I realise there’s a lot of talk on my blog about the fact that I broke my leg.
And I know I’m not the first or last person to have broken a leg either.
Which is exactly why I talk about it.
Despite the excellent care I have received from the NHS (no complaints from me there – just praise), once you’re sent home after surgery with medications to manage your pain, a bunch of heparin injections, and a schedule of follow-up appointments to medicate and check your stitches, you’re pretty much left on your own.
All I was told on discharge was to take my medications, go to the GP or back to the hospital when requested, and mobilise my ankle and knee ‘as there was nothing wrong with them’.
That’s all fine, but when:
- your leg looks it’s been through the wars,
- is a nice mixture of yellow / red / black and blue,
- is twice the size it should be,
- you’re on crutches that you’re not great on,
- you can’t put any weight on your leg at all,
- and you’re in pain,
‘mobilising your ankle and knee’ is easier said than done.
To be honest, at first, being at home was quite overwhelming. It was great to be at home, but with 3 little boys who weren’t used to me being on crutches and having a broken leg, I felt a bit vulnerable.
I felt frustrated too. There was so much that all of a sudden I couldn’t do! Being on crutches and balancing on one leg doesn’t just mean you’ve temporarily lost the use of that leg, but you’re also lost use of your arms and hands – they are busy with the crutches!
Although before I left the hospital I was showed how to use crutches safely, and how to do stairs up and down (they actually don’t let you leave the hospital unless you can do that), I really didn’t feel like using the stairs, so I moved downstairs for a while.
I had a stool in the shower (the only act of getting over the shower step to get in was a mission on its own!). I had a raised toilet seat and a frame around the toilet to be able to lean on. All thanks to the amazing NHS, I was sent home with the equipment I needed.
But I had to make adjustments.
And in the very first few days, all I could see were my limits. The things that I couldn’t temporarily do for myself. And the frustration resulting from being used to being the one who runs around and looks after her family, and not being able to be that person for a while.
I’d often burst into tears for the silliest of reasons. Who knows? My hormones were also all over the place from suddenly having had to stop breastfeeding – that might have contributed too.
But after a few days of feeling useless and a bit sorry for myself, I picked myself up and made a plan.
1. I was going to stay in the present and focus on one milestone at the time
I was told it’d take me 4-5 months to be able to walk again and go back to a ‘normal life’. The time it’d take for my bone to heal could be a bit shorter – it was all dependent on my age, my current level of health, and my lifestyle. But the fact remains that a broken tibia takes on average 24 weeks to fully heal. That’s nearly 6 months.
I couldn’t imagine spending 6 months the way the first few days after surgery were. So I decided to focus on the little milestones. One at the time.
On when the blood thinner injections would end.
On when the gauze would come off, and the stitches go.
But mainly, on my 6-week appointment back at the hospital with the Consultant.
Small steps. Quite literally.
2. I was going to recognise my anxieties and fears and not let them spiral out of control
The stairs were tricky. When I first got home, I didn’t even want to look at them. Let alone use them. I actually purposely tried to avoid looking at them. Add to that that, I wasn’t too confident on my left leg and foot, which now, all of a sudden, had become my ‘good leg’, and the one I was relying on.
I used to spend most of my days with my leg elevated to try and reduce the swelling. And that meant that often there was a leg sticking out (by the side of the sofa or the side of the table) that you wouldn’t expect to see there. And people (i.e. my boys) could easily bash into it. Or throw balls on it. And sometimes they did. And it hurt.
So it was ok for me to be a bit anxious and fearful, but overall, I was safe. And I was determined to not let the anxiety or fear ruin my days.
3. I was going to practice gratitude and stay positive
I wrote about how I tried to focus on the positives and maintain a positive attitude during my recovery period. And I think my positivity was of great help. It helped my mental health. And it helped my physical health too.
Obviously, I cannot prove this, but I strongly believe it to be true. Although you never want to admit or say out loud that you’re grateful for breaking your leg (because with all my heart, I’m not!), I was grateful for being put in this situation and learning a thing or two about life that I wouldn’t have otherwise learnt. No one wants to learn the hard way, and no one can be grateful for an accident, I suppose, but I can be (and I am) grateful for the teachings.
4. I was going to be kind on myself and celebrate progress instead of focusing on my limits
We established how I couldn’t do much at first. And to be honest, when I first came home, I thought my life was going to be like that for 4 or 5 months! But that was far from the truth. Yes, the first few days were tricky, and I needed a lot of help. I was very weak from the surgery and having spent 5 days lying down, my left leg was very weak. Plus I wasn’t used to the crutches.
But things did improve. You find your ways around things. You adjust. It takes a little time. You can’t do the things that you’re used to doing in the way you’re used to doing them, but there are other ways. You just have to look at the situation you’re in and work out what you need to do to work around it. Like having a box with all my pills, phone and remote by the side of the sofa. Or having a few changes of clothes in a backpack, so I could carry them with me to the bathroom. Human beings are amazing – we can adapt to the circumstances around us. And every new thing that I could now do was to be celebrated.
5. I was going to ‘tune into’ my body
One of the things I learnt how to do was learn how to move. How to get up from the sofa without hurting my left foot or my back. Or break my wrists even, which is a very real risk when you’re not using crutches the proper way! So I started to tune into my body more, see where the pain was, see what areas felt weaker and started working around those to handle myself better.
All of the above is what mindfulness is about. So it’s fair to say that mindfulness did help me a great deal in the last few months. And becoming more mindful as a result of this injury is definitely one of the things I’m most grateful for.
Mind you, though. I still stand by the fact that I’m not grateful for the injury itself!