Titanium Wrist Implants

Father’s Day 2005 was off to a good start – my kids made their dad breakfast and I did laundry after giving him a card. My second trip into the laundry room would be my last for the day – that’s when I fell and broke my wrist. My husband spent the rest of his Father’s Day with me in the Emergency Room.

My knee gave out – a bad knee from years of playing tennis – and the crack was so loud from my knee I had no idea I had broken my wrist. When I looked down, I was horrified to see that my left hand was now pushed up touching the end of my bones in my forearm. There was no more wrist. Oddly enough, my knee is what hurt. I chalk that one up to horror and fear of seeing my hand dangling like a Christmas tree ornament on a branch.

Upon entering the hospital triage area, the nurse asks me if I am sure it’s broken. My thoughts at the time were to shout as many explicatives as possible, but I refrained and just pointed out the fact that my left wrist now ceased to exist. She compared it to the right one, and assessed perhaps I may have a “slight fracture.” Slight you say – my wrist is missing completely.

My adrenaline rush was gone and still two hours into the assessment of this wrist fracture, I begin to get loud and demand a sedative, or a sledge hammer. At this point, I am way past picky. After x-rays are done, and viewed by the physician on call, the verdict is in – I have broken my wrist. Thank God that mystery was solved.

Since I had no insurance, I was sedated and my wrist was put in a splint. I was referred to another hospital that would do the surgery on me that I needed regardless of my ability to pay.

My x-rays at the next hospital revealed I would need titanium implants to rebuild my wrist, because much of the bone was so shattered that it would have to be removed. The surgery had to be scheduled quickly, because at this point it was almost a month since the break, and it was now a race against time to remove the shards before they could fuse together.

I was told the surgery would be simple and only take about two hours. The panic set in when I was told I would be awake during the reconstruction. The day of the surgery, my mother took me to the hospital and stayed with me in the waiting area. The head of orthopedic surgery came to visit with us, and go over the procedure once more. I looked up at him and begged to be unconscious during the surgery. He insisted I be awake. My mother then chimed in that he might want to just go ahead and allow me to be unconscious. Evidently he complied.

All I remember of going into the operating room was being told to move from the gurney to the operating table. There was a pillow to place under my knees, and a U-shaped foam pillow to lay my head in. My last thought was: “This is comfortable.” I woke up four hours later in excruciating pain – alone. I looked down to see white bandages where a splint used to be, blinding white walls, a white blanket, and no memory of the surgery I was supposed to be awake during. The room was creepy, empty and cold. It was at this point I thought I began to wonder if I was in the morgue.

Before I could scream or press a call button, a nurse came in and asked if I was in pain. I wonder if the look of agony on my face was a give away. She gave me more medication, and soon my doctor came in to explain the procedure. He was not aware, until he actually opened my wrist up, how extensive the damage was. I required three separate wrist implants and screws to make a new wrist. He also had to reattach all the tendons that run from my fingers to the back of my hand, because they were ripped during the break.

The longest of the three implants runs lengthwise – screwed into my arm bone. Two more are in place of the actual wrist, allowing me to move it as well as a natural wrist. When viewing an x-ray, it looks like a metal lawn rake. Titanium was used in lieu of surgical steel, so that I will not set off alarms at airports and such. All of the titanium implants are numbered, and the numbers are sent to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), for tracking purposes.

The doctor warned that it would be a long recovery, and that I would not have much use of my left hand and wrist for a long time. A year to be exact. The road to recovery was a long uphill battle. Even simple tasks like tying shoes or giving myself a bath proved to be almost impossible since I had no use of my left hand and fingers. I had to have months of physical therapy to learn how to use my hand again, and I suffered a long bout of depression for having put my family through so much hardship due to my inability to work, clean, or cook meals. I felt worthless as a mother and wife.

A year and two months later, I am still in constant pain from my surgery. My inside left wrist is dented in, from cutting through and sewing back together the muscle under the skin. The large scar is highly visible, and people often ask if it was a suicide attempt. I often try to cover it, but when it’s hot outside I am left with no choice but to have my scar exposed. I still suffer from depression and face the financial hardships still on-going from getting so far behind while I was unable to work. It has not been an easy road, but I feel as though in some ways I am stronger for having dealt with – and made it through – the difficulties that resulted from my surgery.

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