Monday, 8 July 2013

Today is the day!

Today is the day that I say goodbye to the cage. 

I'm all prepped and in my gown

And my pins have been cleaned:

So I'm just waiting for my x-rays. Wish me luck. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Good News at last!!

Hey everyone, I have some good news :)

I went to the hospital on the 20th of June and had my x-rays and met up with the consultant to discuss my progress. It was agreed that the bones had meshed together quite well and now was the next part of the process- to slacken the frame off.

(This might be a bit awkward to explain, but I'll try my best.)

Above picture is my leg with my Illizarov Frame. The green arrows point to my rods which are attached to the rings. Basically these are all screwed together to hold the bone steady so it heals straight and everything fuses together as it should.

This is a better look at the rod, you can see the nuts holding the rings straight (meaning the pins hold the bone).

At the hospital, I had these nuts slackened off so the rings are free standing and the bone can freely move.

If you look closely, you can see the nuts aren't screwed down. I remained like this for one week and then had the rods and nuts taken out completely.

I'm now being held together with cable ties. The ties are there mainly for peace of mind as it's a bit unnerving to only have pins in your leg.

We now have to watch my leg and make sure it doesn't bend or move and all being well, the pins will come out on the 9th of July!!!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Underneath the dressings

Warning: Not for the faint-hearted.

I currently have a leg infection where my pin sites aren't healing properly. This is what they look like at the moment without the dressings:

This is halfway on my right side. It weeps quite a bit.

Probably the worst is the right top pins by my knees. The Pin has moved so much it's creating a hole in my leg that isn't healing.

This is on the left top pins by my knee. While it doesn't seem so bad from this angle, it's actually making a hole because of the pin on the other side (see above)

This is the middle of my leg on the left. It's probably the best pins out of them all and isn't bleeding much.

So I guess the next step is to see the dr and get on some more drugs and hope for the best. I'm in quite a bit of pain when I walk at the moment because everything heals over and as soon as I walk, it opens all back up.

Never mind though. Just got to keep thinking happy thoughts.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Hairy leg no more!

When I first got fixatored, I hadn't shaved for about 2 weeks and my legs weren't looking too bad. 2 months down the line, however, there's have got a bit hairy...

I wasn't too bothered at first and made a joke about it but in all honesty, it was starting to get me down. Everytime I showed my fixator to someone, I was embarrassed about the amount of leg hair.
Luckily for me, JML came to the rescue with their product 'Finishing Touch'. The JML Finishing Touch is essentially a mini shaver and due to it's small nature and angled head, it's perfect for getting round all the bars and pins in my leg.

Here are the results; 

Not bad huh? I'm really happy. The loss of hair has taken away lots of dead skin and itchiness with it and I can apply cream easier. My leg still feels a bit prickly but no one really feels my leg so as long as it looks clean shaven, I don't care.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Tightening the Screws

Yesterday I spent an awful long time in hospital waiting to find out a date when the fixator will be off. I had an 3 lots of x-rays and saw the dressings nurse but I spent the most time waiting to see Mr Dennison. Apparently Mr Dennison is one of the best Orthopaedics for trauma and external fixators.
I was called into see him and he was a lovely gentleman, I felt at ease straight away.

We looked at the x-rays and he explained that whilst the x-ray of my leg straight on looked perfect, the x-ray of that shows the side of my leg doesn't look so good. Basically, the smaller bone that was broken is healing up well but the bigger, shin bone, has come out of place and hasn't healed at all. I was gutted. I suppose I had all my hopes on coming home to Sheffield in March and now it looks like that's not going to happen. When Mr Dennison said that we'd have to move the bone into place, I panicked; I had visions of having my leg reset or another operation, but it just meant that the cage had to be tightened which would push the pins, and the bone, into a better position.

Mr Dennison got out a torque wrench and started tightening the bolts on my cage. It felt a little uncomfortable when he was tightening it but the real pain came when I stood up and my leg crunched the bone together. I was a bit wobbly walking with my crutches but it got easier the more I walked. I went for another x-ray and the difference in my leg was immediate. We could see that the frame was pushing my bones straight so it would heal properly.

My parents asked if they could see the first x-ray taken when I was admitted to hospital. I was so jacked up on morphine at the time so I was curious to see too. The x-ray, however, made me want to be sick. Although my leg was straight, my foot was at a right angle to the left- it was disgusting. Mr Dennison finished off the consultation by saying the fixation will be on for 6 months in a worst case scenario but as I'm young and don't smoke, hopefully it'll be off before then.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Dressings Day; A How To.

When I started this blog, I decided that I wanted it to help anyone else who was about to have (or already had) an external fixation fitted. I talked about dressings day previously but I realised that I hadn't quite explained the process. If you're squeamish (or hate hairy legs), feel free to ignore this post.

 1. Have a shower before you do your dressings.
With a fixator on, you're only allowed to get it wet once a week. In the shower, make sure you use no product on your fixated limb, only let water trickle across it. You can dry the cage with a hairdryer (on a cold setting) or gently with a towel.

Hairy leg alert!

2. Lift all the suckers up.
I'm not really sure of the proper name for these so I'm just going to call them suckers. You need to slide them up carefully away from the dressings. If you lift them and you haven't had a shower, they might stick and be a bit painful to separate, just take it slow. As you can see by the photo below, the dressing looks really gunky but don't worry; yellow, white, red puss is all a good sign. You should only be concerned if the goo is a bright yellow and causes you pain.

Pretty Gross.

3. Remove the dressings.
Next, remove all the dressings and put them into the bag that was included in your dressings kit. Inspect every pin site for sign of infection.


4. Soak the wipes in 70% alcohol solution and wipe around the pin sites.
If, like me, you have someone do the dressings for you, make sure they use tongs to prevent infection. When wiping the pin sites, make sure not to take off any scabs attached to the skin (unless they fall off naturally) and to wipe around the entry into the sin and the metal. You can use the wipe more than once but when it gets a bit dirty, throw it away and use a new one.

Soak in alcohol solution

Wipe around each site.

5. Make two insertions into the dressings and soak in alcohol.
First, you need to cut the new dressings with sterilized scissor. We general make one cut, halfway up. You then need to soak the new dressings in the alcohol solution.

Gold Toes! Remember to cut your dressings.

6. Wrap the new dressings around the pin sites and push the suckers back down.
Use one dressing for one pin site and wrap it around the metal on the skin as best you can. I'd advise doing all the dressings first and then push the suckers back down as some suckers and pins may overlap. Make sure if you have someone to do the dressings, that they use the tongs provided. If you do the dressings yourself, you can hold the dressings to the skin with your hands.

Pretend you're playing a game of operation.

That's it! You're all done! It's going to sting quite a bit and there's going to be some eye watering moments but overall, it gets better the more you do it. I always watch TV as it's being changed so it keeps my mind distracted from the task in hand. I'd advise not pushing the suckers down all the way to the skin as it gives the wound a bit or breathing space and it won't hurt as much when you take them off later. Remember that your dressings can only be changed once a week or the skin will blister but if you are worried about the colour of the goo, go to your local GP and they will advise you further.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The return of the screaming

It's 00.28, I'm lying in bed trying to go to sleep and I think the best thing to write about right now is the nightmares and flashbacks. I thought only soldiers in war only experienced trauma but I experienced a trauma of falling. When someone has a trauma of this kind, it takes them two years to fully recover. I'm only on week 5 of 104 of recovery so my accident is still very prominent in my mind, which in turn has taken a toll on my mental health. I suffer from flashbacks and nightmares as a result of my injury.

The nightmares are definitely the worst and very night I have an anxiety attack about sleeping. In my dreams, I relive the experience of having my leg reset over and over and over. The background to my dreams are the shouts of the lady who was next to me in the ward. Her shouts were always the same; "mamma help me, mamma save me, what are you doing to me? Somebody help me, they are trying to kill me". There's nothing else to the dream, it simply repeats until my mind moves onto something else. I don't normally wake until noon and when I do, I'm exhausted from the night.

The flashbacks, whilst not as bad, still take me by surprise. When my ice skate was removed by paramedics the day I fell, I let out a scream (and my friends will testify that it was a piercing scream) because I was in so much pain. Sometimes, I'll be watching tv or eating my dinner or doing anything when my mind will take me back to that point and for a few seconds, all I can hear is that scream. I'm helpless until its over and it's terrifying.

It's possibly that I'll need Cognitive behavioural therapy but the medication I'm on does increase anxiety and nightmares so I'm hoping my mind will settle down.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Dressings Day

Each pin on my leg, goes through the bone and out the other side. As the pin goes in, there's a sucker and underneath the sucker there's a dressing which protects the open wound from infection. These dressings have to be changed and the pin cleaned weekly.

The pin nurse came before I went home to show my mother how to change and clean everything correctly (seeing as I was still in denial about the pins going through the skin). A word to anyone who is having the fixator and is having the dressings changed the first time; it hurts. a lot. Imagine ripping off a scab, the pain is somewhat like that when the dressings are taken off. After the dressings are off, a 70% alcohol solution is applied, which burns, to the leg before new dressings are applied.

The nurse who changed my dressings had no mercy and I screamed as each was changed. She explained to my mother that no matter the noises I made, it's essential to continue the dressing change. Now that I'm looking back and have had four changes, I realise the nurse was in a hurry and that it is less painful if you have a shower before hand to wet the dressings as it makes them easier to take off.

Walking again.

The idea of the external fixation is that you can weight-bare through it straight away. In theory, after my operation, I would've got up and walked away. But life isn't that easy.
Physiotherapy started the day after my operation. I was given a walking frame and had to make my way from the bed to the chair, an easy enough task, so you'd think.

I was in agony lowering my leg from the bed to the floor, the blood rushing to my leg also brought feeling. I was with two physios, each helping me from the bed to the frame. I managed to stand and hobble over to the chair by the side of my bed. Something that would've taken a normal person seconds, took me fifteen minutes. Evey time I bent my leg, a hot pain would rush to my knee and when I tried to walk, my leg wouldn't respond in the way I wanted it to. There were moments where I thought my leg was out in front of my body but in actual fact it was parallel.

I got through my physio with thanks to only my mother. Without her, I would still be stuck in hospital struggling to get up from my bed. My mother devised a system where I would get up and down from my chair five times to earn a gold star. We spent hours in one night on getting just one star, to ease my leg into be bent and straightened over and over. By the time the physiotherapist came the next morning, I could get up with ease.

The next step of my recovery was walking with the walking frame. Like I mentioned above, it was difficult to get my leg to respond and when I wanted to move my foot forward, it would hang limply, not responding. Again all night, we practised walking with the frame, ever so slightly. I'll admit, I cried a lot through my physiotherapy. It hurt every time I moved and to put pressure on the bones was excruciating. When the physio returned the next day, I could walk a short distance with my frame. I was happy and was told I could go home if I progressed to the crutches.

Little did I know that crutches would be my downfall. I hated my crutches right from the start. They didn't support me in the way the walking frame did and the tile floors, to me, seemed slippery. I practised slightly with the crutches but less support from them meant more stress on my leg. Soon, I had blisters on my hands, my arms ached and I cried in pain every time I stood up. My medication was doubled to deal with the pain but done little to help me walk.

At this point, it was two days until Christmas and I desperately wanted to go home. I had to prove to the physiotherapist that I could walk. I grabbed my crutches and screamed inside every step I took but I walked the required length. This was good news, I could manage the length of an average room. The bad news however, there was another task I had to complete before I was allowed home; stairs.

I still don't know how I managed those steps but my determination to go home for Christmas was greater than my pain. I was dismissed from hospital on Christmas eve. 

Peace with the Cage

As the time went on, I got brave. I started looking at my cage more and more. I didn't like it but I was going to have to live with it. I couldn't quite look at the pins going into my leg, but I could look at them. My friend knitted me a little Santa and we thought it'd be funny to attach him to my cage to make it look more festive.

The cage. A metal burden.

When I recovered properly from the operation, the Physiotherapists came to see me and asked to lift back the covers. I agreed that they could life the covers but I did not want to see the cage. I wasn't ready and to be honest, it scared the hell out of me to think that there was metal going through my leg.

My cage after the operation.

It wasn't until the next day, my mother encouraged me to look at the cage. I pulled back the covers and looked at my leg. I wasn't shocked, I wasn't horrified, I wasn't anything. I covered it up again. At the time I didn't realise what I was doing, but I was actually pretending it wasn't my leg. Physio would come and press on my foot and I'd press back, wiggle my toes and flex my leg but still, I couldn't accept that this metal cage would be attached to me for a short period of my life.

I ignored my cage completely.

The operation

On the 18th of December at 3pm, I was wheeled down to operation. Luckily for me, they took my needle phobia into consideration and the anesthetic was administered through a mask. All I remember is going to sleep and waking up in immense pain.

Sexy picture of me taken by my mother.

The worst part about waking up was the compression pillows on my feet. The pillows basically inflate up and down to keep the blood flowing. It was painful because the pillows would squeeze my foot tightly (think like having your blood pressure taken but on your foot) before deflating. Later, when I was recovering, the pillows were put on my feet only at night and they became more of an annoyance rather than painful. 


My time in hospital wasn't all doom and gloom. I had a large amount of friends come and visit me. My favourite visitor, however, was Geoff Woolhouse; the netminder for the Sheffield Steelers. Both my father, my partner and my friends were lobbying the Sheffield Steelers for one of the team to come and visit me and I was in a state of shock when he walked in the ward. Geoff signed my team flag and took my jersey away to be signed by all of the team. It was amazing (although I would have preferred to have met him in better circumstances).

I just want to take this post to say thank you to;
Gavin, Philippa, Ellie, Chris, Richard, Tom, Krysia, Louise from archery, Louise from work, Ella, Claire, Andy, Adam Kathy, Paul and my parents 
 for making the effort to visit me in hospital. 

I also want to thank all of the Sheffield Steelers Twitter community for being there throughout to cheer me up. 

The worst time to fall

On the 8th of December, I was admitted to hospital. I didn't leave until the 24th.
The date I fell was one of the busiest A&E days the hospital had seen in ten years. I was not a priority. Whilst I had decided I wanted the external fixation, I was not operated on until the 18th December. In those ten days I'd had around twenty injections, two blood tests and an IV line; not bad for someone who is terrified of needles.

The Cage

On Tuesday, 11th December, I decided I wanted the cage. The cage is my name for an external fixation. A doctor came by and explained what had happened to my leg. The break was serve and I had three options:
  1.  I can remain in cast and the bones might heal. If the bones healed incorrectly, however, the bones would be re-broken, reset and I would have to review options 2 &3. 
  2. I could have my leg plated and pinned. This meant an operated and a plate joining the bones together. Whilst this seems like a good idea, the risk of infection is very high.
  3. I could be fitted with an external fixation with pens going through the bone allowing me to weight-bare.
I must admit, I didn't fancy my chances with any of those options and was left to think about it and talk it through with my family. A nurse came by later and introduced me to a woman on the next ward over with a fixation through her ankle. Whilst the fixation looked terrifying, she was walking and she wasn't in pain. It was then that I decided that I would go for option 3, the external fixation.

Ward with the screaming ladies

After my x-rays and resetting, I was put in a hard cast and put on a ward until it was clearer whether I needed surgery or not. I am very frightened of hospitals and the past 24 hours seemed like something out of a horror film, but my situation did not get better. I was put on a ward normally reserved for ladies with dementia. I understand the illness of dementia, I have even wrote a paper on it but nothing could have braced me for the screaming in the nights. The elderly ladies would scream for hours on end, shout the most terrible things and call for their mothers. I'm not afraid to admit that for the first night on the ward, I sat and sobbed.

Eventually, the women were moved or taken home and while the ward grew quieter, it still remained hostile. Visiting hours were strict and not all my friends came to visit. I was 200 miles from my family and frightened. My partners job, while understanding of his situation, was a huge demand and my best friend could only make the morning visiting hours. I was lucky when my father, and later my mother, drove from Wales to see me and stayed past the visiting hours to calm me down.

Resetting the mistakes

After my x-rays, I was wheeled into the fracture clinic into a private bay. I was given shots of morphine and gas and air was placed around my mouth. My partner was told to wait outside and it was explained that in order to put a cast on, the bones would have to be reset. I didn't know what that meant and was a bit hazy on what was happening. The next thing that happened was one of the worst experiences of my life.

To have bones reset means that they will literally manipulate the ends of the broken bone so that they are in a better position. This means they take the bones and crunch them together, hold them and then plaster it. It makes me sick to even think about what happened. I was in agony, I screamed, I lashed out so much that a nurse restrained me and then I passed out. Or I think I passed out because all I rememeber mostly is pain and darkness and screaming.

I wish I could say this process happened only once. I had my bones reset four times in total.

My blog name is not a typo

My name is Angharad, I'm 22 and I have an external fixator on my leg. I've made this blog for not only myself but for anyone else who wants to know what it's like having a fixation and for those who currently have or are getting one.

First I'll explain how I ended up in this situation.

Not my x-ray but like this.
I love Ice Hockey. I love watching it and I love my team, the Sheffield Steelers. On the 8th of December, after a devastating loss against the Edinburgh Capitals, the Steelers invited the fans onto the ice to skate with the players. I'm not the most confident of skaters but I knew if I held onto the side, I'd be able to meet my favourite players. No doubt, you can guess what happened... I hit a bad patch of ice and wobbled. I fell one way and to try stop myself falling, I banked all my weight to the opposite side and fell. The next thing I remember is lying on the ice screaming, surrounded by the staff and a few players from my beloved team. I was lifted onto a stretcher and lifted off the ice where an ambulance was called. Lying on the stretcher, I was assured it was just a sprain but I knew from the way my foot flopped to the side that it was most definitely broken. My friends came to my side, along with player Tyler Michel, and stayed with me. I was given gas and air and screamed as they took my ice skate off. I was lifted into an ambulance, my friend and housemate Ellie at my side and given morphine. Later on, my fiancee, came to the hospital as I was x-rayed to reveal a broken tibia and fibula bone.