Lorna's Arm Story

Although my story isn't as drastic as some of the other stories, I still wanted to share it because it has a different and unique outcome.

It started back in October of 2003. I was walking down my parents driveway when I cut the corner of grass to get to the sidewalk. As I stepped on the grass, my knee or ankle (I'm not sure which) gave out and down I went. Of course I had my cell phone in my right hand and I didn't want to break that so as I went down all the force went to my outstretched left hand. My wrist hurt a bit, but I knew it wasn't broken. Only thing broken was my pride. My knees were scratched up and I was more worried about them as I was wearing shorts. Since I knew my wrist wasn't broken, I would give it a few weeks to see how it did before I called my wrist doctor (I have had two other wrist surgeries on my other wrist before).

My wrist continued to hurt when I did stuff such as brush my hair, put on deodorant, shampoo my hair, etc... So, I made a appointment with my doctor. He was surprised to see me. I haven't seen him since 1998. Even though I told him it wasn't broke, he still had to take a x-ray. He laughed when it was negative showing no break. I know my body. He set me up for a arthrogram and I made a follow up appointment with pain killers to go if needed. Did the arthrogram...how bizarre with the dye! I head back for my follow up and the first thing he says to me is "We're scheduling your surgery!". JEEZ!!! I tore the TFC and they would do arthroscopy and do a debridement. Although the arthrogram showed no ligament damage, he planned on confirming that as well.

December 15th 2003, I had my 1st of three surgeries on this wrist. The tear was much more severe then expected or what the films showed. Couldn't be repaired. In order to shave it down to smooth it out, it went all the way to the bone leaving a good chunk of bare bone exposed. Within a day, I knew that this one was not good. I had a debridement on my other wrist several years ago and I had little to no pain and I was doing stuff the next day. The doctor called and he wanted me in the office right away instead of waiting till my post op. He told me how bad it was and this might not work and I might need more work done in the future. He didn't want me to go to PT because he figured I would work it to hard and do more damage. I had to be very good with my home exercises. I was also put on Bextra. It definitely hurt for a good month or two. The pain was less and less until one day it was just magically gone!!! I was released in late April.

My wrist was doing pretty darn good at this point. No pain and I was using it like normal. One morning, I woke up and I was bawling like a baby with how bad my wrist was hurting. I was also told that I was whimpering all night long. Great, here we go again! This time, most of my pain was on the radius side. Once again, I decided to wait awhile to see if it got better before I went back to doc.

He wasn't too happy to see me again. He decided to try every other avenue first before another arthrogram since there was nothing I could think of that I had specifically done to it. I got a cortisone shot to no avail, splinting didn't help, anti-inflammatories didn't help, Lidoderm patches (little gel patches that have lidocaine in them to help dull the pain) didn't do squat. So, finally decided to do another arthrogram. Back in for my follow up appointment...a brand new TFC tear in a new area! It was decided that my TFC was so weak at this point, I tore it in my sleep! I must have twisted it or slept on it funny or something.

So, surgery #2 on this wrist was August 23rd, 2004. Another debridement. Tear wasn't nearly as bad as first. But, this left me with virtually a piece of hole-y swiss cheese as my TFCC. I had to be careful because he wouldn't be able to perform anymore scopes on this wrist. Predicted that I would be in the office in the future for more radical work, like a ulnar shortening. He gave me a few years at the most. I only had surgery pain for a week or so then it was back to normal pain. I was sitting in the recliner petting my dog. My hand was firmly planted on her back when she moved and my hand went with her. OOOOWWWW!!!

Obviously, this was a failed debridement (I still have a feeling that I tore more cartilage when I had the dog incident). Doc wasn't happy and wanted to try anything and everything before more surgery. I tried Vioxx (turned it in when it was banned), Lodine, and even took a Medrol pack. Nothing was helping. I was tired of taking pain killers all the time and not being able to do anything. Doctor knew I needed more surgery (at this point he was talking about doing the shortening) but wanted to wait longer. After the first surgery, it took me about two months to be pain free. Maybe there was a magic time with this one as well. In late December 04, we finally decided to order my films from both previous arthrograms and plan my surgery. We talked about doing a shortening, but as he looked at my films and my face as he manipulated my wrist, that wasn't going to take care of all my problems. Even though I had pain on the ulna side, I had just as much on the radius side. If he did the shortening, I would've been back crying the blues within a couple of months that I still had lots of pain and I would've had to undergo ANOTHER surgery. In order to demolish ALL the pain (both radially and ulnar sided) in one shot, it was decided to do a wrist fusion and then when my wrist was open, he would manipulate it and decide if I needed a "Wafer Procedure". Now I just had to decide if I wanted to do it or not.

With the fusion, they take the radius and the carpal bones and fuse them into one bone. They scrape out all existing cartilage between all the carpal bones and put bone graft in the new open spaces. This will fuse into one bone. They DO NOT fuse the ulna bone, which allows for rotating the wrist still. Being that the radius and carpal bones are now one bone, there will be absolutely NO bending motion in the wrist.

This was definitely a hard decision to make, but I made it instantly. I am only 29, so the thought of NEVER being able to bend my wrist again was pretty scary, but the thought of not having anymore pain was awesome! Since I wouldn't be able to bend my wrist and the bones wouldn't rub on each other, I would have no pain. It is a definite trade off when you think about it. No bending, but no pain. I will have a lot of adjusting to do and learning to do things in a different way. But, with no pain, you CAN adjust. I am rather young to have a complete fusion. Most fusion patients are significantly older and with severe arthritis. Plus, you never know what will happen in the future. With how fast medical technology is progressing, there might be something in the future to reverse this or make it so you CAN bend the wrist. I do not know for sure if I would've gone through with it if it was my right hand since I am right handed. So, decision made- surgery set.

Surgery #3 was January 24th, 2005. I had a complete fusion of the left wrist with a bone graft from the "iliac crest" (hip bone). They didn't have to do the "Wafer Procedure" after all. This shows me that the shortening would not have done a darn thing for me and I made the right decision going fusion route instead of shortening. Once surgery was over, the first words out of doc's mouth to my Mom in the waiting room was "The whole first row of bones was completely shot". No wonder why I was in so much pain. I was in severe pain after surgery, with both hip and wrist, but that is why I had Norco and Vicoprofen both to take.

So, now I have a 5 inch scar that isn't all that bad, a small 2 inch scar on my hip, a titanium dynamic compression plate with 8 screws, no physical therapy, and a splint for about 2 months. And, best of all, NO WRIST PAIN!!! My doctor said at my last appointment, this is the best he has seen me in over a year!

I made the right decision for me and my fairy tale ending of no pain is coming true....

Lorna's Arm Pictures

Fusion Scar @6 Weeks Post-op
Fusion Plate Top View

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