Well, I’ve never heard a wounded badger, but that’s what one of my neighbours told me I sounded like.
It was a week ago yesterday, Friday 8 January, just after 08:30. I’d just finished my breakfast and saw there were a few items of rubbish to add to the recycling bin that was already outside the house waiting for the bin men later in the morning. So I took them out.
We’d had a frost overnight, and I could see the frosted roofs. What I didn’t see was the black ice on the pavement. And the next thing I knew I was on my back, looking up at the sky, and screaming at the top of my lungs. From the intensity of the pain in my right foot I knew something wasn’t quite right.
I had waved to our neighbour Pat across the road who was working at her kitchen sink, but she apparently didn’t see me go base over apex. So it must have been a minute or so before she saw me on the pavement and came out to investigate. By then, my next door neighbour Kath and her daughter Sophie were on the scene. As my wife Steph has a hearing problem, she hadn’t heard the racket I was making, and had to be fetched—utterly bewildered. But ever the committed blogger that I am, I asked her to quickly fetch the camera and record the goings-on for posterity!
Now Kath is a theatre sister at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, and Sophie has just finished her nursing training. They were great, fetching blankets from the house to keep me warm, and contacting the emergency services for an ambulance.
An ambulance arrived after about five minutes, and it very quickly became clear that I would need a trip to Accident and Emergency (A&E) at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, just under nine miles away. Little did I expect the further drama that would ensue.
The two young ambulance technicians quickly had me inhaling laughing gas (nitrous oxide, N2O) while they removed my slipper and sock. From the odd angle of my foot it was clear there was a dislocation. But what other damage had I done?
A second ambulance was called, because the crew of the first were not licensed to administer morphine. And, in any case, they jokingly said I was too heavy to lift off the ground. The second ambulance with two male crew quickly arrived, and before I knew it I was lifted into the ambulance, a number of ‘vital signs’ checks accomplished, accompanied by liberal puffs of laughing gas, and we were headed to the Alex.
On arrival at A&E I was immediately wheeled into a bay and attended to. I knew that my ankle was dislocated. I didn’t realise then that there was also a fracture. But before they could do anything else, they had to get my foot straight. And this is what I’d been dreading. One of the nurses showed me how to inhale the laughing gas for optimum effect, taking deep breaths and holding the gas in my lungs. As they could see it taking effect, and on my third deep breath, one of the doctors took hold of my foot, and swiftly jerked it back into alignment. They then proceeded to wrap my foot, ankle and leg in plaster. Pain? It certainly brought a tear to my eye. Then, with a cannula inserted into my wrist, they gave me a strong dose of morphine and things seemed to settle down. I was sent to X-ray twice, and by about 2 pm a bed had become available on Ward 17 (Trauma and Orthopaedic).
The Mark of Zorro
Funnily, one of the first things they did in A&E was to draw a large arrow on my right leg, just above the knee, in permanent ink, just so everyone knew exactly which side had been injured. And although I knew I’d fractured the fibula, what I had not expected was an operation to sort this out.
I’d last eaten and had something to drink just before 08:30, so I was kept on a fast—NBM (Nil By Mouth) for the rest of the day, with the expectation I would go to theatre later on Friday. By 9 pm it was clear that my operation would not take place, so I was permitted a cup of tea and something to eat. Tuna mayo sandwiches have never tasted so delicious! However, I went back on to NBM at midnight so I could go to theatre early on Saturday.
My operation was continually delayed throughout Saturday because other higher priority patients had been admitted for emergency treatment. Anyway, my turn came around just after 8 pm. By then I was climbing the wall I was so thirsty and hungry. I was back on the ward just after midnight, operation apparently successful. The surgeon inserted a 10 hole steel plate to repair the fractured fibula, and also tied together the tibia and fibula low down where I’d damaged all those ligaments, to provide additional strength. My leg is in another heavy cast.
And so it will remain until I return next Tuesday to the fracture clinic at the Alex when I hope to have this plaster cast replaced by a ‘boot’ that will be lighter and very strong. The consultant has to remove the plaster cast in any case as he needs to observe how well my incision is healing, on both sides of my leg.
I came out of hospital on Monday afternoon, and have been getting around the house with the aid of a Zimmer frame. It’s not easy and you don’t realise just how much you rely on two fully functioning limbs to accomplish even the simplest of tasks. Fortunately we have a large three-seater leather sofa (that we purchased in Costa Rica in 1976) that is comfortable to sleep on, and with a duvet wrapped round me, and with my usual pillows, I’m as ‘snug as a bug’ each night. We have a downstairs toilet and wash basin, and the dining room/kitchen is just a few hops away. So I’m all set here on the ground floor, not exactly waited on hand and foot by Steph, but she is looking after me very nicely, thank you.
I’ll be like this for the next six weeks at a minimum, and the surgeon already told me it could be as long as 12 weeks before I’m signed off. There’s going to be many weeks of physiotherapy once I’m able to put some weight on my ankle. Hopefully it will be possible to arrange physiotherapy appointments at our local Princess of Wales Community Hospital here in Bromsgrove rather than having to travel each time to the Alex.
And talking of the Alex, let me get a couple of things off my chest that came to mind as I was lying there on Ward 17.
The Alex is part of the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (along with hospitals in Worcester and Kidderminster). It’s fair to say that in the past couple of years, the Alex has been in and out of the news, for all the wrong reasons.
Opened in 1985, the Alex has 360 beds, serving a population over 200,000. Due to problems in staff recruitment, the maternity unit was temporarily closed last November, and all expectant mums are now sent to Worcester. There has been a stream of criticism over poor patient care and cleanliness in the Alex. In February 2015, four A&E consultants resigned. Clearly there has been some sort of crisis, although I haven’t kept up to date with what has actually been going on.
All I can say is that the treatment and care I received at the Alex, from the first minutes in A&E, in X-ray, on Ward 17, in theater, and physiotherapy, was fantastic. I was treated with respect, with compassion, and continual good humour. On Ward 17 the staff couldn’t do more for the patients. I observed good levels of hygiene; patients were never neglected, and response to call buttons was almost immediate.
The other issue that came to mind very early on is that the Alex could not function—in all departments—without the services provided by EU and non-EU nationals who have come to this country and contributing to make it a better place. And I should add, persons of many faiths: Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and probably several others. It’s about time Nigel Farage and his Ukip morons as well as those right-wingers in the Conservative Party accepted the immense contributions that immigrants are making to the well-being of this country of ours. It’s time to stop denigrating them as a group of spongers only interested in benefitting from our welfare system.
So although I would never choose to spend four days in hospital, it was a positive experience, and made me appreciate the selfless service, through long hours, that staff in the National Health Service provide. Hopefully I can build on those positive thoughts to help me through the next few months of recuperation. I hope it won’t be too long before I’m able to get out and about and enjoy our National Trust and English Heritage visits once again.
After three months (1 April)
Today, it’s exactly 12 weeks since I had my accident. Three months! How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself.
I am making great progress. And that’s no April Fools’ prank.
Last Tuesday (29 March) I attended my last Fracture Clinic appointment at the Alexandra Hospital. The consultant surgeon told me I was making good progress, and there would be no need to return—unless something untoward crops up. So, for the next three months I have an ‘open appointment’. The surgeon explained that the swelling in my ankle and leg is likely to persist for up to 12 months! And I do need to take care when out and about. It will still be a slow rehabilitation. Nevertheless, he has discharged me. I’m walking (with a stick) but without my ‘moon boot’, and now up to about 1 mile each walk (longer when I used the boot). I think I’ll be using the sticks for some months to come because the pavement here are so uneven. And I do fear twisting my ankle. That would certainly set me back.
He told that I could now drive, provided I feel comfortable with that, and in using the brake in an emergency there’s no pain. I’m also allowed to fly, so can begin to think about my travels this year.
So, yesterday, taking advantage of the beautiful weather, Steph and I went out for a short spin in the car, to The Jinney Ring Craft Centre, a few miles southeast of Bromsgrove, near the village of Hanbury. The drive was fine; no discomfort. Later this morning I have another physiotherapy session, perhaps the last one. Onwards and upwards!
Since I posted this blog in mid-January, I also wrote several updates, listed below.