Sunday, July 1, 2012

Things I wish I knew when...I Had a Hard Cast

     I had no idea kitchen stools could be so damn scary. In my defense, I do have a valid reason, and it all began one innocent day at work. I'll spare you the details of much of the day, so skipping ahead to THE INCIDENT, I fell off of a kitchen stool. You know, those foot high, two step kitchen stools that people usually use for that upper cabinet in the kitchen that anyone who is not a giant cannot reach? Ah, those. Sitting on the ground, stunned that I fell off of something so non threatening, I sat for a minute realizing that as the embarrassment faded, pain began to replace it. Oh #@%!, I think I twisted something. Now skipping ahead two and half weeks later when I got my hard cast on (after a fracture finally showed up on the x-ray) I sat on my bed thinking many things, but not how many creative ideas I should've been thinking so I could manage around the house. Ok, with that said, I have created a list of things that I wish I would've known when I was in a hard cast in order to make life easier and a little bit more comfortable. May your temporary life in a hard cast be somewhat more pleasant than mine!

1. Get a cast protector. These are fabulous beyond fabulous. When you need to take a shower, this is the upgraded version of the trash bag and duct tape that is not only reusable but also portable enough should you need to leave the house during wet weather. They run about $10-15 dollars at Walgreens and if they don't have it in store, you can always order it online from their website. I say Walgreens because they're actually a medical warehouse as well and whether it's a broken foot or hand they have a cast protector that will work. They do carry adult and child sizes. This is ultimately the cheaper version of the trash bag and duct tape and is easily able to be sanitized for future uses (whatever they may be).

2. Get a bath bench. So this is basically a bench for your bathtub. They have tons of different ones out there with backs, with rails, with swivel seats, etc. For all intensive purposes, a cheap bath bench helps with quick showers vs taking baths (if you're not a bath person). At first, I was excited to have the luxury to take a bath everyday and relax but then I realized I lost that interest and wanted to return to uber quick showers, hence the bath bench. They allow you to easily get into your tub as well as comfortably elevate your foot if necessary. When done, you can also towel off on the bench before getting out. Broken arm? These benches are great so that you don't have to maintain your balance the entire time and allow for a way to catch yourself if you do. They are slightly pricey around $35-50 but you can request a script from your doctor to see if your insurance covers all or part of maybe just the tax.

3. Get a wet/dry razor.  Whether you need to shave your legs or arms, the wet/dry razor allows you to do that sans water. The great thing about cast protectors is they prevent your cast from getting that mildewy smell if you use the protector correctly, but they cover an extra 4-6 inches extended from your cast from the water. If you pull the protector down to shave, you risk getting water in your cast and having some major odor issues. So, try a battery operated wet/dry razor. When you don't have the cast anymore you can use the razor on the go for when you travel or need to fix a missed spot or as a regular razor. EOS shaving cream allows for wet/dry shaving if you wanted to know about any good shaving creams. The brand has a whole line of cosmetic sorts of items, but their shaving cream is truly awesome for the price. I found a decent wet/dry razor for $10. EOS shaving cream is usually under $3 wherever you shop.

4. Get moleskin. These are little skin protector patches usually found in foot care or first aid and help with cast-skin chafing. The moleskin sticks to your skin rather well (even through sweat) and prevents the rubbing from your cast when you began to be more mobile. The patches are usually in packs of 4 so you only need to spend a few dollars, around $3-6, to last you for a few weeks. Or you could use a bandage, but the moleskin is thicker and won't roll or twist up.

5. Use your hairdryer's cold setting to blow cool air into your cast. It sucks to be in a hard cast in the summer, which funny enough, always tend to happen to people. However, unless you have money to blow on the expensive cast coolers that you can connect to your vacuum (I saw some around $80-100 and I'm not sure how often you have to replace the attachment) you can do it the cheap way and use your hairdryer's cool setting. It's not fantastically cold air, but hey, when you're in a cast, you'll take it.

6. Get peppermint wet wipes. These are little wipes that can be found in the cosmetic section or foot section of your local store. I got these wipes from Ulta, but if you don't know what Ulta is, just look for wipes that have peppermint as an ingredient. The cool thing about these wipes is that not only can they be used to give your hard to clean digits that are halfway in the cast a freshening up, but they have a natural cooling effect that leaves your skin moisturized, smelling fresh, and tingly. I got a pack for around $5 and they have about 40 wipes in there, so it should last you a while, depending on how much you sweat.

7. Get ice from your freezer, put it in a bag, and wrap it with a thick paper towel. So, I was lucky enough to have a broken foot during the change of the seasons into summer and I didn't have to suffer too long from the heat. Although I loved the hairdryer cool setting inside, I needed an easy fix outside that would not require me looking like a lunatic as I ran an extension cord outside just for my hair dryer. Instead, get a homemade ice bag, and put it in thick paper towels so the moisture is absorbed to prevent your cast from getting wet and then put that at the end part of your cast. For example, I put the bag right under my toes so that I could cool my foot down externally as well as internally. If it's a broken arm, I would put it on the crook of your elbow so that the cold is more easily absorbed into your body through the thin skin. I'm clearly not a doctor, but I would think it's the same principle like putting ice on the back of your neck or on your wrist to cool you down. I love to tan, but with a cast, it can become really hot really fast. Get a cooler, fill it with ice, put on your cast protector, and put your arm or leg in the cooler to keep your leg cool while tanning.

8. Use foam athletic tape to wrap your cast at night to prevent scratching. One thing I never imagined would be an issue would be sleeping at night. Ok, I know it sounds obvious, but I honestly didn't think about the scratches or bruises I would get from my leg cast when I switching positions when I moved at night. Easy enough fix, I found this thick foam tape-wrap stuff at Claire's, they come in all sorts of sizes and colors, and one roll should be sufficient enough to cover your cast. It may or may not be slightly adhesive at the end but get the roll, wrap it around the cast, not covering the openings so you have air flow, and then pin it, velcro it, or tuck it to make it stay. It sold for about $3 and made it a little bit more bearable to sleep. Orrrrr, if you have a leg cast, you could use a pillow between your legs, but I always woke up with the pillow on the floor. Orrrrr, you could get a pillow case or two and wrap it that way and secure it with a rubber band or something.

9. Avoid flat shoes like flip flops to keep your back aligned. (If you have a leg cast) When I finally got my walking boot I was soo excited to be walking again. I found out however, that I had lower back pain and knee pain with shoes that made a larger discrepancy in leg length. When you wear flip flops and you have a cast boot, the boot is maybe an inch or so off the ground, making you walk with a funny limp. That limp is because your legs are different lengths so you're kind of rocking side to side when you walk. If you wear higher and more supportive shoes like running shoes, you'll have less pain later, even if you don't notice it right away.

10. Ask for a wheelchair. Depending on which stores you frequent, you'll find that most of them offer free wheelchairs or scooters if you ask. Some places, like Walmart or the mall have them by the main entrance and are self serve. Other places, like the movie theatre you may have to ask. It's a little embarrassing at first, but you get over it when you realize the small things require so much more effort than before and you're uber tired. If you are in an airport, the wheelchairs are free, however they require an escort to get you through security and the escort in most cases does work off of tips. Tips are at your discretion but depending on the airport, it could be upwards of $20.

11. Casts have perks. Depending on the activity you're doing, places like the movie theatre allow disabled and/or assistance-required customers have priority. During my stint in a leg cast, my boyfriend and I decided to see an opening night premiere and found the line to the door of the screening room was forming an hour and a half early. Out of sheer curiosity, and partially my fear of being trampled on crutches, we asked management if they had a way to secure him and I a seat before the mad rush. Sure enough, we were taken into the back entrance of the screening room and got first pick seats. Perks? Not many, but hey, you find the silver lining if you think creatively enough.

12. Use Netflix. I'm aware of the many people who left Netflix for greener pastures, but I like the fact that Netflix has a great ad-free setup with quite an extensive selection of older and foreign movies and tv shows. During your immobile times, you may find yourself bored from tv or your DVD collection that seems to have grown smaller all of the sudden. Netflix was a great way to pass the time if I felt like watching tv. It costs $8 a month for unlimited viewing and it's the best way to catch up on your favorite seasons you missed or movies that you wanted to see in theatres but weren't sure if it was worth it to pay $15 to see it. If you don't like the show, move on to another. You can watch it with a Wii, PS3, computer, phone (use your Wi-Fi to avoid massive bandwidth issues), or many other devices.

13. Go to the library.  If you're broke like I am and can't afford fancy e-readers, use your free resources like the library. Hitch a ride, grab a ton of books or DVDs using your library card, and then kick back and relax. Similar to my theory on Netflix, if you don't like the book, whatever, return it, and get another one for free. My library has a ton of DVDs and CDs to check out as well as audio books if you like audio versions. Can't hitch a ride? Many libraries have a e-library where you can check out books or movies online through your library card number and use your computer or tv to view them. You won't get any late fees because they take the materials off your computer when they're due. Ah, tax dollars to good use.

14. Gold Bond Anti-Itch Powder.** After my cast was taken off, I was made aware of Gold Bond Anti-Itch powder that you can sprinkle into your cast to help with the dry skin that is itchy. It is naturally absorbed and shouldn't cause any issues with chafing. However, I haven't used the powder myself, but I thought I'd add it on to here as another option.

15. Baking soda helps with cast odors.   I had a cast for a little over 6 weeks, but I never used baking soda on my cast during this time. However, with my first hard cast, many years ago, I used baking soda to help keep the cast fresh as possible because it was the peak of summer in the southern U.S. and I was  a kid who wanted to be outside. Sprinkle some baking soda on the cast, you can get a box for about a $1 or less, and then either get a hairdryer to clear it off or a clean duster to brush off the powder after a few minutes.

Any other tips? I may have missed a few, but I wanted to put this out there for anyone who may be stuck in a hard cast and adjusting to the unpleasantries of it. All of these tips are things I have found through creative thinking or from others, but should not be considered medical advice. Always follow the directions of your doctor. Know your allergies and your limits and you'll be able to better gauge things that will make your cast life a little bit easier. 

LOL cats, FAIL blog, Damn You Auto Correct, Cracked, G+, Post Secret, Stumble Upon, Yahoo Games, and other sites kept my interest. Stumble Upon is cool and free app for your browser that brings you to a random website based on your interests that you selected, like psychology or humor or parenting. You can even add new sites you love that may not be in the database. 

Send me your ideas. I would love to hear them.