**DISCLAIMER: Super long blog alert!! Several of you have asked about details of my “wrist saga” after you followed my recovery last year. I FINALLY got around to putting it on “paper” and it is pretty relevant to what we are walking through as a family right now. No, not wrist pains, but growing pains and waiting pains. If you get bored at any point in the blog, promise me you’ll at least skip down to the very, very end and read the “in summary” section since what follows will be the entire point of the blog in a few short sentences!
Many of you followed my recovery journey via Instagram after surgery last year, I’m eternally grateful for your cheerleading and encouragement as it was the hardest thing my body has ever experienced…which is saying a lot since my body wasn’t too thrilled with me after hiking the daggum Grand Canyon (PS I’m going back for round two this year… I know… what are we thinking??)I did not ask the doctor a ton of questions. This is probably a TERRIBLE thing but after I heard “your bone is too long and we need to shorten it” I kind of just zoned out because I don’t think that’s something that can be fixed via eating cherries to decrease inflammation and doing a little physical therapy. So I didn’t ask much outside of where and when and I am SO GLAD I DIDN’T because if I had known the details– I may have never said yes.
BUT I am getting ahead of myself.
The point of this post is to tell you the whole story and show God off a little by all the insanely intricately planned details that went into the timing for said “hardest thing my body has ever been through” yet best decision I ever made (blindly).
In spring of 2013, after a particularly grueling day at work as a server at Outback Steakhouse carrying massive trays of way too heavy plates and 14 refills for that one table that had camels humps under their church sweaters, my wrist began aching.
As a regular chiropractor attendee I mentioned it to my doctor and he maneuvered my wrist a bit, put me in a brace, and sent me on my way.I wore the brace through the spring and summer. As you can see by the above photo, this is also the time when I was running and loving it but had to give up because of knee issues. Neither here nor there.
In September, my semester abroad in Italy began and the wrist problems continued to creep up, especially bad when I was taking notes in class. In Italian culture, it’s rude to the professor if you have any kind of multi-media device so all notes were taken with pen and paper.
Once back in the states, in December, the pain was out of control. My chirporactor said it was time to visit an Orthopeadic surgeon and referred me to one in Birmingham, AL. If you’re not familiar with AL, that’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Auburn so it wasn’t a quick or easy adventure. My appointment was scheduled for January 29th, 2014. Atlantians, I’m sure you all just shuddered when you read the date. Yep, it was the infamous snowpocalypse day when the Northern states cackle laughed at it’s southern brethren for our inability to keep doing life in a snow storm. Birmingham didn’t get as much media attention as Atlanta but their January 29th wasn’t all flowers and rainbows either. The doctor’s office called to cancel my appointment and said they would call back to reschedule.
Because on February 26th I would turn 26 years old and have to switch from my parents health insurance to the university’s plan. This little detail meant that I would be moving to a plan that required approval from the college before I saw an off site specialist.
Soon after the snowpocalypse, the doctor’s office called and scheduled my new appointment with no other earlier options available…for March. This required me going to see the university doctor and begging for a referral so I could attend the March appointment without paying out of pocket.
A week before my scheduled Birmingham appointment, I squeezed my way into the university doctor’s office where I encountered a nurse practitioner who really didn’t want to give me a referral. I was so stressed about the deadline and so tired of being in pain, I (unfortunately) wasn’t that kind to this woman. Begrudgingly, after I cried a bit, she wrote the referral and I was Birmingham bound the next week.
Sitting in the wrist specialist office, I was nervous. I wanted him to figure out what was going on but also scared to find out why I had been hurting for 12 months. He started poking around my wrist and I got extremely light-headed and dizzy and had to lie down. The pain was INTENSE where he was poking. He ordered an MRI, and I returned a few weeks later for the test.
About a week after that, I went to Birmingham yet again for a review of the MRI results. When I checked in with the front desk the woman said “Oh no, they didn’t call you?”
My doctor had a family emergency and wasn’t going to be in the office. Okay, so not a huge deal if you didn’t live 2.5 hours away and were banking on this visit FINALLY figuring out what was going on with your wrist. I was heartbroken. I cried. I asked if there was anyone I could see. The poor receptionist got me a few short minutes with my doctor’s assistant. She reviewed my scans and said a couple mumble jumble things to which all I heard was “surgery” and would need to come back to speak with the actual doctor to make a plan.
Before my rescheduled doctor’s appointment, I got a letter in the mail stating my insurance was not going to cover my latest doctor’s visits and the MRI exam. Umm.. okay. I had gotten the correct referral and jumped through your hopes… why was I staring down the barrel of a $7,000 loaded medical bill gun?
I called. No clear answer. I called again. Another no clear answer. Finally, I learned it wasn’t being paid because that nurse practitioner who loved me (HA!) from the university’s doctor’s office had written a damning sentence in my patient file. She wrote that I was in pain because of a “work injury”. Disaster, I later learned.
“Work injury” meant workman’s comp which meant the insurance didn’t have to pay my medical bills, my workplace did. The workman’s comp specialist at the hospital where my bills were coming from told me I didn’t have a workman’s comp case because there was no specific date or explanation of injury. For example I didn’t have have an ER bill for cutting my finger off with a knife at work. Since I didn’t have this information, I had no claim for Outback to pay my bills either. The only option was to get the two tiny words “work injury” off of my medical records.
Getting medical records changed is no easy feat. I was ignored countless times by the university office who had no interest in changing medical files… again, this stuff is a BIG deal. I had to show records from my chiropractor’s office (who had treated me the past 12 months) showing there wasn’t a specific date of injury and that it wasn’t work related. I even had to email the head person in charge of the medical staff at the university because I was getting the run around. Almost immediately, after explaining I was staring down a seven grand medical bill, the head boss gave the thumbs up for an addendum to be added to my medical records that an error had been made and my injury was in fact, not a work injury. But that was only a small piece of this insurance battle pie.
My wrist doctor’s appointment was cancelled and not rescheduled and my relief was on hold until I could duke it out with the insurance company.
Fast forward several months of battle. I called about every 4 weeks. I now had updated medical history but they wanted it sent directly from the ever so helpful university medical office. They wanted it on double sided, purple paper in glitter font and they wanted President Theodore Roosevelt’s picture and signature at the bottom.
Okay, I’m kidding, obviously. However, EVERY SINGLE TIME I called the insurance customer service line I got a different person to speak with. When I called and said “can I speak with Sally, she helped me last time” the generic answer was “We can’t transfer you to other representatives but I would be happy to help you.” BLAH. I would then have to describe my entire saga over again and they would oohhhh and aaahhh and then state another hoop I had to jump through. Each time I would take detailed notes and jump through the hoops and then… crickets. I would call again and explain again and (sometimes) cry again, and be told another hoop to which I would jump and then… crickets. You get the picture.
Finally, after playing this game with seven representatives, I learned about escalation. I learned that once my account went to escalation I could call and tell the rep this bit of info and they immediately took my account more seriously. Two phone calls of mentioning “escalation” and I finally got in to someone who could (and WOULD) actually help me. Their instructions were clear, although still feeling like fiery red hot flaming hoops, I complied, waited a few more months to get the final results, and then settled with the company for less than $200.
Virginia Lee Belt – 1.
Insurance company – 0.
That entire insurance battle lasted 13 months. THIRTEEN MONTHS. I do not tell a lie.
At this point I’ve been in wrist pain for 2 years, and then life happened and the wrist pain became more dull and I now considered it “normal”. I was in the middle of applying to become staff at Chick-fil-A where if I got the job, I knew my heath insurance plan would be better, so I put off going to another doctor. Then more life happened and I just decided my wrist pain was something I would always live with. I changed my life to be able to deal with it — no yoga, no weight lifting, use of a left handed mouse, sometimes having to “type” my journal in the morning because writing was too painful, then having to only type with one hand at work because I had typed too much in the morning, etc.
At the end of fall of 2015, I was struggling with shoulder issues and went to an Orthopeadic surgeon, a shoulder specialist, who wasn’t concerned about my shoulder and gave me a script for physical therapy. However, when I casually mentioned I had longterm wrist issues that had never been figured out, he took a closer look at my X-rays and ordered another round. He was on to something.
Low and behold, he discovered my ulna bone wasn’t ending where it was supposed to, it seemed longer then it should be (scroll down to the wrist photo if you don’t want to wait a few paragraphs to see what I mean).
He had (I’m not even kidding) JUST renewed his medical license therefore had studied all parts of the body to pass the exam. He would not have caught this little discrepancy if he hadn’t because it was easy to miss…hmm, thank you God’s timing! He said this wasn’t his speciality and referred me to a wrist and hand focused fella in his practice.
My new wrist doctor had all my records from the first wrist specialist including the recommendation for surgery but he said things change and he wanted his own MRI. Once he reviewed the results and came up with a game plan he gave me some big news. The original wrist doctor was WRONG, dead wrong. Actually, if the original wrist doctor had done the surgery he intended/wanted to do, it would have made this issue with my ulna bone worse.
Let that sink in a bit. If I hadn’t had a 13 month insurance battle, I would have followed through with the initial surgery and been in a way worse position with more pain and fewer answers. Something that I thought was a nightmare, was actually God’s protection…in His perfect timing.
The photo below, circled in red, shows what a normal person’s ulna/wrist bone relationship should look like. The half blue arrow shows where my ulna bone was hitting my wrist. A “bone impaction” is when bones rub up against each other (YES, it’s as painful as it sounds) and an ulna/wrist bone impaction is what had been occurring in my right arm all these years!!!!My doc proposed surgery that included two parts. An ulna osteotomy which meant going in from my forearm and shortening my ulna bone by cutting it (about where the green square is in the photo above) and putting it back together. The second part was to remove a cluster of cysts in the middle of my wrist and to clean up the inflammation surrounding the wrist that had been caused by years of over use on a “too long” arm. My options were do one or both of these procedures and/or do nothing.
I actually cried A LOT during this entire wrist saga. But these were tears of fear (because I was going to be cut open) and relief (I AM NOT CRAZY!!!!). I really do have a serious issue with my wrist. For those 3 years I had battled thinking “am I really in pain?? Does this really hurt me? Am I just a big baby?”
In January, we scheduled my surgery (I opted to do both procedures with hopes of the greatest chance of a pain free outcome) for March 17th. When that day came, mom had a panic attack when a 1-2 hour surgery became well over 4 hours. When my doctor cut into my forearm, he realized my ulna bone was not only longer then it was supposed to be, it was also rotated, which would cause far more work to be done to put me back together then initially planned. But thankfully my doctor is a total bad ass and a perfectionist (an identity I don’t normally support but with a doctor who has my ability to use my right arm in his hands, I FULLY SUPPORT the desire for things to be perfect!)
We found out afterwards the tourniquet they used to seal off blood flow at the top of my right arm could only be on there 2 hours before they had to remove it, let blood flow return to my arm, and then seal it back off again to continue the procedure, hence why the goal of the surgery was initially 2 hours. Another consequence to the length of surgery was four hours is a LONG time to be under anesthesia. That stuff does wicked crazy things to your body and I suffered afterwards, not only from the pain of the incision and arm reconstruction, but also from the intense side affects of being intentionally unconscious for that long.
After the surgery came the “I’m SO glad I didn’t ask questions” piece. I thought I would be recovering for 2 weeks and then back at work, maybe even starting part time after that first week. HA. Oh HA HA HA HA HA. Little did I know that well into week 4 I would still be bathed by my mother.
Recovery, as in don’t move, lay in bed all day except for MAYBE a walk around the neighborhood, lasted a solid month. Here’s a very honest photo my mom took on one of the hardest nights, I was deeply medicated with pain killers and was still in so much pain I couldn’t fall asleep. I know this blog is wordy but I CANNOT miss this opportunity to brag on my incredible momma. For 4 weeks she never left my side. During medicine rotations and feeding and bathing and putting my hair up when I would get incredibly frustrated to even struggling through symptoms of anesthesia (even I, the open book, acknowledge these are TMI for the internet). She laughed with me, cried with me, and served me in a way that humbled me to my core. I had a tiny glimpse into just how much she had done for me for SO MANY years!
As painful and awful and horrendous as that experience was, another beautiful part was how it cemented my relationship with the man that would later become my husband. Lukas was at a grand opening in Oregon (3 hours time difference) from me and an opening that required him to work most days from 6am-midnight. Midnight his time, meaning 3am Georgia time. Since I was having to wake up every 4 hours for pain pills, we scheduled my pill rotation to line up with when he would get off work and chatted about his day for over an hour (3am-4am!) while I ate, and took my medicine. If I hadn’t been in recovery and had been working instead, we wouldn’t have had the time to build the foundation we were able to establish during that first full month of dating. My surgery date had been set over a month before I even knew Lukas existed. There God goes again, being all perfect in his timing.
After my one month recovery, the cast came off, the stitches came out and I had a long road of 6 months of physical therapy while trying to get my life back.
Physical therapy…I have never wanted to quit something so bad in my entire life. Therapy was THE HARDEST THING I had ever done. Ever. When I first got out of my cast I couldn’t move my wrist. At all. Actually my therapist on the first day said “okay, move your wrist” and I said “I AM!!” 😦 Below is Rachel and I at my physical therapy “graduation”!During the battle, I mean process, I suffered from nasty allergic reactions to nothing in particular other then my body saying PLEASE STOP THIS MADNESS!
You guys walked through that with me, the rising again after the fall. And I got stronger and stronger and saw improvement and celebrated that improvement with you on Instagram. Your likes and comments and cheerleading are a huge part of what kept me going. I didn’t stop and I didn’t give up and now I sit here today, typing this blog post to you guys with the ability to do THIS!!!!BOO-YAH!!!
I promised you an “in summary section”, so here it comes…
- If the snowpacolyse hadn’t happened, I would have been able to make my doctor’s appointment in Birmingham and I would have been covered by my parents’ insurance.
- If I had been covered by my parents’ insurance, I would not have needed to go to the university doctor’s office for a referral.
- If I hadn’t needed to get a referral I wouldn’t have had the words “work injury” in my medical records.
- If I hadn’t had “work injury” in my medical records I wouldn’t have gotten into an insurance battle.
- If I hadn’t gotten into an insurance battle I would have had the surgery proposed by the first wrist specialist.
- If I had the surgery proposed by the first wrist specialist, I would have been in more pain with fewer answers.
- If I hadn’t had life get in the way (new job, moving, training, Grand Canyon, etc.), I would probably have gone to another doctor’s office.
- If I had gone to another doctor’s office, I could have had another poor recommendation for surgery.
- If I hadn’t had shoulder pain, I wouldn’t have met the doctor who had JUST studied for his exam for recertification of his medical license.
- If he hadn’t JUST studied for the exam, it may never have been caught that my ulna bone was too long for my body.
- If no one had ever caught my ulna bone being too long for my body, I never would have had surgery.
- If I never had surgery, Lukas and I wouldn’t have had that blessed month of connection and MAYBE our engagement would have been delayed and we wouldn’t be married already!
Okay, okay, I know, it’s a lot of what ifs and maybes and could haves and should haves and what not. HOWEVER, isn’t that how God’s timing works?? It’s full of intricacies and turns and twists and unexplainable “coincidences” and unexpected opportunities. It’s full of frustrations and impatience and fear and doubt and sometimes even anger.
“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul…But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!” Psalm 66:16-20
I tell you this to be an encouragement and beacon of hope for those who are in a waiting season.
OH WAIT….THAT’S US!!!
Ultimately, I write this blog post at the most perfect time, a year after my surgery and four years after the start of the wrist saga, when my heart needs to hear these words the most. My heart needs to be reminded just HOW faithful God is. He was faithful with my wrist. He was faithful with my husband. And man has He been faithful with hundreds of bajillion of other things in my lifetime. I have no doubt (on my good days) that He will be faithful a hundred bajillion more times before He tells me my work on this earth is finished.
I can’t wait to be on the other side of this waiting season for a Restaurant. I can’t wait until my sister doesn’t have a brain tumor anymore or my momma’s best friend and my grandfather are healed from battling stage 4 cancer. I can’t wait until my best friend’s husband sweeps her off her feet and my other best friend finds the money to marry her soul mate. I can’t wait until your student loans get paid off, your father apologizes to you, your degree is COMPLETE, your baby is FINALLY in your arms, or you find the dream job you’re fighting for. I can’t wait until all of those things don’t bring us pain anymore but until then, I sit in this waiting season with you, clinging to the faithfulness of a God who doesn’t leave or forsake. And I look back on all the times He has already been faithful reminding myself…
“Come and see what God has done; he is AWESOME in his deeds toward the children of man.” Psalm 66:5