Trying To Cope

It’s been almost three weeks since “The Incident” and almost two weeks back at home. Managing has been harder than I imagined. The effort to get around the house on crutches and especially up and downstairs makes me wonder how people who are older or more infirm than I, manage. I’m lucky in that this house has a stair-lift which was installed for my mother, as well as various hand-rails to assist with getting in and out of the house and into and out of the bath. What I have discovered is that the hand-rails are in the wrong place. Fine if you are a south-paw, not for right-handers like my mother and I. Another issue arose with the uPVC doors, which have a raised lip on the lintle, so I can’t just hop straight in or out, but have to balance precariously on the lip before making a second hop. After a while I discovered that if I placed a stool in the doorway I could sit on it and rotate myself so that my legs were hanging out (or in), then it was a matter of just standing up.

I’ve taken to wearing a small rucksack, so that I can carry small items around the house; I use a thermos flask to take hot drinks upstairs, and I’m getting very very good at balancing on one leg. In the kitchen, if I position a stool in the right place I can get stuff out of the refrigerator and into the microwave, use the sink and kettle without too much effort. The problems arise when I have to delve deeply into the low-level cupboards.

Everything seems to take so much longer and requires much more effort. Just taking a shower becomes a tiresome logistical exercise, and at the end of it I need to lie down for a snooze. Keeping my leg elevated has been a problematic exercise and has led to some unexpected issues. I had been getting terrible pains in my shoulders, achy rheumatic pains which I initially put down to the duvet slipping off my shoulders in the night owing to the elevated leg. Tried analgesics, muscle-warming sprays, microwavable heat-pads and TENS all to no effect. Then one afternoon, lying down for a siesta, I lay on the bed, perfectly flat, no pillows under the leg and almost immediately things were much better. So that’s my dilemma, ignore the advice and be comfortable or suffer. I’m going for comfort.

Gave up on self-injecting Fragmin (supposed to prevent post-operative blood clots) as it was just too much of a mind-bender. I don’t do needles at the best of times and being expected to self-inject with no training or preparation was too much. My Sister (herself a senior nurse at a leading London Hospital) has advised me to write a letter of complaint about my treatment to the Director of Nursing.

I have an out-patients appointment on Friday, for which they are supposed to provide transport. I’m hoping that the cast will come off and I’ll get an ankle brace or boot and be allowed to do some light load-bearing, but I’m not sure that the NHS goes for such “progressive” treatment. There’s a whole lot of pottering around in the garden I want to do. I could ask someone to come and do it, but well, it’s my garden and I want to do it myself, my way.

Right, that’s enough moaning for one day, must be time for another snooze.

~ by @mmonyte on November 18, 2009.

2 Responses to “Trying To Cope”

  1. I broke my right ankle back in 1996 at the age of 40 (a few years younger than you I suspect) when I was living in Munich and had some of the issues you had.

    Like you I had pins (7 rather than 6) and a plate at the end of my fibula to hold it together while it healed. I discharged myself from hospital after 4 days because I reckoned home would be much better than sharing a hospital room with someone with a broken back who had to have a nurse come and put a bedpan under his arse and leave him for half an hour when he needed a shit. I didn’t tell them I lived on the 5th floor with no lift. My wife picked me and my crutches up from hospital and drove us home. As a youngster I was a right-legged triple jumper. Unfortunately it was my right ankle that I broke, still my left leg is pretty strong and hopping about wan’t too bad. The first time up the stairs was hell. I had to stop and pant just about every flight. By the end of the 6 weeks I had the plaster on I could almost make it up to the 5th floor without stopping – just the one stop a couple of flights before the top.

    Being a freelancer I had 2 days at home before heading back into work. My wife drove me in the morning after the rush hour had died down a bit and my boss (a dour, tough Aussie from Melbourne with a heart of gold) drove me back in the evening. My boss also had no problem with me sitting at my desk with my leg on the desk next to my monitor. Like you I also had anti-coagulent to self-inject but decided that since I would be doing a lot of hopping round the flat and would be hopping up and down 10 flights of stairs once a day my blood wouldn’t get much chance to pool and coagulate. I didn’t even bother with the first injection.

    The one issue I had was that when they opened the plaster after 2 weeks to remove the stitches there had been some pooling of blood inside the plaster from where I may have overdone the exertion but fortunately no infection (just a bit of a smell). They replaced it with a partially cut plaster which allowed more air to circulate. What I did not get and which you should maybe ask for is a plastic cast rather than plaster-of-paris. I was told this later by people with more expensive health insurance. It makes washing much easier, is much lighter and generally makes life easier and better.

    On the subject of showering, from my first full day in hospital I was nudged to shower by the nurses. They helped me to the shower and helped me put a big plastic bag over the plaster sealed with copious amounts of sticky tape / gaffer tape (it’s worth shaving that area of your leg first!). I then sat on a plastic chair under the shower. At home I followed the same regime or had a bath with the plaster in plastic bag hanging out of the bath.

    Three weeks into my recovery my Munich contract finished and I moved to Nijmegen in Holland for my next contract. Three weeks later I had the plaster off in Holland and was rather surprised when they told me that I could resume full activity immediately but should perhaps go easy on the tackling if I was a soccer player! Initially I limited myself to cycling and swimming before going back to running after another month.

    That was a 6 month contract and so I was in Paris on another contract when I had the pins removed a year after the initial accident. Having the pins out is optional but highly recommended (at least by me). It is a fairly straightforward process. You go in, have an epidural before a short operation to remove the bits of metal. They didn’t use stitches to close the wound but instead seemed to staple the skin together. I was told to take it is easy for a week or two (cycling, swimming OK, but no running) to avoid having the skin split open again. Removing the staples (a week or so later, I don’t remember exactly when) was a rather brutal process. They sprayed the area with a cold spray to numb it and then basically used the medical equivalent of staple removers. That was about the most painful part of the whole proceedings.

  2. Thanks for that Brian. Not too many years younger than me actually šŸ˜‰ Funnily enough I also used to be a triple jumper with a right-leg take off. They did use a plastic cast, but I didn’t get a choice of colours – apparently there are many to choose from. I have a slightly more high-tech approach to showering protection – a specialist bag from http://www.limboproducts.co.uk with a neoprene band to close it at the knee. I think I’d like the pins out in case it makes wearing Hiking Boots uncomfortable, but I’m not sure about the epidural, I’d want the full KO.

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