The day I broke my leg [006]

We hadn’t even been back 12 hours. (And then I broke my leg!)


We arrived at home at around 10:30 pm on a Wednesday night. The Husband and I were both exhausted. We put the boys to sleep, and I decided I was too tired to unpack. I had 4 days before I was due back at work on Monday – I could take it easy.

It’s that ‘taking it easy’ that made me get up in the morning and start acting like a lunatic. I put the car seats back in the car, cleared the fridge, ready for the shopping to be delivered, I opened the post, gave the boys breakfast… I started jumping from one task to the next, doing things as soon as I noticed that they needed doing. The Husband left for work, and I told him:

“Have a good day – I have a lot on today”.

The Little Guy needed a nappy change (he’s 2), so I took a break from the madness and went upstairs to do that. But of course I had no t-shirts for him – they were all in the suitcases. So I thought I might as well unpack – I unpacked one suitcase and put it to the side.

It wouldn’t lock. My idea of putting it to the side so I could move on to the next one didn’t really work, as The Little Guy had decided that he wanted to push it around. It opened on him, and he wasn’t happy, so I decided to take it downstairs to get it out of the way.

And that’s pretty much the last useful thing I did (or rather attempted to do) that day. The suitcase opened again once I was taking it down the stairs, my left foot slipped (or missed a step?), and I slipped forward. Unfortunately, when I fell after slipping my right foot got trapped under my own weight, and seeing that my body still had that forward movement from the slip, I basically gave my shinbone and calf a proper twist.

Twist and crack, in fact.

Yes, I heard it.

And I felt it.

I immediately registered the sensation that it felt and sounded like my leg now had sand inside. The pain was breath-taking for a couple of seconds. I grabbed my leg, held my breath and closed my eyes. Because I didn’t want to scream. I heard The Little Guy at the top of the stairs saying: “Okay?”, but I wasn’t able to answer him, to reassure him. I held my leg for a few seconds until I could look up and breathe again.

My right foot was unresponsive. The leg was still making that awful sound like there was sand in it.

As soon as I felt I could move, I scooped my leg up with my right arm, pushed the suitcase over the stairgate, got myself to the bottom of the stairs (I must have had 4 or 5 steps left), and I started calling The Big Guy. He had just gone into the loft with The Middle Guy to crack open his PS3 Fifa 16 – a present that my brother had given him in Italy 10 days before and that he had been waiting to play with for the rest of our holidays. I had to call him with a certain (ahem) ‘energy’, to make sure he came quickly – I knew he would have happily ignored me otherwise!

When he came downstairs, he wasn’t impressed with me.

I told him calmly that I had broken my leg and needed him to get me the phone. I told him where it was, and then I asked him to get a top for The Little Guy, put it on for him and open the doors.

He looked confused. He looked at my legs (I was wearing some old, baggy joggers I only wear in the house), and he couldn’t see anything wrong with my legs. I was speaking calmly, and he seemed confused by the instructions.

“But if I open the door The Little Guy is going to go out”, he said.

“Well, keep him in please!!!” (I couldn’t come up with anything better!)

I asked The Middle Guy to go and get dressed, and I phoned The Husband to ask him to turn around and come back home. Then I called my brother-in-law to ask him to come round and be with the boys in case the ambulance arrived before The Husband did, and I called 112.

I think it was at that point that I decided, while still holding my leg, to have a look at it.

I lifted my bottoms up and there was an additional joint somewhere on my shinbone.

Great. Yep, “I broke my leg. I need an ambulance please”.

My brother-in-law thankfully arrived around 15 minutes later, followed in by the paramedics. When I told them what happened one of them said: “Well, at least you weren’t carrying a full suitcase, and you weren’t on your way to your holidays!”

Somehow that didn’t seem funny or comforting at the time. Too soon for a joke. She got a blank stare, I think (oops).

I know we left my house in the ambulance one hour and 15 minutes later. So what happened in that time must be a bit of a blur, as it didn’t feel like that long had passed. I guess we (the 2 paramedics and I) spent a considerable amount of time trying to immobilise my leg. They gave me some morphine and then spent some more time working out how to get me out of the house and on a stretcher to get onto the ambulance, without moving my leg. I was really grateful for the way they took their time and really tried their best to try and keep me comfortable. I never found out what their names were, but I’ll never forget those two ladies’ faces and how they made me feel safe.

The Husband had got home while the paramedics were with me, and when we were ready, he jumped in the ambulance with me (second time this year!) We went to the hospital while the boys spent their day with their Uncle, Aunt, and cousins.

In the hospital, I went from A&E (triage) to x-rays back and forth a few times. I remember being wheeled back from the x-rays department, and the doctor came up to me and whispered in my ear: “You broke your leg”.

“I know that. How bad is it?”

It was hard to learn that I had managed to break both my tibia and my fibula (at different heights), and that I would have needed a temporary cast, which would also go over my knee, because of the fracture on the fibula being quite high up.

Hard to learn that I had to have surgery and a metal rod and screws inserted in my tibia. (The infamous intramedullary nail, or rod).

But also to learn that I had to be hospitalised and wait for surgery.

It was hard to learn that it’d be about 6 months before my leg would be okay.

And it was hard to know that for the first time in his life I was going to be away overnight from The Little Guy. Mamma wasn’t going to put him to bed and give him milk in the night. (Of course, Papa’ stepped in and did a brilliant job, but it was a little hard for everyone involved).

It was an accident.

An unlucky fall.

A very serious fracture for such a mundane task. How many times have been up and down those innocent-looking, carpeted stairs, carrying babies and all sorts of things?

The A&E doctor couldn’t really comprehend how I wasn’t hurt anywhere else, having told them I ‘fell down the stairs’ (technically, not quite right) and considering the extent of my leg fracture.

But what was also really hard for me was to recognise that before I fell I wasn’t in a great state of mind. I was overwhelmed by the tasks ahead. And I was rushing around. I wanted to do it all – achieve it all on that day, on that morning, in fact. Get through my to-do list. I wanted everything to be ready and perfect for the boys – for all of us.

But everything changed.

Temporarily (thankfully), but in one very quick second, everything changed. Because of that decision that I made in a split second, to take that suitcase down the stairs.

The Middle Guy has been telling me since: “Mamma, why did you take the suitcase downstairs? Papa’ could have done it”.

Hindsight. Oh. So. Powerful.

Related posts:

How to keep sane as a mum with a broken leg.

7 good things to come out of a broken leg.

Injury-related anxiety – the scary feeling of feeling scared.

Do you have a broken tibia? Did you need intramedullary nail surgery?

Buy my book, ‘Recovering from a broken tibia – a practical guide to healing from intramedullary nail surgery, from one patient to another.’


  1. Andrew
    6th October 2016 / 1:38 pm

    I broke my tibia & fibula two months back so know what you going through. I left a magazine on the stairs to remind me to take it with me later and slipped on it! Hope you have a speedy recovery

    • Sara Bussandri
      5th November 2016 / 11:56 pm

      Andrew, I do that ALL the time! That’s actually a tip I picked up years ago – NEVER do the stairs empty handed. Carry stuff downstairs or upstairs as you go, to save yourself an extra trip. And mind you, I STILL haven’t learn my lesson and continue to do it (even though I can’t actually do the stairs at the moment). Your timings sounds really close to mine – I fell on the 1st of September. You must still be recovering too? How are you? How’s life for you at the moment?

  2. Ni
    16th November 2016 / 12:36 am

    Thank you Sara, your story was so emotional, it frlg like i was there, but what really got me was the part you being away from little guy.

    • Sara Bussandri
      16th November 2016 / 10:54 pm

      Aww, thank you for reading Ni Ni! It was hard for him – he didn’t like seeing me in hospital. I had needles in my arm, and he refused to come near me, for 5 long days 🙁 That was the end of his mummy milk 🙁 xx

  3. Daniel
    8th April 2017 / 12:23 pm

    Hi, i was looking in Internet if it only happened to me…is the second time i break my tibia and fibula (first the right leg and now the left one) by slipping and fall with my weight on the leg. In this second time i have like you intramedullar rod in tibia. How well are you recovery?

    • Sara
      9th April 2017 / 6:01 pm

      Hi Daniel, really sorry to hear about your leg but glad you got in touch! I’ll send you an email so I can give you more details!

      • Elsje
        13th April 2018 / 10:22 pm

        Hi Sara. I’m Day 8 into exact same injury and operation and wondering if the pain ever goes away and how recovery works after the 8 weeks rest.
        So worried I’m never going to recover enough to run again.
        Please let me know about your pain and recovery.
        Elsje- South Africa

        • Sara
          16th April 2018 / 11:07 am

          Hi Elsje, not sure you’ll be reading this, so I’ll send you an email if that’s okay. Thanks for getting in touch and sorry to hear about your injury!

          • Jackie
            28th August 2018 / 7:04 pm

            Hi Elsje, my son is 17 and an athlete and just sustained this injury. Does the pain eventually go away I’m worried about him being young and having permanent pain in this leg.

          • Sara
            29th August 2018 / 10:20 am

            Hi Jackie, sorry to hear about your son’s injury. Don’t worry, the pain will eventually go away. Because he’s very young and an athlete, it may be a possibility for you to discuss the option of removing the nail, if the doctors believe he’s a good candidate for this. The recovery is quite long, but he will definitely get better. Good luck with it all.

  4. Jerry
    22nd April 2017 / 7:42 pm

    Gravity has a way of reminding us that she’s right there…lest we forget…I’m really glad it was the suitcase and not the 2yr old…get well soon

    • Sara
      24th April 2017 / 12:31 pm

      It does indeed. Thank you for your good wishes and kind words Jerry.

  5. Alan
    17th December 2018 / 11:39 pm

    I’m 13 and i broke my tibia while getting hit by a car and am worried ill never be able to play soccer again.

    • Sara
      31st December 2018 / 11:45 am

      Hi Alan, sorry to hear about your awful accident. Hope you’re feeling much better and good luck with your recovery!

  6. Daniel Duarte
    31st December 2018 / 12:20 pm

    I know that now might be scary but don’t worry because sure you will be able to play soccer. I broke my two legs in different occasions and I don’t have any limitations. You need to work hard in your recovery! Regards

  7. 2nd May 2019 / 5:20 pm

    Hi Sara

    I broke my tibia and had two surgeries, now it’s my week in a cast. I am scared like everyone else in this forum, about running and how long it will take to walk after they will take my cast off. How did recovery go for you??

    • Sara
      31st July 2019 / 10:00 pm

      Hi Greta, I’m really sorry I missed your message and only got to it now – how are you? If you haven’t already, I’d suggest you look for the IM nail group on Facebook so you can share your story and hear the experiences of others who have had similar surgeries. Best of luck with your recovery!

  8. Brittney
    5th May 2020 / 4:48 pm

    I’m just over 9 and I broke my tibula, fibula, and femor in a vaulting accident. I am hoping to return in time for our next completion, and I hope that you are recovering well. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *