An Insight Into A Broken Leg
5th October 2018
I’m starting to write things down as the days are blurring into each other with the medication and monotony.
Last week I was dog sitting and I fell down the stairs early on the first morning I was at the house. It happened quickly and I can’t remember the pain but I know it hurt. I’d heard a deep crack. Sat on the stairs, I thought I was just in shock and I thought my bones had clicked badly as I lost my footing, and decided to stand. I genuinely had no idea what I had done. Holding myself up by the frame around the doorway into the kitchen I started to feel hot, sick and my ears started to ring. The light from the kitchen window seemed like it was whiting out and so did my phone screen when I pulled it from my pocket and stared at it considering what to do next. Then everything went black. I was aware I was still standing, aware that my eyes were open and I could hear the radio faintly over the ringing. All I could think was that I couldn’t pass out, I was alone and I hadn’t fully considered it at the time but I actually didn’t know where I was.
Five hours later in A&E I would find out I’d just broken both the bones in my right leg. The crack was my Fibula breaking in two about a third of the way up. I’d also broken my Tibia at the ankle and torn the ligament, spreading the two bones apart. I was also seconds from passing out completely.
I lowered myself back down to sitting and the two dogs jumped over me, licking my face. I was using their fussing to get my eye sight back. Not wanting to call the ambulance, I whatsapped my mum hoping she’d see the message before she started work. Luckily she did, and I remember describing my leg as ‘like kind of crunchy’ on the phone to her. That makes me shudder. She immediately made her way over.
I had to hop my way to a sofa and laid there for what felt like the longest time. I also hadn’t considered how far away mum’s work was. My chest was wet with cold sweat, I could barely concentrate on anything.
Once my mum arrived surrounded by jumpy dogs she looked at my leg and told me we had to get to the hospital. I made my way upstairs to the bathroom to get ready and my mum walked the dogs down the road. It seems so silly now to have worried about going into the hospital in my pajamas after knowing my leg had just broken. Then we had to contend with traffic and an hour and a half long wait in A&E. I was making jokes and taking videos of my mum bringing a wheelchair over to the car (‘My ride’s here!’). No idea.
I’ve never been to A&E before and so I didn’t know what to expect but a young female doctor called my name and I was wheeled into a small examing room. I was sure the pain had dulled until she started to touch it. Then we realized they wouldn’t be able to examine anything until I was duly dosed up. Then there was the small matter of taking my leggings off. That was just about as much fun as getting them on. At that point I said I should have just kept my pajamas on. I really should have just kept my pajamas on.
Once they were off I saw my leg properly for the first time. It had just ballooned. I was wheeled straight to X Ray and told I’d fractured my ankle back in the small room and then wheeled to the A&E ward which was just rows of blue curtains and lots of noise. That’s when the fun really began.
A Nurse came in and wheeled in a trolley with rows of bandages. I was going to have my leg put in plaster. The Doctor came back in wheeling a canister and asked me if I’d used gas and air before. I hadn’t. She was saying she wanted me to concentrate on breathing in and showed me how to hold the mouthpiece. I was thinking I’d be fine with a plaster cast going onto my leg, the air was over kill now, I’d had a paracetamol! Then the Doctor stood at the bottom of the bed and said ‘Do you want me to explain what I’m about to do or do you just want me to do it?’
My dads broken his leg 3 times and the penny dropped as soon as she said it. My face must have dropped too. I grabbed a hold of the mouthpiece and was near trying to neck it in one. The Doctor looked over at my mum and asked if she was ok with this. I just looked up at the blue sky through the sky light and thought ‘this has just got to happen now’. The Doctor took a hold of my foot and placed her other hand on my ankle and pulled. Pulled and pulled, hard, maneuvering the bones back into place. She was pulling so hard I was being pulled down the bed. My brain has kindly forgotten the pain but I would like to never experience that again. My dad had two doctors pin him down when he had it done.
I went for a second X Ray and I was fully in shock at this point. Shaking like a leaf, the adrenaline was finally wearing off. Whilst being wheeled back to the ward I was thinking about how I was going to leave without being able to put my leggings back on. I was also thinking I was going to google where the nearest Mac Donalds drive thru was, I was getting a Big Mac for this. Pant-less or not.
Then a new male Doctor came in to see me and explained who he was. He was the Broken Bone Doctor and he brought his other BB Doctor colleagues to ask how I’d done it. Had I really just fallen down some stairs? I had. Because the injury I had was bad, it was the kind of injury they’d expect to see from someone coming off a motorbike and it would take about 3 months to heal (Ok, I said like that was fine). I was going to need an operation and they were going to keep me in over night to operate the next day. Shit, no Big Mac for me.
They were going to put a plate up the side of the smaller bone where it broke in two, a pin into the ankle on the other side putting the other broken piece of bone back in place, and then another pin horizontally across pinning the two bones back together. The arrangement spells out a lower case h.
I was wheeled to another main ward and the A&E doctor came with me. It was about 4 at this point and on the journey I got my phone and started to give all my friends the big update. I only moved 3 times after that to use the loo and every time I moved my leg felt like a bag of marbles. Throughout the evening my foot seemed slide sideways. I was in a room with only one other woman but the ward was mostly older people. She would kept me up for most of the night anyway but I got woken up at 2am by a nurse to tell me I couldn’t eat anything from then until after the operation. Imagine that, after all I’d been through that day. He had already injected me with my first (of 16 it would turn out to be) blood thinning injections that evening but at 2am he was going to give me an IV. That meant I was going to have to have a catheter put in. At two points I was sleeping so lightly I jolted awake, which didn’t do my right leg parts 1, 2 or 3 any favours. In fact, I remember that pain and it wasn’t good at all.
In the actual morning I was woken up at 7 by the nurses starting the day shift. They bamboozled me with tests ready for my operation. I had no idea what they were doing but I was getting poked and prodded everywhere. At one point a nurse looked up and said negative and smiled and I was like ‘are you talking about my blood type?’ and they said ‘no, your pregnancy test.’ When did they do a pregnancy test?
I ended up being glad when the porters came to get me to take me to the operating theatre. It was about 3:30pm. One of the ward nurses came with me and asked if I was nervous. I was but I kind of knew I would wake up in a recovery room before I really knew anything about it. She said I could trust them and they’ll fix me right back up. A couple of Anesthetists were around me and one of them changed over my sodium drip to a fresh one that had been in the holding area – which was cold – and I could feel the colder liquid going into my hand. Another one of them walked around me with a huge syringe and I was thinking here we go. He told me he was going to give me something that was going to make me feel like I had had two G&T’s.
Waking up from general anesthetic is like waking up still pissed from a night out. You have a general idea of where you are and what’s happened and what your basic needs are now but any rationality that doesn’t immediately serve you is out the window.
I was strapped up to something on every corner. My left leg was ‘in a bag’ as I’d put it, a compression bag to keep the blood flowing. My right thigh had deep impressions in the skin from something being around it. My blood pressure was being constantly taken, I had a concoction of drips going into my left hand and I had two tubes up my nose.
I was told to sip a cup of water slowly through a straw. Well, when oxygen has been pumped down your throat you’re desperate for hydration. That straw was chucked out and I knocked this cup back. I got through two jugs of water that evening and it took me four hours to eat a cheese sandwich.
Which leads me to the long night after. The nurses basically don’t trust you to look after yourself and, certainly in my case, that was fair. My night was interrupted this time by my own needs and not those of the bed beside me (which had been vacated whilst I was in the theatre). Did I mention the two jugs of water only getting slowed down by a cheese sandwich? And just when I thought I was sort of ok the drugs started to wear off. It felt like my entire leg was on fire. One nurse tried to move my pillow and another (older, takes no shit, ‘it’s starting to liven up now isn’t it’) nurse came in and told the guy he’d moved it incorrectly, moved it back – this moving by the way was so painful I couldn’t speak – and then came back with the highest dose of morphine.
I was exhausted by the morning but had to learn how to use crutches (breath heaving, hopping up and down stairs in just the hospital gown and by this point I absolutely did not care if it was gaping open at all), be shown how to administer blood thinning injections to myself and wait for my medication to be brought to me before I could leave. So I was good to go at about 9pm.
I have all these extra things to help me around the house. I’m getting really good at knowing the TV listings. There’s this nightly ritual of getting me and my phone and my phone charger and the toilet frame up the stairs and setting the pillows so my leg is constantly up. My dad has to do the injections because I can not face it, I can’t even look when he does them.
I’m facing a long stretch of time, which at some moments feels freeing and exciting and full of possibilities and then the next hour feels daunting and incredibly overwhelming. Like I can’t possibly imagine a time I could ever swing my legs around from my bed and just stand up again. I had a panic attack for the first time in 7 years. It’s just you never fully appreciate all that comes with an accident. How much it just stops every normal thing. I had to write all this just to process it. It keeps going around and around in my head.
Your body does seem to have a natural defence though. An inbuilt bullshit filter that kicks in when shit really hits the fan. A broken leg is nothing like just hopping around for a bit; it’s physically exhausting and mentally challenging. It’s like I just know now is the time for Having a Broken Leg and I’m just going to have to handle whatever that is. I’m perpetually staring up at the sky light thinking whatever’s going to happen now has just got to happen.
Something started shortly after an accident at the end of September. I was replaying the events over and over and needed to talk through everything I experienced.