“We need to operate on this straight away.” For a mum, these are scary words and as always- highly inconvenient. Here’s Caroline’s story.
Amongst the daily demands of children-the school lunches, the lack of time for a hot cup of tea, the sitting on the toilet and being watched, the debate about what they are and are NOT wearing, the ‘it’s not faaaaairs’, the eye rolls and the putrid, runny remains of the school lunch they didn’t eat, a mum needs some ‘me time’. Some time to focus on herself. Some time to breathe and some time to skateboard.
Caroline’s a sporty chic and a committed mum so last September all she wanted was ’20 minutes of being kind to myself’. She used to skateboard regularly and decided to go for a skate just before school pick up time for her gorgeous 6 year old -Charlotte.
After a great, relaxing skate, no gnarly tricks, no crowd pleasing moves, she stopped and flicked the board up to grab.
Boom! Straight to the bitumen. Full impact on her left elbow. Not the hip, not the bum, not the grass, but the EL-BOW.
You know those silent cussing screams you do when you whack your toe on the door jamb ? Yep? That’s Caroline now….In total silence, screaming ‘F@@@@@@@RCK,…..I’m fine. I’ll be fine. School pick up. I’ll be fine. F@@@@@@@RCK
Anyway, onward she marched, well, drove, to pick up Charlotte from school. She might have been a little late.
Not to mention, holding her arm in ‘broken wing position’, a little pasty looking, hair a bit messed, bits of asphalt in her hair- that sort of thing.
‘How was your day honey?’ ‘Ooooooh, did you really?’ ‘That sounds amazing.’
Before long, Caroline realised that perhaps she wasn’t the best (as she wiped a stone from her cheek).
A fellow mum looked after Charlotte and a school dad took Caroline to Wakefield Hospital Emergency, on his way to dropping his kids at Cirkidz. It’s how mums and dads roll….
Initial X-Rays showed a fracture (WHICH IS THE MEDICAL TERM FOR ‘A BREAK’ SAYS THIS PREVIOUS RADIOGRAPHER) of Caroline’s left radial head.
The radial head is the cylindrical ‘elbow end’ of the radius bone in the forearm. It transfers force from the wrist across the elbow joint and allows rotation of the forearm.
There was no displacement with the fracture so Caroline was sent home with a sling and panadeine forte and would see an orthopod (orthopaedic surgeon) in a week.
The first part of the week was ‘hell’.
Daily activities became impossible with the pain and Caroline had to get ready for guests for a wedding staying with her the coming weekend.
It’s how mums and dads roll.
At the orthopod appointment, Caroline got the news.
‘We need to operate on this straight away. How does tomorrow morning sound?’
Wait. WHAT? Did he say ‘We should catch up for coffee. How does tomorrow morning sound ?’ or ‘We should get your car in for a service. How does tomorrow morning sound?’?
Caroline ‘felt like vomiting’. She’d never fractured anything before and she had wedding guests coming. She had to place her life in strangers’ hands and had wedding guests arriving tomorrow. She’d handled the pain both physically and mentally for the week and now she expected more! Not a coffee or a car service, but more pain at the slightest of taken-for-granted movements.
The surgeon explained that there WAS indeed some displacement. A fragment of the radius had detached from the bone and there was a 3mm disparity. The chipped fragment needed reattachment before the body started ‘knitting’ new bone in the healing process, creating arthritic complications later in her skateboarding life.
It wasn’t until the surgeon got to see inside Caroline’s elbow (who’s life was in their hands and who had wedding guests arriving the next day) that the real damage was realised.
Damaged cartilage, displaced bone and massive bleeding required two surgical metal pins and a synthetic bone graft !
Another night in hospital meant Caroline didn’t make it to her Aunty’s wedding but being honest, it was not in the forefront of her mind.
The pain was.
A PCA (patient controlled analgesia ) pump is sometimes provided for patients to control their pain management in hospital. Upon depressing the button, a measured dose of pain relief is introduced into the system.
The PCA button does not give MORE analgesia, the more often it gets pressed. Similarly, the pedestrian crossing button at an intersection does NOT work faster if you press it at a rate of ten times per second (to all the impatient morons out there).
Caroline’s pain relief dose through the PCA pump, along with Endone was not enough to mask the pain she was experiencing. If it weren’t for her nurse mum speaking up to hospital staff, she would not have got an increased dose before she went home.
You know that feeling of being on LSD and ‘tripping’ through an amusement park?
I don’t either, but I’m guessing that’s how Caroline felt when she walked out of the hospital. A bit spacey. A bit weirdo.
When she screamed ‘slow down’ to her mum driving the car around a corner, the reply was ‘I can’t go ANY slower dear….’.
It’s how we mums and dads roll (around corners, on drugs, with pins in our arm and synthetic bone grafts).
The aftermath of surgery generated weeks and weeks of challenges for Caroline, who had her daughter Charlotte to care for.
All the daily tasks that we take for granted became trials and tribulations of a zestful mum who thrives on sport, being outdoors and the fact that because she’s in her forties, it’s no bloody reason to stop riding skateboards or doing the things you enjoy and the things that make her- her.
The first challenge was dressing.
It was September. Still cool enough to need clothes in public and still necessary to wear a bra and keep one’s hair matt and asphalt free.
Zips, buttons, shoe laces, putting hair up and putting a bra on (let alone a sports bra) were events to behold.
Showering and hair washing were tailored to baths and going to the local salon for a hair shampoo. This was of course AFTER 6year old, independent Charlotte had done up mum’s bra and opened mum’s screw top wine bottle.
Caroline said ‘It’s amazing what you’re prepared to do when you’re desperate and determined. This was not going to get the better of me.’
She really needed that wine.
She remembers one day thinking ‘(insert swear word) I want my hair up today and dammit- I’m going to make it happen.’
She walked to the local coffee shop Spill the Beans and arrived to speak to Dion. Poor Dion.
Dion didn’t know how to put a girl’s hair up so when Caroline arrived with brush in hand, Dion’s eyes glazed (I’m guessing like when you’re on LSD at an amusement park).
‘SSSSTEPH- WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY OUR HERE. SSSSSSTEEEEEEPH?’
Steph came running from the kitchen, ready to save a life and side tackle a robber.
She did Caroline’s hair.
Caroline looked pretty.
There was no driving for 2 months. So Caroline’s mum (bless her and her knowledge of drugs) took Charlotte to school every day. Caroline went too, to continue the pre-school day bonding routine with her daughter, the other mums and the Cirkidz dad who dropped her to Emergency that fine September day.
Household chores were attempted in vain and pain. Making beds, vacuuming, washing, cooking, taking rubbish out. Jeepers- even sleeping was tricky!
It’s Caroline’s fantastic ethos that allowed her to learn and find a positive in her circumstance.
She said ‘I went back to serious basics. Which in a way was a good thing. It meant I had to only focus on where I was and what I was doing at a basic level instead of worrying about the things we normally worry about.’
After weeks of ‘no active movement’, Caroline wrestled with the idea that this ‘didn’t feel right’. She went to her physio Patrick at Sportsmed Adelaide who immediately said ‘we have to get this moving.’. As always, gut instincts over ruled and she was put on a rehab exercise programme to get some movement in to her stiff shoulder. It was also very important to get some flexion and extension back into the elbow joint. This was very dependent on her commitment to the physio rehab exercises she had to do at home. (And how many of us REALLY stick to those exercises as we should?) .
It’s been four months now since her elbow trauma and Caroline MUST (and I’m sure she bloody will!) continue the rehab exercise for another three months to give her elbow the time and work it needs to heal to its best ability. She is not the type to place blame on the Emerg staff, the surgeon, the nurses, the physio or the Cirkidz dad for a less than adequate recovery. She’s committed and strong enough in character to accept the responsibility herself. And that’s what I love about her.
At her six week check up with the orthopod, Thanks to her physio induced movement, Caroline got the all clear to drive (to the hairdresser, school, bottle shop, anywhere). Her bone was healing well. She’d ‘pushed hard’ with instigating movement and she was determined to get back to her sporty lifestyle. She was permitted to lift anything under 5kgs but that was the limit.
It’s two months on from surgery now and Caroline’s ultra keen to get back to boxing and her normal exercise routine. She is active as she can be and she continues to do her exercises from the physio.
She said it was amazing to learn of the brain’s plasticity and ability to adapt dexterity so quickly and then revert again back to ‘normal’.
One challenge Caroline came across was the attitude of people around her and their perception of her- a forty something year old female on a SKATEBOARD of all things. What was she thinking?
Caroline quoted ‘ what I ended up saying to people who had that attitude- because you hear about people breaking bones through tripping over something on the footpath- is that I’d rather tell MY story than theirs.’
‘I’d rather be silly than clumsy !’
And there it is.
It’s this determination and grit that makes Caroline so successful in having a rocking body and mind.
She doesn’t let age (a number) rule her behaviour.
She doesn’t allow age determine her energy, zest for life or sports pursuits.
If she wants to skateboard, she bloody well will.
If she wants to be a boxing mum, a crop top wearing, fit girl, who likes a wine now and then and dancing like no one’s watching, she bloody well will.
If she wants to keep up with her daughter and set a positive, happy example from which she’ll learn, she will.
And if Caroline wants to live every moment like there’s no tomorrow, regardless of age and what society thinks she should and shouldn’t be doing, she bloody well will.
You go girlfriend!
May your skateboard sparkle in the sun, your hair be asphalt free and your zest for life take you to places and make you precious memories for ever more.
In the words of Katy Perry,
‘I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!’
Let’s celebrate Caroline. Her grit. Her determination. Her ability to adapt to this difficult situation and her rocking mind (and skateboard) that got her there.
Be like Caroline.
PS- If you’d like to help me celebrate more excellent humans and keep in touch, please share this blog and enter your email in the pop up box. I promise your address is safe with me. I’m not a pedestrian-crossing-button-pressing moron.