Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Recovering slowly…

It has been pretty much exactly 3 months since I broke my left elbow, and I've recovered a lot, though not quite enough to return to work yet.  Here is the saga of what happened since my last post.

Around the time of my last post, the surgeons replaced the huge cast with a removable one, and I began to be able to take it off and exercise my arm and wrist.
First they wrapped my arm with some sort of white fabric, then wound wet flexible fiberglass strips around it; it gave off a fair bit of warmth from some sort of chemical reaction as it hardened. Then they cut the fiberglass into two pieces, removed it, and taped the edges. Finally they put the pieces back on my arm, and wrapped tensor bandages around it to hold it back together. They gave me a set of exercises to do three times per day; I was able to take the cast off to do so, but had to have help putting it back on. Here is the process in three parts:
  • First, sliding the large lower part over my arm:
  •  Second, putting the top piece in place:
  •  Third, having someone else (in this case my son Ian) wrapped and pinned the tensor bandages:
This new cast was smaller enough than the original that I could fit normal short-sleeved shirts over it, though not long-sleeved ones.

Now I am allowed to leave the cast off when I am home, but am supposed to wear it again if I go into crowds or a place where there is a reasonable chance of getting bumped. I've progressed beyond the simple exercises they gave me before, and will start visiting a physiotherapist tomorrow. I still need a lot of work to get back full use of the wrist, arm rotation, and elbow bending.

I'm using Dragon NaturallySpeaking for writing, and have slowly gotten used to proofreading carefully to correct the places where it misinterprets what I was saying. I still miss things, but far fewer than at the beginning. It's a bit discouraging that it isn't fully integrated with some of the programs I use commonly, such as LibreOffice. I don't have MS office at home. When I recently needed to dictate a long document, I used WordPad. It also works well with text boxes in Firefox, like the one I'm using to create this post.

I can use my left hand a bit more for a few keys, but if I try to type normally with my left hand I raise my elbow, which is bad for both the elbow and shoulder. One friend suggested I get an ergonomic tilted keyboard, which would require less arm rotation. Still can't program or create lecture slides, since the dictation program doesn't help much with that. For the first few weeks, I was told not to lift anything heavier than three sheets of paper, but now the limit is 2 kg. That lets me read newspapers and small books in my normal fashion, until the wrist gets tired. Nobody has told me yet how long to expect the remaining recovery to take, though I have got the impression the weight limit will go up only slowly even if wrist and arm movements recover sooner.

So, life is a bit more normal, but I still have quite a way to go.