On this, my two month break-a-versary I just want to take the time to remember the journey I went through when I broke my wrist. From break to cast removal.
Growing up I knew of and had friends that broke a bone. They seemed pretty happy having people sign their casts. I never thought anything of it and figured I was past that age and phase, as an adult.
However, I unknowingly, purposefully broke my wrist, so thought to catalog the journey from break to cast removal, and from recovery to rehabilitation. Just for those who like me, didn’t go through this at a young age, or wonder what’s it like as an adult.
It began with our last snowboarding session of the season. A trip up to Whistler on an icy sunny day resulted in me using my right wrist to brace my entire body, as I fell. After a long morning of falling flat on the snow and ice (I am fairly new to snowboarding, only 2 years in; and am notoriously clumsy) I wanted to spare my butt, at the cost of my hand. I even have the video play back documenting this (and that is actually visible in my latest reel on my IG page: @magmei).
What didn’t seem like too bad of a crash, sent me into shock. Thankfully I had Yuki of @pekopekolife there filming and coming to my rescue. I was blanketed in white, but she was able to calm me down and help me regain my composure through steady breathing.
I didn’t scream or cry and really didn’t feel much pain, so I didn’t think much of it as she accessed the damage. Considering my lack of emotion, we both figured it was a sprain at most, and I was able to continue boarding to meet up with the other half of our party. It wasn’t until I had to once again stop and seat myself, with the aid of my hand and wrist, did I feel something was off. There was pain and discomfort enough to have me calling it quits after 3 hours or so of mountain time.
I inquired about getting driven down Blackcomb mountain in one of those first aid sleds and tethered sleeping bag. However, after learning that would lead to an immediate trip to the hospital, I decided to ride the gondola down, shamefully instead.
My friends walked me there and Yuki proceeded to make a make shift split with her snowboarding mask and an ice pack out of a garbage bag and snow from the ground. She enlisted Whistler Blackcomb’s staff to supply the bag and help shovel in the snow.
I was not going to let this set back slow me down. So as planned, after reuniting with the others, who boarded all the way down to the village, we went for apres ski. A stop for spicy pizza and tequila shots off of a ski lounge.
Then home to Vancouver we went. Luckily I wasn’t driving so took a nap on the way back. Even then I didn’t think the worst of my wrist, enjoying a quiet night at home. As it was still sore the next day, I decided to keep off of it and not drive, so took the day off work. But after 1.5 days and the swelling not subsiding I decided to visit the hospital.
The hospital during a pandemic, even if it is the tail end one, is no fun. Excessive waiting and the fear of catching something worse.
A quick X-Ray revealed that I had broke my wrist on either ends. The staff and doctor were amazed that I took this long to seek care. My friends knew of my pain tolerance (I like to brag about my superhuman defence and wolverine-like healing), but they were gobbsmacked to learn it was a break. The way I carried on led no one to believe it was as worse as it was.
Next step was to get a temporary paper maiche cast, while I was scheduled for a proper fibre glass one from a specialist. This would be a day later. Then it was a month of no movement or mobility in my dominant hand.
I learned how to do everything with my left. The hardest was over steering an SUV, wiping myself after the using the washroom, and clasping my bra. The result was I got good with leveraging gravity and utilizing the down force of my elbow. My left hand writing also vastly improved, to the point that I decided to continue writing with it, as to not lose the learnt skill.
But what I couldn’t do was cut my own nails. I did enlist help for the hands, but could not ask anyone to do my toes, so paid for a pedicure as a treat, and killed two birds with one stone.
But in general I didn’t want to let this set back slow me down or take away from my quality of life, so after a week off with the cast in place, I returned to work and did all my clerical tasks with my left. The only thing that suffered was my ability to lift and carry and the speed in which I use to be able to type. I easily transitioned to using a computer mouse with my left hand and continue to do so now out of preference.
When it came to the gym I completed the workouts the best I could, with modifications. Naturally, I couldn’t carry weights with my right fingers bound and trapped, nor could my wrist support the weight. But what I could do was lots of leg and core stuff, on top of weights with the left. Many folks commented that I would be imbalance at the end. But the reality was I allowed my left to catch up to the strength my right once hand. Plus with the way the brain is cross connected, using my left this much, worked out my right as well.
Another comment I got a lot at the gym was that my cast would smell so bad after it was removed due to the sweat. The reality is it would smell regardless of my working out or not, so why lose all the gains for the rest of my body, while I waited for righty to heal. And at the end, it didn’t even smell that bad. There was a chemical-like sent, but no where as pungent as I was promised.
The only annoyance was the aesthetic. I dabble in fashion and much of my hobby is attending functions that vary from casual to black tie, so having this eye sore was unsightly. On the day I got it wrapped, heated, and moulded my only colour options were white, pink, or blue. So I went white and proceeded to colour and add patterns to it based on the events I attended. I avoided signatures as to not have it looking junky.
The Orthopaedic Surgeon informed me that the bones takes 6 weeks to heal, but scheduled me to have the cast removed at 4. I was not going to question him. Fast forward of a month of wearing a hand condom and using elbows to push, I was had this burden removed.
The cast is actually waterproof. But after the first shower with it, and learning of the time needed to allow said water to drain and dry, I invested in a waterproof plastic shield that would go over the cast. This would keep it dry as I washed dishes and showered. To clean the actual cast, I used Lysol wipes and gingerly soaped the tips of my fingers. Originally, I was avoiding the use of my right hand and left it unwashed for a week, resulting in a layer of skin shedding and a musky scent. Upon discovery, this was corrected immediately.
A similar situation of skin shedding occurred for the rest of the hand, after the cast was removed. It took about a week of scrubbing and regular hand washing to have all the built up layers of skin flake off. What was most curious was the hair that grew over the wrist. I am pretty hairless on my arms, so this was immediately noticeable when comparing regular left with new right. I did eventually shave it off. And at the time of this post, it has been a week and it has yet to grow back to its same thickness.
As soon as the cast was removed my wrist went slack. It had not been used for a month and you could tell it was thinner, the flesh soft and supple like that of a baby. There was no muscle, once again very noticeable when you compare left with right. The best way to describe this is through a video game analogy. The rest of my body is at level 50, but my right hand respawned at 0, and I had to level it up again. Thankfully when you are gaming at an advance stage, you level faster.
I also didn’t recognize my own limb. It looked unfamiliar. My brain kept telling me it should not be there. Like the break registered in the mind, and while the body rebuilt, the thought of it could not.
It has been a month since the cast has been removed and I no longer need to take 3 Advils every 4-5 hours to numb the discomfort of a hand that is constantly sore and overused. I am also slowly gaining mobility. The ability to carry has come back faster, and it is just the movement of turning and twisting that still suffers.
And then there is the PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Despite actually hurting or feeling pain, anything that touches my hand/wrist all of a sudden or out of no where is unwanted. I flinch in fear and outburst with rage. The shock is real. Similarly, now that I know what the pain and struggle of having a broken bone is like, I winch each time I see it on television. Kungfu fights and action scenes no longer get me excited the same, I feel the pain of the characters the actors portray. And sporting matches and fight night bouts feel all the more real, now that I have this frame of reference.
I have been told it will take 6 months to fully restore me to 100%, and I suspect 6 years to forget it ever happened. But for now I fear bracing my own body with my hand. Meaning push ups, burpees, climbing on counter tops (all things I use to frequently do) are off the table (intentional pun). As for returning to snowboarding, only time and the season will tell. By then 6 months will have elapsed and I have already bought my Cypress season’s pass, plus have all the gear. So it will depend on my ability to build up my confidence and courage.
But for now, I am focused on the everyday and not letting myself get set back. No more injuries… I pray.
Well there you have it… I hope this was as enjoyable to read as it was to write. It took 30 minutes and came pretty fluid. Learn for this my friends, and avoid the heartache for yourself.