Cutting My Way to Healing: Surgery

When my elbow was shattered three years ago on D-Day, the wrack and ruin of the injury was a real shocker to me.  I had never broken a bone, never had surgery, never even stayed in a hospital, save for one diagnostic thing years before… nothing serious.  Now, my surgeon tells me that I have three broken bones in my right elbow that could take up to a year to recover.  That also assumes no other complications set in and I even can return to work some day let alone regain use of my arm.

The break had torn all the soft connection tissue free.  That all had to be anchored back down and repaired.  Then the bones themselves were in 10 different pieces!  The head of the Radius and Ulna were shattered essentially into three and four pieces each.  The Humerus head had snapped just above in one big chunk making it the easiest repair.  What a way to look at it, but when your surgeon has put together elbows and wrists of men wounded in battle, I’m thinking I fared pretty well.

Throughout this time, I kept praying.  “Why, God?  What is Your purpose in all this?  I cannot see you, and know that I should be afraid, but for some reason, I am not.”  that was the strange thing.  I was scared, but I had peace.  A peace I should not have had, by human standards.  By spiritual standards, I know why.  He carried me through it all for I did not do it by my own strength or denial alone.

The day of the surgery was more of a relief on many levels.  It was going to hurt and freak me out, but at least it would be over and I would be able to heal proper and get better.  They never asked me to count down for the anesthetic knocking me out, so I volunteered anyway.  I remember distinctly saying, “Wow!  I didn’t think I’d make it past 85, but I’m still awake.”  They laughed at me, good-naturedly I hoped.  I don’t remember 84.

Then was in a hospital bed feeling like I had been out drinking all night.  Not hungover, but still buzzed and hating it.  My arm did not hurt at first, but then I moved reflexively.  Well didn’t that just tilt the pinball machine!  What went from a kinda tolerable, but miserable 7 on the pain scale to a 10.  Oh yeah, this is gonna be fun was my thought.  It wasn’t till the last week of rehab did I learn how the pain scale was supposed to be calculated.

Having to pee was embarrassing too.  You finally have to go so bad and are so gorked out of your mind you just don’t care who is watching and what you piss on.  I remember the process of  getting to the can being a disgusting an humorous operation, dragging poles and machines that went ‘ping’ behind me and finally not caring what my accuracy was, and the fact I was naked in front of three female nurses.  Oh who CARES!  My bladder is calling the shots and it says “You go NOW!” like an angry sumo wrestler.  Oh the joys of bodily functions in front of strangers.

Beyond that, mother morphine played deletion roulette with much of my memory.  I do remember lunch before being picked up being surprisingly tasty.

My father picked me up and we went to see the surgeon where I was informed of what kind of a mess I was.  A plate a bunch of plastic anchors and glue holding my tendons and ligaments together, a bunch of cartilage scooped out and a metal plate with four screws, and one for good measure through my Humerus.  Just…. really.  My surgeon cautioning me that because of my size, I could EASILY tear these things loose and be forced to suffer another surgery and some real potential problems.  So for two months, I had to live, arm locked at a 90 degree angle and praying that something horrifying did not happen, like falling in the shower (Which I did, more on that later) or worse.

Living alone, there was some concern about how I was going to handle things on my own.  Hell, I was worried too.  But, God provided a way.  I was always able to find a friend, or neighbor or family to take my clumsy butt where I needed, go shopping with me or help out.  To those people, you are saints, and I praise God for you.

But, that was the first big step in what has been a multi-year recovery.