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Posted by on Dec 2, 2017 in CRPS / RSD | 0 comments

MacGyvering my parka (02.12.2017)

MacGyvering my parka (02.12.2017)

When I broke my arm in March 2016, I had to go buy another winter jacket. My cast wouldn’t fit through the sleeves of any of my winter coats, nor any of the ones that my friends offered to lend me. In Montréal a winter jacket isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Our winter temperatures can last until mid-April, with daytime temperatures often as low as -40C/-40F (yes, -40° in both Celsius and Fahrenheit!).

Different words for cold

Image: Sandra Woods

Because it was the end of the season there wasn’t much choice left in the stores, and it was excruciatingly painful – for my hand and arm – to try on different jackets. So I got the first one that would fit over my cast.

As a bonus, the inside of the sleeve was made of a super-soft and satiny fabric. It was just about the only piece of clothing that didn’t cause pain when it touched the extremely swollen skin of my hand.

The jacket is very dark grey, a colour I don’t particularly like. And I had to get a larger size than usual, so every time I put it on it looked as though I’d gained 20 pounds. But it kept me warm, and it was on sale, so I got it as a temporary jacket. My plan was to donate it to charity – to a womens’ shelter – once the cast came off my arm.

The cast stayed on until the end of April, and by then it was springtime – so I didn’t need to wear a winter jacket anymore. I put the grey jacket aside, to donate to a womens’ shelter in the autumn. But my fracture had triggered a rare neuro-inflammatory disease, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS, also called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD), which causes extreme skin sensitivity. Even a regular fabric, rubbing against my skin, caused me a lot of pain.

So I ended up having to wear that dark grey, oversized, jacket again when the weather turned cold this fall. The super-soft and satiny fabric inside its sleeve meant that it didn’t trigger my CRPS-related pain sensitivity to fabrics. But the weather was colder than it had been the previous March, and I soon noticed that cold air was getting into the jacket, because it was so big on me.

I missed my regular winter parka! It’s made by a Montréal company called Kanuk, and is especially designed for our cold, snowy, and windy winters. There’s a piece of fabric sewn inside, along the waist, that you can snap shut to block any cold air from coming up from the bottom of the jacket. And the sleeves have extra-long cuffs that hug the wrists, also to keep the cold air out. When I saw the weather forecast for this week, with daytime high windchill (RealFeel) temperatures of -30C/-22F, I realized that I’d be too cold with that grey jacket.

Photo of jacket sleeve with cuff cut out

Photo: Sandra Woods

So I decided to ‘MacGyver’ my Kanuk parka. I tried to use a seam-ripper (a sewing tool) to unpick the stitching of the cuff, but couldn’t manage to do that. The finger joints in my CRPS-affected right (dominant) hand are too stiff to use the seam-ripper. So I took a pair of sewing scissors to the parka.

I was lucky! Each of the 10 cm/4″ cuffs was sewn into an extra flap of fabric, which then attached to the inside of the sleeve. So I was able to cut through that flap of fabric, without (otherwise) damaging the inside of the sleeve.

And I can once again wear my super-warm winter jacket, which is great news as our forecast is for a bitterly cold winter this year. And that grey jacket? I’ll finally be able to donate it to a charity, so it can keep someone else warm!

2018 Oxford University Press. Oxford Dictionary: MacGyver. Origin: 1990s; “from Angus MacGyver, the lead character in the television series MacGyver (1985–1992), who often made or repaired objects in an improvised way”. Web:

Kelly, Jon. How ‘MacGyver’ became a verb. British Broadcasting Company (BBC). 27 Aug 2015. Web:


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