Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Healing Continues

Something that is vastly underestimated following injury is the psychological impact. For weeks after my injury I had flashbacks and nightmares that were so real I felt the same nausea I felt when I ruined my ankle. Because of these flashbacks, I started to remember more and more about the injury itself. I knew what had happened but I don’t think I really experienced it. After all, your body is very good at kicking in and preventing you from feeling pain in such situations. In all honestly while I was lying on the floor after it happened, I only knew I was really hurt because I felt that familiar warmth of blood rushing to the site of the injury. As I started to remember more, I realised why I had made my coaches feel so ill while I was mid-fall. Sorry but it gets a bit disgusting here!! I had previously thought that I hadn't heard anything break like the clean audible “snap” noise when I did my first break. No, I heard a crunching, grinding noise, which I had previously attributed to my wheels but now knew that it was, in fact, the various components of my ankle being torn apart.

I still have these nightmares and flashbacks, which to me, seems somewhat of an overreaction on my part, but it is what it is. I am managing them better, but they are still there. I still feel my stomach turning when I see a skater dragging their foot, as I know better than most how weak ankles can be at times. Some things do help, I got a beautiful tattoo on my left shin as a distraction from the scars and a way of dealing with the whole situation. Whenever I look at it, it reminds me of a few things. Not just the injury, but how far I actually came on skates. From not being able to stand up, I managed to jump, skate with others, and even some contact. More importantly, it reminds me that despite a shitty situation, something beautiful can me made.

Looking beyond the injury itself, I do still yearn to be on eight wheels again. I've had to stay away from our Saturday (beginners and intermediate) training sessions because a lot of the time it is simply too hard to watch. Cherry popper games can be especially hard to watch. I was so close so getting the last few things ticked off my skills sheet and finally getting my chance to bout and now that’ll never happen. Honestly, there are times when I think a year is enough and it’s time to get back on my skates (well, borrow some given that I sold mine!) but then my ankle jars and reminds me of the damage that’ been done to it.

Honestly I don’t know whether getting back on my wheels will ever happen, or what roller derby has in store for me in general but the healing process is continuing, inside and out.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Frank with staples, just after the first surgery
Two weeks after the first operation, it was time to have Frank’s staples removed. I spoke to a nurse friend of mine who assured me it wouldn't hurt at all and I would be fine. She lied. It was the kind of pain that goes straight to your stomach and makes you want to vomit a bit. Thankfully, the nurse was somewhat of an expert and it was over mercifully quickly. Once again, Frank was re-plastered and I left with a brand new blank canvas for my team mates to doodle on to their hearts content. Of course it was bomber blue – that goes without saying!!

Staples out... ouchee!!

I noticed after another two weeks or so that there was a warm sensation accompanied by pain coming from my calf. I suspected a pressure sore from my cast being slightly too tight, although I hadn’t realised this at the time it was being applied. I proceeded to hop down the stairs and Gaz drove me to Lincoln A&E which is always a fun trip! The doctor proceeded to tell me I had a possible DVT. Having experienced this less than a year before, I tried to argue that it wasn’t but what do I know eh? I was brought back the following day for tests where it was, shockingly, confirmed that I did not have a DVT, who’d have thought?! I, again, asked them to take off my cast and check for pressure sores. Eventually they did and found, you guessed it, a pressure sore!! Easily fixed, antibiotics and a new cast were administered – done!! Well almost, with only four weeks until my second operation, it needed to heal before then. If not, the operation could be postponed and I quite wanted to get back to that walking business. That and the job I had worked 4 days in before this whole thing happened. Yup, even my timing was impeccable!! 

I was lucky enough to have an orthopaedic nurse at my local GP surgery and she kept an eye on me as often as I could get into the surgery. For the last two weeks before the operation, I was cast-less which frankly only made me want to walk like a normal person even more!! She checked on my sore regularly and even smuggled me some special prescription issue dressings which had honey in them, they not only smelt amazing but they also healed me up a treat!! We had a frank conversation during one of my visits (she’s a straight shooter – another reason to love her!!). We discussed what could happen if I skated again and another injury happened. I didn't like what was said but I needed to hear it. I won’t bore you with it but the moral of the story was that if I break it again, there was a good chance the damage would be irreversible. As long as I had a plate in my leg, there was no way I should be skating again. I said I would discuss it with my surgeon, hoping he would give me a different answer.

Before the second surgery...
Operation day!! Up at the crack of dawn and off to Grantham. The pressure sore was fixed up enough and it was all cleared to go ahead. I braced myself for another epidural and the hassle that I had gone through last time. Fortunately, no such fate awaited me. A drop of sedation and a good dose of local anaesthetic was all this one would take!! They pulled up a little screen which confused me a little, until I saw my ankle on it. Turns out it was some version of an x-ray machine I hadn't yet encountered, I thought I had seen them all on my broken travels! There was my ankle, and next to it, the surgeon’s scalpel. He was cleverly looking where to make the incision so it could be as tiny as possible. “Genius” I thought, in my slightly drowsy state. Anyway, next thing I knew, I could feel a strange (sorry about this) scraping sort of feeling on my ankle bone. That was a screw leaving my ankle – most peculiar. Some steri-strips to close it up and we were all done. Brilliant!!

... and after.
I slept off the last of the sedation while Gaz sat next to me patiently reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Eventually I woke up and decided that the only way to celebrate the success of the operation was to go to that OK Diner we had passed so many times on various journeys. It was epic but I wasn't sure whether this was the quality of the food or the fact that I hadn't eaten all day in preparation for the surgery. Frankly I didn't care! When we got home, I walked up the stairs to the flat. It’s the little things.

I managed to put off the skating discussion with the surgeon this time. After all, I would be back in a few months and definitely wouldn't be skating before then!! I knew I couldn't avoid it forever though.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Year Ago

This time last year I was sitting in Grantham A&E, still unaware of the extent of the damage I had done to my ankle. Soon I would be told that not only had I broken it, but that I had broken and dislodged both bones in my lower leg and would need an operation to fix it. It sounds dramatic for a broken ankle but I felt a little bit of my world had ended. This was my second break in a short period of time and realistically, I already knew this could spell the end of my skating career. So I got wheeled off to a ward where I was to wait for my surgery. The worst part was being in a private hospital room on my own with no home comforts, not even my own pyjamas, to try and soften the blow of what I had just been told. The next day I had a few visitors in the form of Gaz, his mum and my mum who had brought everything I had needed the night before. Y’know apart from a new ankle!! It didn't make anything better. I was starving, having been on standby for my surgery, and still felt sick hearing the echoes of my ankle falling apart in my head. I was soon told my surgery was delayed until the next day. In one way this sucked because I was still in considerable pain whenever I attempted to move my heavily plastered leg. However, I could eat and take painkillers so it wasn't all bad.

When my visitors left, I was still alone but I had my laptop and some DVDs to take my mind off things. I also purchased some extortionate hospital issue wifi and found my Facebook page was inundated with messages of love and support. I cried again for a whole host of reasons. Exhaustion, I was still in a bit of shock and most of all I never realised how many people cared. I made sure I replied to as many as I could before it all got too much to type any more. I put on a DVD and then fell asleep somewhere during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Anyway, I was moved to the orthopaedic ward at around midnight, which was a bit random, but meant that my surgery would definitely be tomorrow. I soon settled back into sleep and woke up at around 6:30 the next morning. I was terrified. I had never had an operation before and there’s always risks. The anaesthetist came back round to check my canula and described what he was going to do. An epidural. I was going to be awake. Obviously less risk but just possibly even more scary! So, we went to the theatre at around 8:00. The theatre staff couldn't have been lovlier, they could see I was nervous which was confirmed when they hooked me up to the heart rate monitor. One of the nurses held my hand while the anaesthetist administered the epidural – that’s not a fun experience in itself but the effects are pretty strange!! I was given a small amount of sedation to relax me and given a CD player with headphones so I didn't hear what was about to happen. I drifted in and out but seemed to wake up for the more drill centred parts of the surgery – lovely!! After an hour and a half it was done. They re-plastered my leg and sent me back up to the ward. I felt very nauseous but put it down to the fact that I hadn't eaten in about 16 hours. I was wrong. Enough said.

The next day was so much better. It was Monday by now, I had got my appetite back and it was time to get my sleek, lightweight fibre glass cast. I couldn't resist asking the trainee assistant to take a photo of my newly acquired staples. I hadn't expected to see so many of them!! As such, I named my leg Frankenleg as he looked a bit of a monster at this time!! She asked how I did it and I embarrassingly explained the whole stupid story. It actually helped a bit to talk it through in a strange way. Gaz had a presentation at uni that morning so I didn't hear from him until the afternoon. I explained all that had happened and that I would be sent home that evening. I was going to go to my Mum’s bungalow for a little while just to make things a bit easier (adapted shower and whatnot) initially. But I had to make an important detour on the way. It had been Millsy’s birthday shortly before and I had baked her some peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes that were meant to be given to her on the Saturday at the bout that I had to miss. So we went to make the delivery and I've never been so happy to see an LBRG member in my life!! It felt like I was returning to normality and that I wasn't forgotten just because I had broken myself again. My wife Bekkie visited me while I was at Mama Custard’s and between them and my sisters they took wonderful care of me, I couldn't have asked for more. But it wasn't home.

A week later I returned to my home, after shuffling up the two full flights of stairs, an excellent tricep workout by the way, and sat on my sofa with a brew in my favourite mug. I felt complete again. Of course, most of the healing was still yet to happen but I felt like I was on my way now. I slept on the sofa as it’s surprisingly difficult to get comfortable when you've got a plastered leg, never mind if there’s a risk of it being kicked in the night!! I slept so soundly for the first time in what felt like an eternity. For the first time I felt like everything was going to be OK. My mind soon drifted to the inevitable second operation.