Kienbock’s Disease Surgery, Treatment, and Recovery

It has been around 10 weeks since my surgery and I want to share my story with you. I have suffered so much with this mentally and physically, and found little or no support or information on- or indeed offline. So here goes.

First Symptoms and Misdiagnosis

Around 3 years ago I woke up one day with terrible shooting pain in my left wrist and a little swelling. I could move it (which is why I didn’t go to the ER) but I did experience shooting pains as well as a dull ‘pulling’ type of ache constantly. I put some heat rub on it and wrapped it in elastic bandage. I put it down to my strenuous pole dancing fitness classes which I soon had to stop taking. I was really into weight training, working out 3-5 times a week which I continued despite the pain.

A few weeks later I went to see an orthopedist who ordered an ultrasound test from which he concluded I had a little inflammation in my tendon and told me to take it easy and not to worry. Of course, the symptoms started getting worse at which time I saw another doctor and was sent to another ultrasound scan. Again this doctor didn’t find anything worrying and told me to wear a wrist brace for a few weeks. Having done that, absolutely nothing changed. Time went on and my wrist became less and less mobile.

I could no longer open bottles or jars, make any twisting movements sideways, up or down. I was unable to bend my wrist or lean on it. This meant to get up, for example I had to support my whole body on my right arm. The left one started becoming weaker and stiff. In the end, not only did it hurt to bend the wrist but I was not able to bend it at all. I grew used to it and despite being told not to work out ever again, I carried on working out and dreaming of becoming a figure competitor one day.

Around a year ago, I once again visited a doctor to sort the issue out. I went to a hospital specializing in hand and arm injuries and was told to have a CT and MRI. I was given a vague diagnosis of ‘it may be Kienbock’s’ and told I had no hope until the arthritis kicks in and I can get a total fusion which would leave me permanently disabled. I burst into tears outside the hospital. I had just won my battle with being overweight and an eating disorder – all thanks to my new found passion for bodybuilding. How could I resign from that?!

Once again I sought another opinion. The doctor having looked at my medical history and seeing depression and anxiety told me that I am mentally ill and imagining things. Plus I’m ‘too tall and fat to be a bodybuilder anyway’. At that point I was desperate and broken and only the gym and still seeing progress there, made me feel better.

Glimpse of Hope

One day, a family member recommended a doctor who specializes in hard cases and reconstructive wrist surgery. The doctor instantly diagnosed me with Kienbock’s Disease stage 3b. He said that even though the prognosis for full recovery at this stage is not great he would try and save my lunar bone and my wrist! Once again I nearly cried but this time out of joy. He also told me I would work out normally again in no time!

Surgery

On September the 7th of 2015 I was given a vascularized bone graft (a piece of the radius was removed and inserted into the lunate’s place). I was scared but the surgery was entirely painless. First I was given a nice little Xanax to be calm, then a strong sedative and a local anesthetic (a few injections into the nerves in the armpit). I dozed off after a few seconds and woke up a few times during the 4 hour surgery, but mostly slept. Everything had gone well and I was released the same night.

I was still groggy and the arm was totally numb for the following 12-24 hours. Then, unfortunately, the pain kicked in. The doctor had been reluctant to prescribe any strong painkillers so I was stuck with the good old ibuprofen and some leftover ketoprofen pills I had at home. It hurt for the first two days, especially at night. The pain was the wound and stitches, not the bone itself. Two days later I had a dressing change and the doctor removed a small drain from the wound which totally alleviated the pain. It hurt occasionally until I had the stitches removed 10 days post op. Other than that – no pain. I was now in a cast up to my elbow and off work for the next month at least. I tried to get as much sleep and rest as I could.

Treatment, Physio and Recovery

After I had my stitches removed, I had a nice light plastic cast put on. The surgeon cut out a hole in order to perform daily ultrasound treatment with a special bone-healing machine Exogen.

I was working out legs once a week and performing cardio. Around 5 weeks in I was able to remove the cast and start wearing a removable brace which means I could now shower like a normal person. I started taking it off and having warm baths where I’d move the hand around in the water and squeeze a soft sponge. After my last X-ray on 26.10.2015 I was given an all clear to start working out my arms (light weight and no use of hands), start taking off my brace for longer periods and begin physio.

I was recommended a physiotherapist who has been giving me magnetic field and laser treatments (10 each) and some gentle massage to mobilize the wrist. I have now been through 4 sessions and I am working on improving mobility and circulation. I still can’t bend the wrist in case the graft moves out of place. The next X – ray is scheduled in 2 months. I am experiencing no pain, unless I lift something too heavy or move rapidly.

From the Struggle to the Light at the End of the Tunnel

This experience has put me through a lot of mental, emotional and physical struggle. Getting used to the constant pain and disability was easier than the fear and doubt about what it actually was and how it was going to progress. Hearing time after time to give up the only thing that kept me sane (exercise) and being bullied by doctors almost broke me. Luckily I remained unbroken. I try to encourage my emotional and physical healing with mindfulness, positivity and meditation. I take inspiration from others and try to inspire. I appreciate everything I can do without thinking of what I can’t. Most of all I don’t even for a second let a doubt into my head that my wrist will soon be fully healed. If I don’t believe, who will?

Last week I used ankle weights to work out my arms and delts. It was incredible and fruitful. Even though from a 12kg bicep curl I now went down to 2kg – I am happy and positive.

It breaks my heart to see that there are so many sufferers out there going through the same. Remember, there is hope you just need to stay strong. If you need encouragement or information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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