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Olecranon Fracture – The Discharge Home

The operation has gone well and its time to go home. I’m going to be off work for the next 4-8 weeks depending on how I progress. The important things now are going to be doing the rehabilitation, and getting proper nutrition inside me. So I’ve been back home for a few days now, what tricks have I found?

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Olecranon Fracture – The Discharge Home

The best thing about the hospital discharge being complete, in spite of the raft of instructions, was the ability to eat whatever I want! Not to be hard to the hospital food, which was good quality, I did find myself constantly hungry, but that may be been a facet of having to starve for 19hours before the op. It also meant I can now control WHAT I’m eating, and ensure that I’m getting enough calories.

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Hospital lunch food

Post op pain

The thing the that most surprised me about the operation were the changes in my level of pain. Honestly put, I was in minimal pain waiting for the operation, several degrees of discomfort due to the position of the cast, but no real pain.
However Post op… OUCH!

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I was left with a constant throb in the midpoint of my forearm, halfway between elbow and wrist. Initially, I put it down to having two metal rods rudely pushed inside my bone, and a little bit like a sock being overstuffed, my bone was stretching slightly.

Turns out this wasn’t the case, but I wouldn’t find out the true cause until the next visit to the hospital in a weeks time.

When will life return to normal?

At this point, I’m beginning to wonder how long it’s going to be before I can run again. I read on another blog some chap decided to have a go running, only a short distance, in his second week of plaster, was apparently in quite some pain as a result!

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Ok, now before I go further, let me reiterate, I’m a wimp and don’t like pain, thus your own mileage in getting back to running might vary. But I think that running that soon after the operation was quite a poor decision. A fracture needs stability to heal in the first week or so, not being jolted around.

Yes, there is a debate about the role of continuous passive movement immediately post-op. But note this is CONTROLLED CAREFUL MOVEMENT – not going for a jog and all of the shaking that involves!

Let me put it this was on day two of being at home, I walked 3mins to the village shop to by milk – not an unreasonable, or arduous expedition. At one point I moved QUICKLY to cross the road. Now I’m not saying it was painful, but I was acutely aware that I wasn’t properly attached to my own arm!! Slow and cautious movements are going to be the prescription for a while!!

Medication Side effects

At this stage I haven’t had a chat to the consultant, and haven’t been offered the choice about using ibuprofen, I’m making sure I’m taking all the medication I need/can to be comfortable. Which, is actually the right decision to make. The one drug that is causing me few issues is the co-codamol.

I have had many patients say, when discussing pain relief, that they can’t take co-codamol as it doesn’t “agree” with them. Personally, I’ve always found that slightly indicative of the actual level of pain they are in, if you are turning down a painkiller, a relatively mild one at that, how bad can things really be? Anyway, I’ve been using co-codamol religiously over the first week as I don’t like pain!, but I can confirm the side effects can be, annoying, but also surprising.

Yes, I developed the obligatory co-codamol “constipation baby”. Now I’m a slim chap anyway, but have still found actually buttoning trousers one-handed, a bit of a challenge using my left hand. The problem really came when I found I couldn’t actually close one of my pairs of trousers by a good two inches, as a result of constipation!!

Secondly, I was grumpy and slightly depressed, not uncommon side effects of being broken, but also quite likely as a facet both of the medication, and some residual anaesthetic, which can take a week or two to fully get out of your system. Anaesthetic can take this long to fully clear out, obviously depending on the drug used, as it goes into your fat cells, and that means it hangs a around a little longer than the portion of the drug which stayed in your blood.

A real surprise side effect…

Finally and most troubling, I developed difficulty micturating. The trouble with WHAT?!

Basically, when I wanted to pee, I couldn’t. Now that’s not entirely unusual with constipation, as the…backlog, can press on the tube coming out of the bladder, but after a few days of intensive fruit juice, and successfully “delivering” my codeine baby, I was still having difficulty passing urine.

I’d want to pass urine, I’d strain, but nothing would come out… for a while. Like waiting for some overdue pizza delivery man, you know he’s on the way, but for some odd reason just hasn’t arrived.

Certainly very worrying, as difficulty passing urine is 1) uncomfortable and 2) can be a serious medical sign of other things…, so I’m getting slightly more nervous as the days go by, until I found out that it is a side effect of some opiate medications – codeine. Knowing this made it easier to deal with, and improved greatly when I reduced the amount of co-codamol I was using! Dropping to one tab four times daily, not two, whilst adding the missing paracetamol dose back in. Unpleasant to have arm discomfort; but much better to be able to pee!!

Life on and off the couch

At this point, I’m relegated to watching TV, self-physio and using the PowerBall to keep my wrist mobile, and trying to do the occasional walk around the village. Basically counting time until the first consultant review in a week

Although I did receive some very pleasant “get well soon” chocolates, is it me, or is the Cadbury Milk tray slogan a little…aggressive a la Liam Neeson in Taken?

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Chocolate with a vendetta!

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. Feel free to drop me a line about sports tech, medicine, or frankly anything that you want to chat about!!