It has been six weeks after my freaky left elbow fracture incident.

The fourteenth of October was a Monday, and we just came from a semi-advocacy, semi-adventure ride in Manila. At a certain slightly downhill location I lost control of my folding bike and crashed on the road. Thankfully, I had one less thing to worry about as my bike helmet protected my skull from damage. My first aider instincts reminded me to check for any bodily damage and assume fractured parts. Nothing hurts during the first several minutes of an accident. Probably, this is the body’s way of telling you, hey, go check for problems while I give you time to stabilize and do first aid before the pain comes rushing in. The ambulance came in more than half an hour later, and I was thankful to eventually reach the hospital where more advanced help can be given to my broken arm.

In the care of the doctors, I was fervently hoping that I only dislocated my forearm. Unfortunately, the X-rays said otherwise.

I fractured both my forearm bones (ulna and radius) at their ends — fragmented (comminuted) at that.

X-ray showing comminuted fracture of the olecranon

Elbow Fracture Operation

I trusted my orthopedic surgeon when he said he will glue the pieces together using bone graft and hold them in place with titanium plates and screws. He described what was going to happen a few days prior to the surgery.

The operation took place on the evening of the 18th, a Friday.

Because I was out asleep during surgery, recently I imagined that putting the comminuted fragments together was similar to an episode in Trauma Center. Out of curiosity, I also looked for a video in YouTube how the operation looked like in real life. It seemed interesting how it’s possible to put broken shards together, like you probably would when trying to fix your favorite coffee cup that broke.

When I came to, I was already in the recovery room, groggy and “high” on painkillers. I can only barely recall that time in the room as everything was hazy. Could I have been high on Duterte’s fentanyl? Hahaha. But whatever that was, it helped — at least while it lasted. Because the next couple of days was pure agony, with my pain reaching 8/10 with blood pressure at 150/100! I even had a 39°++ fever. Thankfully the fever eventually went away, as did the high BP. Although the pain remained, it went down for a bit.

Home recovery

I got discharged from the hospital on the 22nd, so I can continue my recuperation at home. Despite the fact that my arm was constrained (in a removable cast), my ortho doctor instructed me to immediately start mild movement exercises at home. The first couple of weeks dealt with doing the exercises up to four times per day. The first few weeks were also difficult, because I would get chills some days, and the pain level on the arm would shoot to 5/10. The pain didn’t really go away, as it was 2/10 on most days. Meds like tramadol was virtually useless as it barely helped lessen the pain. At night, I barely slept soundly because there’s no particular position which would help ease the pain. It was painful. Not to mention that with your arm and the cast on top of your abdomen (or slightly on the side), it was heavy and made it difficult to breathe deeply.

Photo of my laptop with Alab the Mozilla plushie
Alab the Mozilla plushie helps with the grip exercises. To think he’s a fluffy, fluffy beast — but he’s un-squishable!

The ortho had me totally stop wearing the cast at almost the third week. The rehab exercises involved light (but firm) arm flexing / extension, pronation-supination (twisting) of the wrist, and grip exercises. This was a pretty frustrating week for me also because I had already resumed programming work, albeit with just one hand. As a programmer, I didn’t feel being useful as much because you had to take things (and typing) slowly. Having the rehab exercises that needed to be done hourly was even more challenging!

Unmovable Klingon hand
A manager-friend did a Vulcan greeting as a get-well-soon gesture. I tried — struggled — to reciprocate. I can’t even!!

All the muscles on my left forearm had to be retrained! When the rehab exercises started, I can’t even move anything other than my fingers. I only got to notice small, marginal improvements over the course of a few weeks. At the end of the fourth week I was finally able to move my hands sufficiently enough to be able to type with three fingers (thumb, index, middle). Programming with eight fingers is a loooot better than just only five. But then again, the angle at which my left hand brushes my laptop’s keyboard was still at an awkward angle.

Moving forward

After six weeks, I can almost stretch my arm downward, but it’s still komang (awkward angle) at this point. I can grip just enough to hold my toothbrush cup filled with water, or use the fork to lightly move around some rice on my plate. The pronation of my wrist is still terrible though, but at least I’m now able to type better. On any given day, the pain is still there, that kind of lingering pain between 1-2/10. I prefer to sit most of the time as I get weary easily. I admit though, it’s high time to resume some physical activity after several weeks of [forced] sedentary lifestyle. Of course, those activities have to have the blessing of my ortho.

I’m hoping to regain the full range of motion of my arm soon. Eventually, I hope to get my strength back. Not being able to bike, hike, and do my usual physical activities makes me feel useless to be honest. I hope I can return to advocating things that matter more actively soon.

I still see a ton of swim-bike-runs over at the horizon. 🙂

Fixed ulna and radius, fitted with titanium plates and screws.

P.S. Thank you to everyone who sent their prayers and well-wishes. They’re very much appreciated. Hope to see you soon!