So a lot of people have asked what my surgery was back in May, and I have been super busy and just getting around to this post. This is what I had done, a Left Wrist Arthrodesis with Distal Ulna Excision and Possible Distal Radial Ulnar Joint Interpositional Arthroplasty and Open Carpal Tunnel Release and Extensor Retinacular Reconstruction with Auto Illiac Crest Bone Graft, wow that is a mouthful isn’t it. Yep, that’s what I thought too.
For the past couple of years, maybe longer, I have had a lot of pain in my left wrist, but continued to push through the pain, sometimes on my own and sometimes with a cortisone injection. But it seemed crazy to take medication for one pain that would be alleviated through a simple procedure, or so I thought. I had the right wrist done many years ago and it really was a simple procedure, with the removal of a painful thingamajig that sticks out on the outside of your wrist. But unfortunately, because I had waited so long on this one, there was a lot more damage and therefore a lot more that needed to be repaired. But I was still optimistic and ready to be pain-free. I asked my boss off for a Thursday and Friday and would be back at work on Monday.
Thursday came, and due to COVID, I was on my own once Chip kissed me bye at the door. The waiting room was set up for social distancing and I was sporting my required hospital mask. I entertained myself in the waiting room sending Chip pictures.
It was my first surgery since being married that he did not see me wheeled off from pre-op and waiting for me post-op. I had some problems post-op my last surgery, so I kept thinking what if…….and there I would be all alone with no family. But then a sweet, beautiful inside and out friend, Dana, who is a nurse, walked into my room, and I knew if anything happened she would be there and I would not be alone. Not having Chip in the room when I woke up after surgery was a hard pill to swallow, especially when I needed help getting my clothes on after surgery and had to allow someone else to help me. But it sure was nice to see Chip’s smile when I arrived back to the pick-up area, outside of course.
I was reminded to stay ahead of the pain because the nerve block would eventually wear off. I was extremely fortunate as the nerve block did not actually wear off until Friday, and because I did like I was instructed, my pain was not as bad as it could have been. The pain was excruciating at times and ice packs barely helped with the swelling, but I pushed through. I took pain medication through Saturday and had to sleep in the recliner for positioning. I then stopped everything except Tylenol and Ibuprofen on Sunday morning so I would be ready to go back to work on Monday.
This will be the only time you hear me say I was thankful for COVID but it was to my advantage that I was able to work from home. I could have done my job even if I had not been at home, but if I would have had to stay overnight, which I often did, then I would have had a huge problem being one-handed. Who would have fixed my hair? That would have been my biggest problem, as being one-handed, I could not figure out how to get a ponytail up.
Some things were easy and my surgeon had allowed me to type with my left hand, but I was in a very heavy cast which killed my shoulder and I had to use a sling, and I could not get the cast wet, therefore showers and washing my hair was a challenge, as well as a lot of other things too. I had my right elbow replaced many years ago and was one-handed for far too long, but I had forgotten how hard it was, which is probably a good thing.
So now my story begins about “who’s the mama now” as Bailey and I truly did have to change roles as I recovered from my surgery. Though she has been around during previous surgeries, she was either too young or away at college and not truly there to be “my left hand.”
If only I could have videotaped our many episodes, you would be laughing. She helped me get a shower and wash my hair using a shower chair and hand-held shower in her bathroom. I guess I was making various grunts and grimaces because she kept stopping and asking me what was wrong. She was about as wet as I was by the end and said I would be washing my hair in the kitchen sink from now on.
So, that is what we did the next time my hair needed washing. She literally had me lay, all 5’6 of me on the counter, and put my head in the sink. Getting up there was funny, as we do not have chairs, but bar height stools even for the table, so she had to pick me up and sit me on the counter. When getting my head washed I am ticklish if you get water on my forehead and once again I guess I was making noises and she was constantly asking me what was wrong, in a motherly tone, as if I had no reason to be acting the way I was.
I had my surgery on 05/28/20 and on 06/08/20, was so glad to have the cast that was up above my elbow removed. I knew life could only get better. I know it sounds crazy but I was getting very claustrophobic in the cast and begged for a splint, which he obliged, and I promised I would not take it off unless I was sitting down and in a safe situation. I kept my promise but continued to be one-handed as I was not to use the hand at all, not even to scratch my nose.
Life was incredibly challenging being one-handed and I cannot even imagine if I had to live that way forever and admire those that have accomplished this every day of their life.
There were funny times, like wetting my pants because I could not get my pants down fast enough with one-hand. We decided dresses were the best attire for me, and even then sometimes pulling my dress up to bite the hem in my mouth to hold it, while then pulling down the drawers, did not always go so smoothly, and off to change clothes, once again I would go. At least I did laugh at myself as my family shook their heads.
There were also a lot of tears because I cannot stand being dependent on anyone, yet there were things I could not figure out how to do myself. Bailey consoled me and told me it would be alright, and at least I had her and Chip because there were people that had no one.
Little things like opening a pill bottle, or even hooking my bra, were major challenges. Simple tasks became major struggles. I could not put earring backs on with one hand, as the earring would fall back out. Trust me I tried to figure this one out but stuck to wearing earrings that did not have backs, but even then there were times I could not get them off one-handed and had to ask for help. Childproof lighters, well that was very frustrating, but I was bound and determined to light a candle one day, and with much frustration, I finally accomplished being able to one-handed light a flame stick. I had to ask for help to put eye drops in my eyes, which I have to do a lot because of dry eyes. A year ago it took two hands to even hold my eye open to insert the drops and was usually quite comical. The entire time Chip would be telling me to open my eyes not my mouth and I would respond with “I am trying.” Eyes seem to have a mind of their own. Get near my eyes and eyes close and the mouth opens. I had finally learned to do eye drops by myself, but this task was definitely a two-handed job, one to hold the eye open and one to squeeze the eye drops. I could open a lot of things by placing them between my knees or under my arm and using my good hand to open, even though I often spilled some of the contents on me, but a lot of things I simply could not do, no matter how hard I tried. I used my teeth to open some things, like my eye drops, just to prove to myself I could. That was infuriating to Bailey as she would constantly ask why I had to prove anything to anyone, and I should just allow them to help. It was usually in a motherly tone, a frustrated motherly tone that is.
I tried to continue to do what I could but was often scolded by Bailey, you know the mama now. I was perfectly capable of putting clothes in the washer and into the dryer, but I admit folding clothes was a challenging chore and very time consuming with only one hand, so I reluctantly allowed others to take on that task.
I eventually was released on 07/06/20 to be able to pull up my pants, as long as they were not tight, he said, too late for that thanks to COVID. I could push a door closed, but no lifting or pulling of anything more than a few pounds. I could use my hand to hold my hair in place while using the other to secure it in a ponytail holder. By then I had managed doing most things one-handed and could out type a lot of people with one hand.
On 08/03/20, I could start doing as much as I tolerated with my left hand with a restriction of no more than 5-pounds and do not rotate the arm.
On 09/14/20, I was told I was doing remarkably well and would not need to return unless I needed to and had no restrictions, or at least that is what I remember.
I still find myself occasionally doing things one-handed and remind myself that I am no longer restricted and how beyond blessed I am that I had a great surgeon and wonderful family and friends who were with me on this journey.
The scars are barely noticeable, the memory of the pain and discomfort has faded, but the memories made by my daughter being my mother will always warm my heart.