Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An update: Stories while recovering from a broken wrist August 15, 2018

My newest exercise tool, therapy putty.

 

WHEN YOU’RE RECOVERING from a broken bone and subsequent surgery, little things hold significance. Like Play-Doh. I was so excited Tuesday morning when, at the end of my occupational therapy session, my therapist handed me a container of therapy putty. Play-Doh to me. Annie instructed me to, twice daily, lightly squeeze the putty with my left fingers and thumb. “Lightly,” she repeated, as she observed me manipulating the blob of yellow gunk.

 

Look on the right side of my wrist to see the plate, shaped like an ice scraper, and held in place by 10 screws. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

So why is this such a big deal? It’s just putty, for gosh sakes. It’s a big deal because every added exercise signals progress to me. Now, nearly nine weeks out from the fall that resulted in a severely broken left wrist requiring surgical implantation of a metal plate, I continue to regain my range of motion. Strengthening exercises have not even begun. Yes, this is a slow process requiring every ounce of patience I don’t possess.

 

Site of my bone break and surgery. And, yes, my hand, fingers and wrist remain swollen.

 

But I dutifully do my 10 exercises three times daily. Because I want to use my left hand again. I am itching to wrap my hand around my Canon DSLR camera, to cook solo, to carry my two-year-old granddaughter… I know, realistically, those goals are still a long ways from being achieved. But it’s good to have goals.

 

I am thankful for any time out of my wrist splint.

 

Two weeks ago I was much less positive as I developed a severe itchy rash on my wrist. I’d show you a photo, but I don’t want to gross you out. Picture a really bad case of poison ivy. Efforts to treat the surface skin problem with an antibiotic failed. Hydrocortisone cream solved the problem as did airing my arm while resting. You can only imagine my joy at releasing my arm from the trap of a splint for more than just exercising and showering. That made me one happy camper.

 

On this bill, the $4,661 is the insurance discount. The $0.00 is the amount of the insurance payment on the (incorrect) bill.

 

I was anything but happy, though, when I received a nearly $15,000 hospital bill last week for my surgery. More than a few bad words flew from my mouth as I cried. And then cried some more. I pay $1,000/month in health insurance premiums with a $3,600 deductible. I’d already paid my deductible and now the insurance provider was refusing to pay. Are you kidding me?

I was livid and way too upset to call either the hospital or the insurance company the day I got that bill. But then a hospital employee phoned several hours later to verify my address and I broke down sobbing and eventually was connected to the billing department. The insurance company, the hospital staffer said, made a “processing error.” She advised me to burn the $15K bill. The claim is being reprocessed. I hope it’s correct this time as I don’t want another financial scare. This never should have happened. The incorrect billing caused me a great deal of unnecessary stress.

 

If you look closely, you can see faint remnants of my rash. The lines are imprints from the “sock” I wear under my splint.

 

If only I’d had that therapy putty last week to work out my frustration and anger…

 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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What you should & shouldn’t say to someone with a broken bone July 2, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Just days after open reduction internal fixation wrist surgery, the swelling in my fingers is diminishing.

 

I PONDERED WHETHER I should pen this post because many kind words have been extended to me since my fall and subsequent surgery on my broken left arm. Thank you.

But many other words have also been offered that don’t help me or my situation. So if I come across as a tad cranky in this post, it’s because I am. My humor, tolerance and Minnesota Nice only stretch so far.

Following is a short list of comments which I’ve heard and which you should not make to someone with a broken bone. I’ll follow that with a list of ways to encourage and help. We can all learn from one another, right?

Here goes.

DO NOT call me a klutz. I’m not. My fall on rain-slicked wooden steps was an accident. Simple as that.

DO NOT state or suggest (while laughing or not laughing)) that my husband pushed me. He didn’t. There’s nothing funny about domestic violence. I won’t dwell. Click here to read an earlier post on that topic.

DO NOT tell me I broke my arm because I don’t drink enough milk or eat enough cheese, yogurt or other dairy products. That’s like telling a cancer patient she ate too many red Popsicles or a heart attack victim that he didn’t eat enough oatmeal. Not helpful.

I defy anyone who fell as I did not to break a bone. A friend who worked as an ER nurse tells me broken arms are common in falls as we instinctively try to break a fall with our hands. My doctor noted in my records, in layman’s language, that the fall caused my arm bone to break. Not a lack of consuming enough dairy.

So what should you say? Here’s what I’ve found helpful: A simple “I’m sorry” works. Or, “How are you feeling?” Or something similar. There is no fault-finding, no accusations, no name-calling. Simply kindness.

Get well cards and encouraging emails/texts/calls also go a long ways in uplifting. Ask how the person is doing. And, please, don’t deflect the conversation to a lengthy story about your (or a family member’s) broken bone experience. I’m not selfish. But are we talking about you or me here?

Additionally, I really appreciated the meals my niece Amber prepared for us. I need to remember that myself and reach out to others with food in their times of need. Cookies baked by my 24-year-old son and his girlfriend and shipped from Boston likewise fed my body and soul. As did flowers from Randy and a thoughtful gift sent by a friend in North Carolina.

Everything I’ve written here is pretty common sense. Sometimes we just need to pause and think before blurting out words that aren’t at all helpful.

THOUGHTS?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Here we go again June 18, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:57 AM
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ALL I CAN DO is laugh because it’s unbelievable.

For the second summer in a row, I am recovering from a broken bone, And, yes, just like last year when I broke my right shoulder, my latest break involved steps. Saturday morning, while descending wide rain-slicked wooden steps to pick rhubarb in friends’ backyard, I slipped. Just like that, landed on my butt, palms outstretched to break my fall. I never considered the steps may be slippery from the morning rain. Nor, apparently, did the two men who preceded me down the stairway.

The intense pain in my left hand, and its rather deformed shape led to an immediate self-diagnosis of a broken bone. I didn’t need to hear the husband’s, Your hand looks funny. But then he and our friend probably didn’t appreciate my repetitious not again and a bad word I spoke.

I don’t recall much about our drive across Faribault to the ER except urging Randy to drive faster. He replied that he needed to obey traffic laws. Well, if you insist.

After some 2.5 hours in the ER–I was bumped to position two out of eight patients–I was back home with my left arm newly-splinted and tightly wrapped in a trio of bandages. The good  news–the break of my left radius was clean with no surgery needed. For you non-medical types, and that includes me, the break is in my forearm right above my wrist. Yes, I’m still in pain. Yes, my arm from elbow to fingertips is swollen. And, yes, I feel like my splinted arm/hand/fingers are gripped in a vise.

Later this week I see my wonderful ortho doctor, at which time I will request a frequent flyer discount. He’ll laugh. Dr. Armitage has a great sense of humor and I really do like him. Eventually, I’ll get a cast.

And eventually I will be able to type two-handed again and use my camera. For now, my blogging will be limited. For all you language purists, you will have to excuse the errors in my writing. Remember, I am typing with one hand, uh, mostly one finger. It is slow and tedious. I’m hoping I can still complete some freelance writing obligations by deadline.

To my husband, I am sorry for ruining a second summer in a row. Thank you for all the extras you are now doing. You are patient even when I snap at you due to pain and lack of sleep.

To the staff at Allina Health District One Hospital, especially Clare, Michelle, Vanessa, Sam, Sandy, and the others whose names I didn’t catch, thank you for your kind, attentive and compassionate care. We are blessed to have these medical professionals working at this hospital in our community.

I will close for today as I need to elevate and ice my arm.

But just one more thing–that rhubarb never got picked.

copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling