Summer Cast Off!

No I don't wish to throw summer away, not after this epic brutal winter we had. I mean the other kind of cast-off: the fiber glass, cotton-stuffed, endless layers, sweat sticking, itch inducing lug of a thing. Despite the hundreds of casts I have had the excitement that comes with getting it off never bores me. Especially during the summer.

Getting a cast off in the summer, for me, is like an odd kind of defrosting. Be it my leg or arm I always look forward to being able to flex the muscle and unfreeze the joints. Sometimes those joints have been frozen for only 2 weeks, 3 weeks, or at worse 3 months. But the morning of getting a cast off my leg and arm is already wiggling impatiently inside, squirming around like a butterfly seconds before it bursts from the cocoon. When I was younger I would always plead my parents to just cut it off themselves, "Why do we need to go to the doctor to cut it off? I'm just getting it off! Just cut it off!" Usually this would be paired with me grabbing onto the cast and trying to literally, tug it off my body. Then in the cast room I would ask my parents if they could buy the special cast-saw from them: "Mom can't you just ask? Can't you just ask them where they bought it? Maybe we could get one for my room and then we wouldn't have to drive alllll this way every time for only 10 min of work!" 

I never hear what the doctor is saying to me after the cast is taken off. He usually gives a "phew! Well that's done!" And after that I am too busy itching like a maniac, the dry flecks of skin molting off and falling onto the table. "Don't scratch! Don't scratch! You'll damage the skin..." It's been two decades, I mean really, you would think they could at least come up with something more creative to tell me. After a good 5 or 10 min of leaving me alone with my un-mummified limb I am satisfied. The frenzy that had consumed my entire mentality and body fades; all that's left are the chalky lines from my fingernails against my skin that remain like faint lines on a freshly mowed lawn. Someone usually hands me a damp washcloth and as a cat licks her wounds I gently put water against my skin for the first time in weeks.
It always stings. And I am always surprised how much it stings (let's not even mention how much I am cringing when they tell me to wash it off with rubbing alcohol!) Suddenly my skin springs to life, there is a tingling effect that travels down the length of where the cast used to be - I always pretend that I am some supernatural power pouring water over the Sahara desert for the first time ever. The skin is raw and red in some places, and my arm or leg is usually looking drastically scrawnier than it used to be.

It's not until I have sedated the jittery itch monster that I flex, twist, bend, stretch, move. The first time the limb is lifted from the cast happens around now. If it was a serious fracture my doctor usually helps me lift out of the now hollowed out fiber glass shell - then he'll gently place it down on a pillow and the revival process begins. He'll put the palm of his hand against the sole of my foot and tell me to flex my ankle downwards - only the slightest flutter of force is applied back. If it's my arm he'll gently move my lower arm up and down; all of this is like a gentle reminder to my body of what I was capable of before it was thrown into a state of immobilization.

From 2 summers ago after a re-rodding operation
Most of the time everything checks out fine. If there is a problem he will send me to physical therapy where I will continue to remind my body of what it was capable of. But after all of that is said and done I cherish the weight of putting a flip flop or sneaker back on my foot - even if it's sore putting it back on. Or being able to put my own arm through the hole of my t-shirt, the simplicity of reclaiming all of my limbs and functions in the summer is always so liberating each and every single time.

  • Scratching is going to happen; I'm not sure what reality doctors and parents are living in but you can't expect us to not itch! But if we're going to scratch then we should expect there to be consequences, like the stinging sensation that always follows.
  • After getting casts off I always sit in a bath tub for hours to soak and to feel 110% clean for the first time in weeks!
  • Any kind of lotion will help the dryness of skin but I usually use Lubriderm. The no-scent non-fuss stuff helps to continue reviving life into my limb
  • For some reason going to sleep for the first few nights without my cast on is always... distracting. I am always gleefully ecstatic to be able to feel my sheets and covers. In the middle of the night though I sometimes jolt awake from muscle spasms or other aches in the formerly injured area. I'll freak out and wonder where my cast went but then remember that everything is okay and it's supposed to be off. It is helpful in these instances for  me to continue to have my arm or leg propped up on a pillow, this way it still feels the same and then after a few days I am able to sleep the same as always again.
  • I'll be honest: when doctor's tell me that I should have a brace or a bi-val cast on at night I rarely if ever wear it at night. Instead what I will sometimes do is put my leg in the bottom half of the brace or cast and leave the top part of it off

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One Response to Summer Cast Off!

  1. Reading your blog is forcing me to remember so many things. I remember my legs being so dry and itchy. Itching it for the first time in weeks always felt so good. I also remember them giving me those little alcohol pads and rubbing it on my legs. Yes, it stung but it was awesome. I loved that feeling. It's the kind of feeling that hurts but feels good at the same time. But the feeling I never liked was when they would pick me up out of the body cast after being in it for months. I remember feeling so weak and stiff, unable to sit up. All I could do was just lie there, like a turtle without it's shell. My legs would still be in the same position as it was in the cast. It would take a good 3-4 days for me to really start moving/bending and able to sit up. Your right, you don't realize how good a bath feels until you haven't had one in months (just sponge baths) or the feel of the bed sheets covering you up or even clothes! I remember seeing my legs for the first time after surgery and instantly wanting to peel that surgical tape off. Of course I wasn't allowed to, it would fall of when it was ready. But I would always take them off when no one wasn't looking. That nasty tape would be scattered throughout the house! ha!

    But I've always had this major fear that they would cut me with that saw. I thought for sure he was going to get too close and chop off my leg. Hated it! The sound was horrible and the vibration was one of the most uncomfortable feelings imaginable. I always pleaded with them to soak the cast in water so I could just peel it off!


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