My Thailand Accident Journal, by Natalie

 

The Trip

May 2, 2018 I traveled to Phuket Thailand with three aunts,  four cousins, and one cousin’s daughter to meet another cousin and her family who are currently living in Thailand. We explored the ocean around Phuket for a couple days and then traveled up to Chang Mai where my cousin and her family are living.  We visited an elephant refuge, met the incredible tribe of Karen people, and took a Thai market and cuisine class.

IMG_0836 On the last day we decided to rent mopeds and site see temples around the city and mountains of Chang Mai. We picked them up the night before and after a few excursions, I was feeling much more comfortable and confident on them. We even traveled through a torrential rain storm, became separated from our group, and safely made it back together again.

On May 11, 2018 we awoke to one of my cousins sharing with us that she felt prompted that all the moped drivers needed to take our passports with us. (She wondered if she was sent this prompting for ID on the mopeds in case we had trouble with local police?)  We spent the morning driving through the University (beautiful grounds) and drove up the canyons in the mountains of Chang Mai to visit two temple sites. The first is a meditation temple and the second is a beautiful temple of gold at the top of the mountain. 

On our way down the mountain, I became distracted with the beautiful jungle and view of the canyon around me and did not anticipate the sharper turn ahead. As I pulled on my brakes and tried to lean to turn the bike in time, it became apparent that I was not going to make the turn.  Unfortunately, there are not shoulders on the side of the roads but instead are cemented ditches for irrigation during the rainy season.  A few quick thoughts ran through my mind of rolling with the bike in the ditch and breaking my neck and I sent off a quick prayer/plea: “what do I do? what do I do?”  A voice came immediately: “BAIL!”  So I jumped off the bike and tried to continue momentum with my feet at the same time, try to break my momentum.  Even though I was only probably going 20-25 miles per hour at this point, it is still too fast for my efforts to even have a hope of working. And so, I rolled. I must have stuck out my left had as I fell, but I do not remember the impact. I only remember rolling side-ways and down into the ditch. I also recall my helmet being pulled off my head at one point, although I do not remember hitting my head. 

Screenshot 2018-10-09 18.22.39 The good news is my aunt and cousin who were right behind me are an RN and CNA and were on me quickly checking for concussion and shock.

And the Thai people immediately pulled over, brought water and advice, and offered to call an ambulance.

And even more fortunately, my cousin who lives in Thailand knows and loves the private hospitals and had been dying to show us these 5-star institutions.  And she was following our mopeds in her van and quickly picked me up and drove me there.

As soon as we arrived at the hospital, a man came to our car with a wheel chair, loaded me in, and took me straight back to a bed where nurses immediately began changing my clothes into a hospital gown and washing my wounds. In the first 20 minutes, I had been washed, changed, had x-rays and had met with the orthopedic surgeon! Oh how I wish ERs in America with this efficient! And don’t get me started on the affordable treatment costs while there, as well!

 

The orthopedic surgeon was an older, Thai man who had been trained in the US and returned home to serve his people.  He stayed with me in the ER, oversaw the cleaning of my injuries, and broke the news of my badly broken wrist that would need surgery.  And although it was not an emergency (I could go home and have the surgery done), he kept reassuring me that ‘everything was going to be ok.’  So, he set my wrist and put it in a splint for the journey home.

IMG_0946

 

 The top picture is after the bones had been set and splinted.

Bottom picture is the original x-ray when we first went to hospital.

 

Many tender mercies: 

  • Passports are required for entry into the hospital and since we had them already, we could go straight to the hospital and not have to make a 45 minute detour.
  • We were originally scheduled to rent mopeds and tour temples on our second day in Chang Mai, but had to alter the schedule and ended up moving this to our last day. And although traveling was a little complicated, I did not miss out on any sight-seeing or activities.
  • I was already traveling with my own personal nurse and 7 other woman who went above and beyond caring for my needs and physical state.
  • Many other small blessings, (left wrist injury instead of my dominate right) but definitely a big one of walking away from an accident that could have had serious injuries.
  • And maybe when we find ourselves in grave danger, that instead of four-letter-word expletives, we offer a prayer or plea and our Heavenly Father will offer something to our hearts if we listen.   

IMG_0945

In the airport in Chang Mai traveling home. I was a sorry state, but at least I could cover some injuries.

Returning Home

I am a very active, independent person, mother of four (ages 8-14), and busy, business owner with my husband. I love Crossfit, trail running, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, and anything outdoors, really. I also play the violin and had sought out a mentor and teacher to help me progress in my study and progression after a multi-decade hiatus.  (Even though the left hand injury is a blessing – it is also not because of needed actions with my left hand/wrist in playing the violin.)  Therefore, returning home and facing multiple surgeries and a prognosis of at least a year recovery was quite devastating to me.  I had to let go of all of my physical goals for the next year.  My road rash injuries were the most dehabilitating.  Every time I’d move, my skin would move and I’d have sharp, stabbing pains that would leave me in tears (think pain level scale 7-8).  I have advised anyone who decides to break a bone to just get road rash with it and you will not notice the pain of the break for a while as the road rash pain with trump all! 

I was also quite helpless.  Having injuries on both hands/arms left it almost impossible to do even the simplest of tasks. It is impossible to put in hair elastics with half of one working hand! AND I have three girls’ hair to do….well, two. (One is old enough to manage.)  Showering was out of the question – not only did I not have working hands to wash myself or hair, but the pain from the water on my road rash would exhaust me so much that I’d take a 2-3 hour nap after getting out. And finding clothing to wear that wouldn’t touch and stick to my scrapes was so difficult that I pretty much lived in just underwear. 

I had to accept the help from others for almost everything. I am very blessed to live by so many people who came in with meals for my family, food for me, help with hair for my girls (and me!), and ran my kids to school, practices and other activities. Talk about humiliating…..I mean humbling. 

IMG_0970

Cali’s end of the year play. I did find some shorts to wear! #winning

And my sweet neighbor (who is super busy with two young kids), came and did my hair for me.

 Removing splint and seeing injury for the first time since accident. The trauma from the accident became overwhelming in my memory as I looked at my arm, and I admit I became light-headed and needed to lay down so they could finished removing bandages. 

IMG_0947

I met and scheduled my surgery for May 17, 2018. I do like and respect my surgeon, but when seeking reassurances for my fears, was disappointed to be given the lawyer answers of statistics and “no guarantees for recovery.”  What a sue-crazy world we live in that we have to remove compassion to protect ourselves against those who take advantage. Makes me sad.

Two hours, a plate, and 10 screws later, my wrist of five major fractures (and multiple little ones) was put back together. 

Ice cream and chocolate covered cinnamon bears became my comforts, especially at 3am while still recovering from jet lag. I was in full blown pity party. Logically, I knew my arm would heal and I was going to be fine. And I would berate myself when thinking of dear friends and the terminal illnesses, chronic pain, serious treatments for diseases, and other life altering challenges (divorce, etc) they were dealing with and their attitudes were leaps and bounds better than mine. I was missing my endorphins and not feeling like myself made me feel a little lost.  Accompanied by guilt for how pathetic I was acting over A BROKEN WRIST, for crying out loud! 

Multiple friends reached out, visited, brought lunch and companionship, and sent text messages and packages to help cheer me up.  Their words, actions, and light lifted my spirits and little by little helped me heal emotionally.  

And little by little I have been able to return to the things I love: taking care of my family, exercising, and getting outdoors – even if I have to modify most of my actions.  Hopefully I’ll be able to play my violin one day soon. For now it is motivation for doing my physical therapy.

Physical Therapy

IMG_1052Anyone that has experienced physical therapy knows what a fun journey is ahead.  We began PT 10 days after surgery. My doctor and PT knew the trauma on my wrist would create multiple challenges and they wanted to get right on it. My doctor was able to secure my wrist and bone that a cast was not necessary, fortunately. Therefore, we began light PT in moving my fingers and fist and eventually my wrist. 

I am still wearing a splint to help correct and stretch my tendons to their previous position.

Shattered my wrist, but don’t worry – didn’t break a nail! I think I’ll take broken nails next time..

After weeks of follow up visits with my physician and physical therapist, we determined

I needed to have a neuropathy test done on my arm. I still had a lot of numbing in my thumb and fingers. (BTW – nerve tests are literally done by sending electric shocks through different points of your nerves. NOT FUN!)  It was determined that I had multiple blockage points that were considered “severe” and required a second surgery.  I had my second surgery on August 1, 2018.  My surgeon did a carpal tunnel release and reopened my incision site and cut off scar tissue along my nerve and tendon that were sticking them to my plate and causing an obstruction and preventing blood flow. 

Our anniversary is August 2nd – so we changed our plans to go on a side-by-side rides in the Toucher Mountains in Central, Utah. 

Here I am with my bag of ice on my wrist.  My incision keeps getting longer and longer.

Apparently I have a stubborn wrist.  This does not fit my personality, at all!  🙂 

My flexion started at 5 degrees and extension was 15 degrees.  After several months of physical therapy, my flexion was 10 degrees and extension was 22 degrees. This is considered very slow progress.  My PT recommended the Joint Active System (JAS) that I could sit in 3 hours a day, 30 minutes increments each direction. Each position has increased 5 degrees after another 2 months of this instrument, still considered slow.

This is my torture device. I strap my arm in and use the crank to force my wrist to bend. I am not supposed to push past a pain level of 4 or 5 – but increase the bend/crank every 5 minutes within a 30 minute time frame. There are numbers on the side that I like so I can have a quantifiable measurement to see my progress.  Unfortunately, for 2 months, these numbers did not change: where I start or where I finish. 

It has been really discouraging. I am spending 30 hours a week doing PT and not seeing much improvement.  And it hurts. Physically, but definitely emotionally too. I still feel discouraged seeing others around me improving at the gym – I want to be working on my goals and getting better.  But on top of that, I feel like I am losing so much of what I had built up beforehand. It is discouraging and I get down.  And I get impatient!!! I wanted to prove the doctor wrong that this would take a year to recover. I did not believe the doctor. Or maybe I thought I’d be different.  But now I’m accepting that he is right.  This is going to be a long journey. 

I have started to change up my PT in the JAS.  I am now wearing it longer at a lower pain level.  Hoping the lighter strain will help my tendons stretch without feeling stressed and be more permanent.  I am happy to report that my experiment seems to be working.  I have finally been able to see the numbers on the JAS move where I start and finish – and have less pain while wearing it.  However, finding time to wear it for longer lengths of time is a major challenge.

I try to look for the silver lining in this experience(s).  This helps my attitude sometimes.  I have been truly humbled by those in my circle who are so giving and know how to uplift and support someone.  And it’s given me ideas on how I can help others around me as they go through challenges now too.  I am so grateful for so many friends who constantly offer me words of encouragement and love and support. It is most helpful in changing my attitude – and always seems to come at the exact time I’m in need. 

Due to the slow progress, my surgeon has recommended we remove the plate when I’m 6 months along and therefore, the bone will be healed and strong.  Hopefully removing the plate will take away the pressure against my tendon and nerves and they will release and allow movement, blood flow, and healing.  This surgery is scheduled for the middle of November. 

Lastly, I have been the recipient of many who are fasting and/or praying for me.  Again, it is humbling.  But I have seen many blessings from those prayers.  Answers to questions about treatment, improvements, and mostly comfort and peace in this journey.  I have faith and trust in Him and why I am on this journey.  

2 thoughts on “My Thailand Accident Journal, by Natalie

  1. Natalie, WOW! Thank you for being so raw and vulnerable. I will be praying for you. It’s not too early to be praying for a positive outcome for your next surgery! -Caroline

    Like

  2. Natalie,
    Thank you for sharing your incredible journey!!! You writing style is delightful. I am praying for you every day and I can visualize your beautiful smile right now. Hang in there and keep us posted. I love you!

    Like

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