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Date: 14 April 2019. Broken Arm Lessons.

janice142


Note: This article is dated the day of my accident. Typing with one hand is slower than a turtle walks through molasses at the North Pole, thus the delay in posting.


My friends all know that one of my mantras is to never do anything when tired. That means that at the first signs of being tired, I quit. Nothing good ever comes when I press on. Inevitably I end up with poor results. On the 14th of April I thought that rule no longer applied to me. After all, I'm experienced AND smart. Except I wasn't.
 

That is when I hurt myself. I discovered
once again that I am not invincible.


What happened was this: I'd been running the engine on Seaweed in preparation for a mini-vacation. One thing I always used to do was check all fluids on engine shut-down. We always did this on our 40'er and I've gotten out of the habit. By checking at the end of the day I know that I can get underway the next morning without worries.


Old photo:

I fell into the bilge just aft of the engine, to the left of the shaft. I landed on my transom
approximately where the BUCKET is. And no, I don't know how exactly this happened.


My Mistake: I was goal focused rather
than paying attention to the task at hand.


Seaweed was fully loaded for a planned week-long expedition to a couple of nearby anchorages. The first night I was to meet a friend over by the local Elks Lodge in Madeira Beach. A couple days later I wanted to head over to Gulfport so Skipper could get her nails cut.
 

We go to the Reef Dog Groomers in Gulfport. Nail trimming prices are reasonable at Reef Dog.

The folks at Reef Dog Grooming [727-323-7007] are great. The shop is a few
blocks from the waterfront. No affiliation: I simply like the people and the place.


In any event, that evening I was getting ready to check the transmission fluid level. A neighbor telephoned. He invited Skipper and I to come ashore and relax for a few minutes. That sounded great!
 

I put the  Verizon tablet in my purse and slung it over my shoulder. Then I grabbed Skipper in my left arm and turned to get off the boat -- FORGETTING the doggone bilge hatch was up. Honestly, I was so focused on the good time that awaited me on land that I was oblivious to my current situation.


In a moment I went from "all's well aboard Seaweed" to sitting on my bottom in the bilge! Skipper was in the bilge too, splayed out on her tummy. It took her a few moments to gather her wits and come to me.



Fortunately Skipper comes to me when afraid. This was no doubt scary. For the record, she is fine.


I could not believe I missed a hatch being raised, especially since I had done the deed. This was a real shock to me. I was and am embarrassed. How could I not pay attention to something so important?!?


I was goal oriented versus paying attention to the task at hand.



 

This accident was a real eye-opener.
I will definitely be more careful in the future.


While sitting in the bilge I immediately started opening and closing the fingers on my left hand. That side was definitely in serious pain though moving the fingers was a-okay. I was glad of that.


The gent who had invited Skipper and I up came down to Seaweed to see what was taking me so long. He helped me stand up and get to shore. First I took a long hot shower at his house which helped ease the pain. My arm was Very tender.

A heating pad was located and I used it. I stayed at the house because I didn't think I could climb into my bunk. That heating pad was on low most of the night.

 

 

The Time Line from break to getting better

 

Sunday evening:
14 April

The fall.

Tuesday:
16 April

Appointment with a physical therapist. The therapist said that moving my hand was a good idea. I should not have kept the arm under the heating pad all that time. Instead, he suggested 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off of the heat.

There was no bruising at this point, which was disappointing. To hurt so badly and have no visible injury was disheartening.

Thursday, a.m.
18 April

Appointment with a doctor who referred me to a local hospital for an x-ray. She also prescribed pain medicine as the arm was Really hurting. And finally there is a Big Bruise.

Thursday, p.m.
18 April

Radiologist confirms that I have broken my humerus in three places. The bone that runs between your elbow and shoulder is the humerus. The knob at my shoulder has three vertical breaks (two in the back and one at the front)

Friday:
26 April

The physical therapist advised me to wear a sling to keep the pressure off my joint. More exercises are suggested to regain mobility. Timeframe predicted until healed: 6 to 8 weeks.
 


So this is my tale of woe. I have discovered a few things because of breaking my arm. Aboard Seaweed I have a plethora of hand-holds and grab bars. The decision to have lots was wise. For instance, above my bunk I have rings.
 

I am able to pull myself up with relative ease. The RINGS give me something to grab onto.

 

These rings are the frames from an older set of gauges. They screwed into the overhead instrument panel. The gauges were secured in place by the rings. Some ten years ago new gauges were installed in a better location. I thought the rings might be of use at some point so I kept them.


Eventually I decided to hang them above my bunk. Since then I have utilized them to help me sit up. They are easy to grasp. When the breeze blows or the boat rocks I hear a musical sound as the rings collide.


The rings are very useful with this bad arm of mine. What I discovered however is that I could have benefited from another handle or rail in my cabin. Getting into my bunk is not easy.
 

On the starboard side bulkhead of my forward cabin I have an antique fishing pole.

Rather than the fishing pole I wished for something sturdy to
hang on to. Installing new handrail near that pole is on The List.

 

 

Pity Party Alert:

 

Frankly this whole broken arm thing has been disheartening. The druggies have made it nearly impossible to get decent pharmaceuticals. I "needed" Tylenol 4's however due to regulations that was not practical. The doctor prescribed Tylenol 3's which did not touch the pain. I ended up taking 1 1/2 pills for each dose, thus running out too soon.
 

And I was NEVER pain free. That is my fault as I continued to move the arm. I can now straighten it out. By day three I could lift my hand to waist high. Gradually (about 1.5 weeks into this mess) I can actually move my hand to my chest.
 

Getting back mobility meant I was repeatedly causing pain. Since 14 April, the longest stretch of sleep I've had is five hours. I'm tired and sore, plus a tad bit grumpy!

 


Skipper has been a real trooper. I cannot snuggle, nor even lay on my good side as the arm just throbs.

My Skip though, well she's been wonderful. Skipper stays close which comforts me.


Time does heal all things. The morning of 25 April saw a change for the positive. As usual I had taken 1.5 pills to alleviate some of the pain. Incidentally, one pill had zero effect. About an hour later that morning I felt fuzzy. Being pain free was wonderful however that buzz was not welcome.
 

Proper pain medication blocks the pain without leaving a person impaired.


Still, I took the fuzzy feeling as a sign of making progress in this road to recovery. Immediately I went back to the prescribed dosage of one pill. The pain still exists. As I do the exercises to regain range of motion, a residual ache colors my days.
 

Side Note: When I don't do the exercises or leave the arm in my sling for a few hours the pain does abate. The problem with that is that the joints, both shoulder and elbow, freeze up. To get them moving again is Very painful. Argh.


Getting old is not for sissies!
 

Becoming a Grandparent is one of the rewards of age however. Here's my friend Edwin and his grand Hailey Mai:

New babies are the absolute best. This child will be a boater. Edwin is building her a miniature tugboat!


But I digress...
When I first injured my arm I tried to put it in a sling. That didn't work. The pain was too much. Instead I used a back brace to support my arm. I wrapped it around my body, with the Velcro center part at my right shoulder. The stays (rigid parts that support the back) were under and around my left arm.


Frankly, the back brace was a MUCH better solution than the sling. I could move my arm to ease the pain. The brace supported my arm. The shoulder and elbow joints did not get stiff nor lock up on me.


I am now seeking a wide piece of banding with Velcro to add to my medical supplies. I'd like the stretchy part to be at least 6" wide. Such an item would be useful now. Putting the arm brace on and taking it off are painful experiences. There's simply no way to do it without hurting myself.


That said, it is hard to complain when one lives on a boat in Florida in the springtime. Life afloat is terrific.


The accident was a direct result of me not paying attention to the moment at hand.  Instead I focused on what was next on the agenda.
 

In speaking with others who have taken a splash (fallen overboard) almost universally there is no recollection as to how it happened. I know I ended up in the bilge however I can't tell you precisely how that occurred. Okay, I fell, but how did it happen?!?
 

 

The Fall, a Hypothesis:

 

I suspect I hit my elbow on the way down. My arm was bent because I was holding Skipper. When I stepped off into the hole/bilge, the elbow came in contact with the deck. That caused me to drop Skipper.

The elbow striking caused the arm to jam up into my shoulder socket. The ball at the top of my humerus (upper arm bone) came to a sudden stop at the shoulder joint. That caused the bone to break in three places.

But honestly I have no memory of anything except sitting on my bottom in the bilge and reaching out to check on my Skipper. She was flat on her tummy. Fortunately she stood up and came directly to me.
 

I know I fell. Not being able to remember the
 details is disconcerting. The above is conjecture.

 


One thing that helps is the Verizon tablet. It distracts me. Unfortunately when I took my tumble the tablet was in my purse. It has a cracked screen now. I broke my arm in three places, cracked the screen on the Ellipsis8 and stunned Skipper when I fell. Sigh.
 

Yes, replacing the screen is on my To Do list. It is an amazing unit. I am very grateful to the reader who has provided this gem for me. I had no idea how much fun a tablet could be. Thank you again Kind Sir.
 

Thankfully a few things I've been doing paid off. Aboard Seaweed I use pillow liners made of silk or satin.
For the fellows, a pillow liner is a cover you put over your bare pillow. Then you add the regular pillowcase.

Because I use silky liners, placing the freshly washed pillowcase back on was easier. It slid on versus  to
be tugged. I'm not allowed to tug anything -- no pushing, no pulling, and definitely no lifting while I heal.


Side Note: You may have noticed in the previous picture that just above my pillow tucked into the corner of my cabin is a VHF radio. The first thing in the morning I turn it on to listen to the Wx (weather) channel. When the forecast is dodgy, I listen more frequently. The goal is to learn patterns and be aware of storms.


I also keep a stash of Dollar Tree readers, buying them a half-dozen dozen at a time. I cycle through them quite regularly. I drop them, either on the deck or over the side. Some day in the far future archeologists will be able to tell where Seaweed stayed by the collection of eyeglasses found in the riverbed!
 

Every place I sit to look into a locker, I've got a pair of glasses stashed.

By having glasses plus a flashlight in almost every locker I can easily see what is there.
The duo (dollar store readers and a Walmart flashlight) costs just $2. That is within my budget.


Successful boating requires a level of physical strength and stamina. Developing ways to work around any impairments are a given, especially as we age. A few things have come to mind as I recover. This is my list:

#1) Add another hand rail in my cabin to facilitate getting into my bunk more easily.

#2) Move up plans to redesign the forward cabin.

#3) For the time being I will stop using Algae. Climbing over the transom is precarious.
 

I am a bit frightened of having another fall.
 I'm definitely more cautious than ever before!

 

#3) Watch very carefully when the hatches are up inside the boat. I was both tired and not paying attention to the task at hand. That was a recipe for disaster.
 

When mama isn't happy, nobody is happy. Pain drains my sense of well being. The lack of rest does not help. On the other hand (the right one as my left doesn't work right now) I am living on a boat in Florida. The winds are blowing and I am recovering, albeit slower than I wish.


Skipper is using her life jacket when she is on the swim platform. That makes picking her up easier.

 

An unintended consequence of the broken arm involves my Skipper. Each morning she goes for her "walk" on the swim platform. Normally leaning over to scoop her up is a cinch. Not now though. The solution was to have her wear her pink life jacket. I use the handle on the back for easy lifting.


The life jacket was actually the second solution. Initially I had her using a puppy pad. She doesn't like that option but will do so when desperate.


Another problem I have is that I cannot pin up my hair. That takes two hands. At this time of the year the heat is not too bad. Still, if you're going to break your arm I would not recommend summertime, unless you've got short hair.


So now you know what I've been up to of late. Life aboard Seaweed is good. Caffeine is soothing.

I put my pint glass into a coffee mug. That makes a bigger base and nothing tips over.
I've had this Star Trek mug by Pfaltzgraff since 1993. It is a favorite, bought at K-Mart for $5.
 

I am blessed. I have friends and local helpers.
 


Such is life. Thank you for reading.


Have you ever fallen into the bilge? Among local boaters, apparently I'm not the only one!
And, what was the result of your tumble?
 

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