Lessons from a Broken Wrist

Seven weeks ago, I fell and broke my right wrist. I had never broken a bone before, and I had a lot of misconceptions. It was excruciatingly painful, but not if I held my arm very still, and I could move all my fingers, so I thought it must not be broken, only badly sprained. The nurses at urgent care, however, immediately pegged it as a fracture, injected me with pain killers, and sent me directly to x-ray.

It turned out I had broken both the radius and the ulna. I was subjected to a form of medieval torture known as a “reduction”, to get the bones properly arranged, and I was put in a cast from my knuckles to my elbow. I was told that IF I followed all instructions very carefully I MIGHT avoid surgery, which terrified me into compliance. I’ve had surgeries before, and I am not a fan. So, I very carefully avoided any exercise, kept my arm higher than my heart, and opened and closed my hand thirty times an hour.

My dedication has paid off, and the bones are healing well. It seems I have indeed avoided surgery. A few days ago my cast was removed, a procedure that was surprisingly painful and which marks the end of only the first part of the healing process. Apparently it will be at least several months before I have full use of my right hand again.

The most surprising part of this experience has been how utterly incapacitated it has made me. My right is my dominant hand, and it is hard enough to try to do things with my left, but it is amazing how many ordinary tasks require two hands. Also, both with the cast and without, there are only certain positions that are not painful, and which positions those are changes frequently.

The most frustrating part has been my inability to do much writing. Typing with only my left hand is not much of an option, and although I have been trying to learn dictation software I am still not very good at it (but I am using it to write this). Even worse, the pain and discomfort make it difficult to concentrate. I have a new respect for every kid I’ve ever seen in a cast who continued to get their schoolwork done. I find it hard to do anything that takes much brainpower.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by kind people who have provided everything from sympathy and advice to physical assistance and errand running. I am very grateful for that, and for the fact that this is only a temporary problem. Now I just have to do my prescribed wrist and hand exercises and all should eventually be well.

The silver lining for me is twofold. This experience has made me appreciate how lucky I really am, and it has been yet another lesson in how little you really know about something until it happens to you. I thought being in a cast just meant you couldn’t bend that limb, and maybe it itched from time to time. Now I know better, and as a bonus, if I ever have a character with a broken bone I’ll be able to write it properly!

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