31st October 2017
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I bonded with all of my recovery and mobility equipment, so much so, that I named them all and they became my new friends. There were some boring and lonely times in those early weeks, I had nothing better to do… I don’t remember ever talking to them but I did go a little bit crazy at one point so who knows!
BRUCE – The Brace (Breg T Scope Post Op Knee Brace) – Day 1 – …
I have to start with Bruce… we are literally attached at the hip, well knee, and have been since day one. They are expecting me to wear Bruce for 8-12 weeks and I spend >22 hours a day with him squeezing my leg and protecting my knee flexion. The other 1-2 hours are bliss (sorry Bruce!) when I get to air my sweaty leg when the kids aren’t around to bash it!
The main purpose of Bruce is to control the level of flexion of my knee/leg therefore protecting the massive scars from splitting open whilst also controlling the introduction of bending my knee.
Bruce was set up by a nice physio on day one (about 18 hours after my operation). She was in a rush so didn’t have much time to explain but said I need to keep it on all the time and keep it dead straight… ok then!
Bruce was dead straight (0° flex & extension) from day 1 to first fracture clinic on day 11. Having a straight leg for ten days is weird… particularly when flexion is then introduced. At the first fracture clinic the consultant added 20° flex to the little dial at the side. I didn’t trust myself to bend my leg… it’s such a weird feeling when you have been so careful for so long. Surely any bend would rip my stitches clean out and there would be a bloodbath… again!
It was four days later that I went to see the physio where she made me bend my knee. I was still scared so she ended up doing it for me… OUCH! I thought she had snapped my leg in two!!
As I write this it is now day 52 and I have 90° flex on but can’t actually bend it that far comfortably! I have been adding 10-20° flex per week since that first physio session. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I will be at 120° , or full flex and this is the point I will feel brave enough to leave it off but it is good protection for now.
You can pick up a new friend Bruce online for about £100 which is a bargain considering how much he has aided in my recovery and healing of the scars!
THE STICKS – Crutches (NHS standard issue) – Day 3 – 51
My main mobility aid over the past few weeks has been crutches, or sticks as the boys call them. At 31, I had fortunately never had to use crutches before, but how hard could it be? You see kids with leg casts swinging about on them all day long…
They are a great piece of kit, beautiful in their simplicity but amazing in the doors they open. After nearly 3 weeks I could walk around a mile on the crutches, but partially weight bearing helped that significantly.
When I first got my crutches on day three I couldn’t believe how hard they were to use… This was because I was a heavy and weak lump and barely had the strength to move my legs let alone swing myself through the crutches.
To be discharged I had to pass the physio’s crutch exam… she took me in to a room and I was confronted with a set of stairs – 5 high I think – there was no way I was getting up them! She was good with me and very patient… after explaining over and over and building my confidence… and 45 minutes with a queue forming outside… I eventually made it up and down the steps and was passed for discharge. Because she thought I was useless at the stairs (I was so weak!) she showed me a cheating bum shuffle method – I used this religiously for the first few days at home!
Within a week I was much stronger and started getting confident on the sticks, moving from a pathetic and slow limp to the full on swinging style the cool kids deploy!
When using crutches for more than five minutes at a time they become quite uncomfortable on the hands (for a fat bloke like me anyway!) so I quickly improvised and built my very own crutch hand supports, using foam (stolen from the end of a mattress topper!) and thin duct tape !
My favourite games to play with the sticks were:
The Sticks were great but for the first three days in and out of hospital I was reliant on the next bit of kit…
ZIMMER – Zimmer frame / Walker (NHS standard issue) – Day 1 – 5
Ok, not a great name, we were only together for a week!
As alluded to above I was so weak in my first few days post op… I eventually pulled myself up and out of bed on day two (about 40 hours post op). This required significant effort, I can only explain my movement as shuffling, with Zimmer, and I managed about 2 metres… and it bloody hurt! At this point I was wondering whether I was ever going to walk properly again.
Day three was better and I made it the few metres to the ward window and back. The window had stunning view for miles (we were on floor 6) out over Emley Moor with the huge and prominent TV mast in the distance. It was worth the painful trip just for the views, I stood and stared out happily for 15 minutes, completely oblivious to anything else…
I took Zimmer home with me on day four and used it for the next few days but then it got quite slow and annoying compared to the Sticks so unfortunately Zimmer was retired early after just a week!
The funniest thing about Zimmer was that it doubled up as the worst kids climbing frame ever built! Both boys seemed to get great amusement in trying to climb up Zimmer and swing between the frame – this inevitably led to accidents and tears!
WALLY – The Wheelchair (Hired from British Red Cross) – Day 5 – 30
I was insistent I wanted a wheelchair… my wife for some reason was not as keen, I think she thought I might take myself off somewhere, get lost in my madness/forgetfulness and never return!
It took a bit of phoning around but eventually I managed to source a wheelchair from the British Red Cross and it had a comfortable leg extension. They hire out for free and just ask for a donation… a great service.
My parents collected the wheelchair when they came up the first weekend (day 5). They built it up and left it in the garage. It took until day 9 for me to have the strength to get downstairs and get out and about on it.
My first trip out was just a little stroll (wheel) around the street with the wife and boys. This is when the ‘chair was affectionately nicknamed Wally… It turned out that the wheels were not aligned and the tyres were flat… Wally was fine to be pushed but when I took over the controls… Wally was not having any of it!
I span both wheels at the same speed, at the same time… but wally just went around in circles! Initially, I thought I was doing something wrong but then I free-wheeled and still I was going round in circles! I could tell one tyre was flatter than the other so sorted this with my cycle track pump (at least it got some use!) and went out again…
Still Wally insisted on doing circles! This ‘chair was a bit useless and frustrating for me… I wanted independence and to be able to take myself down to the shops but it clearly wasn’t to be… Wally wanted to be pushed, lazy git!
After a week of perseverance with Wally I gave up and ordered Wally Mark II. A brand new shiny wheelchair, I assumed this might set me back a few hundred pounds but was actually only £70, a bargain to have sat down mobility and some independence at last. It even went in a straight line.
Only problem with Wally II was that it had plastic tyres instead of pumped up rubber ones. This made going out in the rain or up uneven hills very interesting with constant wheel skids!
The wife is still insisting that I can’t be trusted and don’t actually need a wheelchair now I have mastered the crutches…
I have a newfound respect for anyone who is permanently in a wheelchair. A lot of the world (even in cities) isn’t designed for them which made it a frustrating few weeks for me. And the staring is non-stop, particularly as I struggled to get used to it! I wanted to say to a few people – “what’s the matter… have you never seen a wheelchair before?!”