Today is my first Arm-iversery, and a great time to check in on my goals. One year ago today, I bit it on the ice while walking my kids to the bus stop. I couldn’t get back up. Fortunately, there plenty of grown-ups around to help me. Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t one of them. Fortunately, a neighbor drove me to urgent care. Unfortunately, it was closed. Fortunately, he drove me to the ER. Unfortunately, the X-rays showed my left arm shattered above and below the elbow joint. Unfortunately, I needed emergency surgery and the addition of 14 screws to hold the bone fragments together. And so my recovery saga began.
At my first post-surgery check-up, my surgeon said my arm wouldn’t straighten all the way again and there was a possibility I might not regain full nerve sensation to my fingers. I wore a splint that covered my left arm from arm-pit to thumb joint. The surgeon warned my recovery would take a full year, with most of the progress noticeable by the six month mark. Wiggling my fingers sent jolts of pain through my entire arm, but it did it to reduce the swelling and work the nerves.
This is a picture taken 4 weeks after surgery. I could not change the bend in my elbow. I could not lift my arm to my shoulder without using my other arm to raise and lower it. Positioning this photo took a long time.
Six weeks after this, I started physical therapy. My right arm grip strength was 58 pound. My left arm grip strength was 2. Normal for a non-dominant hand would have expected to be about 45. I couldn’t hold a book or a toothbrush in my left hand. I couldn’t grip a cup or a coffee mug, but that wouldn’t have mattered because I couldn’t bend my arm enough to bring a beverage anywhere near my mouth. When my physical therapist asked about my long term goal, you would think drinking a cup of coffee would be enough, but no. I said I want to do one push-up on my arm-iversery.
Today is my arm-iversery. Can I do a push-up? Technically, no. I cannot do the one military style push-up I envisioned myself doing. But I can do one set of 12 on the knee push-ups, two sets of 15 push-up style motion with the TRX bands at the gym, five pushups where I let myself fall to the ground the last two inches, rest a second and then push back up into plank, AND do one set of eight “push-ups” of the lazy style permitted in physical education classes where I start in plank, go half way down and then push back up.
This is me today. My scars have faded and most days my pain is minimal. So I can’t do a push up. My left hand grip strength is in the 40s. I can raise a mug, shampoo my hair, shovel the driveway and walk my kids to the bus stop. I also chaperoned a 6th grade weeklong field trip where I belayed kids on a rock wall and paddled on a five mile canoe trip. My alter ego even published a short story, so the nerves to my fingers and my keyboarding skills still work.
Recovery was long journey, but having a clear goal helped my muddle through those days I wanted to quit because of the pain.
Oh, and, in case you didn’t notice – my arm is straight.