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Break A Leg

I was heading off to work on Mother’s day this year when, for the third time since we moved to this house with its lethally steep driveway, I slipped coming down the slope to get around the back of my car.

The first time I did this there were no consequences.  I got a fright and swore a bit but no damage was done so I carried on and forgot about it.

The second time I did it I thought I might have sprained my ankle but the pain passed fairly quickly and I made a mental note to be more careful.  For quite a while after that I actually was more careful but, in time, I forgot again.

This time my luck had run out.  I broke the bones of my left ankle in three places and had to be taken to hospital.

I’ve never broken a bone before so I had no idea what to expect apart from what everyone knows – broken bones take six to eight weeks to heal.

At the hospital they told me I needed surgery to put the bones back together but they would not operate until the swelling went down so there would be loose skin to close the wound with.

They put the ankle in a cast and told me I would have to stay in bed with the leg elevated for several days while we waited for the swelling to go down.

I freaked out!

I hate hospitals!  Some of my most painful memories are triggered by hospital surroundings and procedures and, worst of all, they are no smoking zones.

I was certain I could not handle going without smokes.  Just thinking of being without them sent me into a panic!  Being confined to bed would mean no smoking so, against doctors orders, I signed myself out of hospital and went home to wait for the swelling to go down.

They gave me a walker and a pair of crutches but I wouldn’t hang around long enough to be given instructions or to practice using them.  I wanted out and I threatened to call a taxi if my son wouldn’t take me home so, upset and angry, he took me home.

The first thing I regretted was not waiting to learn how to use the crutches properly because, on the way up the stairs to the front door, I stumbled and fell badly bruising my left armpit.

The pain of the injured armpit meant I had no hope of using the crutches to help me get up the stairs we have inside the house so I crawled up those on my hands and knees.

I spent three days at home hopping from room to room and using up every ounce of strength I had until, utterly exhausted and in a lot of pain from bruised and abused muscles, I stopped leaving my bed except to go to the toilet.

By the end of the third day it was a massive struggle even to do that and I had begun to long for a nurse and a bedpan.  At that point I admitted defeat and had my son take me back to hospital.

I was ready for it this time.  I took books and music to combat the bad memories and nicotine gum to combat withdrawal and I flicked the switch in my mind over onto the “Endure” setting to combat the loss of independence and all the indignities hospitals inflict on one.

For three days I coped, or cried silently behind closed curtains, with bedpans and injections and blood taking and other people in pain and the memories of other hospital stays.

Memories of giving birth to babies whose fathers were not around to welcome them into the world and whose birth was considered an act to be ashamed of.

Memories of the baby whose life I sacrificed to abortion then desperately tried to undo the deed by refusing to believe the abortion had worked.

Memories of being helpless in the hands of callous, indifferent, incompetent, domineering, cruel or contemptuous hospital staff like the doctor who angrily insisted I was having a miscarriage despite my repeated assurances I had not had sex since giving birth to my daughter and could not, therefore, be pregnant.

Now I was making new memories to add to the collection of things I want to forget!  This time they were memories of shame.

When the bedpan was positioned wrongly and I flooded the bed with urine, when I had no choice but to defecate into a bedpan while the room was filled with other patients and their visitors and they were engulfed by the stench, when I couldn’t stop crying and people were trying in vain to help me I was filled with shame so unbearable I locked it away in a little corner of my mind where it is still tender to the touch.

I survived because I was prepared for awful things to happen.  I spent a lot of hours hiding away in music or books and chewing nicotine gum but I made it into the operating theatre and through the physiotherapy lessons on how to use crutches and I came home.

I came home with a special boot in place of a cast, a pair of crutches, a walker, a toilet seat to position over the existing one and a shower chair.  The first thing I did then was hire a wheelchair.

For the next six weeks I hopped or wheeled myself around and discovered the true meaning of the word “frustration”.

Frustration is when you have spent ten minutes getting yourself into the right position to make yourself some toast only to find the toaster is out of reach!

Frustration is spending ten minutes getting yourself into the right position to make some toast only to find you forgot to get the butter out of the fridge first!

Frustration is spending ten minutes to do something you should be able to do in ten seconds!

Seven weeks and two days after I broke my ankle I went back to the hospital for X-Rays and was given permission to start using my broken ankle again.

For seven weeks and two days I had marveled at how little pain there was considering bones were broken.  Nobody told me the real pain begins after the bones have begun to knit and you start to put weight on them.

The doctor said to stand on the broken ankle but I couldn’t put any weight at all on it because it hurt too much.  He told me I would need to keep wearing the special boot for four weeks to protect the ankle from side movements that could interfere with the healing process.

He referred me to a physiotherapist who gave me some exercises to do to speed up the healing.  I accepted a second appointment even though I was sure I wouldn’t need it.

A week later I went back and he massaged the ankle giving me some relief from the throbbing ache that using the ankle was causing.

Every week since then he has given me new exercises to do and the throbbing ache has continued to haunt me especially when I overdo things by staying on my feet too long.

After four weeks I was released from the boot and I went mad with the heady scent of freedom.  I went grocery shopping and clothes shopping and out to dinner and off to the pokies and very soon it became obvious I had overdone things.

The ankle swelled up and started throbbing and aching and sending shooting pains to the point where I thought I might have injured it again.  Resting it didn’t help much and exercises made it hurt more so I was forced to pull back and remain in invalid mode to some degree for a while longer.

Each time I see the physio he gives me new exercises designed to strengthen additional parts of the foot, ankle and calf and the pain shifts and changes focus to the new area but the swelling, throbbing and aching ranges from not noticeable to unbearable and back depending, mostly, on how much I rest and elevate the leg.

This week I have to practice putting weight on the front part of my foot.  I’m supposed to work towards being able to stand up on my toes using just the injured leg.

This seems to be irritating new portions of my ankle, foot and even the leg itself but the good news is I can feel the strength growing so it’s just a matter of time before I’ll be back to normal.

Last week I asked the physiotherapist how much time it will take to be fully recovered from the broken bones.

He said it takes six to eight weeks for a broken bone to START healing and another six to eight weeks for the healing bone to start to HARDEN.  Complete healing can take up to a year and a half!

He said things move faster with bones that don’t have to bear weight such as a rib or arm bone but, for me and my broken ankle bone, he thinks it will take about six MONTHS from the time it was broken to the point where I will START to feel like it is getting back to normal.

That means it will be November before my ankle begins to feel normal again and that is only going to be the case if the metal screws and plate they put in don’t give me any trouble.

If all the hardware does cause me problems I will have to put up with it for another six months after that because they will not remove the screws and plate until at least a year after they were put in.

I feel so ripped off!

All my life I have heard it takes only six to eight weeks to heal a broken bone and I feel cheated, lied to and in need of someone to thump!

I have become a target for bad jokes since I broke the ankle and now it looks like I will be a target for months to come.

People regularly offer to help me get down from high places, including  stairs, by pushing me and everyone calls me Hoppy these days!  I’d be hopping mad about it if I didn’t have such a good sense of humour hehehe

The good news is my stay in hospital has shown me I am not as helpless in the grip of my nicotine addiction as I have always believed.

I went five days without a cigarette and it was nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be.  I know now I really can give up smoking if I ever reach a point where I want to.

All I really need is the desire to quit but I don’t have that.

Not yet anyway but I keep thinking about that machine they put on my finger in hospital to monitor the oxygen level in my blood.

It shows up red if the level is 88 which mine got down to once and they told me if it goes red they have to put an oxygen mask on you.  My normal level, when I got to hospital, was 93 which they said was not good.  Normal levels are supposed to be at or around the 100 mark.

After just five days without smoking my normal level had risen to 98 and, if a took a couple of good deep breaths, I could get it up to 99.

Makes you think that’s for sure.

For those of you who might have been wondering where I have been lately, I’ve been too busy feeling sorry for myself to write.

I would like to end this entry by begging anyone who ever wants to wish me good luck now or in the future to please never say “Break a leg” to me.

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