And so it begins…

 

My beloved Gina. Because it was orange. I’ll get my coat.

I’ve always been terrible at writing introductions so let’s get stuck right into my credentials as a BPI blogger. In June 2014 I was knocked off my beloved bike by an aggregates lorry. I was doing about 50mph when I ploughed into the lorry (so I’m told, I don’t even remember setting off that day). I remember coming round on the grass verge; apparently I’d slid nearly 30m across the road, hit the kerb, flipped up onto the verge and into a hedge. 6.0s all round, except from the Russian judge. I can remember feeling like my arm had gone dead, like when you’ve slept on it. I begged the people there to turn me over and then passed out again. The rest of that day is a hazy blur of shock and pain. I vaguely recall being on a hospital trolley yelling in agony (the A&E nurse visited me a week in and said they’d emptied a syringe of morphine into me and I still kept making a racket). I remember struggling to sleep that night, waking up what felt like every 5 minutes but was probably more like every hour. I was in the Trauma Unit at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, right by the nurse’s station but was very hazy on what I was doing there. By that point I was out of the woods and wasn’t going to die, although I felt so bad that in that first week I sometimes wished I had. The pain, oh God, the pain.

 

That’s not going to polish out.

My dad & stepmum came to see me on the day after my accident and my brothers visited at some point during that week. I don’t remember much detail from the first week, just random memories: how shocked my brothers looked, the way I could only just move my ‘uninjured’ right arm, having to be spoonfed the little food I was able to eat. I couldn’t feel anything from the shoulder down on my left side, couldn’t move my arm even a fraction. I knew it was serious but it didn’t sink in just how badly I’d hurt myself. I had broken my scapula, two vertebrae and four ribs, one of which had punctured my left lung. I had a chest drain in which looked grim and felt worse. The drain hurt and I could feel it with each breath, and when the nurses rolled me onto that side to put new sheets on it was unbelievably painful. My spleen was lacerated but didn’t require any intervention. Where I hit the moulded steel wheel arch/cab steps on the lorry I had torn my lower left leg open along the underside of the knee. The scar goes almost all the way around my leg. My ankle was enormous and the doctors initially thought I’d dislocated it, but eventually after a few scans said that there was air inside the joint that shouldn’t be there, and put a backslab on it. The top of my foot had been scraped off, from where I’d apparently had my foot trapped under the bike as I slid down the road. Two of my toes are now sewn together, I imagine they were hanging off. I had hoped to avoid a skin graft but eventually, after my foot started leaking brown fluid everywhere and the flesh started to turn black, they admitted defeat and took a square of skin from my inner thigh (oh Matron!) and excised all the manky dead flesh.

And this was the *good* arm!

I had 3 operations in total in that initial 7 week hospital stay, the skin graft to my foot and two nerve related procedures. The surgeon told me that I had a brachial plexus injury and that I had ruptured the two nerves that worked the bicep/triceps muscles, and avulsed the other three nerves that worked the lower arm, hand and wrist. Avulsion is the most serious damage you can do to your nerves; imagine that the nerves are like hairs, with roots on the spinal cord. Avulsion is like ripping a hair out so hard that it destroys the root. The surgeon said that she would take nerves from the back of my legs and transplant them into my arm, to try and patch up the two ruptured nerves. She was hopeful that I would regain some motion in my arm, possibly be able to bend it again, but the prognosis for my hand and wrist was effectively a write off. I was told not to expect to ever use my left hand again, which was a bit of a bummer, as I am/was left handed.

On escaping from hospital I moved back in with my dad and stepmum to recover from the accident and surgeries. I had my arm in a sling, tight to my body, with strict instructions not to take it out or move it around for 6 weeks, which made getting dressed or showered interesting. Because I couldn’t get the sling, arm or lower leg wet (I still had dressings on them) I ended up sitting on a chair with my back to the bath, while my amazing stepmum put her swimming cozzie on and stood in the bath using the shower head to wash my hair. I had my accident in the summer break between years 2 and 3 of a mid-life crisis degree (in archaeology) and somewhat optimistically I wanted to go straight back for my third year in September. There wasn’t that much time between getting out of hospital in early August and the start of term, but my university were amazingly helpful and sorted everything out for me. I’ll write about all the lovely things they did for me in a future post, but I would never have graduated without their help and understanding.

So that’s where I was in the immediate post-accident one armed world, bruised, battered and bewildered but still smiling. The point of this blog is hopefully to entertain and inform people with similar injuries and to highlight useful resources and items that I have come across. It is a personal account of day to day life with a totally paralysed dominant arm and I make no apologies for the varied nature of the content. I will try and flag anything likely to cause offence or anything particularly stomach churning. Thanks for stopping by!

 

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