In late November 2021, I tripped over in the street and broke my olecranon, the bone at the pointy tip of the elbow. In my previous article I talked about the surgery a couple of days later to have a plate, screws and wire inserted, and my overnight stay in the hospital. In this article I’d like to talk about my return home and problems faced in the first couple of weeks after surgery. I hope this might be of help to anyone else who might have a similar injury. However, in no way is this offered as any sort of medical advice. You must always follow the advice of your own doctor and other medical professionals.
I felt relieved to finally arrive home from the hospital. My arm was in a thick bandage and I had to keep it in a sling for the next six weeks, with my elbow bent at 90°. Apart from several gentle range of motion exercises, I was told not to use my hand or arm at all for six weeks. I would need to get used to living with one arm, and realised there was nothing in my wardrobe that I was going to be able to wear. I would need some giant size T-shirts to be able to slip them over my bent arm for one-handed dressing. A friend volunteered to get me several huge T-shirts at a Target store across the road. They were just what I needed in those first weeks, six sizes bigger than my normal size and paired with trousers that are fairly loose, easy to pull up and don’t have any zips or buttons.
I also realised that for the next six weeks I would not be able to wear a bra, blow dry my hair, or put on makeup. I also wouldn’t be putting on jewellery or a watch. They were all jobs that required two hands, so I was quite a sight in my giant, oversize T-shirts, my hair looking awful and my face with no makeup.
With only my left hand to hold anything, it’s almost impossible to cook or cut anything up. Several friends in my apartment block came to the rescue, giving me quite a few lovely meals, and the rest of the time I’ve eaten frozen meals that are soft and easy to cut up with one hand. They also went to the supermarket for me in the first couple of weeks. So, I have been very lucky!
I’ve also been very grateful for the help of the amazing ladies sent to help me with personal care and cleaning for an hour twice a week.
Issues in the first two weeks
I felt very weak and tired for the first couple of weeks. The following issues are generally experienced after elbow surgery, and I was no exception.
The wound was covered in a thick bandage that covered most of my arm and kept my elbow bent at 90°. That went in a sling that kept my arm comfortably in front of my body. My elbow was very sore and the pain continued for quite a few weeks. After the first few days I only took paracetamol spread throughout the day, but kept that up for more than four weeks. Apparently, it can take quite a while, even months, for the pain to disappear after elbow fracture surgery.
Swelling and bruising of hands and forearm
It’s quite normal after elbow surgery for the forearm and hand to become quite swollen and bruised. My hand became extremely bloated and swollen, and was covered in blotchy bruising. The swelling started to reduce after about a week but the bruising can took a few weeks to disappear. My hands stayed a bit swollen until more than six weeks later, when I was finally able to start using it again.
I felt very tired and weak especially in the first two weeks, and needed to lie down a few times through the day. That has gradually improved but I’m still not back to my normal self. I was told that was quite normal after surgery and after a traumatic experience like that.
I was still feeling rather awful when I went for my first check-up after two weeks, and was surprised to see a lady with a broken wrist that I had met on the day of my surgery. She walked into the waiting room looking bright and cheerful, and said she had felt tired for the first week. However, I knew that my own situation was unique and, just as with everything in life, I should never compare myself to others. Everyone’s experience with a fracture is different.
I’d always been a side sleeper, but since breaking my elbow I’ve adapted to a new position: lying on my back with two pillows under my head. On my right-hand side, I have a very soft pillow to support my elbow. I don’t wear a sling in bed but keep my arm in the same 90° position. To my surprise, I’ve been fairly comfortable in bed.
I had some simple exercises to do several times a day. First, I had to gently flex and extend my elbow within a comfortable range, which was only a few degrees. I also had to rotate my hand, palm down and then palm up, which is pronation and supination of the elbow. I was able to do that fairly well.
Living with One Arm
In the next article, I’ll have some tips for living with one arm. I’ll also talk about my two-week and six-week assessments at the hospital.
Have you had elbow surgery or an elbow fracture? I’d love to hear your comments.
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.