Note: This is a long post, so read what you want. This is mostly a “what happened” post and I will do another post later this week on the lessons we’ve learned from this experience. I will be posting some pictures throughout, but the pictures that some people might get grossed out by I will put at the end. If that is you, be cautious as you reach the end of this post. Pictures will include x-rays and Chris’s scar/staples.
I’ve received this called before. “Hey babe. I hurt myself pretty bad. I’m on my way home.” This was the call I got from Chris a month ago today. He was playing basketball at the seminary gym. He jumped up to block a shot and in the process of him jumping up, the shooter was falling, accidentally taking Chris’s feet out from under him. He came down hard and landed on his right elbow. He knew it was a bad fall, but he didn’t think he was seriously hurt. He got up to take a break and as he starting walking with his right arm down, he felt shooting pains that only went away when he held his arm up, supporting it with his left hand. When he got home we headed over to the hospital. At the time, Chris thought he landed with his arms out behind him (we found out later from a bystander that he landed directly on it), so his bet was that he hyper-extended his elbow and would have a 6 week recovery.
We got to the emergency room and waited briefly in the lobby before being taken into an examination room. The nurse took Chris’s blood pressure and asked about his pain level and what happened. He also told the nurse about his self-diagnosed guesses. That is one thing that I love about Chris. He takes situations that can be scary, stressful, or anxiety-filled and instead of freaking out he is calm and cracking jokes, which helps me calm down. We joked that because Chris’s body wasn’t functioning properly, his mind was making up for it with all his jokes. For example, our nurse was wearing a stethoscope with rolls of white tape around it. Chris asked her what they were, she said tape, and he said, “oh at first I thought they were marshmallows.” After she left the room he told me he thought she was wearing a marshmallow necklace, like the candy necklaces but made with marshmallows. I think I started crying because I was laughing so hard. Unfortunately next came Chris’s man, Emmanuel, to take his x-rays. Where Chris’s pain level was at a 6, it shot up to a 10 as Emmanuel made him move his arm around to get x-rays at different angles.
After x-rays we were moved to another waiting room. There our doctor came to tell Chris he had not only broken his elbow, but a piece chipped off and rotated upwards, meaning he would need to have surgery to fix it. One of the orthopedic surgeons was at the hospital and she wanted us to meet with him before leaving. Since Dr. Abrams was in a surgery, we had to wait several hours before meeting with him. While some people may find that frustrating, Chris and I really enjoyed our time together. It was a time that caused us to slow down and enjoy each other’s company. We spent our time talking, envisioning what the next several weeks would look like, calling people to keep them updated, and studying for Greek. This is also when we came up with his injury’s name. A month after we first got married Chris cut his left thumb open really bad and had to get stitches. As his scar healed, his thumb looked like a shark, so we started calling it Mr. Sharky. Since then we have decided to name all his injuries with their accompanied sound affects. So in the hospital we named his elbow injury Chippy since a piece of his bone chipped off.
After 3 hours we met with Dr. Abrams. He told us that the break Chris had was very rare, only happening during 3% of elbow breaks. While we thought he might do surgery that day, they decided to wait so he could consult other doctors about the best way to fix his break. So the doctor splinted him, gave us some pain med prescriptions and sent us home. On Sunday Dr. Abrams was good about keeping us informed. He was having trouble getting in touch with other doctors because it was the weekend, but he finally got in touch with someone late Sunday night, so we got the call Monday morning to meet with Dr. Lamb. We originally thought the surgery would be that day (we asked if that was possible since Chris had the day off of school), but when we arrived at the doctor’s office we found out if it were that day it would be extremely late at night… not worth it. So Dr. Lamb evaluated Chris’s break and explained to us how he was going to fix it, the recovery time, and possible complications with the surgery (loss of flexibility, getting arthritis at a younger age in the elbow, etc.).
Resting on Sunday
Love me some swollen fingers!
Capitulum – the piece of the humerus that chipped off
Tuesday morning, Chris went to school and I went to work. I picked him up at 11:30 so we could be to the hospital at noon. After checking in we waited briefly before they took Chris and prepped him for surgery while I waited in the waiting room for 3ish hours. The surgery took a little over an hour and was very successful. Beforehand we were told Chris would get two screws in his elbow, but if other issues arose during surgery that they could not see in the x-ray they might have to do any extra screw. Luckily they only needed two. Afterwards, Dr. Lamb came out to talk with me about how the procedure went, how Chris would be feeling the next few days/weeks, and to show me x-rays of Chris’s elbow with the screws. About 20 minutes later a nurse came to take me back to see Chris. When I walked in he was laying in his bed with sheets all the way up to his neck, listening to the nurse’s instructions. He was very alert and feeling good. During the surgery, not only was he under anesthetics, but he also received a nerve block in his arm. The nurse said this could last up to 24 hours, but that he should take his medication before going to bed in case in wore off while he was sleeping (which it did).
Chris’s biggest concern during this time was falling behind in school. This summer he took 2 semesters of Greek in 8 weeks. Because it is an intensive course, there is a lot to learn everyday and even on normal days he often felt like he was falling behind. So the thought of missing school was hard. He was so worried that when he woke up from surgery, the nurse said he was talking about conjugating Greek verbs. Chris ended up missing class the day after surgery (though he was home studying most of the time) and was back in class on Thursday. Every Friday they have a test, but due to missing some class and having a really hard time focusing on his medication (he said he hated how they made him feel slow), his teacher allowed him to postpone a day and take his test on Saturday. We are extremely thankful for how understanding and willing to help his teachers have been. Not only were they flexible based on how he was feeling, but for a week and a half they helped write down his quizzes and tests as he dictated the answers to them.
Another aspect we are extremely thankful for are the amazing doctors and nurses we had throughout the process. Everyone was very caring and helped keep us informed to the best of their abilities. We were so shocked the day after surgery when we received phone calls from a nurse at the hospital and from the doctor who performed the surgery. It affirmed us that Chris was in good hands and it was encouraging to know that they cared about Chris’s recovery. Having several friends in the nursing and medical field, we also tried to be very verbal in sharing our appreciation for them. I’m sure there are several days when interactions with patients can be draining and frustrating, so to combat that we wanted to be encouraging, caring, and crack some jokes with them. So to anyone in the medical field reading this, thank you so much for what you do!
Overall the recovery process has gone extremely well. The first week was definitely the most painful. Not only was his arm healing, but his splint was extremely heavy, so he couldn’t support it without a sling or using his left hand to hold it up. A week after surgery we went to the doctor, where they took the splint off and put on a brace. This brace is set at specific degrees so he could start moving his arm, but the movement was also limited. This was when I started calling him the Bionic Man and Mr. Roboto. This appointment was also entertaining because Chris’s skin was so wrinkly from being in a splint for a week. It was also swollen, which the doctor told us was normal for 6-8 weeks after the surgery. Chris was so fascinated (and freaked out… “I can feel my shirt touching my arm!”) that he kept stroking his skin with his fingers. A week later we went back to get his staples out (Chris didn’t even realize she had started taking them out because he couldn’t feel it) and he made sure before the appointment that he could move his arm the full extent of the brace. Last week Chris had his first two physical therapy appointments, where they are working on his flexibility in his extension and flexing. The doctor said he would most likely lose 5% of his flexibility. The physical therapist measured the angles in his arm and said he only has 5% to go to be at zero, however his elbows are normally 10% hyper-extended, so to get his full range back he would have 15% left (which he doesn’t need to do). I joke with him that he will now have one normal elbow and that we should break the other one so it’s no longer hyper-extended. Chris will go back in a week for his next check up, where he will most likely have his brace taken off, and from there I’m sure physical therapy will continue. While he can start doing a little more once the brace comes off, he cannot lift weights (or other heavy things) or play sports until 3 months post surgery… so basically he is counting down the days until November.
Going to get his splint off
And leaving with his bionic arm… I mean brace
Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, called to check in, or fed us! We really appreciate your love and support. Also, thanks to all of you who are reading this and are interested in how Chris is doing. If you have questions that I left out, please comment below and I will answer them. Now, if you get grossed out by medical stuff easily, I advise you not to look at the below pictures. I don’t think they are bad, but I just want to give you a word of caution if you get the heebie jeebies easily.
First x-ray. You can see where his chipped bone is sticking up.
After surgery with his two screws. You can also see the 12 staples.
Right after his splint was taken off and I saw his scar for the first time (since he couldn’t bend his arm he only saw the scar in this picture)
How Chris felt about his scar, staples, and wrinkly skin
He was so fascinated with his arm that he kept stroking it
Scar after the staples were taken out.