It was 1am on a Saturday morning nearly three weeks ago, and I found myself in a dark alleyway between a furniture shop and a curry house. I was tipsy, not drunk, caught between the lure a handsome young man whilst panicking about the fact I had lost my best friend. Somehow, I lost my footing, tripped and fell and the rest, as they say, is history. This is the ridiculous story of how I broke my arm.
This is us before, loving life …
You might not want to read this next bit but for cathartic reasons, I need to type it out anyway. I tried to get up. I had braced myself with my left hand when I fell, so my palm was full of grit and mud, I got to my knees but as I lifted my right arm it flopped around like jelly. Think Harry Potter with no bones. Sorry, but it did. I keep reliving that memory and feeling over and over again, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.
My best friend spent the next two hours ringing 999 for an ambulance, but one didn’t come for two very long hours. She begged me to get up so that she could take me to hospital herself but I couldn’t move. I was stuck on that cold, muddy, wet alleyway floor as drunk men walked past us without even a sideways glance. She didn’t live far away so walked home and got a big blanket for me and that’s where we stayed until, thankfully, an ambulance turned up at 3am. I thought they’d bring gas and air to me so that I could get off the floor – all I got was paracetamol when I finally reached the inside of the ambulance.
I spent the next eight hours in A & E. It was only my best friend that got me through it and I will be forever thankful to her for that. Every time I fainted she caught my head and stroked my hair. Every time I threw up, she got a sick bowl for me. She looked after me like a mother would her child and I can tell you now, the bouquet of flowers I sent her when I got home doesn’t go anywhere near showing her how grateful I was for her love and care that night.
I told her to go home at 7am after I had had a cast put on my arm because it was just a waiting game then, waiting for a bed on the orthopaedic ward. I then spent the next four hours on my own, sat on a wheelchair in A & E, unable to move, relying on a very kind family next to me that brought me water and a cup of tea. I love the NHS and as much as my care over the next four days in hospital was problematic and far from perfect, they can only cope as best as they can with what they have, so I won’t say too much more about that.
I got to the ward at midday on Saturday. There were four of us there; one broken hip, two leg fractures and me. My family visited every day but now I’m home it’s all a bit of a morphine induced blur and I’m not entirely sure who came when. I remember the woman to my right needed oxygen and it sounded like she was snoring all day, it was just so constant. She also played Bejewelled Blitz on her phone with the volume up, into the early hours. Thankfully, I had asked my family to bring my headphones in so I coped, on minimal sleep, but I coped. A couple of women came and went and after two days, and a few more very painful x-rays later, they told me I was moving to another ward.
It was a bit of a waifs and strays ward. For elderly dementia patients and people post operation. The lady next to me had been there for three weeks and was suffering from cervical cancer. The two ladies opposite me had dementia and were understandably vocal, scared, loud and attached to alarms that went off all the time. I think we were all probably pretty scared in our own ways. After 48 hours, I still hadn’t been seen by a doctor. The nurse had escalated my case to the point where they supposedly put a complaint in and yet still no one saw me. “We don’t normally have orthopaedic patients on this ward,“ they said. I’d been forgotten, or at least it felt like that.
On what turned out to be my last night on that ward, my best friend was due to come in and see me for the first time since the accident happened. I was tired, emotional, in a lot of pain and couldn’t wait to see her. I started slowly pacing the corridor as she was due any minute but she text to say the hospital was on lockdown, she couldn’t get up to see me, police had been called as a man was running around with, what turned out to be a walking stick, but security didn’t know that at the time, so they just called the police. My anxiety by now was through the roof and I rushed to see the Sister, someone who hadn’t actually spoken to me, other than to hand over my medication every four hours. I begged her to let me self discharge. I explained about my anxiety, the hospital lockdown, I cried, I begged her to help me… I’ve never been in such a state before, it was really awful.
She asked one of the nurses to turn the TV on in the day room I didn’t even know existed. She brought a fan in for me but because the window wouldn’t open, that just made everything worse because I just felt so trapped. Finally, my best friend arrived and I burst into tears. I asked if it was safe to leave the ward for us to walk outside for some fresh air, and thankfully I was allowed. When it was time to go back in, I knew I couldn’t stay there another night and to cut a long story short, self discharged.
The journey home was nearly as painful as the break itself. I felt every pothole and bump in the road, clinging onto my arm brace so that it didn’t move, which proved impossible but we finally made it home. She settled me into bed, using the metal frame that the lady from Occupational Therapy had given me so that I can sleep in bed, but I have to sleep upright… and that’s how I’ve slept for the last 18 days. Upright and completely still.
I broke my dominant arm of course and have had to re-learn how to do lots of things. I pick a lot of things up from the floor with my toes. I’ve bought one of those litter pickers to pick other things up. I look absolutely ridiculous and feel 100 years old. I’ve learnt to do the washing up left-handed, to chop vegetables left-handed, I even managed to change my bottom sheet by myself this week left-handed. But the hardest thing of all, has been dealing with my emotions as they’ve been all over the place. Up until three days ago, I was in constant pain… I mean constant pain. The morphine and diazepam would take the edge off but there were two days last week where nothing touched the agony I was in and I cried all day.
Thankfully, things have improved pain-wise but every day I’ve had to make phone calls to the doctor, to PALS, to Orthopaedics, trying to get back into the NHS system so that I can have a follow-up appointment. I don’t know if my arm is setting in the right position. I will obviously need physio, but as time ticks on, it’s a battle not to fall through the cracks of the system. Some may say it’s my fault for self discharging but I was so distressed I couldn’t have stayed any longer.
I haven’t worn make up, or underwear, for three weeks now and it’s quite liberating, but I look like an absolute horror. My wonderful niece visits every week to wash my hair, blow dry it and put up in a bun on my head … until she comes the same time the following week to look after me again. I’ve had friends send me flowers and cake, real life friends and friends I’ve met online, and I’ve had to learn how to ask for help which, for someone as stubborn and independent as me, has been quite difficult, but it’s something I’m getting used to. My best friend turns up every Saturday with a couple of bits of food from Marks & Spencer I can’t get for myself, knocks on the door and announces, “Wiltshire Farm!”, like I’m her invalid, geriatric mate… which I depressingly kind of am. Dad, bless him, comes round to cut my grass and rings me every day to see if there’s anything I need, and my brother was my drug runner, getting my prescriptions from the doctor and ferrying me to appointments when I needed them.
I’ve never broken a bone before and there is nothing humorous about breaking your humerus. I’ve made that joke plenty of times now and it’s still not funny, but you have to find a way to get through each day because I’m going stir crazy being at home. As much as I moaned about having to have two jobs, I miss going out to work, I miss driving, I have severe arm envy when I see people walk past my house just walking the dog, doing normal everyday things.
What happens next? I’m waiting for a phone call from my doctor to see if she can re-refer me without my hospital notes, failing that it’s been suggested that I go back to A & E … seems the only way I can get back into the system. But it’s a last resort.
I’m trying really hard to get back to feeling how I did before the accident. I make myself walk in the garden every lunchtime, watching out for every minor divot in the grass because I’m paranoid, and I will be for months/years to come, that I’m going to fall again. But I dribble my food down my top every time I eat, I have constant under-boob sweat and I haven’t had a shower in nearly three weeks.
I feel weak and fragile. I’ve cancelled my gym membership… not just because I can’t afford it while I’m not working, but because in the frame of mind I’m in at the moment, I can’t imagine ever feeling strong again. I took everything for granted and as much as I know my injury isn’t life-threatening, it feels very life changing at the moment.
Thanks to all of you that have left supportive and loving messages for me – I do read them all, it’s just quite difficult replying left-handed lol but, like with this blog post, I will try and dictate replies where I can. Hopefully I will continue to heal, in every sense, and will end up looking back at this as just one more of my ridiculous stories.