Monday, 2 April 2012

Bleeding - Day 2 of A-Z

It was on 12th April 1994 that I underwent surgery on my right arm. The reason? My ulnar nerve would dislocate during load bearing exercises making a loud 'click/snapping' noise. It wasn't particularly comfortable but having lived with it since I could remember, I had become accustomed to it. It really started to make itself manifest upon waking, whereupon I would find my little finger and ring finger of the right hand totally numb or suffering sever pins and needles.

That was when I saw a neurosurgical consultant at my local hospital in Cardiff - the Heath Hospital. He explained that basically the ulnar nerve was 'jumping' over the epicondyle of my humerus when flexed, and I risked wearing away the nerve which in turn would lead to loss of function in both little finger and the ring finger of my right hand. So I agreed to undergo a procedure known as an ulnar nerve decompression - be warned, if you are of a squeamish nature, this link does contain a graphic image of surgery.

So, operation done and I'm spending the evening at my sister's house with her family and my finacee, arm bandaged from hand to mid bicep. The arm is throbbing slightly, but I was taking the pain killers and anti-inflammatory tablets, so didn't give it a second thought. We were celebrating my 30th birthday, which was to be the following day of the 13th, so my mind was effectively distracted.
The evening's celebrations done and over, I returned to my bedsit flat (I was yet to be a married man at that point and lived by myself, even though I was engaged - so lovely, to have your own space!).

My night's sleep was at first fitful at best, then the pain in my arm increased into a squeezing, intense stabbing sensation, accompanied with the feeling of being on fire. I took more tablets. No success. By now I am experiencing pain of such magnitude that I begin pacing the flat wondering what the hell was happening, and was I just over-reacting? I couldn't drive - no car. I couldn't call anyone as it was stupid o'clock in the morning and I had no phone. So I waited till morning light and a reasonable hour and used a neighbour's phone to call my finacee (now wife) to ask her to take me back to the hospital.

That was possibly the longest 30 minutes of my life. Pain shredded my whole arm. I couldn't keep still. I struggled to get dressed as my right arm had now become almost immoveable, and throbbed incessantly with excruciating pain.

Vanessa arrived, and on seeing the look on my face was clearly very concerned. To her credit, she drove as fast as was safe to do so, but thankfully, with it being very early in the morning there was very little traffic. Upon arriving at the hospital I was ushered up to a ward bed immediately. I was placed in a four bed ward. The same one I had been in before my operation. The guys there were shocked to see me back, but could tell instantly something was wrong.

The nurse came to remove my bandages. What was revealed left me in utter shock. My arm had ballooned from the knuckles, right up to my shoulder. It was black and blue and every other colour in-between. The arm was so saturated with blood that fluid blisters lined my forearm, and when touched, the skin would pull away. I had informed the hospital staff before the operation that I was allergic to sticking plasters. So what do I see: sticking plasters holding down the main swab over the operation site. This had added to the stinging and burning of my arm. As the nurse pulled slowly at the plasters, they in turn pulled off the top layer of my fluid-saturated skin, leaving raw flesh exposed. But by now I couldn't give a shit.

I saw the main area of the operation site was purple-black. In fact, it had the look of severe frostbite before bits drop off. I had been closed up with metal staples, which the nurse now carefully removed. As the last one came away the incision yawned open to a gap of maybe an inch, and black, congealed blood pushed upwards, now the pressure had an exit point. With this sudden drop in pressure I almost passed out, but managed to stay conscious by laying back on the bed. The pain was at a new high. So much so - and I'm not ashamed to say this - that for the first time in my life (as an adult) I cried with pain. I was told that morphine tablets were on their way. The curtains around my bed were pulled tight.
By the time the nurse had returned with the morphine tablets, the trolley had arrived to take me down to surgery.

Upon waking on the ward, I was greeted by the smiling faces of the guys I had spent the previous 24 hours with. It was over. My arm was once more bandaged but pain free. I was later told by the surgeon that they had removed a blood clot the size of a fist from the arm, which had apparently been bleeding inside continuously from the moment they had first closed my wound and sent me home. The pain had been caused by the total saturation of blood throughout my right arm, so in effect it was ballooned to the max with blood and other fluids, hence the blistering of the skin, the only other route for excess fluids to go.

And here is the picture of my arm a fortnight after the second operation. I had to physically squeeze the remaining blood clot out of my arm via a small opening in the incision site. It was like squeezing a tube of toothpaste. On the second day of doing this, my arm began to feel warm again and less numb around the incision.

Copyright © Mark Kelly 1999 - 2013
This, believe it or not, is when my arm felt more or less normal.
The raw flesh areas were due to the plasters ripping off the skin - the dot
above the crescent scar is where the drain tube was inserted

Copyright © Mark Kelly 1999 - 2013
And this is the same arm - photo taken this morning, 2nd April 2012.
When folks see it for the first time, they often remark on how it looks like a 'shark bite'.
Small bloody shark, I say.

Upon reflection, given what I know now, both with hindsight, and as a personal trainer and sports massage therapist, I wouldn't have had the operation to begin with and taken my chances. But at the time I was an active member of the Territorial Army and didn't want anything to get in the way of my training... duh! As a result, the long term results are: slight numbness below and around the scar, right triceps now 50% weaker than left, ulnar nerve still 'clicks' but to a lesser degree. But oddly enough, I wouldn't be without my scar, as it is now part of me that tells a story about a portion of this journey we call life.

My apologies for a looong post, but hopefully it made for an interesting read. See you folks tomorrow ;)


Kelvin Green said...

I am lucky enough to only have a couple of scars. Well, one scar -- about 5mm across so easily missed -- and one badly reset broken finger. Even so, they hurt at the time, but showing them off is more than worth it. Whether I'd feel the same if they were more impressive injuries I don't know!

Mark K said...

Forunately, the scar is inside of the arm, so generally it is hidden from view, but folks get to see snatches of it from time-to-time. I don't go out of my way to show it off, and I can't stand the area being touched. But as I said, it is part of who I am now, so I'm comfortable with it :)

Amanda Heitler said...

For land's sakes, Mark. What a mess. Not sure you should have gone to all that trouble just to get an imposing scar.

Elbow surgery is generally lacking in fun factor. I too have a scar to prove it, but nothing on the scale of yours.

Mark K said...

lol... 'for land's sake' - never heard that one before, Amanda?

Ah well, you live and learn, so they say ;)

JoJo said...

Oh man what a horrible thing to go through!!! I was just blown away by what happened to your arm in such a short space of time after the initial surgery!!! I'm so glad you've made such a good recovery; you could have lost your arm....

Mark K said...


Thankfully it wasn't as complicated as that. But all is fine and working--to a degree.:)

Anonymous said...

I have had my fair share of surgeries, but none of them have gone wrong. Thank goodness you were okay.

Thanks for the link. Medical stuff fascinates me.

Terri Pray said...

You did it for the scar right? The whole 'chicks dig scars'?

On a serious note, glad you're feeling better, that reaction was nasty, but you went back before it could reach a critical level!

Claudia Del Balso said...

WOW! I don't think I would have been able to endure the pain you described here. I'm such a chicken. I sometimes faint when the nurse draws blood out for tests. :( I think I only have a tiny scar from chicken pox, LOL! Good to know the nightmare's over and the only reminder is your scar. Oh my gosh! I just had a wicked idea, you can milk your scar and say you got it in a fight against one of the rival members of a of a gang, or when you fought in Desert Storm, or when you saved some kittens from a building on fire, LOL! Sorry, I got carried away here. I guess it's my writer's imagination ;)
Okay, seriously now, congrats on being part of the A-Z Challenge.

Mark K said...

@ Terri - all's well that ends well, is all I can say. But one thing I do know now, and that is surgery has to be the extreme last option.

@ Claudia - I have never, to this day, ever made up a story about how I came by this scar, nor would I. The truth seems sufficient enough: a man did it with a knife ;)

haze said...

OMG! Your arm! I'm so sorry about it... but I'm really glad you're feeling so much better now. ♥ ♥ ♥

p.s. I'm sorry for my silly comment. Sometimes I don't know how to react properly. Hehe..
p.p.s. Thank you for being my 100th follower!!

Deborah Walker said...

Yikes. That toothpaste image is going to stay with me. Thanks! I can use that!

Mark K said...

@ Haze - you are very welcome, it was my pleasure and honour :)

@ Deborah - by all means, but what I did leave out was the part where all the clot had been purged, and only a fine, hissing jet of blood fountained out of my arm as I squeezed it. And that is the God's truth :)

Nikki said...

Wow, you poor thing! I don't even know what to say, that all sounds so horrid! I can't believe that first photo is from two weeks after everything, it still looks so severe! That's a pretty cool scar you have though!

Mark K said...

You know, I've never even thought about it in that way - maybe it's best not to ;)

Bogus Gasman said...

Man that first picture looks like butcher's work. I see now what you were talking about when you mentioned knowing what I was dealing with.
It's bad enough to almost lose a limb due to misadventure but to have something like that caused by incompetence is just... jeeze. 8-10 years ago and I'm pissed off at em on your behalf.

I mean at some point when you saw how buggered up it was you had to start going down the macabre mental "how will I have to do things differently without this limb" checklist. I know I did with my leg.

Anonymous said...

I have an award for you on my blog.

Mark K said...

Thanks, buddy :)

Elizabeth Twist said...

Holy heck. That is a scary story. I've got some giant scars on my arms too, but sadly, nothing that looks like a shark bite :(

Mark K said...

Jeremy - so kind of you to nominate me, but alas, it wasn't that long ago that I was nominated for the same award :(

So I shall politely decline your most generous nomination and urge you to pass it on to someone who has yet to get such an award :)

All the best


Mark K said...

These things happen in life. BUT, I'm not complaining, just sharing the story and experience. That was a minor scratch compared to the things some poor unfortunates have to go through.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Yikes! How tremendously painful. It is frightening the number of mistakes made that are discovered. Glad you came through okay, but it's never great when hindsight tells you another path might have been better. I have a similar situation where it turns out all the medical interventions and surgeries made things worse for me, even now. Too little, too late, and you cope, but it's unfortunate.

I'm your co-host for the A-to-Z! If you didn't get an email from me the other day, it may have gone in your spam box. Please feel free to contact me via my profile or reply to that email if you need anything or have any questions.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Mina Lobo said...

::Uncovers eyes so she can type:: Mark, I wanted to read this post, buddy, I really did, but my stomach started heaving somewhere around the ulnar nerve jumping around something else bit. ::shudders::

But I do offer my sympathies and am glad you're doing all right, even if you're still "clicking." (And anyway, chicks dig scars, so there's always that.) ;-)

Some Dark Romantic

Mark K said...

You are a funny one, but in a nice way, Mina :)