When I got smashed up in a motorcycle accident on the evening of August 9th, 1997 I never expected that some 15 months on I would still be suffering so much grief!
A car driver, turning right through oncoming traffic without looking, drove straight through me and my motorcycle, dumping the machine on top of me where I was dragged down the road with my right leg trapped between the machine and the ground.
Needless to say I was not in the best of shape, having suffered a compound fracture to the right leg, both tibia and fibula, just above the ankle. The force of the breaking had actually caused the tibia to puncture my skin and carry on out of my leg with such momentum that it pierced completely through both my leather boots and leather trousers. In fact the exhaust pipe on the bike still bears the dent where the bone struck it!.
In the ensuing months I was an in patient at my local hospital some 3 times, a visitor to theatre some 5 times and a sufferer of MRSA wound infection twice. My foot had come close to being torn off, but luckily I suffered no noticable damage to the nerves, muscles and tendons. The problem was with the location of the foot/ ankle to the end of the tibia/fibula. These bone ends had been damaged in a fashion that was described to me as looking like a shotgun cartridge having gone off in my leg.
A lot of time was spent trying to locate these bones, normal pinning and fixing being impossible due to the proximity of the break to the ankle joint. I spent some weeks in traction and a total of five months in a cast. When this was removed, although I had a rather strange twist to the ankle, there was hope that everything would settle down
My doctor became increasingly worried that there was a continuing 'slippage' in the union and that the angle of displacement was increasing. Eventually it was obvious that something would have to be done beyond that which so far had been possible.
At this point I was referred to Mr Groom, a specialist in non-united fractures resident at King's College Hospital in London. On the day of my consultation, I hoped for the best news. Something in the realms of 'Hang on its really OK and we don't need to touch it now'.
Some hope!. Mr Groom painted a clear picture of the problems that I had. He pulled no punches nor made it seem a rosy time ahead. I knew by the time I left that I was in for a deal more shit yet, than I'd already had. Also I could still lose the leg! 50/50 best option.
When I left the consultation , I knew that I was going to have as much as three inches cut from my leg, this thing called an external fixator fitted and then used to grow back the amount that had been removed. This was told to me three days before my 46th birthday. What a great gift!
I expected a long wait, the National Health Service being what it is. However out of the blue, in August the letter came. I attended the hospital for a pre-admission check up and then, three weeks later I was admitted to Twining ward for the operation the following day. On the ward were three other Ilizarov wearers.
As is usual for me, I didn't find pain killers much use. They seem to do nothing but depress me. So as quick as possible I got off the self-administered di-morphine, off the heavy painkilling tabs down to just a couple of paracetamol before I went to sleep.
I believe that it is worth feeling the pain, if you can bear it as you then become more aware of any changes occurring. However my physiotherapist reckoned that I must have a naturally high tolerance to pain anyway. Strange really, I've always thought that I was a bit of a wimp!
We all had our ups and downs, but all in all, if such a thing is possible, we had a bit of a laugh. The nursing staff were excellent, and Mr Groom really made you feel that you were important. Tom and Lynsey went home first, leaving me and Simon. However Lynsey got a bit of a problem and had to be readmitted to have one pin removed and refitted. In and out in a couple of days.
I went home after 17 days leaving poor old Simon there. As well as fractured right Tib and Fib, he also had a broken right femur, a cracked left tibia, fractured left radius/ulna and contracted an internal infection.
I live with 3 dogs (Border Collies) and the hospital were a bit worried that they might cause a problem. They didn't. After they'd all bashed their heads on the frame a few times, they learnt to stay a reasonable distance from it for their own safety.
Other than the dogs, I normally live on my own. However my ex-partner Clare had agreed to house sit for me whilst I was in hospital to look after the dogs. She then offered to stop over a few nights a week or call in after work to help me if needed. Another friend of mine, Barbara who I'd met at my local rehabilitation gym also started calling round most days if I needed any help.
I thank them wholeheartedly for this assistance. They know that I am bloody minded enough to insist on doing certain things myself, but even I have to admit that I can't easily (or safely) go shopping, clean the house, do the washing and many other 'normal' activities that I had been able to do prior to the fitting of the frame. Even though I'm mobile, that mobile I'm not!.
As can be seen from the pictures, my frame encompasses both the foot and the ankle so I have no movement there. It is also just below the knee so I only have about 30 degrees of movement before the rear of the frame imbeds itself into my leg.
I had some 30mm removed bone regrowth to complete. This was after compression of about 9mm between the lower rings was carried out on the site of the original fracture. I then started distracting (stretching) the growth site (just below my knee) at 0.75 mm a day, three clicks on the adjusters.
I always ensured that this was carried out at regular intervals. This is because research has shown that the body responds better to a regular distraction action. Indeed some of the latest Ilizarov frames use automatic, high frequency distraction to achieve this.
However just as I was looking forward to stopping distraction, a CT scan revealed that there was still about 10mm to go. It occurred to me later that King's College had, of course worked on the leg blind, unaware of the amount that must have been lost at the time of the accident.
So another two weeks or thereabouts of distraction was required. And for the first time I really suffered. Especially the last few days. The pain was so intense, the muscle spasms so harsh that, at one point I went over 48 hours without a wink of sleep. Pain killers didn't even touch this agony
However one thing I can't complain about is this. I've had the frame on for eleven weeks now and, touch wood I've not suffered a single pin site infection. As I understand it, this is a bit of a record. All I can hope is that by adopting a regular pin site cleaning routine, plus regular showering, so far I've managed to keep it at bay. And having suffered two bouts of MRSA in the original wound following the accident, believe me, I don't fancy that again. At it's peak I was swallowing 38 tablets a day to try to kill the infection in the original wound and feeling like SHIT!.
And then it was over. I'd stopped the stretching. I've even started getting as much as 4 hours sleep continuously. My next appointment with the hospital is this Friday (27/11/98). I'm hoping that all's ok. I'll update the site as things continue.