Friday, April 13, 2012

The report from week four.

This past Tuesday was four weeks to the day when I broke my arm.  Four weeks of not being able to move my elbow.  Four weeks of awkward, restless sleeping.  The original prediction was that a guy my age might be able to move to a short cast by the six week mark, but not to get my hopes up as it might be longer.  However I'm fairly active and for the most part I've avoided taking NSAIDs for pain (opinions are divided over whether or not that class of pain relievers inhibits bone metabolism but I decided to not take a chance and just toughed it out) so hope springs eternal. After four weeks of lugging around a heavy cast which continually made my neck ache due to the constantly sagging arm sling, I was ready for a change.  I drove over for my appointment knowing that at the very least , my old long, plaster splint would be removed for the x-ray and that I'd get a chance to wash my shriveled, smelly arm.

In the x-ray on the far right one can see the shadowy area towards the distal end (end closest to the wrist) of the radius bone where the fracture is mending.  The radius is no longer displaced in an upward direction.
My orthopedic surgeon was pleased enough with my progress that he ordered a short fiberglass cast which allows me to flex my elbow for the first time in a month. Sprung from my plaster prison in four weeks--not bad for a geezer! After attempting to sleep with an awkwardly immobilized arm this was a big deal!

Slim,trim, sleek and racy:  my new fiberglass short cast.  I was sorely tempted to choose the girly ROAR fluorescent pink color scheme--there didn't seem to be a sexy, black carbon fiber option.  In the end I settled for the classic British Racing Green look.  Unlike my former plaster cast, which was covered with soft "ace" bandaging, this cast is made of water activated "pre-preg" fiberglass. I was impressed with how quick it set up once the tech had dropped the roll into a basin of water--he had to work quickly--this stuff could be useful around boats... You can see one end of the wrap towards my elbow.  This is just one of several a hard, abrasive, raised edges which make pulling sleeves on and off a chore.  The rough edges also gnaw at my skin here and there and I need to be mindful around the good furniture so as not to scratch the wood .  I'm thinking about getting out my orbital sander and seeing if I can knock those ridges down a touch.
So, what else can I report at the four week mark?  For one thing, my right hand fingers are still swollen and tasks such as twisting the tops off of jars and beer bottles, tying shoes, etc. are still painfully challenging.  And I now know how the tin man felt after being left out in the rain--my right elbow was initially very stiff and achy after being being locked down for a month. Having the freedom to move that joint does improve sleeping and I also can once more use scissors to trim my fingernails (just in time).  I'm still writing and shaving with my left hand. And although the ability to flex my right elbow now permits exercise in the form of right-handed "Budweiser curls", the geometry of the cast at my hand makes grasping and aiming the bottle so that the contents are delivered to my mouth and not down the front of my shirt, a bit of an adventure.  I'm sticking with cheap twist-off beers until better control is achieved--this is a real quality of life issue...

How long will I be in the shorty cast? Good question.  I assume at some point in early May I'll be healed enough to get this one sawed off and have my arm in a removable brace.  At that point I'll start physical therapy to regain strength in my withered arm.


  1. Thanks Gordon. We'll see how long it is before I can lace up my boots--right now it hurts just to tie a loose bow knot in my docksiders!