The perils of not looking where you are going

This is a rare post from me which is probably not going to relate much to what I do for a living. Well, it might not, any way.

Do you remember how you spent Millennium Night? I do. I spent it in front of the television with my left leg up on a stool in front of me. The leg was in plaster. 6 weeks earlier, I broke it in three places when, not looking where I was going, I stepped off two steps from the bottom of my home staircase. When the paramedics arrived, one of them asked me what I had done. When I told him, he expressed disbelief that such an action would cause much damage and proceeded to lift my leg off the ground to investigate further. My screaming convinced him that he might have underestimated the problem. He and his female colleague then proceeded to manoeuvre me into one of those sit-up stretchers, and nearly dropped me out of it into the street as they lifted me into the ambulance.

At the hospital, the Orthopaedic Surgeon asked if I wanted my leg set naturally in plaster, which would take longer and might not work, or operated on and pins inserted, which would result in that leg being half an inch shorter than the other one, and carried a risk of infection. I chose the first option and went through a painful process of having plaster applied on the whole of my leg, followed by 2 days in a hospital bed.

A week later I was back in the hospital for X-Rays to check on progress, and was told that the breaks were not healing and, therefore, option 2 would have to be implemented.

Following the operation, I awoke in a hospital bed in the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life, worse than the pain of actually breaking the leg, which, at least, subsided relatively quickly. This was a constant feeling like my leg was being sawn off, which persisted for about 24 hours, no matter how many painkillers I was given. But, eventually, the pain subsided, and, after 4 days in hospital, and lessons in using crutches, I was allowed home. Beyond the pain and the boredom, one of the issues about lying in a hospital bed at this time was the embarrassment. I was in a ward populated by men with broken bones. Of the 4 beds in my section of the ward, all the other 3 were guys who had had motorbike accidents. When they were swapping their stories, I pretended to be asleep; I just couldn’t compete.

I was in plaster for a total of 13 weeks, the latter part of which was a bit more bearable as the plaster of paris was replaced with fibre glass, which was a lot lighter and more manoeuvrable.  But on Millennium night I was still in the heavy plaster, and struggling to get around.

One of the things I hadn’t realised was that, after 13 weeks on crutches, you have to learn to walk again. So, a programme of physiotherapy followed. But, something that drew my attention when I went back to the hospital was the room at the end of the physiotherapy department filled with specialist equipment. This was where the professional footballers and rugby players went for their rehabilitation. This was not for us ordinary mortals. So, the physio programme came to an end, but, to be honest, it was a very long time before I felt that I was walking normally again. It was a long time before I could walk, or even stand, for long periods without my leg swelling up and becoming painful. And, it was years, probably 7 or 8 years, before my leg stopped being hyper-sensitive to the slightest touch. A year after the break I had to go back into hospital to have the pins removed from the leg, which entailed more pain.

And I still have two long scars down my leg where the surgeons opened up it to insert and remove the pins. When I was having the plaster removed I spotted two big circular scars on opposite sides of my leg. I asked what those were, and was told that was where they had inserted an iron bar through my leg to hold on to while they performed the operation. And, nearly fifteen years later, I still get sporadic periods of pain in the leg, and the occasional swelling.

I suppose what I am saying is that, although I love the NHS and am extremely grateful for the support it has given me, in this and other matters, because I am not a professional sports person; what happened to me was that I was patched up and sent on my way. Unless something like this happens to you, you don’t realise the longterm implications of injuries. If anything like that happens to you, fight hard to get a proper rehabilitation.

3 thoughts on “The perils of not looking where you are going

  1. Yes. I became aware many years later that I could & possibly should have benefited from more physio. I split my fibula along about half its length & broke the end of my tibia into 2 pieces, falling down some stairs. The pins & plate are still in. I can still feel precipitation approaching (& quantity), and I used to be able to tell the difference between snow & rain within 20 miles of me. My reports of lots of pain running up and down between back and ankle were dismissed in the weeks & months afterwards. It took 2 years & an MRI scan to discover that I’d also had a prolapsed disc which I’m sure happened at the same time as the break. I only remember having 1 physio session after my cast came off.
    I discovered years later that there were exercises that could help my back – and the best physio I came across was in a university gym. He was training for a Masters degree & had experience with physio for sports people’s injuries + people who’d had strokes, heart attacks and other medical conditions.

    • Thanks Janet

      I wasn’t really sure why I felt driven to get this out in public, and then I realised it was because there were so many implications that I hadn’t anticipated, and I would have appreciated some forewarning of them.

  2. I’m going through a similar thing at the moment, not with me but with soemone close. The NHS is great at putting you back together again but leaves you to fend for yourself with after care.

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