Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The Minnesota ice challenge February 6, 2019

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The snow boots which help me navigate through a Minnesota winter. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A TIME EXISTED WHEN ICE excited me. I’d pull out my Aunt Dorothy’s hand-me-down figure skates in anticipation of an hour or two on the ice.

Oh, the nostalgia. Oh, the memories of skating on the rink (if you could call it that) next to the grain elevator in Vesta. Oh, the memories of skating across icy ponds formed in cornfields from melting snow. Skating there meant swerving around corn stubble. But when you live in a definitively rural area, you make do. And I did. And I loved to skate. Loved ice.

Now? Not so much. OK, let’s just be honest. I don’t like ice. Now that I’m well past the safe age of skating and ice poses a risk rather than a reason for fun, I avoid it. Two falls in the past two years resulting in broken bones, surgery on one and months of therapy are cause enough to practice caution. Note that neither of those breaks occurred on ice. But given I’ve experienced the results of falls, I am mindful of slick surfaces.

And we currently have an abundance of those in Minnesota from driveways to sidewalks to parking lots to roadways. It is the nature of winter, some winters worse than others. And this one seems to be especially bad with bitter cold temps and fog and freezing rain and snow creating slippery surfaces upon which we must navigate.

So how do I manage, especially when walking? I shuffle like the old (er) person I am. I walk around icy patches if possible. I hang onto the husband (hey, nothing like going down together) or whatever vehicle. I wear my snow boots with their semi gripping tread. I stay clear of paths covered by snow and/or ice if possible.

But, unless I sequester myself inside until May, I can’t fully avoid every potentially bone-breaking surface. Rather, I need to be mindful, use common sense and hope that spring arrives sooner rather than later.

TELL ME: Have you (or someone you know) experienced a fall, or near fall, on an icy surface? What were the results? How do you stay safe if you live in a cold weather climate?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Vindicated December 5, 2018

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A selfie taken this fall after going splint-free following months of recovery from a broken left wrist. Now I have even more reason to smile. Read on. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2018.

 

TYPICALLY I AM NOT SOMEONE who says, “I told you so.” I don’t rub it in when someone is wrong. Rather, I pinch my lips, lock the words inside my mouth but think them in my head. That’s a skill learned from many years of parenting and living.

But this time I need to speak up and claim vindication.

 

This is a photo snapped with a cellphone of the implant in my wrist, held in place by 10 screws. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

Let’s backtrack. When I slipped on rain-slicked wooden steps in mid-June and fractured my left wrist badly enough to require surgery and implantation of a titanium plate, I heard too many insensitive comments. Topping those was the accusation that my husband pushed me, followed by laughter. I did not hold my words inside. There is absolutely nothing humorous about domestic violence. Nothing. Ever.

 

Me, several hours after surgery on my wrist in late June. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2018.

 

The second most common comment involved the strength of my bones. “You must have weak bones,” I heard way too often with the footnote that I needed to consume more milk. As if I couldn’t possibly have broken my wrist by simply falling the way I fell, left hand outstretched to break my fall.

Now I am vindicated. By a Bone Mineral Density Test (DEXA scan). Results show I have mild thinning of my bones with a low fracture risk. Pretty good for a post-menopausal woman in her early 60s.

 

This is a photo of an x-ray of my broken right shoulder. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2017.

 

I’m not surprised by my good test results. I grew up on a dairy farm and have always consumed plenty of dairy products. I lift weights. And I fell in such a way that anyone—strong bones or not—would have suffered a fracture. And, yes, that includes my May 2017 fall on a hospital stairway in which I slammed shoulder first onto a concrete floor. I defy anyone not to break a bone when propelling into a surface like that. I’m thankful I didn’t hit my head, resulting in a concussion and/or broken neck.

 

A snippet of the informational sheet I received from my insurer.

 

Because of two bone breaks within a year, my ortho doctor suggested the bone density test. I didn’t object. My insurance company also sent an educational sheet about osteoporosis with the recommendation of a DEXA scan. Sure, I thought, why not? I’d already met my $3,600 deductible and am paying $1,000/month in health insurance premiums. Let the insurance company pay for the test (which is really me paying given the $15,600 paid from my pocket to the insurer and healthcare facilities in 2018).

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

So there you go. I’ll continue to take my Vitamin D and add a calcium supplement, per my primary care doctor’s instructions. He also noted that I should follow up with another bone density test in seven years. Seven years. Does that sound like a woman with weak bones?

TELL ME: Have you ever fallen? Have you ever fallen and broken a bone? Let’s hear your stories.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Learning patience as I start occupational therapy July 16, 2018

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I got this smaller removable splint about two weeks ago. It stays on 24/7 except when showering and for therapeutic exercises. The thumb lock bugs me the most. Many times I’ve just wanted to rip the splint off my arm. My fingers and the top of my hand are still noticeably swollen.

 

FEW WOULD LIKELY TAG the virtue of patience to me. I am not particularly patient. That is evidenced by my response to a question about my goal for occupational therapy, which I started last Thursday. On the questionnaire, I wrote: To regain use of my left hand ASAP.

 

Look on the right side of my wrist to see the surgically implanted plate, shaped like an ice scraper, in my opinion. How Minnesotan is that observation? The x-ray was taken through layers of bandages wrapped around my arm/hand.

 

Exactly the type of response you would expect from someone like me who wanted my broken left wrist healed yesterday. It’s been four weeks since I slipped on rain and moss-slicked wooden steps, fell, broke my radius and underwent subsequent surgery to insert a plate held in place by 10 screws.

After meeting with my therapist for the first time, I realized just how much muscle strength and range of motion I’ve lost. A lot. That should come as no surprise given last summer I had a broken right shoulder and weeks of physical therapy. The success of that therapy confirms that eventually I will have a healthy left hand/wrist that works like it should.

 

Four of my first exercises. If you think I can do these with any ease, you would be wrong. The “making an o” exercise and wrist circles are especially difficult. I can barely touch my thumb and pointer and index fingers. Forget the other fingers. My circles resemble minimal wrist movement nothing like circles. 

 

I am determined to get there. But on my therapist and ortho doctor’s timetable, not mine. Last summer I got in trouble for doing too much too soon. Now I need to check myself, to do only those exercises assigned to me at the mandated frequency. Patience.

My therapist approved typing with my left hand. But not for two hours, she qualified. Ah, she’s already got me pegged. It felt wonderful to have both hands back on the keyboard. For maybe 10 minutes. My body told me to stop and return to the solo finger pecking method.

After two summers recovering from broken bones, I’m learning patience. Maybe.

TELL ME about something in your life which taught you patience.

Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling