O.I. Hate Fractured Ribs!

Fracturing is terrifying because most of the time I do not expect it. Then when it happens it results in a sharp 3 to 6 week reminder (in a cast) of what my body isn't capable of doing: hey stupid - you shoulda known that would hurt! Some O.I.'ers may agree or disagree with me, but the next most terrifying thing for me is The Sneeze. Some of us will fracture ribs because we sneeze too hard. It's totally pathetic, I know.

It'll start with a tickle in my nose but it's the least funny thing in the world to me. Immediately I will get nervous, tighten my stomach muscles, tense up my shoulders and then wait. Sometimes if I feel like it might be a particularly big sneeze I'll draw in a big breath and if I'm lucky it will come out like a stifled cough.

A few days ago, on the facebook wall, I asked what the worst bone to break was for people. For me it is any rib - which is odd because I don't even count them as "real" broken bones. They aren't a 'big' deal and are never traumatic fractures for me but they are, nevertheless the worst. Ribs are difficult if not impossible to put a cast or a brace on. And no matter how I move I never seem to be able to get comfortable, unlike if I broke an arm or a leg - the cast aides the broken limb by stabilizing things or making it immobile. With ribs I am suddenly walking on eggs within my own already fragile body. I am afraid to breathe in too deeply, to laugh, to twist, to bend, to shift, or reach up too high (and for someone who is dependent on the use of her arms.. this can be incredibly limiting).
Sure there are medications that I am prescribed but these never seem to take the edge off for long. There is tylenol with codeine or valium and other muscle relaxants - but even when muscles are relaxed moving the wrong way even one centimeter still brings a sharp jab to my side. But I haven't been totally honest, I haven't said why, exactly, breaking a rib is the most annoying fracture for me:

It's because with a broken rib, I am constantly reminded of the O.I.

With a broken arm or a leg, even despite a 5lb+ cast being lugged around - after a few weeks I can get used to it. The fiber glass fades to the background and I adjust quickly to my 'normal' routine again. After a few days with a cast on my arm or leg I don't have to think about how to transition to the toilet or bed, or in which position to sleep in that will be most comfortable for me at night. Even after a few days the pain will fade and the muscle spasms will stop. Not so much with a rib fracture. With a fractured rib I sometimes forget that anything is broken, I'll go to push myself up in my wheelchair and then double over in shock from the pain. Or I'll have to push myself around the house in increments of a few inches of distance at a time, stopping every now and then to take a few rapid short breaths. Broken ribs are annoying because they make me feel as though I am constantly tripping over a symptom of O.I., as opposed to living and seamlessly meshing it into my life.

Fractured Ribs:

  • I have found that hugging a pillow against myself helps to relax my body and make the broken rib feel more comfortable
  • If you find yourself needing to lift a child or someone with a broken rib - I would strongly suggest doing the cradle style pick-up instead of lifting under the arms
  • Be sure that those around you know that you have broken a rib. I dread telling people that I broke a bone, but I have found that especially if it's an 'invisible fracture' giving people a heads up can be extremely helpful
  • Once you find yourself in a comfortable upright seated position, try your best to remember it and be cautious with it. Jostling around too much with an unstable fracture can get dangerous!
  • Don't try to be a hero, if it hurts take the pain medication
  • Many OI'ers have learned to 'play around' with their breathing until they find the right depth of breath to take in order to not cause pain to the rib while still getting enough air - it will sound weird but it's totally necessary to do!

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2 Responses to O.I. Hate Fractured Ribs!

  1. Sneeze avoiding tip (works for me nearly 100%): just before you feel it coming, put your fingers to your nostrils and blow out of your nose so that no air actually comes out with your fingers as blockers. Blow out twice or thrice.

  2. Worried sneezing will cause internal injury


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