“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” - Squire Bill Widener, quoted by Theodore Roosevelt
On the 24th January 2013 I was in the early part of my training for the London Marathon. Despite the fact it had been snowing I set out down to the running club to join a group run. Leaving the club with my companions I slipped on ice that had formed before the snowfall, landing on my outstretched right hand and completely shattering my elbow joint. The initial emergency surgery and reconstruction that night took 6 hours.
I had a further two surgeries in 2013, to remove metalwork and 18 months of physiotherapy. However by mid-2016 in addition to the poor range of movement, I could barely use my right hand due to scar tissue build up putting pressure on the nerve. I went to see a new surgeon. He described any further work as a salvage job . The MRI scan showed that I was unlikely to get better range of movement in my elbow. My original surgeon had done an exceptional job with what was there to work with, but it was never going to get me a perfectly straight arm.
I convinced him I wasn’t after range of movement. I was willing to try anything that might give me use of my dominant hand again, or that might reduce the pain that woke up up five or six times a night.
My travel schedule meant that the only time I wouldn’t be on an aeroplane for 2 weeks was over Christmas. So I spent Christmas 2016 in a sling, bruised from shoulder to wrist, from a two hour operation to literally scrape out the scar tissue. Yet, by New Year 2017, I was able to write, to use a knife to chop vegetables. It felt nothing short of miraculous.
My arm is always going to be something of a mess. It’s now a more functional mess, but it turns out that having one wonky arm causes far more trouble than you might imagine. With significantly less pain in my elbow, it quickly became apparent how much coping with it had impacted my spine and shoulder. The physiotherapist was convinced I must have done something traumatic to my collarbone on that side, it was so much out of alignment. I haven’t, I’ve literally dragged it out of place compensating for the lack of movement in my arm.
This misalignment has caused a frustrating year of bouncing between hip and ankle injuries. In August I could barely walk due to a hip bursitis, I was having to take taxis around Paris at the CSS Working Group meeting, gritting my teeth and trying to pretend I wasn’t in a world of pain.
Before my accident I’d done a lot of weightlifting and functional movement in addition to running. Distance running is what I enjoy most, but that balance meant I didn’t tend to get repetitive injuries from running. Since the accident, running is mostly what I do for exercise. Having taken advice from the physiotherapist and a running coach, I knew that to be able to enjoy running for years to come, I need to find that balance again.
So, almost a year after surgery number four, and almost four years from the original accident, I found myself in a beginners course at a local CrossFit gym. The instructor working out exactly what I could and couldn’t do, in order that once I got into the regular classes I’d know how to modify. And then, I was cleared to join the classes. Where I get to be a mess amongst a group of people who are very much not a mess. Which, being fairly competitive, I hate. Which is the reason why I’ve just been running and running and trying to avoid having to start over. I hate to find myself the person lifting the lightest weights, it’s not the place I see myself. It’s the place I need to be.
I’m starting over.
Just after Christmas 2017 I found myself in a class where one of the exercises was a rope climb. A year ago, I quite literally couldn’t hold a pen to write more than a few words. I don’t have a huge amount of trust in my right arm. But there was a mat if I fell, and with the encouragement of the instructor and a fellow CrossFitter I discovered that I could hold my bodyweight on the rope, with my right hand.
I don’t have the strength in my shoulder to pull myself up to climb the rope.