my forearm fracture adventure in Beijing – day 3 – the path to recovery

Click here for Day 1 and Day 2.


My first sleep post-surgery was interrupted every two hours by hazy trips to the bathroom. The nurse heard me go the first time and rushed into my ward to see if I needed help. I was already halfway to the bathroom, so she insisted I keep the toilet door slightly ajar just in case. Her request made me feel like I was a four-year-old all over again, but I obeyed nevertheless.

I woke up at around 7 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. I ate a banana that the church couple brought the night before while watching CNN and waiting for breakfast to be served.

Dr Miia came into my ward a little after 9 am. A Finnish lady of few words, she told me in as many words that as the operation went ahead at 4 pm instead of 12 noon, my left arm had swollen so much it was impossible to sew up the incisions on my arm after she put in the titanium plates. In order to reduce the swelling in my left arm, she told me to open and close my left palm by moving each and every finger one at a time, using my right hand to help whenever I had difficulty moving my fingers.  This was easily one of the hardest things I had to do in my life, as my hand had swollen to three times its normal size and each finger felt like it was made of hard, inflexible rubber. She then informed me that the physio would be visiting me later in the day to prescribe me with more exercises to help me recover the use of my left hand, and she’d be back the next morning to see if the swelling had reduced enough for her to sew me up. She wasn’t optimistic about the swelling reducing that quickly though and she was not going to discharge me with an open wound. That meant I was staying in the hospital for at least a couple more days.

I spent the rest of the day doing exercises with my left hand, mobilising my left elbow and shoulder, taking frequent naps, watching TV and fielding calls and messages. As I don’t subscribe to cable TV at home, it felt like a treat being able to watch CNN and flip to other foreign channels initially but the excitement quickly wore off. I began checking and replying to work emails. When my colleagues informed me they were coming to visit me in the evening, I asked that they bring my work laptop so I could do some work while at the hospital. I never felt work was so essential to my sanity and overall sense of well-being until that day.

I was being drip-fed a small dose of painkillers and a healthy dose of antibiotics, so even going to the bathroom required advanced planning as I had to unplug the machine from the power socket, tidy up the cables and push the tree trolley with a machine and bags of medication with my hand in the right position so I wouldn’t set off the alarm warning the nurses my drip wasn’t working.

The physio, Jason, came by at 4 pm. I showed him what my left hand was capable of after eight hours of doing Dr Miia’s exercises. Then he showed me how much more I could do with my left hand, pushing my fingers out and backwards when I opened my left palm and pushing them all the way in when I curled them into a fist. I felt the first bout of pain post-surgery and he encouraged me to up my dosage of painkillers if I needed to. I didn’t know what I was trying to prove but I decided not to do so, preferring to grin and bear it. He told me to do ten repetitions of the exercise as often as I could manage.

After dinner, I received a stream of visitors, with the last one leaving at about 10:30 pm. After seeing him off at the lift, I dragged myself back to my ward and promptly collapsed into bed, dozing off almost immediately. I hadn’t felt so exhausted in a very long time.


My forearm fracture adventure in Beijing – Day 2

Click here for Day 1.

Pre-surgery dramas

Considering I didn’t sleep well the night before, having to adjust my left arm throughout the night to relieve the pain, I woke up early the next morning relatively refreshed and energised. As requested by the orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Miia, the night before, I arrived at Oasis before 8:30 am, armed with my medical insurance card, Iphone, Kindle, clothing for two days and my X-ray from SOS packed in an overnight bag. She’d informed me that she hoped to operate on me latest by noon, the operation would take a couple of hours and I’d be discharged latest the next morning. Little did we know that things would turn out completely different as the day progressed.

After reporting at the clinic, I was first taken to the third floor to choose my ward. Thinking I was only staying for one night, I took one look at the two rooms that were available and chose the smaller one without thinking twice. It was only after the nurses helped me change into my hospital gown did the reality of my impending surgery and hospitalisation finally sink in.

The nurses then took me to get X-rays of my left arm, then I was brought back to my ward. They then proceeded to take my temperature and my pulse, and gave me some painkillers to tide me until my operation. Then I was left alone to wait for my operation. I took this opportunity to reply to WeChat messages from the few friends I’d informed about my accident and impending surgery.

At about 12:30 pm, a hospital admin staff came into my ward to inform me he was still waiting for the insurance company to provide authorisation before I can undergo surgery. Dr Miia was concerned about my left arm swelling too much if the operation was delayed for much longer and she wouldn’t be able to close my wounds after putting in the titanium plates. The hospital admin staff suggested I contact the insurance company directly to chase them and then left my ward.

By this time, I haven’t had anything to eat or drink for over 12 hours, apart from sips of water when I took painkillers, and naturally my throat was hoarse and I felt tired and weak. I felt so uncomfortable, I wasn’t even able to nap, let alone calling up the insurance company. But as minutes then hours passed with no further news, I became concerned if the authorisation would arrive at all.

At 3:30 pm, I decided it was time to make the call. I prayed silently to God for strength and favour and made the call, unsure of what to expect. The lady who took my call was surprised to hear from me, as she said they were still waiting for information from the hospital. She promised to look into my matter immediately and call me back. To my relief, she did call back after five minutes to say the authorisation had been sent to the hospital but the hospital’s phone line was engaged. I got out of bed immediately after hanging up the phone and walked to the nurse’s station to relay the message, forgetting I could summon a nurse into my ward just by pressing a button.

Within an hour, I was wheeled into the operating theatre, transferred to the operating table and put under general anesthetic. I remember thinking then, finally I’ll get some much needed rest.


A post-op selfie taken at Oasis Hospital
A post-op selfie taken at Oasis Hospital

When I finally woke up around 7 pm, I was back in my ward with my left forearm wrapped in what felt like a ton of bandages and my head still feeling the effects of the general anesthetic. I was glad to see a couple I know from church who were in the ward waiting for me to come around. I chatted with them between sips of water while waiting for dinner to be served, but they could tell I was exhausted from the operation and from not eating anything for the last 20 hours so they left after about an hour. Despite my extreme hunger, I managed only to eat about a quarter of my dinner, preferring to drink water and fruit juice instead.

After having my fill, I dozed off in exhaustion…

(To be continued)