Recovering from a compound fracture to work again

Hand injury meant months of pain and therapy for Gainesvillle nurse

Michelle Lineberry has been a nurse for 22 years. She has worked in medical surgical nursing in the hospital and in neurology and internal medicine in the private setting. Currently, she is the Director of Resident Nursing at Lanier Village Estates in Gainesville. She is also Director of Nursing at OakBridge Terrace, the assisted living community within Lanier Village.

On March 10, 2014, Lineberry received a tough lesson in what it’s like to deal with severe pain.

She says, “While walking my two dogs, one of them pulled me down and I sustained a compound fracture of my fifth metacarpal on my left hand. I did not realize that the bone was broken until it was x-rayed at the hospital. Since it was a compound fracture I had to be sutured and was referred to a hand surgeon. He put a pin in my hand which was external, meaning it went through my hand into the bone and was coming out of the skin between the fourth and fifth fingers. The pain varied between two and nine on the pain scale.”

Lineberry relates that she does not handle pain medication very well so she resorted to OTC medications, acetaminophen and Aleve.

She also sought the help of an occupational therapist. She says, “Kendyl (the OT) was wonderful and so accommodating. She pushes you to do things that you would normally not do because it causes quite a bit of pain; however, you know that it is in your best interest and she only wants you to get better.”

“I had absolutely no experience with PT or OT except in the clinical setting prior to my injury, in fact I was a bit doubtful of its benefit. I was incredibly wrong and from the moment I met Kendyl she was such an encourager I could not help but get inspired to push harder.”

Lineberry had to go through another surgery to release the tendons in November of 2014. Again, she sought therapy to keep the scar tissue to a minimum.

She says, “When I met with my new surgeon before the second surgery he explained that only a few people will experience the complications that I did with the type of injury that I had. It is unfortunate but there was only so much he could do to increase the functionality of my fourth and fifth fingers.”

As far as being a patient, Lineberry says she can definitely attest to the old adage that doctors and nurses make the worst patients.

“I do not like to be incapacitated or have to take medication but I do follow the doctor’s orders because I know it is in my best interest. I definitely push myself more than I should and that is not always what the doctor wanted me to do. I had to get back to work and I did, thank goodness it did not impact my recovery!”

She also says that discussing her treatment with her occupational therapist was easier because her background meant she was familiar with medical terminology. She adds, “I did, however, see her (the OT) talking to other patients that did not have the same background and she made it very understandable for a lay person.”

As a nurse, Lineberry knows that understanding pain management is key to any recovery.

“Just because two people have the same injury does not mean they will experience the same levels of pain. I think I am more understanding of people and their own individual pain now that I have experienced my own unique pain. I really feel like my pain level was never to the excruciating level but I could see how someone else could experience that type of pain. I really try to look at each person in my practice differently when it comes to pain and adapt my care of them to suit their needs. I will try to listen to their issues and advise them based on their individuality. I think I am more empathetic to my residents because I have dealt with different kinds of pain throughout my life and it is all very subjective.”

As far as her personal recovery, Lineberry shares that she does have occasional pain, but luckily it is not a daily occurrence.