My left femur broke spontaneously on October 6th 2014. It just snapped in two, no warning, apart from pain at the site for a few weeks, it just happened!! From a medical perspective it is a pathological break and we now know I have a rare genetic bone disease. The break of the strongest bone in your body though, is much more than a medical episode…it is life changing, it is forever etched in your memory and for me it is still an ongoing nightmare as it remains broken 2 years later. The medical term is non-union. The personal story is one of ongoing pain and disability. The bone disease is spreading and I now have a stress fracture in my right femur which has needed a rod placed in it as a preventative measure. It too was about to snap and neither me nor my Orthopaedic Surgeon wanted to relive that particular nightmare.
Every now and again I allow my mind to return to that day, to remember, to ponder about the circumstances surrounding that moment. It has it’s own story and it’s about time I wrote it!
A story like this should start something like…
It was an ordinary day…..
The day my femur broke was anything but ordinary. It was supposed to be a day of celebration and excitement and it certainly was heading in the right direction. My Aunty and Cousin had been planning a trip to Australia from the UK for over 2 years. We had emailed so many times discussing the details, getting excited about being re-united after 30 years and it was going to be the trip of a lifetime. My cousin was only a new born when I had first met him on a trip to the UK when I was 18. My Aunty and I had been enjoying getting to know each other online and were so excited about actually spending time together. Anticipation was high. Their arrival date was all booked, October 6th 2014. We were to pick them up from the airport at 1.30am. It was going to be a struggle for me at that time of the day with my stoma and RA, let alone a very sore leg which had just been diagnosed as being muscular pain, as an xray taken the week before was supposedly clear. I was determined to get there to greet them. I was using a walking stick as I had, a few weeks prior, been diagnosed with a stress fracture in my foot but I had no idea what was to eventuate in the coming hours.
We made it to the airport and the reunion was wonderful as we greeted each other in the arrival lounge of the International terminal. We’d had the perfect trip in at that time of the night so we were able to quickly return home as well. I had prepared a light supper so we all sat around the table eating and talking, so much to talk about, so much to share. Conversation flowed easily, they were family and both my husband and I felt like we had always known them and always been a part of their lives. Before we knew it the clock chimed 4am and we decided it was probably best if we all tried to get a few hours sleep at least.
Oh, how nice to climb into bed. My leg was really hurting even as I lay there but it was muscular pain, so I was told, so I just hoped the pain killers would kick in and some sleep would help restore some energy. We had been up for 20 hours, way too long for someone with a chronic disease but I was so proud of myself for managing to hold it all together and for meeting them at the airport.
I closed my eyes to see if sleep would come but the birds outside were so loud. I can still hear them now as I think back. It was quite an unnerving sound and I couldn’t put my finger on why that would be, as I hear them every morning and they are beautiful. It was almost as if they could sense something wasn’t quite right.
9am…..I could hear some rustling downstairs and thought it might be my Aunty, we all expected my Cousin to sleep late! My husband and I went downstairs and joined my Aunty for breakfast out on the deck. It was a beautiful morning and we chatted away about the week ahead and what they might like to do and the excitement continued to build, despite our tiredness. About 10am my Cousin joined us much to our surprise. Poor guy looked so jetlagged!! Coffee needed, lots of it!
My Aunty and I decided that we should get out of our PJ’s and get dressed for the day. No point trying to get anymore sleep at this stage. I remember my Aunty saying ” This is going to be the longest Monday ever”. If only we had known how true those words were going to be.
I walked upstairs and was just about to open my bedroom door when I felt a snap! My leg was like jelly and I don’t know how I knew but I knew my leg had broken. I can’t recall pain at that point, I remained standing on my right leg with my left leg off the floor. I called out, rather loudly and definitely, for my husband. My specific words were;
” My leg has broken”
My husband came running up the stairs in a flash, my Aunty shot out of her room and was right behind him. He said later he knew by the tone of my voice that I was definitely in trouble.
Would you believe my Aunty was a registered nurse in the UK and had just retired. What a blessing to have her there, just at that moment, for such a time as this! She talked my husband through what to do. They laid me on my side on the bedroom floor, placed a pillow between my legs and under my head. You know I can’t remember feeling any pain at that point. The shock must have just taken over but I didn’t feel sick, I didn’t faint…I just organised!! That is so me :). I was crying but not for me, I was crying because I felt like I was ruining my Aunty and Cousins holiday. I just kept saying, “I am so sorry, I am so sorry!” Everyone was telling me “it’s alright, it’s not your fault” but I felt so bad for them.
I could hear my husband downstairs arguing with the ambulance 000 operator that I had actually broken my leg and no there hadn’t been a trauma to cause it, it had just happened. We now know that it is so rare that the operator hadn’t heard of it happening and even the first set of paramedics who attended me hadn’t either. They thought it might be a ruptured tendon. I was hoping it was only a ruptured tendon at that stage!! I remember the paramedics trying to work out how to get me passed a piece of furniture on our landing. They were discussing dragging me past it. Aargh. I quickly yelled out to my husband and cousin, “move the cabinet please!” There was no way anyone was going to try and drag me passed anything.
See, I was still able to organise… up until that point anyway, after that the pain killers started knocking me out.
It wasn’t until they got me downstairs and outside using a chair stretcher ( I can’t remember that bit) and tried to move me onto the ambulance stretcher that they saw the bone slide outwards and I let out a blood curdling scream…this was pain and I remember it like it was yesterday! The first set of paramedics panicked and called a trauma ambulance. We then had 2 ambulances in our driveway at this stage all providing a wonderful show for our neighbours, now lining the street wondering who had been murdered!!
I must just fill in one part of the story though. While my husband was sorting out getting an ambulance, my stoma decided to erupt. Probably the shock setting in but all I could think of was I needed to have a clean stoma bag before the ambulance arrived. Here’s where my beautiful Aunty stepped in with her nursing hat and she jumped into action. I was able to tell her where all my supplies were and she gathered everything we needed and together we changed my stoma appliance. I remember saying to her, “wow, now this is what they call bonding !” What an amazing Aunty!
So, once the paramedics decided that I could be stabilised with my legs bound together we finally set off for hospital in the ambulance. My Aunty got to ride in the front seat and the ambulance driver gave her a sight seeing tour along the way. Not quite what we had planned but it was certainly an adventure which she shared with family and friends in postcards over the coming days.
The rest of that Monday was spent in the x-ray department and in a world of pain as I was moved in directions that my leg just couldn’t cope with to get the right imaging. Finally I got to my ward room at 7.30pm and 5 nurses tried to move me from the emergency ward bed to my room bed. Oh the pain! They shut the door of my room and I put a pillow over my face to try and dull down the sound of my scream. It was not a scream you could control. It was so awful. They finally managed to get my leg in traction where I stayed for 36 hours before surgery the following evening. While it was horrific getting it into traction, the relief was fantastic once my leg was in it. The nurses felt sick, they had seen the bone move sideways as they were moving me. They were so lovely, so concerned. The first thing I asked for was a cup of tea…well I was born in the UK, even if I was 3 when we immigrated to Australia! 🙂
It was the best cuppa ever. I was finally alone in my room. I had time to reflect. What a day. So many disappointments but so many blessings. We don’t know how we would have coped that day had my Aunty not been with us. Such a long way to come to be there to help her niece in her hour of need but we all felt that sense of us all being in the right place at the right time. I was so grateful my leg broke at home and not at the airport. So grateful for my loving husband. So grateful for the hospital staff who knew me well and made me feel like I was in good hands. I didn’t know what the future would hold but I felt a sense of peace that God had looked after me today and he would take care of me in the coming days, weeks, months as well.
I was so aware my life was changing, so aware I had a unknown journey ahead of me but at that moment, alone in my room, I closed my eyes and was so glad that the 6th October 2014, the day my femur broke, was about to end.