Friday, October 27, 2017

Arm Update

**Well, this post turned out longer than I expected! Oops!

A lot has happened since I last posted about my arm

We decided we were not going to let my arm injury stop us from enjoying our summer. And although it did slow us down a bit, we planned lots of fun activities.

Sunday drive to the Teton Dam Site. Jonah decided he didn't need clothes about halfway through our drive - silly boy!

Drive-in movie with my sister, Lily, who came to town to help me out. She's amazing!

4th of July Parade. One of our favorite summer traditions!

Instead of piling into the car and driving to Idaho Falls for fireworks like we normally do, we decided to watch the fireworks throughout Rexburg from the newly-built playhouse in our backyard. We lucked out and quite a few of our neighbors decided to set fireworks off so we had front-row seats!

After our initial appointment in the last post, we continued to meet with the upper extremity specialist every two weeks. At each appointment I would get a new x-ray taken to see how things were healing, and each time the doctor would come bounding into the exam room and say excitedly, "Come look at this x-ray!" He would explain the x-ray to us, pointing out that scar tissue was beginning to form in what looked to be a promising way to be able to avoid surgery altogether. He told me he was amazed at how much motion I had, even though the absolute furthest I could extend was to about 140 degrees and the furthest I could bend was to 100 degrees. He gave me daily stretching exercises to help with my motion. We left each appointment happy but hesitant to believe I really would be able to heal without surgery.

My kids all made a great effort to "take care" of me while I was healing. They all wanted to help me put my brace back on after I took it off to stretch, and they regularly reminded each other to stay a safe distance away from my arm. They would say, "Careful! That's mom's broken arm!" and the offending child would say, "Oh yeah! I forgot!" and back away.

Camping in Island Park when I was 36 weeks. I love this candid moment of my 4 cute kiddos and me.

Another Sunday drive. We went on several this summer! Whenever I rode in the car I brought a little pillow along to rest my arm on. If I didn't elevate my arm often enough throughout the day it would swell like crazy and become really painful, and bumps in the car were no fun without a soft place to rest my arm.

Sam's work party at a cabin in Ashton. I was 38 weeks here.

Since I wasn't allowed to drive with my brace, we spent lots of time at home too. What's better than ice cream on the back porch?

At the 10-week mark I went in for my last appointment before Lydia was born, (she was due 2 days later) and after another x-ray and examining the stability of my arm, the doctor told me I didn't need to wear my brace anymore and to come back in 6 weeks. He told me he was astounded at how good my motion was - he said it was better than most people after they have surgery - and he attributed that to the hormone "relaxin" that relaxes ligaments in a pregnant woman's body in preparation for delivery.

Tommy talking to the baby in my belly.

I was so grateful to have my brace off just in time to hold my new baby, and I had hope that I would not need surgery - but I didn't dare let myself get too set on the idea. 

Random picture in the elevator on the way up to Labor and Delivery...  I wanted to include it because it is the best picture I have of my sweet tan line from the brace. Pretty snazzy!

Our little Lydia was born three days after that appointment. Though I was limited in my strength and movement in that arm, I was able to figure out nursing and caring for her.

I loved snuggling my new little girl in the hospital before we brought her home and all of her siblings wanted to hold her.

Getting ready to head home.

Here I am, in all of my one-day-postpartum glory... Not my favorite picture of myself, but it is a good picture of how my arm looked in a normal, relaxed state. I couldn't extend it any more than that.

When Lydia was just shy of 6 weeks old we went back in to meet with my arm doctor. He confirmed that the scar tissue had formed perfectly around those bone fragments, and I officially would not be needing surgery. He said that I will definitely get arthritis in my elbow in the future, but he does not predict that happening for about 25 years, so I will revisit that when the time comes. I asked him about long-term functionality of my arm - specifically push ups, pull ups and yoga since those were things I enjoyed before - and he seemed to avoid the question a bit by saying, "Well, you will never have full strength or movement in that arm again compared to your other arm, but you will be able to perform your everyday activities just fine." I was a little discouraged by that statement at the time, but I have now decided that I am determined to be able to do everything that I could do before.

He referred me to a physical therapist, and I have now done two weeks of the six weeks of therapy. When I initially met with this physical therapist he was asking me about my goals for my arm, and I told him I mainly wanted to get as much extension and flexion back as possible and that I knew I would never get it all back. He looked surprised and said, "Is that what the doctor told you?" When I said yes he said, "Unless there are screws or bone in the way, I don't see any reason why you can't get full extension and flexion back. I have had patients starting with much less movement that have gotten full extension and flexion back."

Learning I will possibly be able to get all of my motion back lit a fire under me. I am determined to get back as much use of my arm as I possibly can. At the end of my last session, after heat, stretching (ouch!), and massage, I was able to extend my arm to 177 degrees and bend it to 23 degrees. Of course my arm stiffens up after therapy and I am not able to get it to those measurements on my own, but I am happy with the progress so far and hope to see more and more progress as time goes on.

Excuse the awkward bathroom selfie. This is from today, two months after Lydia was born. I have gained quite a bit of extension, and I am really happy about that! Also, my post-workout hair is looking good...

I know it is going to take patience and lots of hard work to get my arm to where I want it to be, but I am no stranger to hard work. I am going to do push ups again. I am going to do downward dog again. I am going to do pull-ups again. It's just a matter of patience and perseverance. I can do this.

As I look back at this experience there is no doubt in my mind that this whole thing was a miracle. I know I was guided to this specific upper extremity specialist because he would decide not to operate right away, which made it possible to see the miracle of my arm healing on its own. 

I can honestly say I am thankful for this trial because it has taught me so much. Though I am not naive enough to think this is the hardest thing our family will go through in this mortal life, this injury has allowed me to see a strength in our family that I didn't know was there before. Seeing Sam care for our kids and me (doing literally everything for that first while) without a single complaint has been an amazing experience. Watching the kids step up to new responsibilities has been incredible. And seeing what I am capable of with the Lord's help has been a real eye-opener. It has helped us reflect on our family motto - "We can do hard things."

Our last picture as a family of 6!

It has allowed me to have more compassion for others who are also going through hard things, especially those things that are not as obvious as a broken arm. I have also learned not to compare my trials with others' trials. I often found myself thinking, "So-and-so is going through something so much harder. My trial is insignificant." But we all have different trials in this life, and it doesn't do me any good to say my trial is insignificant, because it's not. It's just different. 

One day in the middle of this whole thing I was wallowing in my own misfortune when I came across a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley that says, "Do not feel sorry for yourself... Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face." This made me take a long, hard look at myself and realize that feeling sorry for myself was not doing any good. It reminded me of something Sam said to me when I first broke my arm - "Going through a trial does not give us a pass on serving others." And though I am not perfect at serving others, I know I am happier when I look outside myself for ways to serve others and focus on smiling, even when things are hard. I love what Sharon L. Eubank said: "Being happy doesn’t mean to slap a plastic smile on your face no matter what is going on. But it does mean keeping the laws of God and building and lifting others. When we build, when we lift the burden of others, it blesses our lives in ways our trials cannot take away."

The most important thing I have learned from this whole thing is that God loves each of us. He cares about us. He knows our thoughts and concerns, and He is there for us in good times and in bad.

And for that I am so, so grateful.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lydia Jane Brubaker

Our little Lydia Jane Brubaker is here! She was born on August 25 at 6:48 pm and we are so in love!

It is hard to believe that we are now a family of seven!

Birth story and more pictures to come!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I-pad time with a side of milk

 Sometimes you've gotta do what you gotta do to get through the day when mom can't drive you anywhere and you've already played outside all day! 

Besides, they were getting along great!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Good Ol' Life!

Today's post is kind of a random assortment of pictures. Most of the photos are from late May and early June. Nothing too out of the ordinary - just normal, good ol' life!

Tommy has learned quickly as the youngest of three brothers how to use swords!

Sam, his parents and I went to the broadcast of the rededication of the Idaho Falls temple. It was beautiful! We also went with them and our kids to the temple open house before it was rededicated, and that was such a wonderful experience! Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that, though!

Bath time for 3 boys! I am always amazed at how dirty the water is when I drain it, and the insane amount of water splashed out of the bath hasn't stopped surprising me either... I guess that means we must have fun and successful baths around here!

I almost didn't post this picture because I was self-conscious of my smooshed pregnant body, but I decided to post it anyway because it was such a sweet moment.  Tommy generally only likes to snuggle in short doses, so I was glad to capture this picture. I sure love that sweet boy!

It's hard to see Jonah behind Nathan in this picture, but all 4 of the kids ran outside while I was making breakfast one morning and played "wedding" for several hours. (Ignore the water spots on the window...) Much of that time was spent picking purple flowers from the alfalfa in the field to make into a bouquet. Later that night, Ellie executed a perfectly-planned carriage arrival and wedding reception complete with snacks for the whole family.

Lunch at the park with my kiddos the day before I broke my arm.

This was our best attempt at getting all four kids in the picture!

I wish I would have gotten a picture when the irises in our yard were in their prime in late May because they were stunning. But this picture will have to do for now! 

The peonies are absolutely beautiful too! I love watching the plants in the yard grow.

A friend of Sam's helped him build a swing set for the kids. In this picture it looks like Sam is just watching the other guy do the work, but I promise that wasn't the case! Haha!

Jonah loves the small swing Sam made for him. It's just his height so he can get on and off all by himself. He often runs outside by himself to swing. I love watching him and wish I could hear all of the thoughts that go through his little mind as he spins!

This year we decided not to go to the fireworks in Idaho Falls like we normally do on the Fourth of July. Instead we opted to put Tommy to bed and let the kids build a cozy fort in their new playhouse to wait for the fireworks around town to start. Several of our neighbors ended up doing awesome, aerial fireworks, including a neighbor right across the way from us. It ended up being so much better than making the trek down to Idaho Falls since we had a front row seat and didn't have to deal with the traffic. I think this may become a new tradition!

Summer in Idaho is my absolute favorite, and I am so grateful for this beautiful season of life too!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Our Next Adventure - "Terrible Triad" Edition

(This post ended up being quite long - oops!)

On Saturday, June 17, our family left Idaho around 6:00 am for a family reunion in Utah that day. We were excited to spend the day with Sam's family before turning around and heading home that afternoon after the reunion.

Around 9:45 we got to the church building where the reunion was to be held on the outside lawn. We said hello to the few family members that were already there, and then took the kids over to the inflatable slide that was there. The kids were having a great time with cousins, and one of Sam's aunts went to go unlock the church so we could use it for bathrooms - so, like any 30-week-pregnant lady, I followed her to go use bathroom. 

On the way to the church there was a barrier between the grass and the parking lot that was connected with chains, and somehow I didn't lift my foot up high enough (I know, I'm a dork!), and both feet caught on the chain, causing me to fall straight onto my elbows and knees on the asphalt. 

Dang chains! ^^

When I landed I immediately felt something move in my right elbow, and when I stood up the lower half of my arm felt heavy - I couldn't move it. When I looked down at my elbow I knew something was definitely wrong - it was completely deformed. Katie called Sam over, and he and I (along with Katie for directions) left for the urgent care. We were so grateful for family that stayed with the kids! 

On the drive to the urgent care my arm really started to hurt, and I began to feel nauseous. Probably from shock?? When we got to the urgent care they told us that since I was pregnant we needed to head to the Emergency Room so they could monitor the baby. They gave us directions to the hospital, and off we went.

That drive to the hospital seemed like an eternity! I kept my eyes closed and held on to my arm, since that was the most "comfortable" position I could find. If I let my arm dangle it was excruciating.

Luckily we were admitted into the ER immediately without having to wait in the waiting room at all. 

Soon after we got there the nurse listened to the baby's heartbeat and I could feel her moving like she normally does, so it was very comforting to know that the fall didn't hurt her.

This is what my elbow looked like about 2 hours after I fell. It was quite swollen, so it is harder to see the dislocation than right after it happened.

X-ray before they pulled my elbow back into place.

Ice made my arm feel a little bit better while I waited to have it put back into place.

The ER doctor came in and after examining my arm decided that I had a posterior elbow dislocation. After waiting, ineffective pain meds, x-rays, waiting, resetting my arm, (I couldn't believe how painful that was!) applying a splint, waiting, more x-rays, and more waiting, the ER doctor came in again and told me that my elbow injury looked much more serious than they originally thought, and that I should meet with an orthopedic doctor the next week.

After 6 hours in the ER, we headed back to the reunion just in time to collect our kids (who had an awesome time at the reunion!) and begin the drive home to Idaho.

On Tuesday we met with a local orthopedic doctor. He told us that he needed more information before he decided what to do, so he sent us to get a CT scan, then we headed back into his office where he told me I had an injury called the "terrible triad" (dislocated elbow, fractured coronoid process, and fractured radial head) and that I needed surgery - which we scheduled for Friday. As we were leaving his office that day the x-ray tech said, "I was amazed when they told me all you did was trip. I thought for sure they were going to tell me you were in a motorcycle accident with how bad of a fracture you have." Apparently I am really good at tripping?? Haha!

We bided our time until Friday, with Sam staying home to help me and Sam's mom, Tami, helping us out with pretty much everything! Laundry, dishes, dinners, watching kids while we went to appointments, etc. She saved us during that first little while.

It is amazing the things I took for granted being able to do when I had two healthy arms! Everything is significantly more difficult with only my left (non-dominant) hand being usable!

Finding a comfortable sleeping position with my big pregnant belly and arm in a huge splint was next to impossible.

 It's hilarious how many pillows I used to try and position myself in the most comfortable way!

My arm felt better when it was elevated above my heart... Also note my plate balanced precariously on my splint. Haha!

After church selfie!

On Thursday we pre-registered at the hospital for surgery the next morning, I started fasting, and I was emotionally ready to start the difficult road to recovery after surgery and get as recovered as I possibly could before baby #5 came in about 9 weeks.

On Friday morning at 7:30 the orthopedic doctor called me. He told me that he had been pondering my case, and that he felt that instead of performing the surgery that day, I should go meet with an upper extremity specialist in Pocatello - he felt that was how I would have the best recovery and long term outcome.  I was grateful for him referring me to a specialist because obviously I want full use of my arm in the future, but I was also frustrated because I was so ready to start recovering as quick as I could in preparation for the baby.

So we called the upper extremity specialist and set an appointment for today - Tuesday - and waited through the weekend, hoping for the soonest possible surgery date.

Making pancakes for my family on Sunday night. (My cooking skills are quite limited right now! Haha!) Whenever I was around food I covered my arm with a towel because I didn't want a whole bunch of food ground into my bandage! Gross!

On Saturday we took a little family adventure, and it was absolutely beautiful.

It was just what our little family needed to distract ourselves from waiting.

Flowers in my hair courtesy of Nathan!

When we met with the specialist today he thoroughly explained my injury, looked through the CT scans with us, and told me that he needs to replace my radial head since about 40-50% of it was shattered, and the remaining 60-or-so percent is cracked. He then told us that since I am pregnant, he could give me two options with surgery. The first option is to schedule me for surgery tomorrow, despite the small risk to my baby of going under anesthesia. The second option is to put me in a controlled movement brace and strengthen my arm for 8-10 weeks while we wait for the baby to be born, and operate after the baby comes. He then told us that he has operated on pregnant women before because sometimes you can't wait - like in emergency situations - and even though the risks to the baby when going under general anesthesia are extremely small, what if something were to happen to the baby and we had to have the conversation on the other side of surgery of "Was that surgery truly necessary at that moment, or could it have waited?" He said that he had consulted with several other specialists about it, and he decided that he could confidently answer, "No - that the surgery could have waited." He says the main con of waiting to have surgery until after baby comes is that I will have more initial stiffness of my elbow after surgery than I would if I were to get surgery tomorrow, but the pros are that I have time for my ulnar collateral ligament (also damaged) to heal and increase elbow stability, I can start working on strengthening my elbow now for better recovery later, and that there is no risk to the baby with surgery. With either option, the long term outcome will be the same as far as elbow function is concerned. Then he said, "Patients always ask me what I would do in their situation, and if you were my wife and I had the knowledge I have now, I would have her wait to have surgery."

So after talking it over, we decided to go ahead and wait to have surgery until after the baby is born. 

This is my new brace.

Sam and I were joking that I now have a bionic arm! This brace keeps my elbow stable so that it doesn't dislocate again, but also allows my elbow to move in a controlled way. I can bend my arm as far as I am able, but the brace doesn't let me straighten my arm more than 150 degrees to keep it from dislocating since a fully extended arm is the most unstable. The doctor said I can lift anything lighter than half a gallon of milk with that arm and to let pain be my gauge of how much is too much.

Right now it is still extremely painful to move my arm - especially turning my hand over to make my palm face up - and I can't believe how weak my arm is, either.

Luckily I have the world's most patient, loving husband.

It is very humbling to go from a fully functional, healthy mom of four kids to someone who can't even dress without help... Or cut her own nails.

Our kids have stepped up so much to help and do many things on their own. Ellie and Nathan are doing great helping with more chores around the house and Ellie especially is helpful with Tommy - getting him dressed and changing non-poopy diapers. Jonah has learned to put his own underwear and shorts on, even though it is still a struggle for him. I am so grateful that the kids are doing their best to help in the ways they know how.

I have also learned to do most things I need to with one hand, (changing poopy diapers is quite the feat! haha) and with this new brace I look forward to slowly working my way up to doing nearly everything I used to be able to do as a mom. I hope that with this new brace I will be able to give my kids a summer full of fun memories instead of memories of a mom who couldn't do anything since she was in a full-on arm cast.

I know these next few months are going to be challenging for the whole family with waiting for surgery then recovering from childbirth and surgery, but I feel at peace with the decision we have made knowing our baby will be safe.

Here's to our next adventure!
Images by Freepik