Okay, first up, all the pictures in this post are going to be hidden behind the jump. There’s not even a featured image for this one, despite me having ten pictures of my wrist at the ready for the post. Why?
Because some people do not want pictures involving even a little blood or pain. And some of these pictures are a little gross. So if you’re squeamish about that kind of thing … Yeah, this post past the jump is going to be a little unwelcome for you.
Anyway, that warning out of the way, today’s post, as promised, is about my wrist injury. How it happened, what’s been going on since then, and my recovery. Because it’s a fun, interesting tale.
I do have one small bit of news on an upcoming thingamajig before I get rolling on this however: This month’s Patreon Reward! It’s going up tomorrow, and it’s a doozy of a preview. What of, you may ask? Well, my current project is, as I’ve mentioned a few times, a Halo novel! The first three chapters of one, anyway. The plan is to pitch the first few chapters and the outline at Gallery/343 and see if they pick it up.
But since that’s what I’ve been working on, this month’s preview is going to be an excerpt of the first chapter, which I finished yesterday. Pre-alpha, naturally, but it’s a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it so far, and in fact really want to get back to work on it, so let’s get to this post so I can continue working on it! But if you’re a Patreon Supporter, check back tomorrow!
Now, about my wrist injury. Let’s start at the beginning …
I have a part-time job working at a local convention center. While my full-time hjob is writing, which takes about 8-10 hours of my day, often more, it doesn’t pay all the bills yet. So I have to work part-time in order to make ends meet. This means that my average workweek ends up being around 60-70 hours, but hey, sacrifices for the job, right?
Writing, to be precise. The other job, well … let me tell you about it.
I work in the operations department, which is setting up, taking down, cleaning, and other assorted tasks vital to a convention center. If you’ve ever been to a convention or a vendor’s conference of any kind and seen hundreds of chairs set in nice neat rows, huge panels of staging, drapery, dozens of tables all set up with nice tablecloths and skirts …
Yeah, we do all that. We set it all up. We keep it clean. We straighten it up. We take it all down. And more. If I listed all the things we do, it’d be a post into and unto itself.
We’re also the absolute lowest of the low where I work. So low that most of the time our department feels like an afterthought to the office part of the building. Lately there’s been one manager who’s started to reel that back (great guy, him I back) but it’s been pretty common with our job to be handed incomplete diagrams, measurements that don’t conform to reality or the laws of physics, and other things like that which we’re just expected to “fix.” Our shifts have gradually been pushed further and further into the night so that events can run later and later (the current common shift is 9 PM to 3 AM or 10 PM to 4 AM), with no compensation offered for the extreme lateness of the hour. The pay is also low, so low that we’ve had serious retention problems and our department is quite understaffed. Right now about half our department is made up of high schoolers, because they’re the only people we’ve managed to attract with our low wages (which are below the living wage—not minimum, just living—in our area). Which comes with its own problems as minors can’t work certain hours, but that’s another story.
Why do I work there? Because the hours are flexible enough that I can focus mainly on my writing, and just sort of somewhat disconnect and do the job to make it through. But if it sounds like the place may have some issues, well … yes. I’m explaining this because it leads into how I got this injury by kind of giving you an idea of how it is in our department.
See, convention centers (and many other buildings) have equipment called “air walls.” These air walls are basically mobile walls that hang from railings in the ceiling. You can move them around on these rails to split rooms. Pretty cool and useful. These panels are extremely heavy, however, and one of the first safety lectures you get involves moving them and staying out of the way. A panel that’s four-five feet across and thirty feet tall has quite a bit of kinetic energy.
But my part of this story refers to the rails keeping these panels in place. My injury comes from those. They’re kind of like a monorail (not entirely accurate, but for purposes of illustrating how they move around). They hang from these rails and move around.
They get used a lot. We can have days where we’ll open and close these air walls, moving panels around and packing them up, then opening them again, multiple times. This, as you would imagine, does produce equipment wear and tear.
This wear and tear is what led to my injury. As I was moving a piece of airwall into its storage room, it stalled on the railing, and a piece of the railing tore off and fell. Thirty feet. Said piece was nine feet long (my super measured it) and weighed around twenty pounds. I was stuck in a doorway and couldn’t get out of the way, so I covered my head as best I could and “blocked” the metal piece with arm.
That’s what gave me the injury to the right there. I took that picture when I was getting stitches, at the ER that Sunday morning.
That boss I mentioned who I back and is awesome. He was right there and saw the whole thing. Drove me to the ER immediately and took care of the paperwork he could take care of.
So, I caught a piece of metal that was nine feet long and weighed about twenty pounds dropping from thirty feet up with the back of my wrist. And you know what?
To date, I have seen five different doctors over the course of my treatment. Two at the ER (one of those for X-rays). Two at the clinic (again, one for X-rays). And then a specialist in wrists and hands for my physical therapy. This is normal.
All have declared the injury so much better than it could have been to the degree that one straight up asked me how I had gotten off so lightly. We’re talking miracle here folks. I have …
No nerve damage. No tendon damage. Both should have happened. One doctor pointed out that with the edge making a cut like it did, I could have lost the hand. Had I not blocked and taken the blow with my head? Cracked skull, maybe even death (which, amusingly enough for me, is just another tick-mark considering a few close calls I’ve had commercial fishing).
But no tendon damage. No nerve damage. They X-rayed me twice because it seemed unbelievable that I didn’t have any broken bones. Not even a fracture.
Sands, the specialist sat me down and showed me a diagram of the human wrist, highlighting a band that runs around it to keep the tendons in and said that by all rights that should have seen some serious damage. But it didn’t. When I saw the PT doc, the first thing he said to me after reading the accident report was “So, this had surgery, right?”
I cannot stress how lucky I got off. Especially as someone who is an author and quite literally relies on my hands for my income. This could have been so much worse. As someone who is quite religious, I will say I’ve offered a lot of prayers of thanks through every step of this process.
Now, that all said, I have not gotten off with “just a scratch.” Because while I didn’t crack any bones or require surgery or any of the other really bad things that by all rights should have occurred … I also didn’t just walk away.
I took massive blunt trauma to my arm, which resulted in a truly stellar sprain, massive swelling, and discoloration. See the picture to the left there? That was taken a few days after the incident. By that point the swelling in my fingers had gone down enough that I could touch my palm again (there were three days where I effectively couldn’t move my hand at all and was in fact told not too). My arm had also taken on the coloration of a purplish hotdog with mustard slathered over it, though the picture doesn’t quite do it justice. Suffice to say, it looked nasty.
And it stayed that way too. For a couple of days. The discoloration lasted just under a week. Thankfully, by that point I’d gone in for X-rays and they’d given me a splint to keep my wrist steady, as I was having trouble sleeping (it would wake me up each time I moved it).
Oh, and the swelling … Yikes. My wrist looked lumpy. I couldn’t even use a computer mouse (not for lack of trying). The sucker was SWOLE. You’d have thought I’d grown all new muscles, except it looked off. This swelling lasted weeks. No joke, there was still some of it when I’d see the PT three weeks in. It was just that bad.
I took some other pictures to try and capture it, obviously, and they sort of do a decent job. I don’t know about your wrist, but viewed from the side mine does not normally look that bulbous on top. That pic to the left was taken two weeks after the accident, and you can see it’s not looking normal. The stitches were out at that point, however, which was nice. I was just starting to be able to use a mouse again, albeit with my brace/splint.
From there. the process has been fairly ordinary, as far as recovery goes. You can check a time-lapse of the recover with that cool slideshow above, the last picture being today. While my injury didn’t cut any tendons it stressed them to the Abyss and back, so even now my wrist is tender and recovering. Hence the physical therapy. The big concern now is letting everything recover without scarring up so badly I can’t use my wrist again.
As it was explained to me, this was a traumatic injury, and the body responded with massive swelling and lots of scar tissue to fix it up. However, that scar tissue latches on to all nearby tissue, so if we don’t break it up a little and treat it right, I’d lose a lot of mobility in my wrist by the time it healed.
Currently? I’m doing about 40 minutes of stretches and exercises four times daily. If you want a demonstration of why, make one hand into a fist and then, holding it out, flex it down. See how far you can go? I can go almost half the angle of my other hand.
Yeah, that’s an improvement. It was something like 5 degrees the first time I showed up at therapy. Scar tissue was just starting to settle in.
However, I still can’t do much with my hand. Doctor’s orders of no more than 10 to 15 pounds lifting or pressure on this wrist through April 23rd. At which point they’re simply going to reassess how I’ve improved. Why? Because the tendons are still healing, and anything that inflames them invites more scar tissue to settle in, which makes things worse. I’m also still having issues with certain movements, like twisting and whatnot. Getting better with therapy, but …
This, as you can imagine, has put some serious strain on my job. Right now, I’m on worker’s comp. I can come in to work, but all work has to fit the doctor’s orders: Nothing over ten-fifteen pounds. If I were doing office work, like writing, that would mostly be fine. However, remember that description of what we do at my job?
Yeah, there’s very little I can safely do. Most of what I can do I’d be doing one-handed (and there’s a limit on the safety of that, since much of our job is two-handed). The few things I can do I could only do half-of, at which point they’d need another person assigned to me to do the other half of a one-person job anyway. Let’s just say that the other day when I delivered the work restrictions to my boss you could just see the light leaving his eyes as I pointed out that this was through the 23rd of April. And I’d also need to spend part of each shift doing the 40-minute exercises, since the shifts are long enough. The other option would be to bring me in for an hour or two and then send me home, worker’s comp covering the rest.
Do I feel bad for them? Well … no. Not really. I’ll simply offer one bit of information with regards to that. The piece of metal that hit me? This was the third piece of metal to have fallen from the air wall track in recent months. This time it just happened to hit someone.
Make of that what you will, but I really don’t feel very sorry about all this. Given the statements of those five doctors, I got off extremely lucky. As did my employer, who should realistically be counting their lucky stars. My work conditions may be bugging them, but it could have been so much worse. Astronomically so.
But that leads me to today. I did an exercise regime before writing this post. And as soon as it’s posted, I’ll do another one. Then I’ll write. I can’t even ride my bike well right now (I tried yesterday, and let’s just say I can’t brake well or shift well with one hand, and the pressure on it leaves me riding one-handed), so it’s a case of “Only if I really, really need to go somewhere … so … Writing. And even that I have to take regular breaks from as too much too long stresses it out and makes my wrist burn.
Sands, I was given caution concern orders from the doc about using an Xbox controller and gaming. Limits everywhere right now.
Writing. PT. Exercises. Recovery. With luck, by end of April I’ll have my hand back again.
But you know what? When all is said and done … I was so very, very lucky. This is the absolute lowest injury I could have had. I’m incredibly thankful and grateful for that fact. Without my hands, I’d have a real rough time writing.
But I can still write. And that means I can keep things coming forward.
Wish me luck and a speedy recovery, folks!