Over 5 weeks ago (12 August 2010) I was in an accident on my way to work. It was a little different to the usual ride because in a weird stroke of fate Pauline was actually with me on her scooter to meet a friend and go shopping. I took my usual route to work and as normal I got stuck at the lights at Glenelg Street near where the Prop House used to be. I was front of the lights in the right hand lane which was unusually empty. It was empty mainly because all the way down near Melbourne Street there was an arrow telling people the right hand lane was closed. This was over a km away mind you, but everyone had merged in to the middle lane early making that lane clogged. Now I’ve done my research and I know that you are meant to merge at the merge point since that actually makes the traffic flow better. I also know that people think you are an asshole if you do that, but if everyone did it there would be no asshole overtaking your spot in the right hand lane.
Warning, there will be some minor graphic photos further along in the post, so don’t scroll down if you are timid.
So there I was, front of the queue, Pauline beside me fiddling with her gloves. The light changes and I take off down the hill, starting at 0 on my way to 60kms an hour leaving Pauline a few clicks behind at the lights. I notice a car pulling out of the driveway on my right hand side when I reached about 40kms and I tried to swerve to avoid them, however there wasn’t enough room for me to get my by and I clip the front of the car. Bang! I hit my leg on the Vespa then fly over the bonnet of the car somersaulting through the air and tumbling to the road on the other side of the car. In flight, all I think about is that I need to relax as flashes of colours go past my eyes. After the tumble has finished, I feel ok and go to stand up. Suddenly I’m not ok and I’m yelling “fuckwit, fuckwit, fuckwit” as I stand on my right leg and realise it’s very painful. My fuckwit was kind of a general yell at the lady driving the car, me and my leg. I’m mostly yelling it in to the tarmac and I’m told to lie down by people running towards me. The lady driver is hugging me saying she is so sorry over and over again which sort of stuns me and makes me go mute. Apparently Pauline is freaking out because she has seen the whole thing which wouldn’t have been easy. To me, she just appears reassuring and her face is calming enough – I can’t imagine how I’d be with only strangers around.
At this point I’m pretty confident I have a broken leg but feel otherwise ok. Another lady calls the ambulance while a doctor who was in the traffic stops to look after me and put blankets on. It was rather chilly on the roadside while we waited for the ambulance while traffic became worse thanks to me. Pauline is consoling me while making calls to people telling them about what has happened. I’m pretty much lucid and not in too much pain surprisingly. It’s still winter however and I’m not enjoying lying on the ground with a ripped left jean leg and a winter wind. All I want is for this to all go away so I can crawl in to my bed and just put the covers over me. A broken leg isn’t that bad – a bit of a cast and I’ll be home tonight. The ambo guys arrive and if I was straight I’d probably find them hot, but I’m not so it was wasted. I remember them taking ages to put me in the van, with them and the fire brigade guys first putting my neck in a brace, then my leg, then they all had to put me on a stretcher.
I’m on the ground there near the stretcher, the car in front has the little dint where I hit it (nearly missed it!):
By this point I was getting annoyed that I had been given morphine and yet felt no rush. I told them off saying they hadn’t given me anything – I don’t think I’ve ever spoken like that to strangers before. I had fallen out of a mini car thing in 1990 and distinctly remember feeling really good after they gave me the drug, but this time I didn’t feel good and felt let down. My aunt told me later that apparently they have removed the rush bit from morphine since that is what made it addictive. Damn addicts – they ruined it for the ones in pain! I was woefully underestimating my pain – giving it a 2 out of 10 instead of what should have been an 8. My method of rating was to measure against what I thought the pain would be like if I broke my leg rather than the actual feeling. My brain obviously thinks it would hurt a lot more.
In emergency I was given lots of attention and taken to x-rays about 3 times, for my leg, neck, chest, ankle and eventually toe. Most of the x-rays are standard when you are in an accident, but the toe came towards the end of the day. I had felt a small pain in my toe but just thought it was a tiny cut until I decided to mention it hours after admittance. Turns out it was split open to the bone – most likely from the force of impact. Along with Pauline, I had a few visitors during the day and Mum, Dad and Kelly drove down to Brisbane to see for themselves what kind of state I was in.
I remember them cutting me out of my jeans and having a laugh because the jeans were the Lucky Brand Jeans I had bought in the USA. When you undo the zip, the flap says “Lucky You”. The nurse said “lucky me hey?” and had a bit of a giggle. I did too.
So after I had a ct scan to see the full extent of the injuries they decided that I’d have to be admitted to hospital. Here is the main reason why – that crack in the big bone (on the left) at the knee joint isn’t supposed to be there on a healthy person:
Mostly I was ok although the shock made me shiver for hours even though they put lots of pre-warmed blankets on me I still couldn’t warm up. Finally they put a half cast around my calve to keep the leg secure while not fully casting it because I had a cut on my shin (most likely the place of impact). I was then sent up to a bed in orthopedics for the night while they tried to figure out how to fix the leg. Apparently it was a pretty good break – they said it broke in 5 places and it wouldn’t just be a cast and go home situation. Turned out my prediction that I would be home that night would be the worse prediction ever.
The stuff they use to make the cast:
The half cast:
The left leg with the bad toe and some road rash:
The next day I went in to surgery to get an external fixation on my leg as a temporary measure. This is a scary looking robo type device that basically prevented me from bending my knee or moving my leg. Once it was on a tilted pillow thing it wasn’t in the least painful (with the help of some good drugs too) and I just spent a week lounging around in public hospital talking to my room mates and entertaining all the wonderful visitors who came to check in on me.
The external fixation:
What the fixation looks like on the inside:
After a week and a bit the doctors had figured out how to put an internal fixation inside my leg (since apparently it was quite complicated due to the break going in to the knee joint) I went in for another surgery, but this time in the private hospital. I had decided to go private because they said I would be guaranteed the operation on the sunday if I went private, whereas public they could bump me at any time. I decided I’d rather have it over and done with so moved over to private on the friday. Waking up from the surgery was much more painful this time since they had sliced opened my leg and put a big stainless steel rod in it. My knee was swollen in agony and I was much more uncomfortable. It was only when they found me a smaller tilted leg pillow and an ice pack did I start to feel some relief.
So now it’s over 5 weeks later and I’m still not walking. It will be another month before I’m allowed to put weight on it, but that doesn’t mean I can just lay around all day. I have to do physio everyday to try and get my knee bent and be able to lift my leg. The physio has been good as it has taught me to be less tentative with leg and move it around a bit more. I’m making good progress with my exercises – I can tell because I no longer swear while doing it.
Not being able to do things like take a step from the toilet to the sink without crutches is extremely frustrating but I’m mostly handling it ok. The thing I miss the most (other than walking) is being able to have a bath, I think because I can see it whenever I go to the loo. The benefits of the accident are that I am hyper aware of what good friends and family I have and how caring they can be. I don’t think I’d go through it again just to find that out, but I’m glad I know it now.
I have to say I’m lucky that it was really only a broken leg that I got out of the accident. All my injuries were below the knee – I didn’t even get a bruise above that point which just amazes me. The lady has admitted liability, the scooter has been written off and since I was on my way to work I’m covered. Things could have been a hell of a lot worse. Will I ride a scooter again? I’d like to think so, but I won’t really know until I’m faced with it. Until then, I’m just trying to get better.