How to shower alone in * easy steps

So hubby went away for a few days. I still had to shower. Arm was feeling a bit better and slightly steadier in the brace by day 23 so I thought – ok, let’s do this. But… how am I going to do this? Step by step was the answer. It was long-winded but I’ve tried to detail below the steps I took, including some tips. Note – I’m not yet ready to remove my brace/splint and couldn’t do it by myself even if I wanted to… so the aim is to keep the damaged arm, brace and tube bandage dry.

  1. Make sure there’s plenty of hot water in the tank. Showering one handed could take a while with long hair.
  2. Make a waterproof arm shield out of a black bin-liner. Cut an armhole in the sealed end small enough to make it tight when pulled up over your shoulder, wide enough to fit over the brace (about 10 cm across, doesn’t matter if it splits a bit further but try to keep it snug).
  3. Get everything ready. One towel within reach outside the shower, another spread on bed. Comb beside bed (right hand side). Shampoo and conditioner in basket at reachable level in shower. Make sure bottles are unsealed and ready to use. A facecloth in the shower to make it easier to get a grip on the shower tap.
  4. Prepare proxy sling (I use a long, thin cotton scarf)
  5. Remove dress/clothing
  6. Sit on bed and remove collar and cuff, resting lower arm on lap or on a thin pillow on lap
  7. Gently work black bin-bag up over hand, arm and brace. If you pull it up over your shoulder it should make a reasonable seal at the top to stop water running down. If in doubt, you could have an elastoplast handy or some surgical tape to hold it in place.
  8. Tie on proxy sling by placing it round neck, and passing it under forearm. Tip head forward to narrow the gap between arm and neck. Use teeth to pull sling tighter so it supports wrist at the right height. Tie in a slip knot if you’re clever or just a granny knot if less so or doing this with your ‘wrong’ hand.
  9. This should feel comfy and secure enough to stand.
  10. Climb in shower and turn it on, keeping your damaged arm away from the shower of water.
  11. Squeeze shampoo onto your head directly or if you can, into the palm of your bad hand (I found this difficult as I still can’t rotate my lower arm very well). Massage in as well as you can. My friend Marjory suggested you could do this before even getting in the shower while looking in a mirror to see what you are doing.
  12. Rinse and repeat. Wash yourself/condition/rinse etc.
  13. Turn off shower and step out.
  14. Pat gently where you can reach, then sit on the towel on the bed to air dry while you remove the proxy sling, then the bin bag. Take your time and relax. Remember to drop your shoulder down to allow gravity to help your bone alignment – don’t hunch your arm up.
  15. At this point I like to make sure my limp arm is dry and put my collar n cuff sling back on for a bit of security while I take my time combing the knots out of my hair.
  16. If it’s still too difficult to wash under your broken arm, you can use a baby wipe now to gently clean there. It’s easier if you lean forward slightly to create a gap between your arm and side, then slide your hand in against your side rather than pressing against your arm, even when it’s in the brace, because pushing your arm away from your side hurts! Use a tissue to dry in there and (if applicable) under your boob/moob on the sling side.
  17. Apply roll-on deodorant – this is quite fun to do (chimpanzee impression) on your good side, and if you are careful you can use it under your bad arm too.
  18. Get dressed etc
    Ta daaaa!

Bracing myself…

I had been really looking forward to day 17 – Thursday 20th July was my first appointment at the fracture clinic at Frimley Park. I say looking forward; I suppose there was an element of trepidation mixed in with the curiosity. I hoped I’d find out how my arm was progressing, if the bones were lining up, and above all that I’d be offered a more robust brace of some kind to give my wobbly arm more protection. I was also slightly nervous that there would be pain, that they’d try to manipulate my arm in some painful way (why, I have no idea?) or that fitting a new brace might hurt. Also that they’d look and say ‘I’m sorry, your bones are not going to meet up’. Totally irrational but that’s the nature of fear and the unknown!

Waiting room

We arrived in good time, not really sure what to expect. There were signs up warning people that if they needed both x-rays and plastering they could be in clinic for two to four hours. I knew I wouldn’t be getting plastered but settled in with a puzzle book in my bag, ready for a lengthy visit. The other clinic visitors appeared to be ankle and lower leg breaks at different stages of repair. One lad and his mum emerged smiling from the consultation rooms and went to the desk to hand in his crutches and leg brace. Job done! A few ladies with lower leg fractures were in wheelchairs. Once again I thanked my lucky stars.

In the event it was all quite quick. We were called in promptly and the doctor took a quick look and organised a chitty for anĀ  x-ray and a brace to be fixed (relief!), promising we could come back to ask questions afterwards. We moved into the plaster room as instructed but a nurse asked me to climb into a chair with a raised armrest and I stared at in fear, saying “I don’t think I can lift my arm onto there!”. She quickly realised we were in the wrong place and the consultant came back to see us again to explain he’d only been at Frimley a week and he’d got it wrong – an x-ray today was too early to see improvement. I needed a moulded plastic brace fitting though – so we were sent off to occupational therapy to get one sorted.

Before we left I checked a few things with him – pain relief, swelling, likely timescales. I don’t think we learned anything new. He said we’d have to experiment with the pain meds to get it right, and gave 10 to 12 weeks before I’d be able to have the brace removed. He said there was a possibility the union wouldn’t be perfect but up to 30% displacement was normal and my arm would regain full functionality. I was to return in two weeks to get the update x-ray.

20108301_1907254362822331_8367183052961138024_nGetting the brace

In occupational therapy we walked past the rooms full of crutches, stools and wheelchairs and found our way to the therapist, Jane, who was to fit the moulded plastic brace to my arm. She was very calm and gentle and put me at ease. First she measured and cut the plastic to a paper template. Then she put the plastic sheet into the warm water machine (like an electric bain marie) to soften it up. She pulled the tube stocking carefully up over my upper arm. It hurt at first with the pressure, but then felt snug. Her colleague Fiona came out to pull my elbow downwards in slight traction while they wrapped the plastic sheet warmly round my arm and then fixed the velcro round. The two velcro straps were pulled tight in opposite directions. It felt nice and secure and reassuring.

Jane suggested I try from time to time removing my wrist from the collar and cuff and gently lifting my hand up and down, supported, to ‘oil’ my elbow joint and stop it completely stiffening up. I also need to squeeze a ball and flex my wrist up and down.

I’ve spent two nights in it the brace now and it feels fine. We’ve only had to loosen and readjust it once so far. Tomorrow we will attempt to shower with it ON, but covered by a plastic bag or shield. In future we can try removing it to shower.