Humerus Fracture Recovery Support Group

Hello!!

Just a quick post to say that I have started a Humerus Fracture Support group on Facebook and I’d love you to join!

Let’s make a lovely and supportive group where we can all discuss all things humerus!

You can find it at the above link, or by searching Facebook groups for ‘Humerus Fracture Support’

Hope to see you there!

Advertisements

1. My Journey of a Humerus Fracture – my experience of a broken upper arm

January 2018

So I managed to break my humerus.

Great start to the year.

I’ve found reading blogs from others who have experienced this extremely helpful, so I’ve decided to share my journey.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have been through something similar. Or if you read this years from now, give me a shout – sharing is caring!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

2. How I Fractured my Humerus

January 2018

The Accident: a not so exciting riding related incident.

So let me explain the events that led to me being here and writing this.

I recently fell from a horse in a jumping lesson, and I have a mid shaft humerus fracture of my left (non-dominant) arm. I have never broken a bone before, and I had no idea at the time what I had let myself in for. I was very much of the understanding that broken bones take around 6 weeks to heal, give or take. So apparently chose the wrong bone to break!

From my research, I gather that horse riding is one of the most common causes of this type of injury, along with other sports, and also slips, trips and falls.

So my fall: I fell from a horse while jumping, at speed, directly onto my left arm and knew instantly it was broken. I referred to this in the title as a not so exciting riding related incident on the basis that nothing major went wrong, the horse didn’t misbehave terribly, nor did I ride badly. It was just one of those things that happens. Horse went around a fence rather than over it, and I didn’t manage to stay with her. I am known for preferring ‘interesting’ or ‘difficult’ horses, so this wasn’t a particularly dramatic event. Just a bog standard fall.

In 2017, I fell off 10 times, and I had been lucky enough to walk away from each with not a scratch. Many of these falls were fairly dramatic, so this fall was not the scenario I would have imagined that would have been the one to break me, but it did. First fall of the year definitely wanted to make a name for itself.

I’ve never broken anything before, and was surprised at how little pain I was in. How did I know it was broken if I had no pain? When I attempted to stand up, I experienced a very strange feeling in my arm. I could feel my shoulder, and my hand, but when I tried to use my arm, nothing happened. It felt like all that was attaching my shoulder to my elbow was a piece of cooked spaghetti! I sat on the riding school floor, and calmly, almost jovially told my instructor that I was fine, but I’d likely need an ambulance as I’d broken my arm. I then calmly asked my friend to give me my phone so I could let my husband know I’d be home a little late. Luckily he probed for more information and decided to come along and meet me at the yard right away.

Ambulance was called, I was given gas & air, and morphine for the pain. I didn’t feel any pain at this point but the paramedic assured me that adrenaline and shock were involved in that and that I’d be glad to have the drugs in my system shortly.

I was taken to A&E in the ambulance, and I was very lucky that the three guys tasked with taking me there were extremely friendly, kept chatting to me the whole way, and even asked to see the video of my fall! This distracted me from looking at the shape of my arm, which definitely was not normal.

Once I arrived at the hospital, I became aware that it would take some time before I’d be seen – it was very busy and they did not have enough beds for myself or the other three people who were waiting in the corridor. A bed was eventually sourced and I was handed over to the hospital staff.

Some time later, after sitting in the hall of the A&E department in a hospital bed, due to no space in the ward, I was examined and then sent for an X-ray. The X-ray confirmed a broken left humerus midshaft, but no nerve damage suspected, as I still had feeling in my lower arm and my hand and wrist seemed to be functioning correctly. The fracture was severe on the X-ray so I was informed that an operation was likely to be required.

My arm was then manipulated into the correct position and put in a splint, from shoulder to elbow. The splint is similar in feel to a cast, but is soft on the inside, to allow for swelling. Having this applied wasn’t fun, and was the most painful experience of my life so far, even with another dose of morphine and gas & air to suck on throughout the process. I didn’t look at my arm as they performed this, but I could tell from my husband’s face that it was not a pretty sight.

A further X-ray then was completed which now showed my humerus in an acceptable position and I was therefore told no surgery would be required for the time being. I was sent home with strong painkillers and told to return a week later for an initial check up.

At this point, in hindsight, I feel that some basic information and guidance would have been useful. I was not advised to stay upright at all times including when sleeping, and they did not explain to me how the biggest factor in helping this type of fracture heal was allowing gravity to do its thing. I therefore went home that night, well the early hours of the next morning by now, and went straight to sleep on my uninjured side. I had no problems dozing off thanks to the painkillers and morphine.

At this point, I was still blissfully unaware of how bumpy and long the road ahead was to be…

3. Week 1

January 2018

I had spent my first week after the fracture feeling fairly upbeat. I hadn’t experienced much pain and even found myself forgetting to take my pain medication.

I had visited my doctor surgery for a sick line as I’d been advised not to work for the time being. Luckily I work for local government who have a generous absence policy so I was not going to be financially disadvantaged due to my injury at this stage, and my boss was extremely understanding when I called her to let her know what happened.

Me: “Hi boss, I’m really sorry, but I won’t be in work today, as I’ve broken my arm”

Boss: “Oh dear, don’t tell me you fell off that bloody horse?!”

How did she know?! Ok… I may be known to take a tumble from time to time… This then shortly followed by her sending me well wishes, telling me not to rush back, and to just concentrate on getting better.

I had, like many others I’m sure, started eating healthily from the beginning of January – New Years resolution to get fitter and lose weight. When I injured myself, I worried about weight gain since I wouldn’t manage my usual run two/three times a week, and horse riding three times a week. I was therefore determined to stick to healthy eating, and I must admit I was feeling better for it.

I’d unfortunately come to the realisation that I’d have to pull out of a 10k training program that I’d just commenced the night before the accident, and also out of the 10k race at the end of it. And I was slowly coming to terms with not being able to ride, although I knew this was going to be the hardest part for me as I really do love riding.

I was lucky that I have my husband to help me with cooking and washing my hair, opening bottles etc, and to take care of the cat and housework as I really would have struggled to do these things alone. Depending on what we were eating, I’d need him to chop up my food for me, so that I could eat it with a fork only. Baked potato night became deconstructed baked potato and shredded salad for example. Or we would eat foods that were easy for me to eat such as veggie pasta.

This week I also attended the hospital for a check up. This was a stressful experience! Due to a really bad spell of weather, approximately six weeks earlier, the fractures ward was inundated with patients who had been unfortunate enough to slip on ice. I hadn’t realised at the time that this was the reason for such a chaotic experience, although thankfully the ward has not been as busy as this on any other occasion.

First I was taken for an X-ray which showed that my humerus was now in a less favourable position than the week previous. They decided to try a brace for a week and see how it was looking. I was sent to have the splint removed and brace put on.

I was called in to have the splint removed a while later, by someone who explained that she didn’t usually remove casts and splints, but that she had been pulled in from another ward to help since they were so busy. She removed the splint then sent me for another X-ray. At the time, I trusted that she was following the doctors orders, however I did find it strange and very stress provoking to be walking around the hospital with nothing on my arm. I was then sitting in the waiting area to see the consultant when he spotted that I had no brace on. He came straight over and rushed me into his room, calling a nurse and another doctor in with him. Although they tried to make it appear normal, I could tell immediately that the brace should have been applied as soon as my splint was removed. The consultant and his two helpers then fitted my brace, clumsily and using the instructions in the packet to work out how it was to be applied. I could tell that they were not used to applying these, but that they didn’t want to risk me sitting in the waiting room until the casting department were available to fit it. The brace was applied and the X-ray repeated, luckily and possibly by some miracle, showing an acceptable position again. I was sent home for a week, and told that they would assess the position of the fracture the following week.

This was an extremely stressful experience, and after feeling upbeat and having a pain free week, I was brought back down to earth with a bump.

When I left the building, for the first time since the accident happened, I cried.

Having now done my own research, I believe the movement in the alignment of my humerus over week one was due to having not been advised to stay upright at all times and to not rest my elbow on surfaces as this would put pressure on the fracture and prevent gravity from doing its thing. I had been sleeping on my side (on non-injured arm) and had often been resting my elbow on surfaces to give my neck a break from the weight of my arm. From this point forward, I had decided I would stay as upright as possible.

4. Week 2

February 2018

I had spent the last week hanging out at home with my cat during the day, and husband in the evenings. I watched a lot of Netflix (I’d recommend My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Good Place and Jane The Virgin by the way…) and I’d also listened to a couple of audio books. I found audio books great as I could listen to them while showering (which was time consuming and uncomfortable), and could also listen to them while trying to get to sleep at night (which was tricky due to sleeping upright propped up against pillows).

I also went to the yard to visit my lesson buddies and the horses, and saw the horse that had broken me. She’s a sweet horse. I know she didn’t mean it, so I won’t hold it against her.

I had another check up at the hospital and the consultant was still happy with the alignment of my humerus. I was told to begin some basic movement to try and stop elbow from seizing up too much, in addition to keep my hand and wrist moving. At this point I cannot fully straighten my arm at the elbow, but I believe this is normal at this stage and should improve with basic exercises, and physiotherapy once my arm is ready for it.

I also took the opportunity to volunteer for my local parkrun (a free weekly timed 5k run) since I often run it. My husband is also a regular and rarely misses a week. This week I was a marshal on the course, directing people in the right direction. It was cold and windy, but it was nice to get out and about and volunteer for a great organisation.

5. Week 3

February 2018

More of the same this week. I visited my friend and her new kitten, this was the highlight of my week.

I also volunteered at parkrun again, this time as funnel manager, which involves making sure runners stay in their finish position once they cross the line, until they are given their finishing place token. This was quite challenging, and I did have to shout at a few people!

I had another check up at hospital this week and was seen by a different consultant this time. He was happy with my progress (not that there had been much) and said that he could see some potential signs of healing commencing, although it’s hard to see from the X-ray at this point since callus does not have calcium in it. He signed me off work for a further month and asked me to come back in two weeks for another check. He wanted to see me again in two weeks in case the bone started to heal but not in good alignment – highlighting that if an operation does end up being required, that it’s better to do it sooner in the healing process rather than having to break harder callus/bone.

I’ve been struggling to sleep, one night I didn’t sleep at all. I’ve never had problems sleeping before but between trying to prop up comfortably on cushions, and also experiencing neck pain from the weight of my arm constantly being supported by my neck in the sling, it was proving hard to drop off. I decided to purchase a weird contraption that you put on your bed, which allows you to lie at different angles. This has helped a lot with getting comfortable at bed time. It also wasn’t expensive – around £19.99 plus postage.

I also decided to start taking some supplements. I figured that if my body is trying to heal a bone, it could do with some extra help, and since I’m vegetarian my diet isn’t as high in many vitamins as I’d like.

I also spoke to my doctor about the neck pain but she just prescribed anti-inflammatories which I’ve read are not recommended in fracture patients, as inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process, so I’m doing my best to avoid taking these and instead have been using gels on my neck at bed time. The saving grace is that since I’m off work, I can stay in bed later the next day if I do struggle to sleep.

I sometimes think I should be back at work by now, but then when I have a bad night I know there’s no way I’d be able to go in. I also think I would struggle sitting down all day, not being able to adjust position. I often also have to sit and support my broken arm with my other one to take weight off my neck to prevent it getting worse, so this would make work very difficult and frustrating.

6. Week 4/5

February 2018

Nothing exciting to report over the last couple of weeks other than I’ve done a few more things out and about, visited some friends, and popped into work for a catch up with my colleagues.

I’ve had to buy some specialist shampoo and conditioner this week as my scalp has been getting dry. I’m assuming that this is because I usually wash my hair daily but recently it has been done only around twice a week. It’s a bit of a hassle having someone else wash it for me. I have to sit on the floor with my back against the bath, head over the side. And no one does it quite the way you do it yourself. But a couple of times a week is fine at this stage, I’m not going out much so I don’t need it to be as fresh as a daisy!

I had my next check up at the hospital too. Another different doctor. This doctor looked at my arm, in the flesh, out of the brace. Until this point no one had actually looked at it properly since the brace was fitted.

The doctor at my last appointment had undone the brace to have a look but then decided against it, in case he aggravated it. He also managed to fasten it up incorrectly, which I noticed a week later when I still felt very uncomfortable under the brace. I asked my husband to undo it re-fasten it, and we discovered that the hard Velcro side has been on the inside, cutting into my skin! No wonder it hadn’t been comfortable! So much for not wanting to aggravate it…

Back to this week, the doctor said from images on X-ray it was hard to tell if any healing had begun as until calcium is present the X-ray won’t show it. But he felt the bone and also asked me to try and move my arm away from my body, and he seemed to think that the arm is beginning to now move as one unit, which he tells me is a good indication that healing has started. I have now been asked to return for my next check at the eight week mark, so three weeks from now, when he hopes to have more concrete evidence of healing. He said by now the bone should be more stable and the brace was now more for comfort and support, so didn’t need to be overly tight anymore. Phew!

I still haven’t been experiencing as much pain as I expected, and swelling in my hand/lower arm has been coming and going. I still can’t straighten my arm fully at the elbow but again, I’ve been reassured that this is normal at this stage.

I am keeping everything crossed that the next X-ray will show some progress. The doctor did say there is potential for the brace to come off at my next appointment, but I don’t dare to let myself believe this as I don’t want to be disappointed.