This is Part 4 of Lloyd’s experience of a broken pelvis. The series starts with Part 1 – what to expect from a broken pelvis which covers the accident and immediate aftermath.
Patti had got the house ready for my return.
There was a wheelchair (a 50th birthday present) and she had all the doors and door frames downstairs removed so I could access all the rooms in my wheelchair.
There was the special toilet frame, padded straight back chairs to sit in, and the downstairs gym/storeroom had been converted into a bedroom as it would be some time before I could make it up (and down) the stairs.
Sadly, there was no downstairs bathroom and so it was hand baths at the sink in the utility room.
Healing is tiring
The surgeon was spot on when he said it took a lot of energy to heal. It was exhausting. I sat in the kitchen room in my chair most of the day reading and napping. I was thankful I took his advice and did not try to work while I was recovering.
Downstairs was all open plan so I had access all areas and could wheel myself around giving me some independence and meaning Patti did not need to be around doing everything.
The next big event was having the stiches out. There had been no infection and so the wound had healed cleanly.
I went to Eastwick surgery to have them out and they used what looked remarkably similar to a normal staple remover (but bigger) to prise out the metal staples. It took some time and the nurse kept apologising but given what had gone before this was a walk in the park.The swelling was now reducing as well, so far so good.
Six weeks later
At six weeks I went for my first follow up visit to the hospital. The problem was I had again managed to convince myself all would be fine.
The operation and the immediate aftermath had gone well, but I had conveniently forgotten what the surgeon had told me and I was again thinking it would fine. The downside of positive thinking is that it can make you delusional!
The surgeon showed me the MRI scans of the damage before the operation and the x-rays after the operation (first time I had seen these) with all the plates and screws.
Seeing those brought me back to reality with a hard bump. There really won’t be any back to normal.
A sobering reality
Back in the real world, the operation had been a success, he had repaired it as well as he had hoped.
There was a loss of feeling in my upper right leg from nerve damage but hopefully in time most would return (it has). Provided I did my rehab well there would be no limp (I did, and there isn’t), but the hip would wear unnaturally because of the repaired pelvis. I would hopefully have 10 years before arthritis would have me needing a hip replacement (it’s now 10 years on and still going).
The next 6 weeks passed much as they had before. During this time I was able to myself get up and down the stairs, on my backside, to sleep in my own bed and use the shower (with a shower chair).
I went back for the next follow up at 3 months, more x-rays and the surgeon pronounced himself pleased with progress and I could now start physio and rehab.
A key milestone had been reached.
After 3 months the right leg muscles were wasted away and I needed to build up the muscle to be able to take the weight of walking.
I was referred to an NHS physio team locally, but it was hopeless. Not the physios, but they simply don’t have the resources for intensive rehab. It is weeks between each appointment and the facilities are limited.
Fortunately, I was able to go private and went to a new facility (The Clavadel near Guildford) that had a fantastic state of the art hydrotherapy pool where the floor could be raised and lowered to the right depth for you. It had an underwater treadmill and handrails to hold onto, and I could see the therapist a couple of times a week for sessions.
I remember the first time (with water up to my neck and almost fully floating) I was allowed to put my foot on the floor – it felt so weird.
At first I would do gentle exercises in the hydro pool with the physio and on other days I would go to the leisure centre pool.
At the leisure centre I would shuffle slowly around the edge on my crutches where it was dry (I was terrified of a crutch slipping) to a quiet spot and would get down and bum shuffle to the edge. The lifeguards would bring me some noodles for flotation and keep a watch over me as I gently doggy paddled around.
As the weeks went by and the leg strengthened, I was able to start walking across the pool floor moving to ever shallower levels (less buoyancy). The regulars got used to me marching back and forth across the pool.
I was now back at work part time on non physio days. I could not take public transport so drove into London and parked at work (I had a temporary disabled badge). Again my employer was fantastic and allowed me to ease back into work.
I gave all my focus to rehab, going to the physio, doing my own exercises in the pool and now some weights work. As I strengthened, I progressed from 2 crutches to one crutch and then a walking stick.
The physio now concentrated on my gait teaching me to walk correctly without a walking aid or limp.
Progress is not a straight line
Just when it seemed to be going well, a setback.
Now back at work full time I was leading a major proposal, working hard, travelling overseas but also still working hard at my strengthening exercises. I then noticed a swelling in my lower abdomen, not a good sign. It slowly became more pronounced.
The hospital could not fit me in, so I arranged to see a surgeon privately to check it out. At his surgery I collapsed, pulse and heart rate going crazy. There was a bit of a fuss, it certainly got people rushing round!
Once I stabilised and it was clear I was not in danger of dying imminently, I was carted off in an ambulance to St Georges hospital. It turned out I had been pushing too hard at rehab and one of the screws had worked loose and was slowly untapping itself.
The stress of work, the rehab effort and worrying about the lump had caused the mini collapse. Fortunately no big deal, the other screws were holding firm, so they just made a little incision and took the loose screw out.
I am not suspicious, but I much prefer having 12 screws to the original 13!
The broken pelvis series:
- What to expect from a broken pelvis: Part 1 – the accident
- What to expect from a broken pelvis: Part 2 – before surgery
- What to expect from a broken pelvis: Part 3 – the operation
- What to expect from a broken pelvis: Part 4 – rehabilitation
- What to expect from a broken pelvis: Part 5 – long-term outcomes