I have already blogged about my life-changing accident last April, when I fractured the bone that supports the knee joint, so I thought it was time for an update. I am writing this partly to explain why I haven’t been as ‘active’ in the poetry world, but also to help others going through a similar experience. I did so much damage when I fell because my bones are paper thin (Osteopenia) which I did not know until I had a bone scan. I think this was partly caused by my fibromyalgia (walking can be painful) and lockdown, especially the second one when it was too cold for gardening.
I eventually got the go-ahead to bear weight on my right leg again on 9th July. I thought I would be walking again unaided by now, but that is far from the case. My knee is not yet fully healed; new bone is growing but it’s not enough yet. I successfully transferred from gutter frame to Zimmer frame but I still need its support, and I haven’t quite got the technique right for walking as before yet. I’ve got a marvellous physio from Victoria Infirmary (Northwich) and I’ve been lucky enough to have visits from a physio assistant working under her, to give me extra time. I am religious about doing my exercises, and have just started having some success climbing stairs. I’ve been sleeping downstairs in a hospital style bed since May, when I was released from rehab. I managed 5 steps this morning. However, physio advice is to lead with the uninjured leg. I can’t do that. My left leg has always let the right lead, but now my surgeon says it is safe for me to lead upstairs with my right, so that’s helped the breakthrough. To be able to go upstairs at night to my own bed, my lovely husband and my handy en-suite, will make a world of difference.
Range of movement can be an issue. For the first two weeks (in hospital) my leg was fixed straight in a brace. I think this was to protect my wound, as well as the joint, because after I had my staples out, the doctor gave me a 30 degree bend capacity, and I was advised to make sure I did start to bend it a little. After I was given ‘toe touch’ weight bearing, which is a misnomer as no weight should go through the leg, it is just using the toe for balance, my bend was increased to 90 degrees. I was advised to make sure I bent it, although it was very painful, and at first I could only bear it for 10 minutes. After a week I could put my foot on the floor for upto 30 minutes at time. At home, my lovely new physio gave me some bed exercises to do which helped the bend in my knee a lot as well as the stretch of the skin. The surgeon told me last week that I had very good range of movement, and that it needs 90 degrees to do the stairs and I had more, so I was so glad I had persisted with the exercises. I am still trying to improve the range of movement further.
We went on holiday at the start of August with family and I completely failed to get into the swimming pool. However a further holiday in October saw me getting into a different swimming pool. Yes, it was painful and tricky, but being in the water did me so much good. I could actually walk in the water, round and round the pool, because the water was holding me up. By the end of the week, I could swim too, though not as well as I could before… YET. I’ve started doing a bit more round the house (not using a wheelchair as I was before) like washing up and wiping down worktops, by bracing myself against the sink. I can walk on the frame into any of the downstairs rooms. With supervision I can get into my computer chair, or a dining chair at the table, or to play the clavinova. I sit in my easy chair (with a riser cushion) and do art, craft and knitting. I have sit to stand exercises to make my knees stronger, and chair and bed exercises as well. I’ve been very fortunate to have lots of friends come to see me, which really bucks me up and keeps me in touch with the outside world.
So I am gradually reclaiming parts of my life. It can take a year to 18 months to fully recover from this injury and I’m guessing not everyone my age or older does. But I want to make the most of precious time with my grandchildren, which means being able to care for them practically and be able to visit and to babysit. So they are a huge motivator for me. I want to regain some independence so my husband doesn’t have to be my carer, and to take up my poetry readings and workshops again, and even my lecturing. Covid has robbed us of so much time with loved ones and doing the things I enjoy. I don’t know how many years of life I have left to me, and I must make the most of every day.
I am so grateful we have an NHS in this country and all my care has been free at point of use. I have also had the benefit of loaned equipment, and advice from a really good occupational therapist. We need to protect our NHS.