It’s not often that I write an update here that’s completely unrelated to radio but it’s time for that now.
On the last day of November, I visited a friend of mine who lives about a mile away for a meal and a couple of drinks. Although it was a cold night, it was dry and I decided to wrap up warm and walk home. I’m no stranger to walking – I’ve been carrying a Fitbit tracker since 2011 and in that time I’ve walked nearly 15,000 miles so a fifteen minute walk was no problem. I had a torch with me to light my way.
On the way home, I tripped on a pothole and fell over, landing heavily on my upper right arm and shoulder.
As I laid on the floor, my smartwatch fall detection kicked in and it offered to call the emergency services for me. I remember struggling to reach to it with and hit the “I’m OK button”, even though I clearly wasn’t OK.
With hindsight, I should have let my watch contact the emergency services but being a typical bloke, I initially thought I’d just be able to get up, dust myself off and walk home.
I tried to get up but couldn’t. The pain wasn’t that bad but I just couldn’t move my right arm. I laid there, hoping that a passerby would stop and help me. Luckily, even though it was after 23:30, it didn’t take long for a car to stop and I was aware of people talking to me, checking to see how I was. One of them was an off-duty police officer and he and his partner were very caring, they produced a tea-towel from their car to mop up the blood coming from my mouth. After my arm hit the floor, my head must have bounced off the ground as well as I had a grazed nose, a cut on my chin and I’d badly bitten my tongue.
While they looked after me, a police car which happened to be passing also stopped and they took over. They were very professional, first asking if I’d had a drink and then checking to find out what had happened as they were concerned there may have been a fight. They gave me a once over and after determining that I lived almost literally around the corner, they offered to give me a lift home which I very happily accepted.
My wife got quite a shock, to have someone knock on the door at 23:45, only to discover a couple of police officers and her husband! They immediately quashed her fears as they said that I wasn’t in any trouble but had had a fall. They suggested that they thought I might have broken my arm.
Once inside, my wife and daughter quickly decided to take me to A&E in Colchester and despite my protests, within a couple of minutes, we were on our way.
Luckily, the A&E department wasn’t that busy and it didn’t take long before I’d seen someone and been taken off for an x-ray. By this time, the pain had started to build and I was given strong pain killers.
The results of the x-ray came back and it was determined that I’d broken my humerus in “at least” four places in what is called a proximal humerus fracture. Because of the location of the break, I was told that I wouldn’t be put in a cast but instead given a collar and cuff sling to immobilise the arm and be called back to the fracture clinic in a few days to see what should be done next.
Here you can see the initial x-ray with the the four most obvious breaks highlighted.
I had a very uncomfortable few days – My pain killers were increased a couple of times until all I was suffering was a dull ache. I kept my arm immobilised and got very bored, very quickly.
My appointment at the fracture clinic came through quickly and the consultant started off by saying that I “probably” wouldn’t need surgery but he called for another x-ray and a CT scan of my shoulder to be sure.
The CT scan was done and I was called back a week later. This time, the consultant went into much more detail and after some discussion, he decided that I would need surgery to repair the damage. In particular, one piece of bone had moved from the back of the humerus and would stop movement. He said that as I’m relatively young and active, he really had no option but to operate. If I’d been a lot older then it would have been a different matter but without surgery, I’d probably end up with so little movement that my arm would be effectively unusable.
I asked how much damage there actually was and he started out pointing out the broken segments within my arm but stopped counting at eight and said “it’s just like a mush in there.”
The surgery was booked for the following week and went without any major hitch. I was on the operating table for about two hours which is a lot longer than originally intended because the bone fragments had already started to knit back together. The surgeon had to scrape those bits out before he could even start the repair process.
I had a metal plate fitted, along with three screws and eight pins to get all the fragments back in the correct places and held together. This metalwork will be in my arm forever because once the bone has grown back it fits the metalwork at microscopic level. You can’t apply enough torque to turn the screws without breaking the bone so they’re basically fused in.
It’s still very early days as I haven’t even had the thirty staples out yet which are holding the incision closed. My arm continually aches but I’m pleased to report that I’ve already started physio and have got more movement now than I had before the surgery.
This healing process isn’t going to be quick. I can’t drive and I can only use a keyboard one handed. I’ve been writing this article using voice recognition so I don’t have to do much typing.
One of the big issues I’m suffering from is lack of sleep. Since the fall, I’ve not slept continually for more than about forty minutes because I just can’t get comfortable. I find a position that’s relatively painless, nod off and then wake up again soon after. The medication I’m on for the pain causes a dry mouth and each time I wake up, my mouth is so dry that I can barely open it to pour some water in. I’m just catnapping whenever and wherever I can for a few minutes at a time.
I was told that when I’m all healed and this is all over, if I can raise my arm to shoulder level then it’ll be considered a success. I want more than that, I’m doing all the exercises I’ve been told in the hope that I can get better than what the surgeon predicts as ‘best case’.
As I progress through the healing process, I’ll post updates on Twitter.
I’m just bored though. At this stage, there’s not much I can do. I can play a bit of radio but my attention span isn’t very good and it soon frustrates me. I’m putting this down largely to the lack of sleep and am looking forward to the time when I’ll get a full night again, or even just a few hours uninterrupted sleep.
I suspect that going through security at airports will be challenging in the future as well.
This arrived anonymously in the post today, I genuinely have no idea who sent it to me but if you’re reading this then thank you!
It gave me a much needed laugh.
Addendum 2 (31/12/2019)
The dressing and the staples were removed two weeks after surgery and now the long process of rehabilitation starts. My aim is to get as much mobility and strength back into my arm as possible.