Home is where you feel comfortable, where you can relax with all the familiar things around you. Waking up on Saturday May 26th I realised I might be home but my daily routine was going to be completely different. True I was no longer in hospital being woken up at 5.30 am but I was now sleeping in the spare room because I needed the whole of the bed in order to sleep with my new best friend, my plaster. Thankfully I’d now rewired my brain so that it favoured my left leg instead of my right. There was no way I was going to forget and accidentally put weight on it and end up back in hospital.
My husband organised my breakfast and laid out clothes for me. The walking frame enabled me to get to the bathroom and then he helped me into the chair where I sat at the basin to brush teeth and wash. I could then slip from that onto my good leg and balance on the walker again to get back to the bedroom to dry my hair and dress. I stayed upstairs until lunch time reading or working on the computer. I then bumped my way downstairs on my backside and the walker was transferred to the hallway so I could pick it up when I reached the bottom. All the cooking and housework (apart from the ironing which I managed sitting down) became the responsibility of my husband and I have to say he was absolutely brilliant. Having lived on his own he could cook, which was a blessing – and he is incredibly organised. After lunch I’d stay in the lounge and watch TV or read. I also had a steady stream of visitors and so many flowers! It was to prove a very frustrating time though because I like to be active. I like to go out and with your right leg in plaster and supported by a walker, what you can do is incredibly limited. I had to cancel a hair appointment, the dentist and I also missed out on a friend’s milestone birthday lunch. My own milestone birthday had attracted a lot of invites from girlfriends wanting to take me out. All of these had to be put on hold. Our weekly trip to the pub also had to be postponed for the time being. Luckily my sister had, through a neighbour clearing out their father’s house, managed to get hold of a wheelchair. It was an absolute godsend as it not only became useful for the hospital visits to come, it opened the door into that outside world; a place where I could enjoy a meal and a glass of wine!
Eleven days after the op I had my first appointment at the fracture clinic to have my stitches out and another x-ray. The consultant seemed pleased with the result and I was sent off to the plaster room for plaster No 4. I had to keep this on for five weeks to give the ankle time to heal. As you’re all aware we’ve had a scorching summer this year and having your leg stuck in a plaster is no joke when the temperature soars. By the time the five weeks was up I couldn’t wait to get rid of this uncomfortable, heavy wrapping around my leg. During that time nothing much much progressed around my mobility. We were getting out for meals, friends were calling round but I was generally housebound. However, on my next clinic visit I had been told if all was well I’d be fitted with an orthopaedic boot which would enable me to put weight on the ankle and walk. For me that day couldn’t come quickly enough. I’d seen these boots and in my mind I thought this would be the beginning of normality – unfortunately not. It was merely the next step of the journey.
I take a size 3 (35) in shoes. The boot was labelled ‘small’ but believe me, it was enormous. I called it my Darth Vadar boot because it looked like something out of Star Wars. It was heavy and because of the depth of the sole and the support for the foot there was no way I could walk upright. My first tentative steps up and down the clinic were quite painful but gradually got better as I progressed with it.
On the positive side I managed to wean myself off the walker and use a walking stick which made me much more mobile. I also managed to get to another birthday lunch, hobbling into the restaurant, trying to reduce the black unattractiveness of this boot with a summer dress and failing miserably. Again this was through a period of hot weather and the boot was so uncomfortable that whenever we went anywhere – pub, restaurant or a friend’s house, I would release all the Velcro strips and allow my leg access to fresh air.
When the boot was fitted I was advised there would also be physio sessions. Hearing nothing after a week I chased up appointments only to discover they had mislaid my application. However, this was soon rectified and when I began those sessions that was the moment I knew I was on the way to getting back to normal The exercises gradually began to make changes, to loosen joints which had not only spent six weeks without any movement but had also been the subject of quite a serious operation. Two sessions in I abandoned the boot. I found a pair of sandals which fitted both feet, began to take daily walks (with the aid of the walking stick), and could walk up and downstairs (very carefully I might add!). Four sessions in and I’ve taken back responsibility for the cooking and absolute bliss! can get into the bath to take a shower. It’s a gradual thing, each day brings changes, something I can do that I couldn’t do, say, a week ago. Currently I have six different exercises which I have to repeat four times a day. I’m under no illusions that this is going to be a quick fix, but you can see the difference. My foot, which was quite swollen when I was fitted with the boot, is almost back to normal size. My skin has stopped flaking – yes, even with the daily application of body lotion that’s one of the side effects of having your foot and leg sealed in plaster for six weeks. I’m continuing to use body lotion on the scarred areas to make the skin more supple and I also use Bio Oil which helps minimise scarring. My right leg will probably never be the same – I’ve a 2 inch scar over my inner ankle bone and a 5 inch over the outer one. There are aches and pains occasionally but this is to be expected and will probably go on for a long time, if not indefinitely. I’m still using the stick but more for balance than anything else and once I get going I don’t really need it. I promised my physio that when I next see her I will come without it!
So that’s it, not quite the end but well on my way to getting my full mobility back. No marathons planned or moments dancing in stilettos…and in future I’ll be very careful about where I put my feet. Of course, walking is only half the story, now it’s all about increasing the distance I can walk. Again this is something that will take time and determination to bring about. A friend of ours who had a knee op two years ago said it took him a whole year to get back to normal. At least with this time frame I have realistic expectations.
I would like to end this story of my journey out of the land of broken bones by saying that all through my hospital stay and outpatients visits I received the most amazing care. The NHS is a wonderful organisation filled with dedicated people who not only give you outstanding clinical support, but also make you laugh and keep your spirits up. Another thing is that treatment is free at the point of delivery. In other words my stay in hospital, the op, the ambulance trip home after discharge, the outpatient clinics and physio didn’t cost me a penny. The NHS isn’t perfect but as Brits I think we should be really thankful it’s there for us.