6 Things I Learned With a Shattered Elbow

Hello, friends and readers!! It’s been 7 weeks since I personally posted on A Writer’s Tale. My dear friend Emily shared an emergency update, of course, but it’s been a long time since I shared my own thoughts here. I’m so glad to be back!

As Emily shared with you, we got a rare ice storm the day after Saint Valentine’s Day. Temperatures dipped well below freezing for three days straight and everything was glazed in half an inch of ice. The next day (Mardi Gras Tuesday) we even got some snow, so my siblings and I decided to play in the snow before starting school (or, in my case, working on my novel).

That is ice, not snow!

Well, we were “ice skating” on our long driveway…and finding myself in a winter wonderland turned me into a overgrown kid…so when I saw a particularly pretty patch of ice, I thought I’d “skate” on it, just like I’d skated on even bigger patches closer to the house. No problem, right?

(*Narrator voice*) It was a very big problem.

My foot slipped out from under me, I threw my hand out to stop myself, I heard/felt something in my elbow pop or crack…and the next thing I knew I was sitting in a puddle of ice water, holding my arm to my torso and hardly able to move or speak. After it became very apparent I’d broken something (I could feel bones moving around in my elbow), my dad drove me down icy roads to our local hospital. Turns out my elbow was shattered in 10 different pieces–yet by God’s grace the surgeon was able to put it all back together again that afternoon! After a two-hour surgery, I now have two plates and 14 screws in my elbow.

I wore a heavy splint and a sling for two weeks. Then I graduated to a removable, lightweight splint the day before my 29th birthday (Best. Present. Ever!) and started physical therapy. I can now go without the splint during the day and I’m working very hard at bending and straightening my arm as much as I can. My therapist tells me that even if I don’t get full mobility back, I’ll get (and I quote) “pretty dang close.”

I took these pictures on Saturday. Trust me, you don’t want to see what the scar used to look like!

Needless to say, this has been an experience of monumental proportions. Until February 16 I’d never broken a bone, had major surgery, spent a night in the hospital, or experienced such unbelievable, blinding pain. I’ve certainly never been so dependent on others as I’ve been these past 6 weeks.

But now that I’m sleeping well again, regaining my mobility, and getting back to some semblance of a routine, I can honestly say that good things have come out of my accident. Everyone has been so kind and encouraging–and most importantly, I know many of you have been praying for me. So I wanted to share this list of blessings and hard graces with you, too!

Humility is a Good (hard) thing

I’m a physically strong person, with fairly high endurance and pain tolerance. I’ve always had a long list of responsibilities and I genuinely enjoy having good and fulfilling things to do. My accident not only completely obliterated all my usual routines, but it also revealed something I probably knew but never wanted to acknowledge: I’ve been proud of my strength and I’d made it part of my identity.

I still want to regain my strength and get back to my old responsibilities, of course! But I do think my physical weakness revealed another kind of weakness masquerading as toughness. Do I also find it significant that all of this happened during Lent, the season in which we purposefully reflect on our dependence on Christ for everything? Yes, yes I do.

My Family is the best (Especially My Mom)

The first few days after my accident, I was so drugged-up, so embarrassed by the fact that I couldn’t do anything by myself, and in so much pain, I was constantly apologizing for everything (usually while crying my eyes out). There came a point where my mom looked me in the eye and told me I wasn’t allowed to apologize anymore. She said it was her honor to serve me and that the only things she’d accept going forward were “Please” and “Thank you.” That reassurance meant so much to me!

What many of you may not know is that a week after my accident, my 11-year-old baby sister Joy fell off a swing and broke her leg right above her ankle! My mom has had a lot on her hands, yet she’s been so awesome and encouraging with both of us. Our siblings and dad have pitched in, too, helping out with all the chores Joy and I can’t do right now and cheering us on from the sidelines.

Found @ Pinterest
Sleep is my friend

Remember how I reeeeeeeally struggled with insomnia last year, to the point where I’d made a habit of reading for a while every night before bed? Well, guess what? When you’re recovering from major surgery and your body is trying to heal a shattered elbow, you are EXHAUSTED! All the time!!

I feel like I’ve been catching up on all the sleep I lost in 2020, and it’s been really, really good. I’m no longer getting up insanely early on Saturdays, and while I am trying to wake up at 5 AM for a proper quiet time with the Lord again, I’m sure He hasn’t minded me sleeping in till 6 while my body heals.

MEntal Rest is Important, too!

Traumatic injuries and writing do not mix well, guys. It’s a miracle I was able to craft a new article for Cultivating (thank goodness I’d already outlined it!), but other than that I’ve done very little writing. On the other hand, I’ve read several books of diverse genres, enjoyed Hawaii 5-0 and The Clone Wars, recorded two podcasts with my brother, and laughed at all the Suez Canal memes. And THAT’S OKAY! I’ve been through a lot, and I am trying to giving myself permission to heal in body as well as mind.

Prayer is a Powerful Thing

A whole army of friends and family started praying for me within an hour of my accident. One of the nurses told me that there was one hair-raising moment during my surgery when they weren’t sure where two tiny pieces of my elbow were supposed to go…and then, miraculously, both pieces just fell into place! I’m convinced that had a lot to do with all the prayers on my behalf.

I know my own prayers have run the gamut from desperate and terrified, to incoherent and weary, to simple repetitions of “Please make me brave, please just make me brave.” I’d love to tell you that I accepted my situation with saintly calm and patience. The truth is that I’ve been scared out of my mind, I’ve cried bucketfuls, and I’ve been tired. But a good friend advised me to name my fears before the Cross, and I have done that and have experienced moments of knowing Jesus was right there with me.

Manuka Honey is powerful, too!

I swear by this stuff now, haha!! I had a nasty, inflamed spot in my incision last week, right on the tip of my elbow where the internal stitches were starting to come out. Well, my mom put manuka honey (which is packed with anti-bacterial and antioxidant goodness) on it for a few days, and it’s completely cleared up! Manuka honey–good for what ails ya!

This is a longer post than I’d normally write…but hey, I’ve been gone a long time! I hope everyone is doing well. I’d love to catch up in the comments section! I also intend to get back to my old every-other-week blogging schedule. I’ve got at least two book reviews and a movie review in the works…and if I don’t write something about Hawaii 5-0 and The Clone Wars soon, I’ll shock myself.

Oh yes, it’s good to be back πŸ™‚

16 thoughts on “6 Things I Learned With a Shattered Elbow

  1. Maribeth, I’m so happy and grateful that you’re feeling better!!! And I’m so proud of you for making the most of this VERY TOUGH experience and using it as a time to rest and heal! That’s not easy, but you’re doing amazing, fren! ❀


  2. Ouch, that is quite the battle scar! Wow, what a story about the surgery. That was God working.
    I’m so glad you’re back, I always enjoy your blog posts. Your faith in God during this tough time is admirable, thank-you for sharing what your struggles and what you’ve learned. ❀


    1. Awww, thank you so much for your sweet words, Rachel! You have been such an encouragement to me on Twitter these past few weeks. You’re amazing! ❀


  3. I’m a newbie around here, having started following you right before you got hurt (has it really been 7 weeks?!) but I’m glad you are healing, on the road to recovery, and able to get around again! What a blessing! And yes, it’s both surprising how much we can endure and what we make part of our identity. Fortunately, even when we are at our “weakest,” our identity is still rooted in the Lord. And no, He doesn’t mind you sleeping in. Not one bit. He loves you. πŸ˜‰


    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Charity! Identity has always been something I’ve struggled with; I think that’s why stories where characters discover their true identity and then stand on it resonate with me so much. (*whispers* I think that’s why I love Star Wars: Luke’s “I am a Jedi like my father before me” and Rey’s “I am ALL the Jedi” still give me shivers of happiness!)

      On the subject of sleep: I’m reminded of that moment in the Old Testament when the Lord tells an exhausted and despairing Elijah to eat lunch and take a nap. It did wonders for poor Elijah, so it’ll probably do the rest of us a lot of good, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Maribeth I am so glad you are doing better. You can get your movement back. Renumber the only limits we have is what we place on ourselves. Pray your sister is doing well too. Just so you know you are 7 surgeries behind me. LOL! God Bless.


    1. Thank you so much for all your prayers and encouragement, Mr. Kevin! Joy is doing really well and *should* get out of her cast and into a boot this week. I had another physical therapy session today, and my therapist said I’ve definitely turned a corner! I’m definitely working towards as much mobility as I can possibly get!

      Oh, Lordy, I hope you don’t mind me saying that I’ll hopefully *stay* 7 surgeries behind you, haha!


  5. It’s great to have you back, Maribeth! We missed you. ❀ Wow! That sounds so painful, but I'm glad you're doing better. I'll keep praying for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Kristianne! (So sorry for the delayed comment…I’m gonna try to do better about that in the future!) It has been very painful, and honestly there are some days (like today!) where I’m still in a lot of discomfort…but I get a little better every day πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I hope I NEVER break another one!! My brother keeps saying HE wants a broken bone now, and I keep saying to him, “No…no, man, you don’t know what you’re asking–you do NOT want this kind of pain!” XD

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never broken a bone or anything like that either (my brother on the other hand has had his nose broken 2 and 3+ nose surgeries, the only thing serious in terms of bones in our family). I’m glad your will be getting your mobility back, I guess I take that for granted, that it’s possible not too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness–I just read your blog post (both of them, in fact!) and I’m so sorry to hear you sustained such an injury! It sounds like our injuries are very similar. I’m four months out from my own ORIF surgery, but I remember how hard every single day was during that first month. You have my deep sympathies and my prayers!

      To answer your questions, I’m doing pretty well now. I still deal with a deep, dull ache in my elbow and I have to wrap it in a heating pad every morning so it’ll loosen up. I also still have nerve pain (from when the surgeon had to move my ulnar nerve) in my two smallest fingers and the outer side of my hand. But I can touch my shoulder with my fingertips now (and all five fingers if I push my arm with my other hand)! With a little effort I can straighten my arm, and if I’m VERY careful, I can even pick up my 1-year-old niece!

      If you’re a month out from surgery, I’m assuming you’re using a lighter, thermoplastic splint and that it’s removable? I didn’t have to use a sling once I had that splint. I wore it 24/7 (except for baths and exercising) for six weeks, and then just at night for two weeks after that. I also did three months of occupational therapy, twice a week. My therapist spent a LOT of time massaging and stretching my arm those first few weeks. She would push and pull as far and as much as I could bear it, and even then she made me cry once just because it hurt so much! But she knew what that arm needed. Eventually she gave me putty and stress balls to improve my grip strength, and towards the end got me to the point where I could use small weights and resistance bands. I had to pay for my therapy out of pocket because my insurance wouldn’t cover it (thank goodness for sweet grandparents who helped me pay for it!), but it was worth every single penny.

      If there’s anything I’d strongly recommend, it’s to KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK OF THERAPY! My surgeon and my therapist both told me they never expected me to regain as much flexibility as I did, but they say it’s because I made sure to do my exercises at home every single day, every other hour. I *really* wanted to recover as much flexibility as I possibly could. So once you start therapy (or if you’ve already started!), make sure you do those exercises at home, too! Keep moving that joint as much as you can. It HURTS, but the more you can move it, the better it’ll be in the long run–I promise!

      Also, make sure you eat nutritious food, and eat a LOT of it. You burn as many calories as a breastfeeding mother when you’re healing from a bone injury as severe as ours, so be kind to yourself and make sure you’re giving your body the energy it needs! I also took a bone supplement while I was healing, and I’m sure that helped a lot.

      Just out of curiosity, how did you find my blog? You’re the second person with a similar injury who’s reached out to me!


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