Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Broken Wrist Opens Eyes

A week ago tonight I broke my right wrist while playing soccer.

I am right handed and feel as if my eyes have been opened.

It’s only a cast and waterproof at that.

Regardless, it is a loud and frustrating barrier to life as I knew it.

Typing this is already pissing me off. I’m using my left hand as usual and my right middle finger for all right handed letters. It is deeply satisfying using that finger, by the way.

As I share some of the things I struggled to do within the past few days let me be clear about something. Even though the forearm is casted it is still very sore, meaning pressure and hard movement can be painful. In addition, the top of the cast is just high enough that it prevents me from being able to comfortably bend it when reaching for the right side of my neck, face or torso. I also can’t grip anything because, well, because there is a hard fiberglass barrier between index finger and thumb. This explains why I’m not relying on the cast itself as a tool. Because it hurts the limb INSIDE it!! Now for my complaint list:

- Pulling apart and zipping a zip-loc baggie

- Opening and closing child-proof pill bottles

- Writing and typing

- Using a can opener

- Eating with a fork and cutting with a knife (hint: accept that you will drop food and sometimes miss your mouth completely when using left hand and that you will simply eat less, which is actually a glorious silver lining)

- Steering a car

- Putting my hair up in a clip or pony tail (gives new meaning to the word “tendril”)

- Putting on makeup with your non-dominant hand… Try it tomorrow ladies, I dare you.

- Putting deodorant on your left arm pit or, for that matter, washing your left pit

- Brushing teeth and flossing (teeth just suffer with leftie but those Oral B “one hit" plastic flossers had to be designed by a one armed person….LOVE them)

- Tying anything

- Cutting watermelon (there are, like, only four chunks after my efforts and they look like Steve Buscemi’s teeth)

- Buttons

- Opening jars (hint: hold jar between ribs and right bicep and pray the jar isn’t full)

- Picking up an obnoxious, pushy, demanding and absolutely adorable cat (hint: allow her Majesty to use the cast as a seat while resting her forearms on your shoulder)

- Making a bed with a fitted sheet (curse and then threaten your children if they don’t do it for you)

- Cutting anything with scissors (buy stock in Pampered Chef because I’ll be damned if those ambidextrous kitchen shears aren’t truly multi-arm capable!! Those rank above the Oral B flossers)

- Changing out the trash (hint: whine until someone else does it for you)

- Door knobs ( hint: stop trying to open the door with casted hand while holding the phone and car keys in the other and accept that multiple trips are required)

- Using the bathroom…. I DARE you to do this for a week. You are only allowed to wipe with your non-dominant hand AND you must pull your pants up and down with one hand. I’m laughing just picturing it (a maniacal laugh, but a laugh just the same).

These are just items off the top of my head.

Bottom line? It sucks.

I didn’t mention the itching. Or the aching. Or the smell that would start to permeate were this a non-waterproof cast. Or the sleepless nights because I can’t get comfortable. Or the side effects from the pain medication I took the first few days.

Now let me tell you what would really suck.

Losing a limb permanently.

Living life bound to a wheelchair.

Being born with a debilitating disease such as Osteogenesis Imperfecta.

For Jodi Picoult lovers, this is the disease highlighted in “Handle With Care”. Better known as “brittle bones”, the genetic disorder is characterized by bones that break easily, sometimes from no obvious causes and sometimes from simply moving the wrong way.

My family is familiar with this disease because my cousin Rachael has lived with it for 35 years.

There is, quite frankly, no way to completely paint an accurate picture of the hell this disease has wreaked upon her small frame.

Rachael was born with double digit fractures to her tiny body.

Read that again. Double digit breaks of her precious infant bones. She looked as if she had been beaten before ever taking a first breath. Rachael’s skull was described by doctors as “crackling” and with more severe cases such as Rachael's some of the fractures could have occurred in-utero even.

Childhood years were spent in body casts. I repeat: BODY casts… in addition to multiple arm and leg casts. You see, Rachael could break her hip from something as simple as rolling over.

I remember accompanying Rachael and her mother to the Shriner’s Hospital in St. Louis during my sophomore year in college when the first rod was placed in her back. I never understood the amount of pain she was in and we teased her for hitting the morphine button repeatedly after the allowed doses had already been given. I’m fairly certain there was nothing funny about it to Rachael.

She still has a steel rod in her back as well as one in her leg. She broke her left tibia and actually bent the first rod (a subsequent second and third had to be inserted). The worst break she remembers, though, was the femur and all of the injuries seem to ache long after they are supposed to have healed.

Rachael has never passed the 5’0 mark in height and one leg is a full 5+ inches shorter than the other one. Imagine trying to buy shoes. She requires a specially made and very expensive lift in order to equalize the lengths of her legs.

No, insurance doesn’t cover the lifts. As a result, Rachael will wear one pair of shoes until the pair becomes old and worn out. Only then will she purchase a new pair.

Look in your closets and count. How many pairs of shoes do you own? I’m almost ashamed of my stash; I love shoes.

Attending a wedding? She wears her one pair, which have always been tennis shoes. They are, after all, pragmatic.

Let’s be real, though. Shoes are one thing but the daily pain from dozens of bone breaks has taken a harsh toll and there isn’t a single day that Rachael doesn't hurt.

Sometimes it is tolerable…other times it is all she can do to get from the bed to the couch. If the barometric pressure changes outside her bones will sound the alert. There are physical scars and body memories…phantom reminders of past fractures.

This tiny little hiccup has left me thinking about Rachael daily: each time my injury aches, I struggle with arm mobility, and when I catch myself thinking “it’s only 4-6 weeks”.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta (or “OI”) and other disabilities don’t “go away”. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.

But every day those struggling with diseases we cannot even begin to fathom (the ALS Bucket Challenge has been an amazing catalyst) get up and face their monster head on. Rachael, bravely and against her doctor’s recommendation (she is affectionately and by personality and necessity fairly stubborn), is the mother of two healthy kids. She is happily married to a man who loves her and who wasn’t afraid of OI.

We can all learn from their strength and perseverance.

When you walk across a room, use both hands freely, speak without struggling to get the words out, or bend over without giving your back a second thought take the time to smile.

When you see someone with a disability give them a nod of admiration and respect.

Good health is a precious, precious gift. Cherish and nurture it.

Resources: http://www.oif.org