Surgery would happen a few weeks after I broke my leg. We had to wait for the swelling and bruising to go down. The more swelling there is during the surgery the more likely there is to be an infection. And no one wants to deal with that. The first month and a half were definitely the toughest part of this journey. I was living the life of a couch potato; however, it’s not my dream. It’s not easy working full time, being in pain, unable to do the simplest of tasks, and going from sitting at work to sitting at home. I missed 7 days of work total between the day I broke my leg until now. This was my first broken bone and major surgery. It wasn’t easy; however, I figured I could sit at home and do nothing or I could sit at work and try to be productive. Looking back I probably should have given myself a few more days off. However, I am a bit stubborn if you couldn’t tell, I don’t like to ask for help (even when I need it), and like to think I can do everything on my own. That being said, I cannot thank my Mom, family, friends, and co-workers enough for all the help they have given me throughout this adventure.
During surgery I had multiple screws and a plate put into my leg. I never had a hard cast. It was always some type of splint. All I remember from surgery is waking up to nurses telling me to breathe. Apparently I kept forgetting to breathe which sometimes happens when people are waking up from anthestia. I don’t do well with medication so after I got to the point where I was fully awake and breathing correctly, I got extremely sick and threw up multiple times. Every time I got up for the first few days I felt like my leg was being ripped open at the seams. Those first days were not fun. I rarely got up and when I did I was being shuttled by wheelchair. There would be more challenges as this journey continued.
Eventually it was time for my stitches to come out. Everyone told me that this would be the easiest part. It was actually the hardest. As the first stitch that was pulled out I screamed and then burst into tears. When the Physician’s Assistant asked how much pain I was in from a level 0 to 10. I was at a 10 for the first time in my life. It was truly the most painful experience of my life …and I have had some major health issues throughout my life. They only got 2 and a half stitches out that day. It was the most excruciating piercing pain I had ever felt. I was told that the hospital was not in the business of torturing people so she sent me home. Told me to make sure I took a painkiller and put me on another medication that would hopefully numb down my nerves. My leg felt like it was on fire and my whole body was in a lot of pain. I took that medication and when I came back a few days later to get the rest of the stitches out I was still in a lot of pain. There were tears; however, no screaming. It was a relief when all of the stitches were out. The half stitch is still stuck in my leg and will eventually work it’s way out. I’m not sure what that means so I keep looking at my leg expecting to see a part of a stitch. I was put into a new type of removable splint and told I could let my leg go into the shower; however, I could not soak it. So I would shower with my leg propped up outside of the shower and the last few minutes I’d let my leg into the shower and gently wash it.
I switched to a scooter shortly after I broke my leg. I didn’t feel safe nor comfortable using my crutches. I couldn’t carry anything, do my dishes, cook food, etc… The scooter made it easier for me to go further, safer, and easier to carry stuff. There were a few unexpected issues.
The first month I fell a lot. I even fell the first day I had my crutches. I was unsure how to use them to get off of a curb. I was actually unsure how to use them at all. I would find out later that they weren’t adjusted correctly. I actually fell multiple times. Everyone who has spent time in Alaska knows how uneven the sidewalks and roads are. I even fell when I switched to a scooter. One time I fell while in the bathroom. I landed on the floor and all my summer roommates came running. I told them I was fine and sat on the floor and cried. I cannot remember how many times I fell or accidentally stepped down on my leg. The last time I fell was while I was trying to go down my stairs. My scooter landed quite a ways away from me as you can see. I had to scoot down on my behind, drag my scooter closer to one of the parking posts and pull myself up. I couldn’t figure out why my balance seemed to be so bad. So I re-looked up the side effects of the medication I was on and sure enough the main side effects are unsteadiness, dizziness, uncoordinated jerky movements. Medications and I don’t mix well. My Doctor told me I could go off the medication when I felt like I was ready. I stopped cold turkey that day.
Though I had a rough few weeks I was still able to look at the bright side of things. I am very happy that I only broke one leg and that it was my left leg, that I was able to hobble to my car on it, that I have summer roommates that have been understanding, that my Mom came up for my surgery, that I’m still able to drive, and that I have amazing friends that go out of their way to assist me. I am happy that there are such things as handicap railings in public restrooms, that many places have ramps, and that someone invented a knee scooter. It definitely wasn’t easy and there were times when I was frustrated; however I realized right away that I had two choices. I could be happy and hopeful or be angry and frustrated. I went with happy and hopeful as the other option isn’t helpful.
There were two events that still bother me about this journey. While using my knee scooter I headed over to Walmart to buy a specific item. As I came in thru the front door I was stopped by one of their greeters telling me I couldn’t come in with a backpack. I figured no problem and I put it into the lockers. Then he stopped me again mentioning that I couldn’t come in with my scooter. I told him that I only needed one item and I couldn’t put any weight on my leg (he could see my splint and I have a handicap pass). He repeated himself. I asked him how I was going to get around and he pointed to the electric scooter. I didn’t want to use that as I knew it would take me longer to get my item and I wasn’t sure what to do with my knee scooter if I was going to use an electric scooter. However, not seeing a way around I asked him if he could bring the eletric scooter out to my car so that I could ride it into the store. He looked at me like I was crazy so I asked him how he suggested I get from my car back to the store without using my scooter. He told me to use the electric scooter and he would watch my scooter. I didn’t like that; however, he didn’t give me another option. In hindsight I should have asked for a manage; however, I was so dumbfounded that I didn’t know what to do. So I left my scooter with the employee and took the electronic one to grab my item. I would have left however, I needed the item I was searching for. When I came back he was no where near my scooter. Anyone could have grabbed and left with it. I was frustrated. The scooter wasn’t cheap and it was truly the most efficient and safe way for me to get around. If my scooter wasn’t there when I got back I wouldn’t have been able to get to my car nor back into my apartment where my crutches were. He came around the corner with a big smile, decided to show me his scar from having a broken leg, and then tried to lift my scooter and put it in the electric scooters basket and told me I could take the scooter to my car. I said no thanks as I was already frustrated, I didn’t like the fact that he suddenly thought he had a solution to my issue, and was manhandling my scooter. It took me a few months before I could get myself to go back.
The other event involves using Uber. I am always outside when I submit a request for an Uber as I don’t want to miss my ride. This particular day the Uber driver showed up, rolled down his window, said my name. I said yes, and then he drove off, canceled my ride, and I was charged. The reason it stated as to why I was charged was that he had arrived, waited five minutes for me, and that I didn’t show up so he canceled my ride. The thing is that from the time I submitted the request for the uber to the time that he canceled the ride wasn’t even 5 minutes. I can only assume that since he had a brand new car and I had a small scooter he had no interest in picking me up. Another Uber driver was there dropping off a customer and saw what happened. He pulled up and asked if that was an Uber driver. I said yes, he told me to submit another request for an Uber driver and he’d accept (I’m assuming he wanted me to know he wasn’t just some creep). So I did. He informed me that I should submit a complaint to Uber and ask for my money back. I did and Uber was wonderful and refunded me. Needless to say there are good people and bad people in every job. I still think Uber does a wonderful job…however, because of one awful driver I tend to take Taxi’s instead.
These two situations happened within two weeks of each other. Both were disheartening. I’m not trying to inconvenience anyone. I’m just trying to live my life to the best of my ability. I can only imagine what it is like for someone who is permanently disabled whether it be physically or mentally. I have a much larger respect for anyone with disabilities and a better understanding of what they deal with constantly. It’s been a long and painful journey.
After 3 1/2 months I was finally able to put some weight on my leg. I realized I couldn’t actually put my full weight on my leg and I couldn’t hardly move my ankle, I was still quite swollen, I had muscle atrophy (deterioration of muscles due to not using them), and lots of pain. For the first few weeks after starting Physical Therapy I felt like I was getting a bit stronger, having less pain, and my ankle was getting more and more flexible. However, I feel as if I still have a long ways to go and that I have plateaued. Though that is probably normal. When I started Physical Therapy I began using my crutches to get around with some weight bearing and a walker when I needed to carry stuff (such as dinner from the kitchen to the table). Eventually I worked my way to one crutch.
For the past week I’ve been walking without crutches. It’s a skating rink outside and my leg is not stable enough to handle that real well. I have metal spikes on the bottom of a cane that I occasionally use outside when it’s icy. If it’s not icy out I don’t touch it. I also bought some new shoes from Skinny Raven. It’s an amazing store that has personalized service. They do shoe fittings, test your stride, etc… to help you find the right shoe for you. The shoes that I was told to try out are called Ice Bugs. (You can get them at REI as well). They have metal cleats on the bottom. I put them on outside and take them off before I enter into a building, (which means I always have to carry a second pair of shoes with me). The nurse and Doctors suggested I do this for my safety. They said it would take a year for my leg to completely heal. For each day I didn’t use my leg it would take three days to get back the strength and muscle tone. So 3 1/2 months of not using my leg equals 10 1/2 months of working on it to get it better. I don’t walk normally quite yet. I’m still very slow, have a gait that is a bit off, am slightly unbalanced, cannot go down stairs without adapting how I walk, and am still in pain. I’m basically still a work in progress. My ankle and foot is still swollen and when I walk on it for longer periods of time it swells up like an elephant. It’s now 21 weeks (just over 5 months) since I broke my leg and am in week 7 of Physical Therapy. I will say the Doctors and Physical Therapists I am working with are the friendliest and most helpful Team I have ever worked with.
This journey will continue for the rest of my life; however, my leg should be fully healed in a year. My left leg will never be my good leg. On the bright side I’ve gotten a lot better, I hope that eventually all the pain will go away, that the swelling will continue to go down, and that I’ll be able to walk like a normal person again.