A Day In the Life of Brachial Girl 2015
I came across this story I wrote last year, and thought I would share it. I wrote it at the end of May 2015. I never got around to sharing it, so I thought in honour of my blog's 1st birthday, I'll post it as a bit of a throw back. So much of it is still the same as a typical day now, except I don't have a job, so I pretty much spend every day with my PJs on, un-brushed hair, no makeup or smudged makeup from whenever I last painted my face. Geez that makes me sound horribly dirty hahaha.
Anyway - here it is ..... <3
A Day in the Life of Me - 1 June 2015
My eyes open.
I’m lying on my back and I feel the throbbing, burning, pressure and shrieking nerve shocks in my hand. I lie there and fight back the tears. I know I need to get up and get ready for work, but I can’t bear the thought of moving and starting the morning routine. I snooze my alarm again and again. Eventually I wake up properly and wonder if it was all a dream. I try to move my right arm but nothing happens. I can’t stop the tears that come. It wasn’t a dream. I can’t use my right arm at all, and the pain, it’s so very real. Sometimes it feels like my arm is in one place but when I look at it or wiggle my fingers, I realise it's somewhere else!
The feelings well up inside me. Dread that I will never be able to use my arm. That it will shrivel and be deformed and useless. For a while I wish I hadn’t survived the motorcycle accident. But then I look over at my sleeping husband and I can’t help but smile. I remind myself of my daughter and what I achieve at work, and the fighter rises up to the surface.
I grab my bad arm with my left hand and use my stomach muscles to sit up. Sometimes it takes a few tries. I walk to the kitchen, carrying my arm and take my nerve pain pills and a general painkiller.
I sit on the couch in my nightie and proceed to rub Bio Oil on my scar and massage my arm and hand. I go through my exercises to passively work the muscles in my arm and hand. It takes me about half an hour. I check the time realise I’m going to be late for work. Again.
I run to the bathroom, go to the toilet, put on my shower sling and jump in the shower for a quick wash. Going to the toilet is another adventure. If my arm isn’t in the sling, I rest it on the vanity, pull down my pants, pick up my arm, waddle to the toilet, sit down and rest my arm across my knees. My arm is an obstacle when it comes to wiping. Sorry for the detail, but it’s part of my story, as it’s so hard compared to before the accident.
My hair is greasy and needs to be washed but I don’t have time. I struggle to wash myself. I can’t wash my left arm properly, but if I wedge my loofah between my left elbow and my body I can sort of slide my arm downwards, rubbing it against my arm. I step out of the shower, leaving the water running, I grab my shaving razor and rest my bad arm on the vanity and stretch my body outwards, allowing me to shave under my right arm. To shave my left underarm I have to hold the razor in my left hand and curl my left arm up under my arm. It’s very awkward, and there is risk of cutting myself, but it’s the best I’ve come up with. I step back into the shower to rinse off then turn off the taps. Before I get out I squeeze all the water out of the shower sling then get out, grab my towel and dry myself off. It’s always a crappy job. I can never dry myself thoroughly.
Next I rest my arm on the vanity and again stretch outwards so I can spray deodorant on. To do my left arm, I have curl my hand up, just like when I shave and spray. The can always ends up being upside down so it doesn’t spray properly. Ah well!
Time to get dressed … putting on my undies is awkward but OK. To put on my bra, I sit on the bed and put the bra under my arm and hold one end of the clasp in my teeth. I reach around my back with my left hand and grab the other end ad pull it around to the front. While holding it, I grab the end from my mouth and hold the 2 ends against my stomach. I wiggle them around in my fingers to line them up. Sometimes I drop the ends and have to start again. I slide the end with the hooks down along the other end and try to get the hooks in the loops. Sometimes I drop it and start again. Sometimes I get them in first go. Once hooked, I spin the bra around and stretch the right arm strap over my right arm, then bend my left arm into the left strap and wiggle and stretch everything with my left hand till the bra is on properly. This can take 20 minutes and I’m puffed and panting by the time I’m done. Sometimes if I have trouble doing it I burst into tears and throw a tantrum. If my husband is home and awake, he takes over and helps me get dressed.
If is Friday or the weekend and I want to wear runners or my converse shoes, I have to get either my husband or daughter to tie up the laces!
Putting on my clothes is tricky and takes a while. Stockings, skirts and pants with buttons and zippers, shirts with buttons. Cardigans that are hard to get my right arm into. To put on jeans, I have to pull them up then lie on my back on the bed while I stretch the fly button to the buttonhole and fiddle with the fly button with one hand. Sometimes it can take a few goes.
Eventually I’m dressed and I can put on my splint, which I wear to support my wrist, and my sling, which I hate. By now I’m so hot and sweaty, I feel like I need another shower! Why does doing anything physical make me so damned hot and sweaty now. I never used to be like this!!!! In fact, I’m really hot all the time now!!! It drives me mad!
Now I have to do my makeup. I’ve learnt to do it all left handed. It’s quite fiddly. But doesn’t take too long. For my hair, which looks like it needs a wash, I spray dry shampoo all through it, brush it and hope it looks OK. Sometimes if my daughter hasn’t left for school yet I get her to put my hair in a ponytail.
I’m all done. Hmmm, shoes.
If my outfit allows, I slip on some plain heels. Sometimes the outfit requires shoes with straps. I have to sit on the bed and bend my leg up next to me and do up the straps. The right foot is hard because my left up gets in the way. It can take a few goes and my knees hurt from being bent behind me.
I grab my handbag and put it on my left shoulder. I grab my work backpack which has my work laptop in it and put that on my left shoulder as well. Out the door an off on my walk to the bus stop. It takes about 5-10 minutes. I have to be really careful, because my balance has really been off since the accident. It doesn’t take much to overbalance me – a bit of uneven ground, going up steps, being bumped by other commuters … The bus trip isn’t too bad IF I get a seat to myself. If I have to sit next to someone, they always bang my arm and squash up against me. I want to scream at them and push them off the seat. Getting off the bus can be hard if its busy. People try to push their way off and on the bus and most of the time thy bang into my arm or shoulder, sending shock waves of pain coursing through me.
As I’m walking to my office building I pull my security pass out of my handbag and slip it into my sling. I get into the elevator and bend down, rubbing my sling on the card reader to activate it so I can press the button for my floor. I get out of the lift and swipe my sling against another card reader to open the office door. I walk to my desk, get out my computer, plug everything in, sit down and turn on the laptop. I usually get up and go make a coffee, which is easy enough, using the Nespresso machine.
Back at my desk I take my arm out of the sling and put it up on the desk between me and the keyboard. Work is work. I type and use the mouse with my left hand. I’m a little slower than I used to be, and I’m not as good at multi-tasking, but I can still do my job as well as before. I walk a bit slower, and struggle to move archive boxes around. My medication makes me so drowsy that often I’ve fallen asleep with my head forward against the monitor and my friend who sits next to me has to wake me up. So embarrassing.
I enjoy my job. And being to work despite having a useless right arm gives me great satisfaction. I have some great friends at work. And I’m very thankful for that.
If I’m wearing a skirt or pants with a zip and belt, my friend has to come to the toilet with me in case I can’t do it up when I’m finished. I also have to ask people to help me in the kitchen, because I often have a cup of soup or noodles for lunch, and the hot water system requires 2 hands because it has a safety mechanism. So embarrassing.
Sometimes I have medical appointments during the day – check-ups or physio. Depending on the time and location, I either get taxis from work and back, or I leave work a little early and get the bus home then drive myself in our Jeep to the appointment. Other times my husband will take me. I can drive our car because its automatic and the indicators are on the left hand side. I don’t think I’m legally allowed to drive with one hand. I think I can be assessed for modifications to the vehicle and get a permit, but I haven’t done it yet. I’m fine driving, and I can park in car parks. I haven’t had any problems. But I only drive when I really have to.
I’m so thankful for this job and the people I work with. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
The journey home is OK. The bus trip only takes about 15 minutes. By the time I’m walking home from the bus stop I’m exhausted and my arm is starting to hurt more and more.
I get home and I just want to lay on the couch with my arm up on pillows to help the swelling go down. Some days I do that straight away. Other days I potter around the house or get on my computer to do things for my husband’s business or do chores for the family.
Most of the time (since my accident) my husband has prepared dinner and he always cooks a yummy meal. Sometimes I cook, getting my husband or my daughter to chop the veges and meat etc. I like cooking. So I try to whenever possible. While dinner is being cooked by my husband I get changed out of my work clothes and lay on the couch.
We eat dinner at the coffee table in the lounge room these days. I rest my arm on my legs and use my left hand to eat. My husband always cuts everything up for me. Though I am now practicing cutting my own meat, now that my fingers seem to be moving a bit more.
After dinner I go through all my exercises. Especially working on the little muscles in my shoulder joint. I now have subluxation of the right shoulder. The muscles have stretched and weakened because my arm just hangs and weighs down on the muscles. There is now a gap between the arm bone and the shoulder. It feels really weird. And the muscles around the gap are sore all the time. I have to concentrate and do small controlled movements to work and strengthen the muscles. Hopefully the muscles will get strong enough to pull the arm bone back into the shoulder joint. Hopefully.
I lay back down on the couch and think about what I need to do before bed. I know I need to have a shower and wash my hair. But it’s such a long drawn out process that most nights I put it off until I have no choice! From getting undressed, to drying my hair and putting on pyjamas it takes about an hour. My left arm gets exhausted from washing, conditioning and combing my hair. If I need to shave my legs I run a shallow bath and sit in it to shave my legs before I go and have a shower. Obviously I put off doing this for as long as possible.
Some nights I’m in a lot of pain. Aches, burning, pressure, tingling, nerve twinges and shooting nerve pains. Sometimes my right hand gets “angry” and pulses with electric pains and feels like its burning. Sometimes I get shocking sharp nerve pain that makes me cry out, causing my husband to jump and ask what's wrong.
Most nights I lay on the couch with my arm up on pillows, my husband sitting on the opposite couch or laying on the other end of the couch with me. We watch TV together. Sometimes I have my laptop on my lap and look at things on the internet or order our groceries online, or pay our bills etc. My husband is amazing, getting up to get me drinks or snacks. Sometimes when I’m really sore he massages my shoulders and neck with muscle relaxing cream. My daughter cleans up the kitchen and helps keep the house clean. I’m really blessed with my family. Since I had the accident, they have really stepped up.
If I’ve accidentally had a nap before dinner, I end up wide awake until 1am!
Getting into bed is a drama routine too. Taking off my makeup, brushing my teeth, putting on my pyjamas, if not already on, setting up a cushion for my arm. Jumping into the bed and wiggle myself into position on my back with my right arm by my side and the hand on a cushion. It takes a long time to fall asleep. And before I know it my alarm is going off and I’m hitting the snooze button again and again.
Some days there are tantrums and tears. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t alive. But most of the time I’m determined to get through it all.
If I’ve had a bad night and wake up in more pain than usual, I call my boss and arrange to work from home for the day. He’s great and knows I work my butt off. That’s why I carry my work laptop to and from work every day – just in case I need to work from home!
While this job lasts (I’m on a contract) I’m lucky. My bosses respect me and know that I always keep on top of everything, despite all the appointments and days working from home. When my contract ends - I don’t think any employer will hire me. It’s a huge concern in my mind right now. My contract was extended to 30 June. Just 1 month away. I’m hoping they extend it further.
I talk to people with the same injury in Facebook groups. It’s great to hear their battle stories. Some scare me, some give me hope.
I’m fearful of my looming operation. A few days off work. Then years of waiting and physio to see if the transplanted nerves get the muscles to work. Hopefully I I’ll be able to lift up my arm and use my bicep to bend it. I wonder if I will get the dexterity back in my hand and fingers. Somehow I don’t think I will be able to write or pick things up with it, but you never know! I worry about the unused muscles in my arm shrivelling up, leaving me with a thin barely usable arm. People will stare. I will forever be conscious of it. The thought of having to rely on others for everything is freaking me out.
But I stay strong and positive. There are too many things I want to achieve in life!
I just thought I would share the story of a typical day. So different to the way it was before the accident. I’ve always looked after my husband and daughter. Organising our finances, our house, our dogs, shopping and washing etc as well as working full time and having a social life. Things are very different now. I try to do everything, but even the things I can do wear me out so much. Hard for an independent control freak like me.
The days I don’t work, I’m still up really early. I hate sleeping. I hate having to lay on my back. Stuck in that position all night. And when I wake up, the pain is so bad that I have to get up a get my pills as quickly as possible. Most of the time I’m at home, I am laying on the couch, my arm propped up pillows, watching the TV, my mind weaving in and out of consciousness as the medication takes me on a rollercoaster ride. Pain, drowsy sleep, pain, drowsy, sleep …Without work to keep me busy, weekends and evenings are spent like this.
I wonder where I’ll be a year from now. 2 years from now. 5 years from now.
As I sit here re-reading what I’ve just written, I see that I’ve written this with a fairly positive attitude, and although it seems pretty lighthearted, the thoughts and feelings that are constantly rolling around me are not. All day and all night, I feel useless, worthless, futureless, crippled, ugly and embarrassed. What on earth will become of me. How long before my husband leaves me. How long before I’m unemployed. How long before everyone is sick of hearing about my arm. Will I be a lonely crippled crazy cat lady with no one in her life?
xxx Brachial Girl
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P.S This photo is from a work Christmas party, 4 months before my accident, and is of myself and 2 of my friends, who I used to work with, and who so dearly helped me at work after my accident, with hot water, doing up my fly, waking me up and many, many other things. Love you Shelley and Patrice!
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