right arm in a sling and my arm not to be used at all. I thought I would write about my experience to help those who might have a similar injury. This is part one, about the accident and the surgery.
Breaking an elbow is quite a serious thing and can take a long time to get over. However, everybody is different and so is every elbow fracture. Some people can recover quite quickly from elbow surgery, while others take much longer. Elbows are notorious, though, for taking a long time to fully heal and for stiffening up quickly. That means the road to recovery can take quite a few months.
I’m telling you about my personal experiences, and anything in this article should not be taken as any sort of medical advice or guidance in any way. You must always follow the exact advice and instructions given by the medical professionals dealing with your case.
I had just returned from a lovely week in Melbourne, visiting my daughter and gorgeous little grandson, as well as some other relatives. I live next door to a big shopping centre in the city, and the next day I walked up the street to buy some groceries. But I tripped over a paving stone that was jutting out of the ground. I flew into the air and came crashing to the ground. In a flash, my confidence in my invincibility was shattered.
At first, I was focused on the blood from my nose and cut lip, desperately hoping that I hadn’t smashed my face. But as I started to try to get up, I realised that my elbow was very painful and I was blacking out as if I was going to faint.
I was lucky to have plenty of help. I was given first-class attention from two first aid officers who came running out of the shopping centre, and also two lovely ladies who stopped to help. They propped me against a wall and noticed that my elbow was swelling up quite quickly. I was taken to taken by ambulance to Calvary Hospital, just north of the city centre. There, I was very relieved to find out that my nose wasn’t broken and my bleeding, cut lip would heal by itself. So it seemed that my face had been spared. But when a very painful x-ray of my elbow was taken, the lovely young doctor said that I had a displaced fracture of the olecranon, the pointy bone at the tip of the elbow.
I waited in the treatment room while the x-rays were looked at by the orthopaedic surgeons at Canberra Hospital. The young doctor soon came back with the news that I would need surgery, open reduction with internal fixation. That meant that I was to have a plate and screws, and would be out of action for quite a few weeks. I was told to arrive at Canberra Hospital for surgery the next morning at 9 am. Meanwhile, my arm was put in a splint and a sling to protect it until the surgery.
I live by myself and don’t have any family nearby, so the thought of living with one arm was quite intimidating. I caught an Uber back to my apartment and soon began to realise how hard it is to cope with just one arm, especially when that is not your dominant one. I couldn’t remove the top I was wearing, so slept in it overnight and barely managed to clean my teeth and give myself a wash. Cutting food and opening containers are two of the other major challenges. I realised that life was going to be very different for the next few weeks and at first I wondered how I would cope.
The next morning, I caught another Uber to Canberra Hospital for the start of a fresh ordeal. After waiting for a couple of hours, I saw an orthopaedic surgeon who told me about the surgery. He said they would try to operate that day but it would depend on the number of cases of trauma that came through the doors. I sat there for a few more hours, hoping for surgery. But then they asked me to go home and come back the next morning at 7 o’clock. I went forlornly home, spent another painful night, and returned the next day for a few more hours of waiting. Finally, at two in the afternoon, two days after my accident, I was wheeled into the operating theatre.
From that moment on, I was very well looked after in the hospital. I woke up in the recovery ward, and a few hours later was taken up to another ward for overnight. My arm was in a very thick bandage and a sling. For the third night in a row, I slept in my new sleeping position: on my back with two pillows under my head and a pillow on my right side to support my arm in the ninety-degrees bent position.
The next morning, I had a succession of visitors: the surgeon, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist and a social worker. The surgeon seemed pleased with the operation, fixating the fracture with a plate, screws and wire. The occupational therapist gave me some tips about one-handed living, and the physiotherapist showed me how to very gently attempt to slightly extend my arm several times a day. The rest of the time, she said, I was to keep it in the sling, although I could take it off for sleeping provided that I kept it in the same position. There was to be no weight-bearing on the arm or hand for six weeks, so that the bone could heal properly.
The social worker was able to organise temporary help: a couple of hours of help each week with personal care and cleaning.
A nurse helped me to wash and dress myself using one arm, and also showed me how to do up my own sling. That was a relief, as I had wondered how I was going to do any of those things by myself. For the drive home, I had to wear my nightgown as I realised that none of my tops would fit over my arm. I planned to ask friends to buy me some giant size 22 T-shirts for me as soon as I got home.
When I finally returned home that afternoon, it was a relief to know that the surgery was over and the slow recovery could begin. However, I knew the next few weeks were going to be challenging.
In the next article I’ll talk about the first few weeks after surgery. Have you had elbow surgery or an elbow fracture? #elbowfracturesurgery #elbowsurgery
Thank you for stopping by. My name is Toni Pike, a multi-genre author who loves writing thrillers for adults, non-fiction, and hilarious books for children.
I’m the author of DESOLATION BLUFF, DEAD DRY HEART and The Jotham Fletcher Mystery Thriller Series: THE MAGUS COVENANT, THE ROCK OF MAGUS, THE MAGUS EPIPHANY and HOLY SPEAR OF MAGUS.
The Brody Cody Series is for children aged 6-9: BRODY CODY AND THE STEPMOTHER FROM OUTER SPACE and BRODY CODY AND THE HAUNTED VACATION HOUSE.
I’m also the author of two non-fiction books. THE ONE WAY DIET is a no-nonsense guide to losing weight and HAPPY TRAVELS 101 is a short book of travel tips.