Monday, July 19, 2010

Legends of the Fall

I didn't realize when I left home to go grocery shopping on December 7, 2009, that my life was about to undergo a drastic change. If you followed by blogs back then, you'll remember that I came home to find my husband had fallen some 30 feet out of a tree in the back yard and had been taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was there for 10 days, during which time he had surgery to repair a broken right arm, among other things. Unfortunately, during the surgery, the plate which was inserted pinched the nerve, leaving him with very little use of his right hand, which in his job as a truck-driver made him unable to work. He had a second operation the next day, to release the nerve, but by then significant damage had been done. The physiotherapist designed a splint for his hand which he wore to prevent his fingers from turning into a claw. It was a great conversation piece!
After several months, he underwent tests to see if the nerve had started to heal but it had not.

There was one other option left, which was to have nerve replacement surgery, and he had this operation a couple of weeks ago. He spent the night at Vancouver General Hospital in a private room. I think he had the best view in there!
The neurosurgeon removed an 18" length of nerve from his right calf, and used 5 sections of it to graft onto the damaged nerve in his right arm. They used over 70 staples to hold his wounds together and today he had them removed. Caution: if you're squeamish, you might want to look away now.
It will now be at least another 6 months before we know whether the nerve graft surgery has been successful--ie. the nerve in his arm has started to heal. It's a very slow process and the doctors have told him that it's unlikely he'll ever regain 100% use of his right hand. So now we wait again.

I am not good at waiting. People sometimes tell me they wouldn't have the patience to quilt like I do and so I think they assume that I'm a patient person. But for me, the patience required to create a quilt is a life-giving energy so I don't care how long the process takes. Almost every moment is a joy. I don't like being forced into situations (like this) in which I have no control and just have to let time take its course, not sure of what the outcome will be. My husband, who is in his late 50s was not supposed to retire for several years so we've had to adjust to his being at home where I work. For someone like me, who loves quiet and solitude, this has not been easy. And while we're so thankful that he's able to collect disability insurance while he's off work, it's a fraction of his former wage so that's been an adjustment as well.

After the initial shock and getting "used to" this new life, it's become a matter of taking it a day at a time. I've learned how life can change in an instant--sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Most days I'm okay and grateful that the accident didn't result in something much worse and I try not to think of all the "what-if's" about our future. That said, there are moments when it feels like too much. I'm not fun to be with at those times but I'm human and I can't always hold it together. So occasionally I give myself permission to lose it and I throw myself a one-person pity party.

This isn't the way I expected my life to be at this point. But then, to use another quilting analogy, one of the things I love about creating a quilt is when it seems to take on a life of its own and the design I had in my head when I started is very different from the finished product. The quilt may not be what I'd originally envisioned--but it's still beautiful and sometimes it's even better than what I'd dreamed. I'm hoping that this "detour" in my organized life will lead me/us to unexpected and yet lovely places that otherwise I would never had known. I guess time will tell.


  1. Cheryl,
    You sound like me, quilting is a release and takes me away from life's stresses. I hope your husband's surgery improves the use of his arm and you will both be in my prayers.


  2. I wish your husband a good recovery and things get back to something more normal. Quilting is what keeps me going and sane with things get tough.
    Thanks for letting us troop through your house. I love all your quilts and your house is such inspiration to me. Your back yard is so beautiful and peaceful.
    See you in Sept.

  3. hello Cheryl, I sincerely hope that your husband recovers from this operation. I would like to tell you that I have learnt to be patient after a serious car accident 20 years ago which left me in a wheel chair for 18 months and without knowing if I could ever walk on my two legs. At the same time, I was in a divorce process and losing my job.. So !
    10 years later, I was diagnosed a breast cancer and had chimio- and radiotherapy.
    And quilting helped me a lot in these difficult moments.
    And look, I came to your place with my friends and we were so pleased to discover all your work. These are the happy few moments of our existence - so many are the bad ones.
    I sincerely wish you the best and hope to see you and your husband in September in France.
    I'll say a little prayer for you.
    Kind regards,

  4. Thank you all for your kind comments. They mean so much to me.

  5. I am so glad your husband is okay and I surely wish him a complete recovery. I love your designs and your work and I surely hope you can continue doing what you love and find the true joy in the small things.

  6. hello. my name is joel and I recently was in a motorcycle accident.I broke my collarbone and damaged my nerves in my right arm. I broke my collarbone in a few places and recently had surgery to fix it.They put a metal plate and screws to fix the bone. But the bad thing is when the accident happened my nerves in my right arm were damaged i cannot feel anything from my elbow down. I cannot feel my fingers or move them(starting therapy soon). Is there anything else i can do or is there any help that i can receive(besides therapy). I don't know the extent of the damage to my nerves I asked the doctors and they said they did not know.Does anyone know if I will get the feeling in my arm back or about how long it can take to recover? I know what your husband is going throuth and it is a very terrible feeling. Iam having very bad nerve pian in my right arm. Iam having an app. at Harborview Medical Center for an MRI and a EMG iam praying for the best and I also hope your husband is doing well. I would like to know how he is doing.

  7. Hi Joel,
    Thank you for sharing your story with me. I'm so sorry about your accident. The nerve damage sounds so similar to my husband's. When he had the nerve graft surgery in July we were told it would be at least 6 months before any healing would be evident. So we haven't seen any improvement yet in the use of his right hand and he's still unable to work. But he can do other things and isn't in pain so we're thankful for that. It's a long time to wait, though. I so hope that the doctors will be able to find a treatment for you. Please let us know what happens.