Treatment and Recovery of a Broken Leg
Healing a Broken Leg
Two days (actually, one and a half) after the fall, Sunday morning, August 8, 2010, my father awoke early and went to Yad Sarah where, for a modest deposit, he borrowed a pair of crutches and brought them to my house. My friend Esty met him downstairs and took the crutches and brought them up. G-d bless my father, he brought me crutches that you almost don’t see anymore, made of solid wood with adjustable height. At least the rubber handle and axillary support were new and the crutches recently varnished. The rubber tips were also new. I adjusted the height, with Esty’s help and began to walk with them. Nobody taught me how to walk with them and it was very strange at first, although they did make walking possible, whereas without them it was almost impossible.
Crutches – Man’s Design
I tried to hop on one leg and swing between the crutches, like we have all seen actors do. I must say that this is far more enjoyable on screen than in real life. I lost my balance and almost fell with the crutches. Remember that although my leg was actually broken, the rest of me was quite battered, swollen and bruised. A bit of experimentation and I was able to somewhat navigate with these two new appendages, however temporary. With my generous proportions, aching back, arms, hands, etc., transferring body weight to my arms, wrists and hands would take a bit of learning but, given no choice, I breathed deeply, gritted my teeth, bore the pain and worked on it.
I concluded that a man designed and built them because, at 2 cm below the armpit, the axillary support hit me right in the side of my breast, every time. Needless to say, this was a whole new ambulatory experience.
Getting the Air Cast™
Equipped with the crutches, I phoned my HMO, told them I had a broken leg and asked for an appointment with the orthopedist for that day. They gave me an appointment and the doctor told me to get an Air Cast™ and left me with the bandage! I was shocked. When I worked for Orthopedic Surgery, patients were cast in the cast room and nobody left without a proper cast to go and buy an Air Cast™! He also ordered x-rays and said that we have two weeks to see how it heals and whether I would require surgery or not. In any case, I was afraid, confused and in shock. Leaving his clinic, I phoned my friend from Orthopedic Surgery, a podiatrist and asked him what an Air Cast™ even was. He referred me to a place where I could get one for less money, since it was a completely private purhcase, paid out of pocket. My best friend Esty, who took me to the doctor, drove me and we went to the place and they did not have the SP Walker™, which was what I needed and so we drove to the main branch on the other side of town, where the man did have it and I bought the boot.
Shopping, Dog Walking, Coffee and Other Logistics
I remember feeling more alone than ever before in my life. My father, may G-d bless him and keep him well until 120 years in restored health, went to buy me groceries. Unable to walk up the steps to my home, he would phone me so that I could ask Esty, G-d bless her, to meet him in the parking lot. She graciously obliged and would load the bags into her wagon and then bring them up the stairs to my humble abode, on the second floor. I want to make mention of my other wonderful friend and neighbor, Nadine, who, with Esty, took turns and walked my dog, Pnina, on alternate days. Nadine would also sit and talk to me and she even changed my bed linens.
I don’t know how other people regard broken limbs. I imagine it also depends at what age one sustains such an injury. I found it a life changing and very introspective experience. I literally sat like a lumpy sack of potatoes on the steps when I fell. After that, I spent most of my days on the sofa with my leg elevated. The pain was sharp and kept me awake.
Only after two weeks, I told the doctor I wanted Percocet. This sparked a full fledged argument. He said it would make me high, to which I asked where exactly he thought I was going in my condition. He kept resisting so finally I told him “Listen, if you don’t give me this prescription, which I’ll only take one of, at night, so I can get some sleep, I will come stay in YOUR house and wake all of you up at 2 AM when I cry out in pain.” I imagine that after getting to know me a bit, he knew I was not joking and the thought of me coming to his home was not too appealing. He wrote me a prescription for ten pills, 5 mg each.
The first night the pill took effect and within five minutes I began to feel relief. The second night it took effect a bit later. The third pill on the third night had a mild effect. The fourth pill’s effect was almost indiscernible and the fifth was completely feckless. I stopped taking the Percocet and relied only on Acamol and the herb Valerian for pain relief.
Although I did take Western medical measures, I faithfully followed a holistic regimen alongside that, with herbal wraps of equisetum and calendula and daily application of a cream with calendula and symphytum. Calendula is commonly called Uña de Gato or African Marigold and equisetum is called horsetail. I orally took a homeopathic preparation of arnica and drank valerian for relaxation, aid in sleeping and pain relief.
A close friend excitedly told me that the sharp pain should not have lasted by that point. Well, I have to tell you that shouting at one who feels such pain does NOT HELP! The fact of the matter was that I felt very strong and sharp pains, regardless of the calendar. Things like yelling at a friend that it shouldn’t hurt by whatever time is just plain stupid – pain is subjective and one cannot dictate to another about the level of pain. It’s about as effective as telling a woman in labor that it doesn’t really hurt that much. If my friend had been physically present, I am not sure what I would have done!
During my convalescence, I felt the absence of my mother, who would have invited me to come stay with her and would have taken care of me, no matter how ill she was. I sharply felt how deficient my other family relations were and felt very sorry for myself and wished to die. One of the scariest things about being alone in middle age is the fear of becoming invalid, handicapped or incapacitated in any other way and not having anyone at your side to care for you or help with anything.
There were days that due to pain I didn’t leave the couch and when Esty would come, I would ask her if she wanted coffee and if she said yes, I would ask her to make some for both of us because I was not able to do anything that day. With my handicap, hobbling to the kitchen, kettle, refrigerator and sink was a field trip. My apartment suddenly seemed HUGE and the simplest task was a perplexing challenge.
Washing up was a chore. For the first few days, I was not able to bathe properly and at one point cried to Esty “Pretty soon, things will begin to grow on me!” On a shopping errand Esty found me a plastic stool which she assured me would fit inside the tub. Remember my office type chair on wheels? I would sit on that in the middle of my very small bathroom, undress, remove my Air Cast™ boot and then, putting weight on my unbroken leg, would sidle over and place myself on the stool and carefully ease my legs over the side of the tub.
With continued support and assistance from my father and good friends who, when they learned of my predicament wrote, phoned and visited, I got over that very difficult period. I do not wish this on any good people but if it does happen, keep your spirits up and the sun will rise again.
This was my first experience with a broken limb and I pray it be my last. Thank you to my friends and my father for their love, support and encouragement! I could not have managed without you!