Day 1 - The Injury
On 10th March I played 5 a side football as I often tried to do on a weekend. It was about 10 minutes before the end of the game when I ran forward to pick up a loose ball. Nobody was near me and as I touched the ball, I felt a ‘twang’. I remember an excruciating pain as if I’d been shot in the back of the leg.
I remember blackness around my peripheral vision and I stumbled to the floor. Immediately I feared that it was the Achilles. When I held my leg I expected the muscle to be coiled up my leg but it wasn’t. My teammates made me comfortable and a huddle gathered around me. The match was abandoned and an ambulance called. During this wait, the adrenalin kicked in and I did wonder if it was really as serious as I’d initially thought.
Maybe it was a calf pull or something less severe? After a few minutes the paramedics arrived. I tried to call the wifey on a borrowed phone, but she wasn’t, answering. During this phase I’d been entirely motionless on my side in the sports hall.
I remember looking at the paramedics when they looked at my leg, I just knew that it wasn’t a muscle pull but still hoped that it might be. I was transported into the ambulance and my wife and children arrived at the sports hall. They’d been alerted by a neighbour’s wife and rushed to see me. My youngest seemed unconcerned but my eldest seemed far more upset. They both climbed into the ambulance to have a look.
We set off to St James and made small talk on the way. The pain was uncomfortable but bearable. As we got to A&E it was clear that Saturday evening was not the best time to come to hospital for a prompt visit. I was wheeled in and parked in the waiting area. After 30mins, I felt myself fading.
I became hot and dizzy and felt nausea in my throat. I remember asking an able bodied fellow waiter if they could get me a sick bowl. By this point the adrenalin had worn off and the pain and shock meant I was feeling ready to keel over. The nurse came and I was immediately taken to a cubicle where I was put on a couch and made comfortable.
It soon became obvious that it was a full rupture. The doc took one look and compared the damaged ankle to that of the good one. I was then x-rayed to ensure no bone damage and then plastered (lightweight cast) before been dispatched with painkillers with an appointment for the fracture clinic on Monday.
Day 2 to 3 - Choosing the Options
The Sunday was very uncomfortable with soreness and getting used to the cast. Finally on the Monday (12th March) I was seen my Mr X at LGI and given the conservative or operative options. I opted for an operation for the lower re-rupture rate and it was booked for the following Monday (19th March) subject to ultrasound confirming the full rupture.
It’s undoubtedly a scary thing to choose surgery as it can lead to infection and blood clots and it wasn’t chosen lightly. However, as much as it terrified me, I didn’t want to give up my sport so the re-rupture rates were a key deciding factor.
During this visit I was replastered by a particularly rough nurse (’The Beast’) who managed to put her thumb into my damaged ankle, this served as a reminder that I had a serious injury…..
Days 4 to 9 - Waiting for the Op
The next week leading upto surgery was extremely painful. The cast rubbed and I simply could not get comfortable. If my leg wasn’t raised, it felt as if blood was surging into my foot and it was swelling up.
Needless to say, my op was entirely reliant on the ultrasound and I didn’t hear anything for a few days so chased it. It became apparent that the ultrasound people did not realise their diagnosis was essential and didn’t realise the op was scheduled for Monday. They said they were full and I told them to find me a slot. Eventually they did. The key thing here is to never assume everything is ‘in hand’.
On Friday, my foot was ultra sounded at Chapel Allerton and it was officially diagnosed as a complete rupture with a 1cm gap. At this point I had no idea exactly where the tear is in relation to my ankle, my understanding is that the further from the ankle spur the better, I really must find this out.
During this week my new iPad was dispatched, this was to be fantastic timing and certainly made the weeks after the op a little less dull. My leg was constantly raised and I spent most of the time in bed with my dear wifey’s kind nursing. My medication involved paracetamol, ibuprofen and codeine. These seemed to take the edge off the pain but I was always very aware of the times when my next pills were due… Codeine seemed to be initially great as it give a warm pulsing, drowsy relief!
On the Saturday night my wife suggested a takeaway curry to lift spirits. I jumped at this and, foolishly, decided to have a small bottle of beer and a small glass of wine with it. Big mistake. The Sunday before the op, I spent in bed all day throwing up. Let this be a lesson, codeine and alcohol does not mix. At one point we did wonder if the op was feasible for the next day but I couldn’t bear any further delays.
Day 10 - The Op
The next morning, myself, wifey and 2 young children got up at 6am to get to hospital for 7.30am. I was fasting and it causes chaos to raise children at that time prior to school etc…
When we got to Ward 50 at LGI, we were taken to a rather full adapted ward where a bay was been used as a waiting area. ‘Ermm’ I thought, ‘this doesn’t look good’. Sure enough I had a long wait whilst wife dispatched my eldest to school.
This is where the NHS fails to understand that fasting and getting to hospital, especially with children, can cause mayhem. There was absolutely no need to have people waiting from this time. Eventually, I was taken into a bay directly opposite the waiting area (privacy and dignity?!!) and told to get cleaned up with a microbacterial wash in the WC! We ignored instructions and I managed to get into the shower and clean myself with wifey’s help as best we could.
Finally at 11.30am, the trolley came to take me to theatre….. This was terrifying but the porter and nurse who accompanied me were friendly and chatted all the way. This was a classic NHS journey through lots of public corridors and lifts and it took quite a while to reach our destination.
Eventually we reached the anesthetic room and the porter departed to be replaced by the anesthetist. Again, the manner of the nurse and anesthetist were really great. I explained how general anesthetics make me sick and I was promised they would try to avoid this. With cannula in, and drug administered, I was soon asleep.
I woke up in a recovery room at around 2.30pm. The nurse was next to me and I think I blurted out something like ‘I remember you’ or something equally daft…. I remember reading the time and feeling dry mouthed but not sick. After the worry of the op, I actually felt a huge feeling of relief that my recovery could now actually start.
Within 30mins or so I was taken to Ward 49 and put into a 6-bed bay. During this I was groggy but feeling pretty euphoric. My leg was in a ‘back slab’ plaster, which means old heavy plaster at the back and bandaged around the front.
I was offered soup to try but asked for toast. Again, this was a mistake! You feel very dry mouthed after an op and the toast just felt like sawdust… I managed some but focused mainly on liquids. Fortunately my wifey arrived and opal fruits were bought which really helped for taste and sugar.
In my bay we had a pretty disparate group. Opposite was an old chatty man who later revealed himself as a BNP supporter. Next to him was a very poorly old man who struggled with incontinence and next to him was a brash, arrogant, sweary young man. Next to me was a nice friendly chap.
There is absolutely no privacy or dignity in hospital. The intention at this stage was to be discharged the next morning but I was desperate to escape as soon as possible. Around 4pm, I managed to make a deal with the nurse that I could go that evening if I could eat tea and could do a wee. She promised to get my drugs and discharge arranged if I could sign the ‘Wee/Tea Accord’.
Once the drugs reduced slightly, my feeling returned and I was able to produce the goods into the cardboard wee bottles. The key thing here is to have lots of liquid and patience. I even managed to eat a bit of the NHS food which was pretty rank.
As evening arrived so did my family and we waited for the green light to go. Needless to say, my drugs weren’t ready and they wanted me to stay over night as the pharmacist had gone home…. I suggested that drugs could be collected tomorrow morning if they had 12hrs supply for me now! This was agreed and I had to inject myself in front of the nurse to ensure I knew what to do to avoid blood clots. This actually was nowhere near as bad as I thought which is just as well as I’ll be doing this for 6 weeks!
I was sent home with paracetamol, ibuprofen and diahydrocodiene plus injections for 12hrs. By 9pm, I was home, sore but happy!!
Days 11 to 15 - Post Op
The truth is that the first 12 hours were actually quite good. The feeling of euphoria from getting through the op, out of hospital and home was fantastic. I didn’t sleep well that night as I pondered the day I’d had. The next morning, reality dawned…
The drugs from hospital had left my body and the pain over the next 6 days was quite nasty. I could tell exactly when my drugs were wearing off and the next ones due as the soreness increased. On day 3 the heavy plaster ‘back slab’ cast really began to rub and I was advised to return to hospital to get the wound checked.
Fortunately, nothing was amiss but the experience gave me the chance to see my wound as the doctor inspected it. My foot was swollen and bruised and my own research had warned me of what to expect. The scar was about 6 inches long with relatively neat stitches along its length.
After the all clear, I was put into the far lighter fibre glass cast and sent home for a further uncomfortable 3 days.
Around 5 days after the op, it became apparent that the diahydrocodeine was making me feel sick and dizzy. This was probably the lowest point. It was obvious that I had to drop this tablet, once dropped the nausea and dizzy soon passed.
Days 16 to 23 - Signs of Improvement
Finally on Monday 25th March, things started to feel better, my pain reduced and I began to sleep deeper. The next few days passed without much incident as I became more agile on my crutches. Wifey managed to source a wheelchair from the Red Cross (in return for a £20 deposit, and we’ll give them a donation). This means that I’m finally able to look forward to a trip outside this weekend!
My stitches will be removed on 2nd April and I’m planning to return to work on 3rd March as a homeworker. Hopefully the next stage will be the removal of the cast and the move onto the famous boot….
Still not clear about ‘what happens next’. As much as I want to move onto the boot, I fear that I may have more weeks in the cast. Hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow….
I’m really looking forward to having a few precious minutes without my cast tomorrow. Even if it’s just a cast change, 10 mins with cool air around my leg will feel fantastic! As for the removal of the stitches, not so keen…..
Day 24 - Removal of Stitches
Went back to hospital to get the stitches removed. Imagine my horror when my nurse turned out to be ‘The Beast’ (see days 2 to 3). Despite my reservations about stitches and the nurse, it was actually fine. It felt like pin-pricks and is definitely a case that the thought of it far outweighs any pain.
My foot still looked swollen and black around the heel but it was nice to feel air…. A brief visit from the consultant condemned me to another cast with the carrot of a boot in 2 weeks time. After white, red and purple, I’m now sporting a green cast. Wifey is really keen that I wait before returning to work. Looks like that’s what I’ll be doing.
To be continued…..
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