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 ;)