What to Expect From a Broken Clavicle
The following is a funny story sent to me by a rider that broke her collar bone while cycling. She found my site when searching for more information on training and recovery from the break.
Along with the story she mentions “I know it would’ve helped me alot if this information had been available when I was lost in the land of one arm. I have attached my ridiculously long account”. She then adds that I may post the story if I wish.
Well, I think it’s well worth posting. So here it is.
What to Expect From a Broken Clavicle
By Laura Erker
On March 23rd I had the exciting experience of breaking my left clavicle while riding my bike. I thought I’d put together a synopsis of what to expect so that anyone else can read and see what’s in store. If you’re reading this and you have broken you clavicle then get someone to run out to the store and get you some really good calcium. You should take 2000mg of calcium with 6mg of Boron a day! While they’re at it, have them pick you about four books to read and ten movies to go through. Further, a really funny account of the first five days with a broken clavicle can be found on line http://www.kurlancheek.com/clavicle.htm. Also, relax, it’s gonna be a while.
So, what happened? Good question, everyone has their own version of who is to blame and how it all went down. From my vantage point I only know that I was cruising along in a group, riding into a crosswind. Someone had the bright idea to put it in the gutter and everyone started fighting for wheels. Then, I heard some tires hit and “…zzt zzzt zzt crack crack crack”. The bike in front of me came to a screeching halt and as I hit my brakes I went into a skid that had my back wheel hit the back tire in front of me. Next thing I knew I was picking myself up off the ground and getting back on my bike. But, as I rode away I realized that something was very wrong. Not only was my left shoulder ON FIRE with pain but I could feel/hear a clicking there that could only be a broken bone. Deciding that I was not stupid enough to try to ride the remaining 25 miles with a broken bone I attempted to bring myself to a stop and threw my bike in the dirt glad to be rid of that infernal pain machine. The pain was so intense now that fainting was the only possibility. But, I had to wait to lose all consciousness until I could hail down an ambulance, cab, person! I could see a group of cars a mile away down the road at the site of the crash, where I should have stayed. Well, hindsight is always 20/20. I hailed the ambulance like a cab and crawled in just in time to faint. I was then transferred to another ambulance and so began my new adventure into a one-armed existence.
The emergency room was exciting and the staff was very generous. All in all, a three hour affair in the door and out. It ends up I broke the distal third of my collar bone. However, getting a hold of someone to pick me up became a new challenge. I didn’t have my cell phone with me and not knowing any phone numbers I had to go on the internet to get the number of my team director, Chris Evertsen. Chris or an official was able to relate to my husband where I was located and he headed off to get me. After sitting in the emergency entrance for hours, seeing my husband come through the door of the emergency room was one of the happiest moments of my life!
Week 1 (This is movie week)
One quickly learns that it is a two-armed world out there and this will not make your broken clavicled life any easier. But, on with life.
Killing the pain. First, let’s discuss the power of alchohol. Through the ages this fine substance has been used to dull the pain of many a fallen soldier. Seeing myself as such, I broke into the whiskey with wild abandon. Choosing Jack Daniels’ as my personal “fav’ I set out to imbibe. If you dose this correctly you won’t have to pick up your prescription vicadin. Careful to drink a glass of water for each alcoholic drink so you avoid hangovers.
Dressing, this becomes a new adventure. You must keep your hurt shoulder extremely still. This means that the arm attached to it is completely useless. If you are a woman then forget the bra. If you must have a bra get someone you “trust’ to put your most comfortable one on and realize you will be wearing this item for at least two or three days. Unable to work out how to get a t-shirt on I tried my shirts that button up. You soon come to realize that buttons are not an option. Ok, back to regular shirts. I could get large t-shirts on by feeding the sleeve of the bad arm over my useless hand up to my armpit and then carefully pulling it over my head and then putting my functional arm in the other arm hole. Getting the t-shirt off again is usually a two-person project. Forget tying shoelaces or wearing tight pants, they become the enemy.
Sleeping. Most certainly, one must avoid, at all costs, rolling onto the affected shoulder during the first week. This will wake you up in just as much pain as the day you crashed. I found that propping pillows all along the length of my body helped to reduce unwarranted movement. I slept a lot, there wasn’t much else to do. But, this doesn’t really matter, as dressing, eating, and drinking will take about 5 times longer than usual, so I filled my day accordingly.
Book read: Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Movies watched: a lot!
Alcohol consumption: can’t accurately remember :’)
Now I was really starting to feel better, less pain in the shoulder and I could use my hand a bit. But my shoulder turned a pallid green. The bruising is disgusting and continued to creep down my torso for another week. But, since I only owned three t-shirts that I could manage to pull over my arm and head I just continued with the same state of affairs. It was about now that I realized I only had one thing to do to entertain myself!go to work. So, off I went arm in sling. I had only two things on my “to do” list each day. These items were usually something that would normally take me about an hour. Not now, I could spend all day working on simple problems. I had to get people to open the freezers for me and handle mice etc! But I got to talk with everyone at work quite a bit :’). I’d be able to work about 6 hours maximum a day before I completely cracked. This is when I learned to value of ibuprofen! One little pill can take a cranky/pained Laura and turn her into a working machine for about 2 more hours, lovely.
Comraderie. It was now that I learned that walking around in a sling attracts a lot of attention. People have to comment. They can’t help it.
“Fall off a bar stool?”
“Boy, broken collar bone, that’s the worst!”
I quickly pointed out that being on fire would probably be worse, but ok it’s nice to know people care.
I also learned that other injured people are most certainly your friend. You have to ask them what they did, and if they have a good left arm then you always ask if you could borrow it, or something corny like this. But, it’s fun.
I also started to get on the bike at the gym around this time. According to one man, I was great inspiration working out with my sling on. Well, I’d surely give up my inspiration status to use my left arm again, buddy! I went home suddenly after some of these visits to the gym because I would try to do too much and BLAM, pain again. Don’t do sit ups.
Doctor visit. It was mid-week that I was able to go and see a doctor. I sat there for about an hour just to get a referral to an orthopedist. Once I got in to see the nurse she looked straight at me (let me remind the reader that I was wearing my left arm in a sling and was covered with a big green bruise that covered my arm and torso)!
“So, what is your problem, today?”
“I have a broken clavicle and need to be referred to an orthopedist”
“Which arm is broken?”
(again, I remind the reader that my left arm was is a sling)
“My left arm”
“Okay, and what are you doing for it?”
I point to the sling, flabbergasted.
“When did it happen?”
“One week ago” I replied.
Surprised, “And you haven’t been in to see a doctor yet?”
“Well, no, I was just starting to feel like I could venture out of my “healing cocoon’.”
“Alright, let’s get you an appointment. Right, so the soonest our orthopedist can see you will be April 22nd.”
“That’s in three weeks! I have a broken bone. Isn’t there something sooner?”
“There isn’t really anything we can do for that, do you have any ibuprofen?”
Eventually I got x-rayed and was told to come back in three weeks.
Book Read: Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov
I felt the same as Week 2 but was able to get on the trainer with my sling. I got a workout regimen from Hans Kellner on line. Very nice guy, who broke his clavicle a while back, you can go to !
The training regimen consists of workouts broken up by Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3. Wow, I thought, this guy was training at week 1. Well, straight onto the trainer then, let’s get to work. Ends up, “Week 1” should be approached more as “the first week he began training after the break”. Holding my entire upper body up on my bike trainer with just my right arm was another challenge I hadn’t anticipated. I pushed through it. Also, it seems it only took Hans three weeks to recover, that’s only as long as his workout regimen was. Excellent, I’ll only be on the trainer for one week! This is great. Again, it ends up the three week training regimen can be repeated ad infinitum until you heal, just a little heads up.
Pit of Despair. This probably only applies to women. I could not shave the injured arm’s pit! This was horrible and I began to refer to this area of my body as the “pit of despair”. This is when you realize the ultimate greatness of the Mach 3 razor. You can literally shave without lifting your arm! Well lift it as much as you can. Good luck girls!
Book read: Swimming Across by Andrew Grove
Having contracted some kind of horrible cold (which I affectionately call “the snot blanket”) I was unable to sleep at night or workout. I fell into a depressive mood. Out of desperation I rode my bike on the road for one hour and ended up hurting it again. This is when I completely cracked under the strain of heading out into the world each and every day facing new painful challenges. I was tired of it. I wanted just one day where I didn’t have to struggle to get my clothes on or sleep! I felt that no one could possibly understand the pain I was going through. It was during this time that a friend and coworker died in a tragic car accident. Suddenly I found myself very appreciative of my situation. I was alive, fairly healthy and had people that loved me.
Back to riding, I found that I couldn’t reach the handlebars with my bad arm until the end of Week 4, this may be because I had a distal break, but I don’t know. I just kept focusing on my appointment with the doctor and the x-ray machine. He would certainly tell me that I was completely healed and I could resume my life again. Alas, it was not to be, the x-ray looked the same as the day I broke my arm. Well, I headed back home to cry, pulled myself together, bought a year’s supply of calcium and vowed not to drink any alcohol until I was better and healed! I hear alcohol can reduce your healing abilities. Also, when you break a bone you should take 2000mg of calcium a day with 6mg of Boron.
This was the week that I talked with Dr. Allan Richberg, also a cyclist. He informed me that seeing no healing after four weeks was normal for a 30 year old. This greatly lifted my spirits! He talked with me for a good 30 minutes on what to expect from my injury. He informed me that if you ride in the early healing stages of a broken clavicle you will most probably put a rib into your lung if you crash. This was alarming, why didn’t my doctor tell me this. Thanks Allan!
Book read: Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Doug Adams
My arm started to feel a lot better now. I could lift it over my head! Also, I could start driving my car with two hands. This was great! I started really riding the trainer a lot and was able to just get my left hand up to the bars comfortably and put a little weight on it. I did seven hours on the trainer this week, good for me. Whoever thought I’d be riding my trainer so much in So Cal with it sunny and 80F outside!
Book read: Finished Hitch Hiker’s Guide
I risked a ride on the road, against the doctor’s orders and found that my arm was ok. Whew!
Book read: Sequel to Hitch Hiker’s guide “Restaurant at the End of the Universe” by Doug Adams
Now I am back to riding 3 times a week and really enjoying it. My body sure is tired though.
Book read: Finished Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Doug Adams
I have an appointment with the doctor to get x-rayed again. Keep your fingers crossed. I am really looking forward to racing and just glued my ksyriums with the help of the best husband in the world, Jacob Erker.
Book read: Started Ringworld by Larry Niven