So, I left off the last post after a consultant of some kind had diligently bestowed surgical information on me. I very quickly decided that surgery was a much better option than having an enormous cumbersome cast on my leg for three months.
What happened next?
Well, that’s a good question. My parents and partner came visit me on Thursday afternoon and again in the evening, bearing gifts and snacks to keep me going. Spoiler: hospitals don’t really do a lot of vegan food. I got by, largely because I wasn’t particularly hungry at any point. Being stuffed full of either painkillers or anaesthetics has that affect, apparently.
One of my best friends drove over from Lancashire to see me, which was really sweet. She too came bearing gifts, and it was lovely to see her. Evening visiting hours finish at 8pm, so after that I was left to my own devices.
Friday (1st February)
I woke up on Friday having had a slightly better sleep. On Wednesday night I didn’t really sleep much, and I think my lack of recollection of Thursday probably indicates some serious napping. My parents had brought me some clean nighties, meaning I could get out of the gorgeous hospital gown I’d been wearing – for now.
On Thursday, the doctor had told me that I could expect my CT scan ‘in the next couple of days.’ I generously assumed that this would mean I’d be waiting until Monday, and didn’t anticipate anything happening until the next week.
A big day
Friday was a pretty big day in many ways. During Thursday night I was given IV painkillers which were much better. Instead of fighting with the bedpan I was wheeled off to the toilet on a commode. My leg was kept aloft by a zimmer frame on its side, leaving the toilet door slightly open for everyone to enjoy.
At no point did I retain any of my dignity, which, to be fair, had been shattered the moment I fell on my arse in a public place.
To my surprise, I was wheeled off for my scan on Friday afternoon. It’s a bit exposing being taken all around the hospital in a bed, but never mind. The scanning department was in the bowels of the hospital and was mercifully cool.
The ward was exceptionally, oppressively hot. In the spirit of waving goodbye to my dignity, despite the cardboard bowls of hot water provided for us to wash each morning, I fucking stank the entire time. You’re welcome.
Sleeping in a ward is a nightmare. I was on a ward with three older ladies (ironically, my mobility was by far the worst). One lady, bless her, had taken to wandering around and sleeping anywhere that wasn’t her own bed. When I arrived on the ward she was sleeping in a chair next to another patient.
Thankfully, she didn’t try to sleep on or near me and seemed much more settled. There are still regular disturbances from obnoxiously loud attention buzzers, nurses doing rounds, and anything else you can think of. For example, pain. That little sucker can creep up and ruin your sleep like a bitch.
Saturday (2nd February)
On Saturday, things kicked up a notch in terms of visitors. I had my parents and partner, my best friend, and my partner’s parents, my sister and brother-in-law all at once. My friend had cooked me several portions of stew, and her mum sent her up with a lasagne for me.
There are still portions of these in the freezer which is an absolute joy, as I’m not able to stand up or do things for very long. I tried making my lunch today, for example, and just ended up bashing crutches into everything in sight.
In terms of my care, not much else changed. I was on regular oral painkillers. I still had my cast on, and was still being wheeled to the loo. I’d managed to have a wash with the aforementioned cardboard bowl. The pain was under control. I do feel compelled to mention, though, that once the swelling has subsided a bit, my enormous cast didn’t completely keep my leg stable.
No, dear reader. Should I try to move my leg I could hear this fucking disgusting clicking noise, presumably where the bones were, you know, not set and just floating around being rank.
It was Grimsby town, I’ll tell you that.
Sunday (3rd February)
Sunday brought yet more excitement to my life on the ward. I was woken up by some perky motherfucker with glasses, smiling benignly at me and telling me not to eat or drink anything. He said I was ‘probably’ going to have surgery that day, and needed to be nil by mouth.
He confirmed that the CT scan showed the fracture extended into my ankle. As well as the rod I’d need extra pins putting in there, too. In case you were counting, that’s now a leg broken in three places.
I think he explained the surgical procedures again, but I was still a bit out of it and most likely wondering when he’d shut up so I could go for a wee. A bit later, the anaesthetist came up to talk to me and it seemed that surgery was actually going to happen. Colour me surprised, because I’d resigned myself to not getting anywhere until the following week.
I can’t remember what he said either, other than I was second in line and due to go down at about 11am. At some point the consultant came to see me, talking me through the surgery and any possible risks. He basically said a lot of people report chronic knee pain, and they don’t know why. By this point my thoughts were, ‘I don’t give a shit mate, just stop my leg from making these rancid sounds.’
I was nervous, but strangely enthusiastic as well. I was looking forward to not having that hulking great cast on my leg all the time. It’s not exactly fun going to surgery for the first time, but everyone was very nice to me.
As I left the ward, one of the ladies said, “Have a nice time.” I’m not sure if she was being deliberately funny or just didn’t know where I was going.
I had to go through some information and consent again, reviewing the stylish signature I’d walloped on the computer when high on gas and air. It didn’t really feel as though it was happening to me. I’m so used to being hideously anxious about everything that my relative calm was almost unnerving.
Sweet, sweet anaesthesia
Next comes my favourite part of the whole experience, though. It takes a while to be administered the anaesthetic as you’re positioned correctly and answering questions. I had a cannula inserted into my hand, and the doctor gave me a couple of doses of antibiotics.
It feels really weird and a bit cold going through the veins. The anaesthetic was next. I’ve never been anaesthetised for anything, so I didn’t know what to expect. I worried vaguely about waking up halfway through the operation.
The anaesthetic was injected through the cannula, and it took me about two seconds to fall asleep.
Honestly, this sounds weird but the anaesthetic was great. It was the best part of the whole thing. Complete blissful unconsciousness with no distractions or pain. The operation took, well, I don’t know. I went in about noon, and when I half woke up in the recovery room I think it was about 4pm.
My eyes could barely stay open as nurses took various things off me, and one of them complimented my tattoo. I don’t remember getting back to the ward, but I did briefly wake up to speak to my ward mates.
My partner came to see me in the evening, but he only stayed about twenty minutes as I was still ridiculously out of it. I didn’t even try to fight the glorious anaesthesia and slept right through.
Monday (4th February)
Ah, sweet anaesthesia. How I miss you. I was given a morphine drip after surgery with a little clicker to give me a boost whenever I needed. In my experience, morphine wasn’t all that effective as a painkiller for me. Having said that, I was asleep for most of its usage, so what do I know?
On Monday morning I was still hooked up to the morphine drip. I had a visit from the physiotherapy team and managed a few steps with the aid of a walker. With surgery, the idea is to get the patient using the leg as quickly as possible. They certainly didn’t waste any time getting me up and about.
After my wobbly steps, I confirmed I neither wanted nor needed this stupid drip machine I had to drag around with me. The physio team said in that case they could expect to get me home the next day.
Everything at once
After that, I was desperate to go to the loo and get the ludicrous machine off me. I buzzed for a nurse, and exactly as she came along a pair of porters turned up to take me to x ray. Thankfully, I managed to persuade the nurse that being comfortable and getting rid of the machine were a priority. I then sailed away to x ray so they could check the position of the rodding.
Following my exciting trip back to the x ray department, I returned to the ward and was immediately informed that I’d be moving hospitals. Like, right away. Someone had mentioned it earlier in the morning, but they said they’d give plenty of notice.
I was trussed up an in the ambulance within about fifteen minutes. My belongings were dumped into hospital carrier bags, I covered myself with my coat, and off we went.
What to expect next?
I won’t lie, Monday was a shit day. The unexpected move was rushed. I didn’t want to move, but I’d been on an emergency ward and they needed the space. It left me exhausted, and I didn’t know what to expect next.
We got to the other hospital and was shown to my room – yes, I got a room to myself. You’d think I’d be thrilled, but I was lonely and no one came to see me to discuss what happened next. I didn’t see a doctor the whole time I was there.
I felt like crap, was barely eating, exhausted, constipated (yep), warm, and confused. A kind nurse got me a little food when I arrived and I managed a few mouthfuls of tea later on. Having my own room was kind of pointless as I couldn’t actually get to anything or have any independence. My parents came to see me, but I don’t think I was much company.
Tuesday (5th February)
Tuesday was probably the worst day of all, to be honest. I woke up early in a lot of pain because the drugs rounds weren’t as frequent as they could have been. I got some painkillers about 7am which took a while to kick in, but when they did, I started to feel a little better.
Waking up in pain was weird. I’d be shaking and restless as my body tried to deal with the adrenaline. The pain was uncomfortable, but the residual discomfort was worse in some ways.
A much-needed cry
It did give me an excuse to have a massive cry, though. I’d kept it together pretty well, but on Monday night and Tuesday morning I just cried. I was in pain, uncomfortable, alone, and exhausted. I needed to let it out, so I owe some perverse thanks to the slightly disorganised medicine rounds.
A very nice physiotherapist popped in during the morning and got me walking on crutches. Like I said, they don’t mess around. She left the crutches with me and I was able to get to the bathroom on my own. A small achievement, but it went some way towards making me feel better.
My parents came to see me on Tuesday afternoon, and I hadn’t had any painkillers since the morning so I was shaking and uncomfortable again. The physio came back, but I’d only just got my medicine so she gave me some time for it to kick in. Later, I was up and about on the crutches again, gaining more confidence. She left me with some exercises to do and said she’d recommend my discharge to the nursing team.
By this point, that was music to my ears. I perked up in the afternoon (although not enough to stomach any more hospital food) and tried to focus on getting home whilst simultaneously not getting my hopes up.
At one point, a nurse came in and asked if I’d seen a doctor after my x ray the previous day. I hadn’t. She couldn’t make sense of my notes and there was a brief but alarming moment where she said she thought the notes read that they wanted to put more pins in my ankle.
Dread crept over me – fuck that.I wanted to go home, not get sliced open again. Mercifully, they clarified whatever was up with my notes and eventually got the discharge procedure underway. This was late afternoon, and I didn’t leave until 8:30pm. My partner was there for evening visiting, and he called his parents who arrived to give me a lift home.
Not before, of course, I was handed a literal bin bag full of medicine. Painkillers, blood thinners, laxatives. Delightful. I was given a run-down of when to take everything and shown how to inject myself with the blood thinners.
I’d had the foresight to ask my partner to bring a couple of bags to lob my stuff in, but not to bring me any clothes. I was discharged wearing my nightie and a pair of hospital-issue pyjama bottoms. I looked amazing.
Getting home was overwhelming. It was chucking it down and I couldn’t get a shoe on my injured foot, so I had to hobble down the path and get my feet wet. We’d liberated a leg pillow from the hospital – we weren’t supposed to take it, but a nurse helped us secret it away. After waiting so long for pain relief, I think I deserved it.
I got settled in bed, and so began my home-based recovery and still-ongoing confinement to my own home.
All the rest
So, I’m home now and have been for nearly a week. I’m getting around okay on my crutches. The pain has dulled, the swelling has gone down, and my leg is more mobile.
I have some days where I’m pleased with my progress. Then I do something daft like try to stand one-legged at the sink and realise that without crutches I am completely incapable of bearing weight on my leg.
I can’t have a shower because I a) can’t get my dressings wet, and b) can’t stand up unaided. There’s a stool in the bathroom that my parents got me. I sit on it and have a wash from the sink (gorgeous, I know). If I want to wash my hair, in comes Florence Nightingale and I lean over the bath as he holds the shower head.
I could probably do with purchasing a hilarious-looking leg protector and bath seat for showering. At the moment, though, I honestly can’t be bothered. I can get clean without putting myself in danger, the rest can wait.
What’s the prognosis?
Well, I’m settling in for a pretty long haul of healing. It’s going to take at least three months for me to be independent again. This will include crutch use and regular physiotherapy. The bone needs to, I don’t know, do something disgusting like fuse to the metal rod that’s been driven through its core.
I have to get used to operating a leg full of metal rods and pins keeping my bones together. Of course, the muscles will atrophy from lack of use during my healing, so I’m not going to be running a marathon any time soon.
I haven’t managed to get outside on my crutches yet. I’m doing pretty well on them, but it’s still quite painful to bear weight. I also still don’t know if I can get a shoe on my foot. I’ve got an appointment at the fracture clinic this week, and physiotherapy next week.
It’s frustrating that my life feels even more on hold than it already once. To put it bluntly, it feels a little like shit after shit. I was starting to apply for part time jobs, but now there’s little point as I can’t go anywhere. Sometimes, I wonder if things are ‘meant’ to happen for a reason. Then I wonder, what possible reason is there for this? What am I supposed to learn? How is this, in the grand scheme, a good thing?
I’m trying to be positive, but it gets me down sometimes. I worry that my partner will get sick of looking after me. How will I earn money, how much longer do I need to sponge off my parents?
They’re big questions, and I can ignore them by focussing on smaller achievements like not falling over. I’ve fallen into the wall a couple of times, but nothing major.
An uphill journey
It’s going to be a long, uphill journey, but I suppose I’m used to that. I can’t get to therapy as it involves walking and getting a bus, but when I’m back on my feet I’ll get a taxi up. My therapist will be thrilled, I’m sure.
I didn’t expect a physical injury to pop up and set me back even further in my recovery. I’ve already mentioned how it’s been a bit of an eye-opener for me. I never worried about anything like this happening or tried to control it. It happened anyway, whether I’d worried about it or not. I can’t predict or control everything, and I hope that’s a lesson to me.
A word about the NHS
Although I’ve whinged a bit about feeling rushed, confused, and alone as well as tardy drugs rounds, I can’t express enough how grateful I am to the NHS. I spent six days in hospital getting regular pain relief, having my needs met, and getting emergency surgery to help my healing.
I was extremely lucky that in a busy city centre hospital I got to a ward within hours of my arrival. Kind, professional staff examined and treated me quickly and appropriately. At no point did anyone make me feel stupid for asking things. No one made me feel uncomfortable when faced with my hilarious lack of dignity.
The surgical team patched up my leg brillantly (I assume, I haven’t seen inside it). Granted, the wounds aren’t the neat, precise lines I’d imagined, but I expect they’re hard to maintain when you’re shoving big bits of metal into a bone.
The nurses have all been nothing short of amazing. Not just with me, but with the other patients I encountered. They work so hard and deal with a lot, particularly on a busy emergency ward.
To all the staff I encountered at the Royal and Broadgreen hospitals, thank you. You’ve fixed my errant bones, you kept me comfortable, kept my spirits up, and seamlessly dealt with different welfare requirements as though it was nothing.
No, the NHS is not perfect. That is not their fault, and it is certainly not the fault of those who work at the forefront of patient care. I have an enormous respect for the nurses and doctors working there, and thanks to them I have a newly-bionic leg that will cause me issues at airport security for the rest of my life. Thank you.
Most of them probably won’t read this, but I owe thanks to a lot of my friends and family. Mr Seeds, who was tirelessly present at every possible visiting session, even when I was moved to a hospital out of town. He looks after me at home, bringing me breakfast, helping me wash, doing the shopping.
My parents, who drove over from Yorkshire and stayed in a hotel so they could see me and look after me. They cleaned the flat when I got home, and bought me things to make my life a bit easier.
My best friends, one of whom drove from Lancashire to see me, the other from Leicestershire. Both brought gifts and food, and I’m extremely grateful. My sister and her husband who drove over just to see me for an hour.
The couple of companies I work with, who have been brilliantly understanding about my sudden disappearance.
Thank you everyone. My leg and I couldn’t have done it without you.