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!


  1. Heidi you are absolutely amazing. I love your smile. It seems to always be firmly in place no matter what challenges you go through. Thank you for helping me to see how easy my challenges really are. Our family is praying for you and the safe arrival of your little bundle.

  2. You are amazing!! Love your attitude about the whole situation! look at you mom of 4.5 doing it all with one hand tied behind your back...er tied up in a splint 😊


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