Life Post-Cast: Brave New World, Again

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My cast came off! I started therapy. I had lots of questions:
Would I use a splint or brace? (No).
Would I need more time in a new cast? (No).
What would my skin look and feel like? (It was scaly, dry and brownish).
Did I ‘lose’ muscle? (No, just flexibility. My muscles were Very tight!!)
What exercises would I need? (Lots of painful stretches).
How was my range of motion? (Wrist had some. Fingers, there wasn’t much. My fist was non-existent.)

I still had to ice my wrist and hand regularly and both were Very swollen.  I didn’t need the sling anymore except if there was pain.  Mostly, that wasn’t a problem, at least not in my arm. My hand and wrist were another matter.

I tried not to worry about how this would turn out, but I did wonder, a lot, about the end result. Would I get my hand “back” and when? Both in-office therapy and home exercises hurt, A LOT! And this would go on for 12 weeks, three times a week.

I had to keep doing the exercises, regardless of the pain. Otherwise, I might not get back to full function, and that was definitely a concern.

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A “New” Cast

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One night, my hand was swelling and getting numb/tingling. I called my ortho’s office and they told me to go back to the ER the next day.  I was given a “clamshell” cast. Basically, the cast is cut, front and back of the arm, and wrapped with a bandage. The two halves are strapped together but can be separated and adjusted to make room for the swelling. This was a great improvement. It was much better. It still swelled so I applied lots of ice as often as directed.

Pressure points were still a problem. The cast pushed on a spot at the base of my thumb making it very sore. And hard to get at. Why!? And I have incredibly dry skin on Both hands. Lotion, lotion, lotion!!

Note: I got the cast off after five weeks. I had nasty looking dry skin and no flexibility in my wrist. I was told I must do physical therapy exercises or my hand would end up being just a fly swatter. Certainly a gruesome image. And an incentive to get moving, literally.

This is all new and a bit scary, not knowing what the end result will be, how long it will take to get there.

Therapy begins…

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My right hand was a LARGE shadow of its former self. It was VERY swollen! It still is swollen but I am starting to see veins and tendons which I think is a good sign. Ice and elevation are the name of the game. My left hand is getting a workout but getting increasing assistance from my right. Remedial everything – getting dressed, eating, opening things, hair care, etc. I sometimes forget that I shouldn’t use my right hand too much, then “ouch” – I remember.

Before now, for arm exercise, I was just raising and lowering my arm with some occasional bicep curls. Oh, and wiggling my fingers. Therapy means, among other things, bending the wrist, forwards and backwards and from side to side. It also involves squeezing the fingers into a fist. One word describes all of this – Ouch!

Ice and elevation are still in play. I wrap my hand at least twice a day and sleep with it at an angle, propped by pillows. I am typing with one hand, slowly adding the other one. I am starting to feed myself with my right hand again. It sounds strange and looks stranger, but I am not quite ready for the “real thing” yet. Mostly I am trying not to get too impatient with the process. Recovery is a slow, steady journey and it has to be. Otherwise, it doesn’t have the desired result, full function and use.

Self-Care, Eating, Writing etc. left-handed

Advantages & Disadvantages

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Here are some Positives and Negatives of having a cast, a.k.a. the use of only one arm
(+ = positive, – = negative):
– A cast in 90* weather ain’t fun because you can’t scratch inside [and no, I didn’t resort to knitting needles].

–> + People help you when they see a cast.

– Your fingers, etc. get swollen if/when they are not elevated.

–> + You acquire a new appreciation for ice.

– Opening things is a serious challenge.

–> + You start thinking of new inventions.

– Typing is hard and takes a long time.

–> + Thank goodness for speech recognition software.

– Lifting things using your fingers is a no-no.

–> + With a cast, there is a broader surface to balance things on next to your body.

– There are a lot of things you now can’t do which gives you

–> + an appreciation for all the things you are usually able to do and used to take for granted.

One-Handed Wonder?

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How does one tie anything with one hand? Using teeth was a no-no from dentists. Oh well. And forget about hair elastics as they were impossible. I started wearing rolled bandanas as headbands. Tying shoes proved to be very hard. Thank God for elastic laces, and that I didn’t have to worry about neckties. Just had to get me some “e-laces”. The search was on.

I was still blessed with one good, -non-dominant-, hand, and trying to keep it that way. I was extra vigilant while walking. And I made sure my floor was clear of “hazards”. No more accidents, please. Again, it was amazing what is taken for granted.

I couldn’t lift, in any way, with the hand or fingers. This made for inventive new ways of doing things. I started balancing things on my cast. I carried little items in the sling. I clipped my keys to loops and rings on my purse, etc. My purse was now a cross-body bag so it wouldn’t fall off a shoulder. I carried some things between my arm and body when there was no other choice. And people do ‘magically’ offer to help sometimes when they see the sling/cast.

I was living a one-handed life, albeit temporary, and appreciating the two-handed life more every day.

Left-Handed Living for a Right Handed Person

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I fell and broke my right arm two months ago. I hit my head and bruised my left eye area too. My right knee got involved as well. I have never broken anything in my life – can’t say that anymore. I went to the E.R. in an ambulance-another first.

I have not had a job since. I had to go on “voluntary resignation” because the job involved transporting clients. I hope to find something better suited for me when this is all done.

I loved the purple cast I got. I had thought I would get a multi-colored one (who knew there were so many choices). I had to ice my arm regularly and keep it elevated as much and as often as possible.

I saw blessings times 100. The way I fell, my sunglasses got all scratched up on one side so I could have severely injured, or lost, an eye. And that’s just one of the blessings.

I had to figure out new ways to do Everything! What follows is a recap of the blessings and the lessons. Stay tuned!