Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Joys of a Broken Ankle

n an earlier post, I briefly spoke about how I broke my ankle. I thought I would share with you a little bit more.

It was the fall of 2010 that Union Gas disconnected our gas for non-payment. You know it wasn't that we didn't want to pay our bills. Our finances were in bad shape because my husband's PTSD prevented him from working and his WSIB claim had not been approved yet. Such is the life while living on one income. 

In this part of the world we are lucky to get four very distinct seasons. Each season is a reason to change your whole wardrobe! What can I say, I like the variety.

Spring is cool and rainy. Summer is hot and sometimes really hot with the humidity. Autumn cools down again and we are gifted with the leaves changing colour. Winter means lots of snow and below zero temperatures that freeze your boogers and can damage your lungs if outside too long.

Fortunately the winter of 2010 was a mild one. We were able to get by with a couple of small electric heaters in the bedrooms. Our house used to be heated by electricity but then converted to gas by the previous owners so there were two electric heaters remaining. One is in the entrance hallway and the second heater is in the basement rec room.

The real problem was that the water heater ran on gas. Cold water is okay for washing clothes. Pots of water can be easily heated on the stove for washing dishes. Showers were another story unless you love extremely cold water beating down on you in the middle of the winter and turning you into an ice cube. I braved it. Hated it but I got clean. However I could not expect the same from a two year old. She loved bath time, it was part of her bedtime routine and she deserved warm water in the tub. So I would boil water in two pots at time and carry it a flight of stairs one at a time to poor the steaming liquid into the tub. 

Oh yah that was great fun. Two pots of hot water barely covered the bottom of the tub. I would have to make six or more trips up and down the stairs then add some cold water just to make it an inch deep.

On this particular evening, I placed an empty pot at the top of the stairs. I don't recall why but I walked into the bedroom then went back to the stairs. I leaned forward to pick the pot up, lost my balance and started to fall forwards. For a moment, a split second, I thought I was going to catch myself but then momentum grabbed me and propelled me forward head first down the stairs. I pictured my head hitting the floor at the bottom of the stairs snapping my neck and killing me or paralysing me for life. I then pictured my hands straight out but that meant broken arms. I quickly tucked and rolled. 

I felt my head hit a stair and my neck twist. My forearm  struck another step. I tumbled some more and my back hit the corner of the wooden step. Endlessly falling. Bang, bang bang. Finally. I landed on the hardwood floor at the bottom of the steps, laying on my back writhing in pain staring up at the stucco ceiling.

Oh the agony. Then wouldn't you know it, my sweet two year old honey bunny thought it would be so much fun to sit on Grandma's tummy and bounce up and down.

I heard the refrigerator door close so I looked up and back. My Husband was standing about two feet from my head looking down at me while eating a sandwich. His mouth was full and he asked if I was okay. All I could think was, can someone please get the baby.

At last my daughter Christina came running down the stairs. She was freaking out. She had been sitting on the edge of my bed when she saw me leaning forward then falling in slow motion. She immediately ran to the hallway to grab me but it wasn't like the movies where time slows down and the heroine leaps at lightning speed to the rescue. My daughter couldn't get to me on time so she felt guilty and scared. She was sure I was going to die.

Christina lifted her daughter up and yelled at her father, "of course she isn't all right." I could hear the panic in her voice.

I lay there for a moment then sighed realizing I was not going to get any help from my Husband. He already had the fridge door open again, this time pouring himself a glass of milk. 

I rolled over onto my stomach and slowly rose to my hands and knees. I closed my eyes debating what my next move should be. Everything hurt so much. I would normally put my right foot on the floor and raise myself up from there but my ankle was throbbing so I sorta turned and flopped my butt onto the bottom step to rest. 

I sucked it up. Pain? What's that? I managed to make it up the stairs and continued where I left from. I gave my granddaughter a bath. Read her three stories and put her to bed. 

As per my usual routine, I went down two flights of stairs, turned on the computer and checked my emails. 

It makes me laugh when I think about it now. I rested my forearm on the arm of the chair. I couldn't figure out why my arm was teetering there. I lifted my arm and looked at the chair. It looked normal so I rested my arm down again. What the heck? I looked at the chair again then it dawned on me. The chair was okay so . . . I looked at my arm. Holy cow! There was a huge lump on my arm. I mean it was huge. It looked like a golf ball was stuffed under the skin. Weird thing was it didn't hurt.

And my ankle? My gosh the pain was intense. I took a look at it. It was severely swollen and had become multi-coloured. Red, yellow, purple, blue. I could not walk on it any longer. Oh no. Maybe my ankle isn't just sprained. Maybe it is broken.

I decided to go to bed and get some sleep. I left a message for work saying that I would be in late as I was going to Hospital in the morning.

What a nice way to spend a Friday. I had breakfast then my Husband took me to the Hospital. You know how hospitals are. I was not an emergency. A Doctor eventually got around to examining me. He ordered x-rays on my ankle to confirm his diagnosis. He threw in some x-rays on my forearm for good measure. 

My ankle was definitely broken. I apparently caused more damage by walking and putting weight down on my right foot. The bones in my ankle were loose and had shifted. My arm was just swollen and bruised as was my knee, shoulder and back.

There was talk about surgery so I was not allowed to eat. I sat in a bed in the hallway waiting and waiting. At seven o'clock they said I could eat because the surgeon did not have time to work on my ankle that evening and it would have to wait til morning.

In the meantime, I was not given anything for the pain. Good thing I have a high tolerance or I would have been freaking out. The nurses actually thanked me for my patience. Most people would have given them a hard time. I  did feel anxious a few times but there was no use in taking it out on the nurses. It wasn't their fault I had to wait for an open space. I wasn't their fault I couldn't be given pain killers so why would I take it out on them?

Later that evening I was finally moved to intensive care in the emergency area. Beds lined the walls with curtains dividing us for privacy. Sound travels and not all the curtains were closed. So many people for very different reasons. 

Snoring came from the bed beside me. It was an elderly man who never got up once. Me on the other hand had to ring three times for assistance to the washroom. First time,  a very nice middle aged nurse responded. She was so helpful in guiding me to manoeuvre in such a way to not put weight on my ankle. The second nurse was also female. She was amazed how quickly I had adapted to not using my right  leg. Now the third nurse was a young male. How awkward is that? He had no clue and he was going to join me in the washroom until I told him I could manage on my own.

After a long restless sleep, the orderlies were making their rounds serving breakfast. I watched as each patient one by one received their meals. I didn't take my eyes off the cart. I was starving. Hey, where's my food? I'm hungry. No way! The orderlies were leaving and I had been given nothing. No fair.

The doctor told the nurses I would be going into surgery within the hour and so I was not allowed to eat. That hour came and went. Then another one. He is taking longer than expected in surgery but he would get to me before lunch. No I cannot eat.

Yeehaw!  Finally. Let's get this done! Here we go. Ah, the famaliar stroll down the hospital corridors. Lights on the ceiling going by. Zoom, zoom, zoom. Going up. Another hall then into the operating room. A bright white room. People moving around. Surgical instruments on a tray. The Anesthesiologist mumbling something softly to me. A nurse inserting an intravenous into a vein on the top of my right hand. Something injected into the IV. My eyelids fluttering. A strange feeling hits my brain and everything goes black.

Broken Ankle X-Ray
Broken Ankle
What feels like seconds later, I woke up shivering in the recovery room. Everything was blurry. I didn't have my glasses. I could hear someone talking near by so I called out. The nurse came over right away and asked if I was cold. Apparently general anesthesia causes the core body temperature to drop several degrees. I felt disorientated and groggy. I closed my eyes and nodded, my teeth chattering. It felt so good when she placed a hot blanket on top of me. Another one please. So nice. I felt myself drifting away. 

The nurse's voice brought me back. "Darlene, try to cough. You sound a little wheezy." I tried to cough then fell back to sleep. The nurse repeated herself. "Darlene, you sound wheezy. You need to cough. So I coughed.

At this point my memory gets a bit vague. I remember being taken up to a room. There were four beds but I was the only patient. The nurses must have come in to check me a couple of times and gave me a shot for the pain. The surgeon came in to see me. He was able to realign the bones in my ankle. I now had seven screws and a metal plate in my ankle which will stay in there for the rest of my life unless they cause a problem at which time they would be removed.

My Husband came to see me. He said that our granddaughter Faith was upset because I wasn't at home the previous night. This would be the first time I wasn't there for her at bedtime. I missed her too. I wanted to go home but I had to stay another night, this time for observation. Damn.

After another long restless night, Sunday finally came. I was anxious to get home. I was impatient. Once my Husband finally arrived I asked him to find the Doctor so we could get  the okay to be discharged. There was a quick examination by the Doctor and a brief lesson on using crutches by the Nurse. If there was a test, I must have passed and I was on my way home.

I had to be careful. A few thin bandages were wrapped around my ankle and part way up my calf leaving me feeling very vulnerable. 

I was instructed to not put any weight on my right foot and to keep it elevated. Sounded simple enough. It turned out to be a challenge. 

The simplest of tasks became a chore. For example, going to the washroom meant going up a flight of stairs. Sorry but I am not a spring chicken and not in the greatest shape. There was no way I could hop up the stairs even with the crutches. I had to crawl on my hands and knees. It was a painful process because my right knee and the palm on my left hand were bruised from the fall.  Even more difficult was getting off the floor once I was at the top of the stairs, get to the washroom, get my pants down and get my but onto the toilet. Then  came the chore of getting back down the stairs. I had to go on my bum with my right leg sticking straight out and using just my left leg to do all the work. It was exhausting.

As much as I wanted, I couldn't take the time to rest and heal. I was so tired and in so much pain but I knew I had to get to work. I had so much work that needed to be taken care of right away. On Sunday I called my boss to arrange going back to work on Monday.

This seems like a good place to stop for today. 

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