Lying in the hospital bed with my eyes still shut, I’m aware of the bustle around me. Machines are beeping as blood pressure is being monitored, nurses are dispensing medicines and I can hear the doors of the cabinet being locked. The curtain rings rattle as they are pulled back slightly from round my cubicle, and a nurse comes through.
“Good morning, how did you get on, quiet enough night?”
If you could call it that with all the beeping?
“Not bad thanks”
To be fair I’ve had worse nights in my own bed
“So, we are going to get you down to theatre shortly, you are first in line. It’ll be good to get it over and done with.”
Surprisingly I find myself agreeing, I’m eager to get this done. I’m not even scared.
“Someone will be along soon to take you down, if you can manage to put this on” as I’m handed a hospital gown. Suitably dressed, there’s nothing to do until I’m taken to theatre, but in fairness I don’t have to wait long.
An orderly swings by, introduces himself, and off we go, with me still in bed. We descend in the lift, in full bed knobs and broomsticks glory, resisting the urge to unleash my inner Angela Lansbury, I get wheeled out into the corridor; some nerves start to set in, but even so, there’s no panic, mostly I just want to get it over and done with.
To be honest I don’t remember much more, just a vague memory of bright lights before it ebbed into nothingness.
“Sonia, Sonia can you hear me? I need you to take a deep breath”
“Sonia, wake up. I need you to take a big deep breath for me, really big, and again, thats it, good girl.”
Shut up! Sleep
“Can you do another big breath? Thats it! Well, done, we were struggling to get your oxygen levels up but thats ok now. Bryan and your sister are outside waiting to see you, I’m going to take you through to them.”
I’m wheeled through and can see Bryan and Viv, I am very, very woozy.
What happened? Is someone dead? You two look awful, what’s wrong?
“That was worth the wait to see you Sis”
You are actually grey. There is no colour in your cheeks. You are worried about me. I’m fine!
“Good to see you too, have you been waiting longphff?” The end is cut off my sentence as I’m enveloped in a hug from Bryan.
“Love you” he whispers.
“Love you too”
“That was a big op. 51/2 hours. You totally fucked up your foot, but they are happy with how the operation went”
I’m too tired to process anything much. I’m just glad that Viv & Bry are here, and glad that they don’t have to worry now.
“Sis, I will have to head home soon, I’ll ring Mum & Dad, let them know I’ve seen you. Everybody sends their love, absolutely everybody.”
“Ok, Viv, thanks for coming over, love to everybody, mwah!”
“Hun, do you have to head off too or can you stay for a while?”
Bryan squeezes my hand. “No, I can stay for a bit, they are going to take you up to the ward – I’ll see you up there”
I must have nodded off again, because the next thing I remember is waking up on the ward, with Bryan beside me, sending a text.
“Oh, hello, you back with us then?”
Looks like it
I’m in the fracture ward, and from what I can see, all of my close neighbours are fairly elderly, I feel a bit sad for them, I’m still bloody minded enough to get past this… whatever ‘this’ is, but some of the patients around me look so frail that I doubt they will ever be home again.
I have neighbours on both sides of me and Annie on my right is in a bad way; she’s in her 90’s, with a broken hip and has no interest in taking water, it’s worrying the nurses and her family. Yes, I have a measured jug of water that I need to consume too, this isn’t a hardship, I’m parched after the op. Having a glass of water to quench my thirst is like trying to fill the moat of a sandcastle with a teaspoon.
“Did you hear any of what I said earlier? That they are pleased with how the op went?”
Something about my foot being fucked?
“Vaguely; you spoke to the surgeon?”
“They were working on you for hours, it was a really complicated procedure. Basically, if there was something that could be damaged in there, you totally buggered it.”
I like to do things right
Oh God, what have I done? Lets see; nope, I’m totally immobile from the hips down, oh and I have a catheter, nice.
This is where reality really begins to bite. The drama is over, the crisis past, now it’s just probably a long slow recovery. I can do very little for myself, I am bed bound, but at least I didn’t damage my arms or hands. The way I went down I could have so easily fractured my collar bone or wrist, that would have had me totally dependant. That nightmare would have been even more difficult to deal with.
The next 24/48 hours are a blur, I spent much of it sleeping or trying to deal with the pain. I was moved to a little room of my own, which although I appreciated it, at the time it also made me feel quite guilty too, and weepy. Bryan organised this and actually it made a big difference, I became really thankful.
I remember the boys coming to see me, and how subdued they were, not like themselves at all. I was so excited to see them, and hug them, but both were a bit standoffish. Knowing what a big shock this was to them should have tempered things, but it hurt terribly.
A few weeks later, mid cuddle, my youngest confided in me that he thought, when the ambulance took me away, I was going to die. This crucifies me inside, knowing how scared and uncertain he was. We are so close, he and I; I am his person and he is mine.
He has recently had a diagnosis of autism, and I’ve always been there, like scaffolding, aiding his communication. For everything to change so catastrophically and so quickly was a hell of a change for him to deal with, looking back now, I am enormously proud of how well he coped.
Day 3 after the operation was a big day in all sorts of ways. The boys were starting back to school and I was having a hard time dealing with not being there. Rather luckily, there would be quite a lot happening that day to take my mind off things.
I had a visitor first thing, my husband’s, cousin’s wife Laura, who is a nurse in the hospital complex but in a different building. Before her shift started she called in to say hello, and left me a huge bar of Galaxy, a colouring book and some pencils. The morphine I was on completely cut my appetite, so it would be some time before I got round to the chocolate, (I got there eventually and enjoyed every last morsel) the colouring book was inspired. I had no concentration to read, this was something that I could pick up and do as much or as little as I liked, with no plot to follow, or lose. Perfect.
As if that wasn’t enough, she suggested that she come back later and wash my hair. When nurses are described as angels, its for times like these. I didn’t realise until she said it, just how much I would dearly like that. By this stage my hair was like a helmet and the idea of having it washed just seemed like heaven. However, for now, Laura had to get to her shift, and I was due back in the fracture clinic.
I needed new X rays, my wounds were to be checked, and a fresh cast put on.
Here I met the lovely Emma, who put fresh dressings on the wounds, sorted out my casts and introduced me to fracture couture. I was getting new shoes, for over the casts.
Let me be frank; in the world of shoes, if Christian Louboutin was at one end of the scale, then these are at the other. They looked like they could possibly have been made from old tyres, and were designed so that you could wear them on either foot… meaning that they didn’t feel right on either. And that was with a cast on!
I looked at Emma, she looked back.
“You’ll rock them, everyone will be jealous.”
I won’t hold my breath.
Tempting as it is to chat and hold Emma back from a queue of patients at various stages of recovery, I am whisked back up to my room where the physiotherapists are waiting for me. Today is my day to get up on my feet. Well, foot. It’s important that I don’t put any weight on metal leg just yet.
Rachel, and her assistant, help me to sit up with my legs over the side of the bed. Ridiculously I find this to be an effort in itself. But we aren’t done yet. Not by a long shot. I’ve to use a zimmer frame to get myself to a standing position (so easy to write, yet so much effort at the time). Once upright, I am introduced to a piece of equipment that will become the bane of my existence. The hated, ‘High Rollator’.
If you are familiar with rugby, this contraption is like a scrum machine on stilts.
Imagine, if you will, (from the ground up) an H bar on castors. from this two upright poles arise that come up to chest height. At this point there is a padded horseshoe that comes round your chest at shoulder height with two upright handles for you grip onto.
The idea is that holding the handles for support, you push off with your good leg and glide.
This is utter bollox!
It also assumes that you have a good leg to push off. I do not have a ‘good’ leg, I have a broken leg and a mangled one, now full of titanium.
All I can think about is Pete & Dud in the “One Legged Tarzan” sketch
I look at this thing, I don’t trust it but Rachel is having none of it.
“Ok, I think that is it adjusted for the your height now, it looks right. If you just push off and hop…”
Are you mad in the head? You want me to hop in a cast? What if it splits? What if I fall over again?
Stress sweat is oozing out of every pore
I am terrified.
I am taking nearly all of my (substantial) weight in my puny arms, and they are now shuddering under the pressure. I can’t do it. I have to sit down.
“That’s ok, we made a good start, you got upright and that is a big achievement, we weren’t sure you would be able, we can work on this. What do you think stopped you from hopping”
Oh I don’t know, common sense maybe?
A distinct lack of a death wish
A clear memory of falling recently and no desire for an encore?
“The cast doesn’t feel stable, it feels like it’s giving a bit under my foot even when I stand. I’m scared if I hop it will split when I land. I feel like I need more support round the leg”
As it turns out, this is an acceptable answer, and one with a possible solution.
“We will get you a boot to try on, see if that makes any difference. If there is enough time we will call back today, otherwise we’ll give another go tomorrow. That was a good effort.”
I am exhausted, and accept help swinging the casts back onto the bed.
Sometimes I get so tired, I cant sleep. So I just lay there, exhausted, I was still like this when Bryan rocked up at Lunchtime, just in time to witness hospital Mac & Cheese.
Seriously, you could develop anaemia just by looking at it.
I did try to eat it, I managed some, but to be fair my appetite was none existent, even the chocolate mountain that was building held no appeal, Morphine was doing it’s thing, and for once, food just wasn’t featuring on my agenda. Luckily, I’m not short on reserves, as long as I had water, I could probably go for some time without food, before things would turn critical.
On the plus side, this gave me the inspiration for running a poll on Facebook regarding the choice of hospital food, I’d attempt to eat the pollers choice. That kept me entertained for a while, though in retrospect, I should also have polled what made people cringe more, the fracture pics or food choices.
I’m just contemplating a nice post pasta snooze, when Rachel returns with a moon boot.
“Lets see if this works,” she says undoing half a mile of velcro taping.
Not like Cinderella in the slightest, I slip my clodhopping cast into the even clumpier moon boot.
Now we’re sucking diesel!
“Yep that feels a lot better, there is much more support around the leg.”
Rachel swings the high rollator into position and I haul myself up. There is a technique to getting up that I have to learn. No more just getting up when I feel like it without thinking about it. Everything requires effort and thought.
I’m in position. The high rollator is in front of me and I have a death grip on the handles. I can feel a trickle on the back of my neck and another in the small of my back. My gaze is fixed on a spot just in front, and Rachel is by my side. There is no talk.
The high rollator wobbles, I have no balance, I’m going down taking this bloody contraption with me, but Rachel catches me at the side, amazingly I’m still upright, sort of in a precarious ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ kind of way
Those trickles are now a raging torrent, and my pulse is thumping in my temples..
“Good, now again.”
No! I can’t, it’s too early, I’m not ready for this, I’ll fall! If I fall I will never walk again!
“Hang on, I need my breath back”.
This thing isn’t safe! It won’t hold me
I take a second hop, the wheels of the rollator carry a bit further this time and again I struggle to control it. The damn thing wants to go in a different direction to where I’m traveling. The wobble forces me to put metal leg down for balance and a streak of electricity screams up through my toes, my hip and into my back.
A final hop towards the wall.
“Excellent”, says Rachel, “take a breather now.” as she and her assistant hold me under the arms, supporting me.
All I can do is breathe, one breath at a time, one after another. I have put so much effort in that at first I can’t even think. This bonus is short lived though, because very soon I realise I have a problem. Those three hops exhausted me, and I did them when I was well rested. I am now three hops away from my bed, but completely done in.
My inner voice is now in meltdown, and it must have shown on my face. Rachel puts a hand on my back. She has realised what I am thinking.
“It’s ok, we will get you there, just take your time. There is no rush, you are doing amazing!”
I’m hopping on a broken fucking leg! This is ludicrous! What asshole thought that this was a good idea?
Breaths are becoming minutely less laboured, and I notice my top clinging to my skin. The safety of the bed is still ahead, tantalisingly just out of reach. Up until now I wouldn’t have given this a second thought. Two very ordinary steps, nothing ordinary now.
My grip tightens around the bastard grips of the rollator, and I set my sights on the next hop. Too far and I won’t have control of it, not far enough and I’ll have to do another hop. I need to judge this just right.
I am getting towards the absolute edge of my physical limit, but I am desperate to get to the bed.
I can’t help it. I hate myself for it but there are tears rolling down my cheeks.
I can’t hold it, my arms give way and Rachel & Co rush to catch me again, easing me onto my bed.
Six hops. Six hops and you would think I had run a marathon. My clothes are stuck to me, my face is purple streaked by tears and sweat and I am truly exhausted.
Rachel is talking to me, I think that it is words of encouragement but I can’t hear her. I am overwhelmed by what I have just done. Exhausted and emotional, as soon as they leave my room I bawl my eyes out. That was so hard.
The rest of the afternoon passes calmly till Bryan turns up with the boys. I am glad to see them and gratefully receive a hug from them all, but I’m so tired I don’t have a lot of chat, preferring to listen to how they got on with their first day back and gossip from the playground pick up.
There are schoolbags to sort and packed lunches to make so eventually its time for Bry and the boys to head on. To take my mind off everything I get my pencils out and start a bit of colouring in, picking a floral patten a bit like a mandala. It’s just the thing to calm my mind after the days events and I loose myself a little in colour and shape.
There is a knock at the door. Laura pops her head around and comes in, complete with plastic apron, a basin and everything else she might need. This is a woman with a plan, and I am only to happy to comply since it doesn’t even involve getting out of bed.
The bed is lowered flat, and I caterpillar crawl up to the top with my head dangling over the edge, it feels precarious, but unlike earlier, there is a thrill with this, it almost feels elicit and I am exhilarated. Using a jug Laura pours warm water over my hair and it feels glorious as it runs through to the basin below. Then comes the luxury of the shampoo being massaged through the hair and over my scalp, it was phenomenal. I could go to the top hairdresser in the country, and I guarantee I will never feel as good as I did in that moment.
I will always be so grateful for this act of generosity. It’s not lost on me that Laura has worked a full shift, and has family of her own to get back to, yet after a day of caring for other people, she has made time for me too.
So many of my friends and family have pulled together to help.Bryan has been amazing, and helped me through. My sister has been every day, I’ve had many other visitors, people have engaged with me though the days on Facebook, Laura has washed my hair and Heather made a (fabulous) meal for Bryan & the boys to eat. Before this is over I will be indebted to many more, some I don’t even know yet