Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An injury to the body and wallet

I mentioned fleetingly in earlier posts that I had picked up an injury. I broke my collar bone in September 2014 in a football game. I tried to jump over my incoming goalkeeper but my trailing leg caught his. As a result, I fell into the synthetic turf like how a cyclist would, having been flung his bike and into the ground. 

Not realising what had happened, I slowly dragged myself out of the field. I thought I might have dislocated my shoulder and so I tried to rotate my left arm. That was a wrong move. The broken ends of my collar bone (as I would find out later) rubbed each other resulting in a sharp pain that caused me to vomit and almost blackout. I laid on the sidelines for a long while before packing up my kit and making my way to the hospital.

I decided against getting an ambulance since I was not bleeding and still conscious. However, hailing a cab was very difficult. I was half naked and could not call-book a cab. This was made more trying when other people "stole" my cab, not realising I was in a great deal of discomfort. When I did get into the cab, I told the driver to send me to TTSH A&E. He had suggested that I go CGH, since it was closer to where I was. However, I told him to go TTSH as it was closer to where I live.

At TTSH A&E, I was immediately given a bandage sling by the attending nurse. I told her what happened and after some minor procedures, I was pushed into the treatment room for an X-Ray. There was another weekend warrior who dislocated his shoulder and also in pain. It seemed like the weekend afternoons were peak period for sports injuries.

The X-Ray confirmed that I had broken my left collar bone. I remembered asking the doctor-in-charge if surgery was needed and he said that it was necessary if I was an athlete or needed to reveal my collar bone a lot. I was told there would be a follow up with the orthopaedic department, given painkillers and then discharged. Separately, I upgraded to a purpose-built sling and discarded the ad-hoc one.

I had four followups at the TSSH orthopaedic department. The attending specialists (different ones on each visit) confirmed that it was a clavicle fracture and suggested conservative treatment - wait and see, let the body try to heal itself.

On my second last visit at TTSH, I was told that new bone growth was slow and was given calcium pills. Separately, I had visited the army doctor to reflect the new injury. On my last visit to TTSH, 6 months after the initial fracture, I was told that there was malunion and told to come back for followup if I felt the need.

Having received the all-clear, I went to the neighbourhood gym to expend ActiveSG credits as well as rebuilt the upper body muscle mass that I had lost. I had been exercising but it was mainly swimming and jogging. I could do body weight exercise given the extended layoff. The gym machine would be perfect for rehabilitation.

That was when all the problems started. I started off with light weights, mindful not to over exert myself. The left hand was definitely much weaker than the uninjured right. I found myself struggling to press a clean bar. I was also only doing at most 35 pounds (less-than-half my body weight) for the vertical machine-assisted press, and struggled.

I could feel my muscles were stronger. However, I started experiencing neck and back pains that sometimes prevented me from working properly. I sat in front of a computer for 90% of the time.

Late-April 2015, I decided to consult a GP for my neck pains. The GP suggested that I see a specialist as he was not the best person to advise on such matters. With his memo, I decided to consult a private orthopaedic specialist given that booking an appointment with TTSH would take a much longer time. Private clinics move very fast. I was given an appointment within a day of an online booking!

I went to a doctor my friend (who broke his leg) had recommended at  Mt Elizabeth Novena Hospital. I presented the doctor with my complaint, that I was having neck and back pains, and that it might be linked to my collar bone, which was malunited. I wondered if the shortened clavicle was causing these symptoms and if surgery was needed. The specialist felt my collar bone and said that if my collar bone was malunited, I should not go under the knife. This would bring about unnecessary risks. However, for my neck and back pains, he suggested that I should take an X-ray (above) before examining further. What he said to me after looking at the X-ray, is worthy of another post.

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