It is now April, 3 months after I had my accident and had an intramedullary nail (IM Nail) put into my lower left leg and 1 month after my original post. I’m happy to report that things are progressing well.
Two days after the last post I made it to the kitchen and back to my room without the aid of crutches. I was walking! Well, I say walking, it was hobbling and moving at the speed of a 150 year old man. I was able to put my weight on my bad left leg very briefly, maintaining my balance before my right leg would take over in a much more assured way.
I then made another attempt and I began to feel more confident in my hobbling. It was brilliant! Using crutches is so limiting and annoying it is extremely liberating to have both arms free and I have never had so much pleasure in making a cup of tea for my flatmate and was able to hold both cups of tea!
It wasn’t pretty, but it was technically walking.
Since that day, I have not used my crutches (except once to get sympathy from a delivery person). The progress was quite good the first week of walking and then has been slow and steady after that.
I initially practised walking around the flat and going up and down a couple of steps. The next test was to make it to my local shop and back (down 7 flights of stairs and a 50yrd walk) and it felt so good to be independent.
The next test was to go to my friend Alex’s house in Tooting (Yes American readers, there is a place in London called Tooting; British readers, Americans use the word tooting to mean farting) which meant a small walk and a bus ride. I passed both tests well and boy does that feel so good. You know you have a long way to go in terms of recovery but you know that you have got the worst of it over and you can resemble being vaguely normal again.
My mood had definitely improved and I was feeling very positive and could not wait to start my physiotherapy. This ended up being nearly 3 weeks after my last hospital visit due to some rather poor bureaucracy between St. George’s hospital and St. Thomas’s hospital. My postcode meant I would not have physio at St. Georges, where I had my operation, but would be referred to St. Thomas. I spent nearly a week chasing this up, not being able to get through to anyone who could tell me what was going on.
Then I got a letter from Kings’s College Hospital saying I could come into one of their open physio sessions on a first come first serve basis. I wasn’t sure why they had been in touch, but was pleased they had and was so looking forward to starting physio that I didn’t mind the hour and half wait to be seen.
The physio was really good and I was glad I had my x-ray photos on my phone as I was able to show him in detail what had happened and he said this was very useful. I was given a long bit of rubber (shown below) which looks like some sort of bondage sex aid. You use it to help strengthen the ankle muscles by pushing on it away, to the left, to the right, etc.
I mentioned to the physio I was a member of a gym and asked if I would be able to use any of the equipment. He said absolutely and seemed pleased I suggested the idea. He said that I could use the bike, the cross-trainer, the one where you push your legs together, the one that you push your legs apart and the one where you sit and push your lower legs up. He said not to go crazy, but it would all help build up the leg muscle again and help stop the limping.
He also suggested I slow down my walk as the quicker I walked, the more pronounced my limp was. He said slowing down the walk would get the leg used to walking normally (as a small part of the limp is psychological) and combined with the physio and exercises it would all help me lose the limp. The physio also said to listen to my body in the sense that if you are feeling intense pain, then stop and rest and don’t push it, but that feeling a little sore and having swelling is all very normal and part of the healing process.
I’ve been to the gym three times since the physio appointment and although I realise how unfit I have become it felt good to be able to do these exercises and be proactive in my recovery as the first 2 months I felt very passive as you have to be patient and concentrate more on healing and looking after your leg. I’ve had the flu unfortunately this last week so have not been to the gym, but I am still making progress.
My walk still has a limp but when walking slowly it is not very noticeable, but I am able to get about just fine (buses, London Underground, stairs, walking about, etc.). I have found walking down stairs the most tricky and for the first couple of weeks I went down one step at a time (i.e. one foot on the step, then the other before moving onto the next step) but have progressed to walking down more normally but I do notice the transition from stepping down on my left foot to the right foot is a bit heavy and fast. There is still not quite the control and fluidity that should be there.
Walking long distances (more than 15mins) does take its toll. My parents came up to London for the day and I met up with them and we walking around for a couple of hours and although we were not walking fast, it did feel sore and my Dad noticed I was limping more by the end than at the start. My leg had swelled a fair bit and was sore that evening and the following day.
The improvement in the leg means sleeping is better as I can get into my more normal sleeping position, but still get woken up with a bit of pain if I have been lying on it wrong somehow.
I still have a fair bit of recovery to go, but feel good about where I have got to in 3 months, especially as I was told it would be 6mths before I could do all the things I wanted to do. I feel I have got over the halfway point.
Recovery does seem slow with only gradual improvements (e.g. you notice little things get slightly easier, like getting in and out of the bath shower, putting on trousers whilst standing and walking down stairs), but it is nice when friends notice you are walking better than you were a couple of weeks ago.
I have my next and suspect last hospital check up later in the month and it will feel very nice to give the crutches back. I will not miss them. I also think that I will be quite close to being as recovered and able as the guy I saw at my last hospital visit. He was able to walk quite freely and easily but had a very slight limp.
My next goal is to be able to walk without a limp at all.