Last Tuesday while on my way to work, I fell off my bike at 11th and Market. It happened so fast, I’m not entirely sure why I fell, but I believe I was braking to avoid some bikes ahead of me when my front tire came in contact with the streetcar tracks, which caused my bike to slide out from under me.
I hit the pavement hard. The entire impact of the fall was concentrated on my left elbow—there wasn’t a scratch anywhere else on me. Thankfully no other bikes or cars were involved. My arm swelled up, but since I could still move my fingers I didn’t think anything was broken. Until I saw the x-ray.
On Friday evening I had surgery to fix the fracture, which involved fastening a metal plate to my elbow with a whopping 8 screws drilled into the bone. Check out my new bionic elbow.
Here’s a updated x-ray of my new elbow, taken ten days after my surgery:
Update, December 7, 2017
Having a metal L-bracket in my left elbow was both annoying and cool. Annoying because it kind of hurt to lean my left elbow or arm on hard flat surfaces (like all tables, desks, etc), but cool because I had a metal elbow 🤘. At least I had regained complete range of motion.
At the beginning of 2016 I considered having it taken out, but balked at the idea of eating my high deductible (again) for something that was just mildly annoying. That all changed last June. I was hiking Mt. Diablo pretty aggressively (i.e. with hiking poles) and then mid-hike, I felt something tight in my left sleeve. I reached over to feel my elbow and discovered that it had swelled to the size of a tennis ball. I didn’t know if I’d hit it absentmindedly or gotten stung by something, but I was alarmed that it was my left elbow—maybe a screw had come loose!? I cut my hike short, Stephanie took me to urgent care, and the doctor took one look at me and said bursitis: a swelling of the bursa, a small cushion in the elbow that tends to afflict people who lean on their elbows a lot—or people with metal elbows. Ready to be freaked out? Here’s how it looked:
The only problem is that I was training for a massive rim-to-rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon with my bro—the very next weekend. The swelling went down after a few days, and I tried to take it easy on my elbow during hike, but it started to swell again on our way into the canyon, which forced me to give up my left hiking pole for the rest of the hike, and I think compromised my stamina. From that point on my metal elbow was numbered. It swelled up once more for no real reason the weekend after the hike, but since then it’s just been a little more mushy and pronounced. I wanted it to fully heal before pursuing surgery, then came France, selling our condo, etc…I finally ended up scheduling the surgery for right after Thanksgiving. I took a metal elbow selfie to send to my family the night before surgery, but it’s the photo Stephanie took of me the morning of, after my arm had been half-shaved, that really shows off its “Popeye profile”.
The surgery was a success. I had very little pain, and I was pretty much using my arm like normal two days later. This week I had the sutures and bandages removed, so here’s the latest x-ray, showing the holes in my ulna. Apparently it’ll take a few months to fully heal.
Hope you heal fast, Justin. Be safe on those SF streets, my friend.
Sending you lot of healing vibes :) Bisousssssss
Just saw this today. Ouch! Hope you are rehabbing well and following ALL the orders of both the physical and occupational therapists.
Hi! Thank you very much for your videos on you tube. I was wondering, if you can share
some exersises that you perform during physiotherapy sessions. I did break my elbow 4 weeks ago (distal humerus) and got same problem with range of motion. I am agetting physiotherapy, but do not. see too much progress yet. Thank you very much, Anna
Anna, I did a number of different exercises with a Theraband as prescribed by my physical therapist. Though I’m sure you can find examples of such exercises on YouTube, I would hesitate recommending anything not prescribed by your physio. If you are not getting good results, perhaps consider seeking out another.
Love those screw holes in your radius and ulna. Very cool. Gonna miss those when they are gone I bet. I love that swollen elbow. That is amazing. Just a couple of screws and everything goes crazy!
Hi! I had exactly the same surgery, and plate. I am 4 weeks post-op and absolutely do not have full range if motion back. Can I ask you how long it took to get full extension? Also, when I try to extend my arm I get distinct crushing pain at the back of my triceps, which has really been stressing me out, because it feels as if the plate is crushing the back of my triceps tendon if I extend my arm. (Similar to sticking a finger in a door jam). Did you experience that sensation prior to getting your full range of motion back? I habe asked PT, the surgeon, and a ortho PA this but all they will say is that: “well, there is a lot of inflammation”.
My whole wrist and forearm swelled up tremendously after surgery and resulted in a lot of tingling sensations all over my forearm and hand. I can not seem to stop my wrist from swelling from all the fluids still in my arm…
Does this sound normal? I have been going nuts as I have never had any recovery take so long or be so frustrating. I guess I am lucky…lol.
Hi Justin. I broke the same bone in Mexico while on vacation. I have a metal plate and the doc thinks my incision isn’t healing the way it should. The thought of reopening up the incision site which still hurts is horrifying! I still dont have full range of motion 6 weeks post surgery. I hope one day I will feel normal again! Glad you healed!