30 April 1999
Out of the blue, it all goes wrong!
Friday 30/4/99. Early afternoon.
I suddenly feel like I've got flu. I start running a temperature and shivering. Then I notice that one of the healed corticotomy scar sites looks rather redder than usual but don't really take too much notice and put it down to the cold or whatever it is.
Friday 30/4/99. Late afternoon.
I have another flu like attack and I notice that, round the scar, my leg has got very red and is quite hot. The pin sites still all look perfect, not oozing so I still ignore the redness.
Friday 30/4/99. Evening.
After another burst of high temperature, I decide that I've actually got flu so I take a cold remedy and go to bed early.
Saturday 1/5/99. Morning.
I wake up feeling fine having had a good sleep. The scar still looks a bit red and slightly puffy but it doesn't itch or sting so I ignore it.
Saturday 1/5/99. Afternoon.
I suddenly feel ill again and start running a temperature of 102F. My bad leg is now red hot and the scar site is decidedly swollen.
Saturday 1/5/99 Early evening and onwards.
My friend Barbara comes to see me, takes one look at my leg and reckons I should get to the hospital, pronto. Eventually she convinces me to go as the scar site has started weeping a clear liquid. Rather than faff about trying to get an ambulance (which would only take me to Bromley Hospital anyway), we get a cab to Kings College Hospital which is some 20 miles from where I live and sit and wait in the casualty department for about 4.5 hours.
I'm finally seen and x-rayed at about 00:30 Sunday Morning. The x-rays show a massive build up of something nasty around the area of new bone where the distraction took place although the bone itself still looks ok. By now the scar is weeping copiously and the hospital decide to admit me on the spot. They pump me full of Flucloxacillin which immediately makes me violently sick!. Apparently antibiotics should be given slowly as I.Vs not at the speed this was given.
Eventually at 02:30 I'm taken and bedded down on Twining Ward to await urgent surgery on the Sunday morning.
Sunday 2/5/99. Early morning.
I'm taken down, starving hungry (nil by mouth) and prepared for surgery. On the way down, I feel something wet on my leg. The abscess (or whatever it is) has burst!. Anyway I'm put under anaesthetic and set to the knife.
Some time (about two hours) later, I wake in recovery and I'm taken back to the ward. I feel great - but not for long!
The doctors come to see me. After all this time, and with no warning at all a massive infection has attacked my leg from the inside, heading outwards. Apparently all of the bone marrow that I had watched grow as my leg was stretched has now been destroyed. I am devastated. All that time, all that work and now back further than even the beginning.
It all seems so pointless. 8 months with the frame, 8 months stretching, cleaning and avoiding infections and then BANG! in three days it's all destroyed.
The doctors now have to wait for the results of the tests on what was removed so that they can find what the infection actually is. I pray that it's not MRSA again. The wound has now been packed with gentamycin antibiotic beads, 30 plus of them and then filled with wadding. It can't be stitched up as I need further surgery. I'm pumped full of intravenous antibiotics, Flucloxacillin and Sodium Fusidate as a sort of stop gap.
Monday 3/5/99 Bank Holiday for what it's worth!.
I spend the day in a really down mood, trying to work out why this has happened to me. What did I do wrong?. To say I'm pissed off would be an understatement.
Tuesday 4/5/99
Mr Groom decides that I'll not go to surgery today. He will wait for the results. I have more x-rays. The gentamycin beads are clearly visible. It looks like I'm smuggling somebody's necklace through customs inside my leg.
Better news comes that afternoon though. it's NOT MRSA. It's apparently streptococcus B. A nasty little bug but one that can be beaten with penicillin. They add Methylpenicillin to the antibiotic cocktail I'm receiving. It's weird stuff. As it's shot into my arm, I can taste a sudden burst of pear drops (acetone). My visitors can even smell it on my breath as well.
On the whole, the leg feels really good but I'm still now aware that there's a hell of a way to go. Three options so far have been mooted.
  • Debriding of the corticotomy region and compressing of the area followed by a new attempt at distraction.
  • Leaving the area distracted and seeing if my body produces new bone and marrow etc.
  • Leaving the area distracted but introducing a transplant of bone/marrow from my hip or pelvis
Wednesday 5/5/99
A day spent twiddling my thumbs. Not a lot to do as I didn't come prepared for a stay in hospital when I arrived on Saturday night. And as I still don't know how long I'll be here, I haven't planned anything yet either.
Thursday 6/5/99
I was about to go down to the hospital shop when they suddenly arrive to wheel me off for a scan. This turns out to be ultrasound but it actually never happens as they need bare flesh to run the scan head over and I'm now bound up in bandage. They consider removing it which does not impress me too much. And after the first bandage comes off and they take a quick look, the scanner operators loose immediate interest as well!. I'm shipped back to the ward and the wound is bound up and left for the theatre the next day.
Friday 7/5/99
I have another hungry morning as I am to go to theatre this afternoon. There is going to be a plastic surgeon present during the operation to cast his specialist eye over the hole that's now in my leg. He will decide wether I need a skin graft or a flap at some point to make good the damage done by the infection.
At about 12:30 I am wheeled down and then into theatre at about 13:00. As per usual I come out of the anaesthetic in record time and I'm soon back up on the ward.
Apparently they have had another look at the wound and have decided that I can drop two of the antibiotics. I am now only on methylpenicillin. As for the outcome? - nothing for sure yet. I know that my notes and x-rays are off over to Belfast where Mr Groom is taking part in an orthopaedic conference. There should be some news for me in the following week.
Saturday 8/5/99 & Sunday 9/5/99
Yet another I.V line blocks and I have to have my fourth one fitted in 8 days. God I hate those things but as they are now giving my four 1.2gram doses of methylphenylpenicillin a day, it's the only way I suppose. I just hate the feeling of those bloody needles going into my arm. Give me the frame anyday. At least I was unconcious when they fitted that!
10/5/99 to 14/5/99
A typical week in hosptial, waiting for something to happen. Phil (Steen) has been in conversation with Mike (Edmunds). He was interested to know that I was back in hospital and the circumstances surrounding my re-admission. Apparently streptococcus-B infection occurs in diabetic's injuries yet may not show on their x-rays - just like me. So more blood tests though, yet again they come back negative. (My normal blood sugar reading of 6 - so common now that I know what to expect as a result!)
On Wednesday Mr Groom returned from Belfast. Unfortunately nobody else has had a case like mine of spontaneous infection appearing. So the present course mooted is to possibly get me back into theatre or where-ever, remove the dressings and maybe some of the gentamycin beads and then monitor the results. Until the infection is totally clear, there's no way that any other long term treatment can be considered as it would be a waste of time. Looks like I'll be spending my 47th birthday in hospital after all!.
Well this is it then. Tonight the dressings were removed off of my leg. Of course, because I'm a bit strange, I had to have a look. I borrowed a torch and peered into the hole in my leg myself (Honestly). I could actually see the gentamycin beads glinting in the middle of where the bone should be. The wound is not as big as I had expected, probably about 3cm or less. Mind you, it is deep. Not quite a bottomless pit but I think I heard an echo!.
It's looking good. Pink and granular like it should be. It appears that the infection is on the run (three cheers!). Mr Groom has told me of the plan which is as follows.
After all that hard won stretching - I'm compressing again. I'm starting at 1mm a day although this may speed up later. The idea is to close the gap to a point where my body will hopefully be able to mend itself without too much further medical intervention.
Once the gap is fairly small again, the gentamycin beads will be removed completely. There is a possibility that there might be a need for a further debriding of the bone ends but that will be dealt with when the time arrives. The idea then is that, once the gap is closed enough and bone growth starts again, then I can have the joy of renewed distraction.
I ask you, my legs going to be thinking it's a fiddler's elbow with all these size changes.

I know that I may appear to make light of all this, but in all honesty, I am scared and I am upset as well. All that hard effort and now to be back further than square one.
This web site, my apparent ambivalent attitude to what's happening and what others refer to as my 'constant good humour' are the only ways that I know how to deal with this trauma. I have to keep plugging away at it. I can't afford to say 'Oh sod it, it's not worth it'.
The reason to many may seem trite and silly, but I want to walk my dogs again. I now have three Border Collies (Sheep dogs). My dogs were one of the reasons that I moved to the countryside. I have woods and fields at the end of my road, 4 houses away. I haven't been into those woods or fields for 21 months now, nor have I even been able to walk my dogs. I have missed my puppy Chishii growing up, he was only 8 months old when I had my accident. I have been unable to complete Shunka's training and he was going to be a working sheepdog at a local farm. I haven't been able to throw a stick for Flug to fetch back for me to throw again and again, something that she adored.
Sod worrying about going back to work, any fool can do that, but I AM going to walk my dogs again. Even If I limp, or I need a stick I WILL take them for those walks we enjoyed. I'm just going to have to wait a while longer. It's been 21 months so far. I didn't think I'd make that but I have. So bring on the next 21 months - I'll make that as well and, if necessary another 21 after that!

19 May 1999
Well it's now Wednesday lunch time and I've just clicked the adjusters for the second time today, shunting the leg another 0.25mm shorter. So far, since Sunday I'm already 3mm shorter than I was. Is it imagination or can I already feel that difference as I walk? I'm still filling up with antibiotics.
I had a visit from some the bike club last night, out of the blue. They turned up with a birthday present and a cake in readiness for me on Sunday next, just in case they can't get here. It's a magic cake, complete with a small speedway motor bike mounted on top of the icing. It will help make the drag of being in hospital on my birthday somewhat easier to bear.
I have just had a visit from Mr Groom this afternoon. The present rate of contraction has now been increased to 1.5mm per day. I'm also scheduled for more surgery next Tuesday when the gentamycin beads are going to (hopefully) be removed. They'll have a quick look at the hole, a new dressing applied and followed by me carrying out even more contraction. So this, at least answers the question of me getting home before my birthday - no!
20 May 1999
Oh boy, I'd forgotten about muscle spasms. Mind you these are worse than before but I suppose it's because of the speed I'm compressing the leg, twice the rate I stretched it!
The hole in the side of the leg continues to look good and I'm starting to feel that it's there (not so good!). I've had the digital camera bought in so I can photograph this chasm. If it doesn't look too grisly on film, then I may put it on the web at some point.
The leg is now 5mm shorter and I can definitely tell the difference when I walk. I still don't know if I'm going the full 46mm (or more) with the compression, hopefully that'll be decided when I come out of theatre next week.
21 May 1999
It's very depressing to see the threaded rods coming back up into the clickers after all that time with them locked off and my leg full length again. 1.5mm a day is fast and the leg's having a bit of a moan but still, it has to be done really.
22 May 1999
Damn, yet another I.V. feed needle stops working. So I eventually get my fifth one fitted in 3 weeks. I'm starting to look like a pincushion.
It's in a very active vein this time, pumped like a geyser before she got the cap on after tonights antibiotic feed! Made a bit of a mess. Laugh! - I thought I'd never start!

My story continued (May 22nd 1999 onward)

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