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Andrea_H : Back to being one-legged
Diary entry posted Mon 1:09am 12 May 2014

In 2009, I was diagnosed with a tumour inside the left proximal femur bone. I had quite a radical surgery to scrape it all out (while living in the UK at the time) and fill it up with putty and then bind all together with loads of hardware. I was off the leg for 6 months and then 2 years later had the hardware taken out. After which I was basically back to normal. Running, jumping, no issues whatsoever. This year I started a fitness routine that has me the fittest and strongest I've ever been which is why I decided it was time to buy a horse.

I've always had horses but had to give them up during the femur days. I was so excited to get back into the saddle again and my husband, TB was really enthusiastic about it too. We scoured the horse ads and finally found the perfect addition to our family just up the road (we are now living in the French-speaking part of Belgium). We went to go pick her up on Friday - a beautiful 3 year old mare I was going to train up. Saturday morning I woke up at 6am so excited to spend time with her now that she was at our house.

Rain and bad weather was forecast for most of the day but it was dry early morning so by 8am my husband and I had the mare in a head collar and were leading her around the farm where we live, letting her see her new environment. I had the mare's rope in my hands when all of a sudden a pony stallion came charging our way from a neighbouring field. Spooked by the sudden activity, my mare surged forward while I was still holding onto her rope. We were in a ploughed field with uneven ground. My foot was sort of wedged in a rut as the mare jerked me forward and instead of buckling, my left knee just stayed straight. I heard and felt the "snap" straight away just below my knee and letting go of the rope just sort of flopped to the ground.

TB was following behind but ran to help me but as I could see the mare cantering off into the distance towards a village and roads I yelled at him to leave me and go after her. I don't know exactly how long it took for him to come back but it was at least 15-20 minutes as he had to catch the mare again and lead her back to her stall on the farm before coming back for me. In the meantime I felt my leg and felt the shin bone just below the knee sort of "swimming" under the skin and knew something was seriously wrong. I tried to stand up on the good leg but the pain was so excruciating I started to see black so I laid back down with my head on the ground. Looking up at the sky that's when it started to rain. Neither my husband nor I had phones with us. The pain was unbearable but I just told myself to concentrate on my breathing and stay calm. At that stage I also had no idea how long it would take for TB to come back for me as I was imagining the mare running all over the place and him not being able to catch her.

The sound of TB coming back to me over the field driving our SUV made me so happy! He came to me and I told him bluntly that it was broken. He squatted down to try to lift me into the car but the minute he lifted me up off the ground and my leg bent the pain became insane and I totally involuntarily and reflexively screamed. I have a high pain tolerance usually and am not one to complain, rarely get sick. But the pain was just too much for me. He pulled everything he could out of the SUV to keep me warm, including part of the trunk cover to block the rain. And then he drove back to the farm to get help.

He met the farmer's wife (our landlord) half way back as she had heard my dramatic scream from across the fields when TB had tried to lift me. They arrive at my side again and she luckily had a phone which she pulled out to call the ambulance.

Not long after we heard the sirens and two EMTs came up to check me out. All our communication is in French as no one speaks English here and while TB and I are functional in French, we are by no means fluent. All I got was "it's really bad" and then they were loading me onto a stabilisation board to carry my out over the field to the waiting ambulance.

I have naturally low blood pressure and I think the combination of the shock and the cold rainy weather sent my blood pressure shooting down as once I got into the ambulance there was a bit of a panic and they were fussing about my blood pressure and my being hypothermic. They decided to call a doctor immediately onsite instead of taking me to hospital. I guess there are things EMTs in Belgium can't do. Luckily the doctor came in less than a minute or so and next thing I know they are injecting me and gassing me and I'm told that I will "have a nice sleep". I woke up in bed in the emergency ward at hospital. I was so bummed I'd slept through the ambulance ride. Having never ridden in one before, I was really looking forward to whizzing along the roads with sirens blaring!

They'd cut off my wellington boots and jeans and I was already in a hospital gown. When they first picked me up and put me in the ambulance I had begged not to be given morphine - and I know TB was begging too. As I'd had it after the first femur op and I hated the way it made me feel, giving me terrible vertigo and nausea. Like constantly being in those bad stages of drunkenness with the spins just before you puke, except without the actual fun of having been drunk beforehand. Anyway, they didn't give me morphine but they did give me something opiate based. I felt nauseous but it wasn't as bad.

X-rays were done at my bed with a portable machine (first time I've seen that - in the US and UK they always seem to have separate x-ray rooms. After x-rays I had an MRI scan (which was in a separate room). The conclusion: a tibial plateau with a high energy break on both sides. The x-rays looked pretty shocking. Shards of bone everywhere. I cannot believe all that damage was caused simply by essentially walking!

They concluded they did not need to do surgery immediately as the bones did not need setting. The one side was perfectly in alignment, the other is slightly out of alignment with more shards - they were undecided whether or not surgery would be the best option. They said we would look at it again on Monday. They suggested I stay in hospital until them but knowing myself and hating hospitals, I insisted I go home being a "pro" on crutches from my earlier leg experience. I knew I would be uncomfortable, bored, and unable to sleep in hospital. So they gave me a full length plaster cast on my leg but left it open on top (albeit bound) in order to accommodate the swelling. They told me in no uncertain terms what to look for in terms of dangers and that was that.

Once home and after TB pulled my old crutches down from the attic, I realised that it was going to be quite a bit different this time. With the femur, I didn't have a cast. So even though I was non-weight-bearing for many months, I had almost full range of motion and could bend my leg. Having your leg jammed straight out in a cast from toes to upper thigh is a very different experience. Clumsy, and feels so heavy. A real struggle to lift on and off the bed. I realised I was not going to be as self-sufficient as I was last time I was one-legged. Pain levels definitely higher too. They told me I'll be in the cast for 2-3 months...so I guess I'd better get used to it. At least I know what I'm doing with crutches!!!

So back to being one-legged I am.






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