The title of this post feels a little overly dramatic, like it should be accompanied by a resounding dun dun duuuuun, but I couldn’t really think of a snappy title for what was undoubtedly one of the most terrifying events of my life so far.
If you have read my previous posts then you will see that I’ve had a recent foray into disability and have been slowly coming to terms with my changing ability and unfolding diagnosis.
One thing that has been happening more often lately is the subluxation of my ankles where my ankle ‘gives way on me’, and although I’m becoming more used to it I hadn’t quite realised how bad this could be. On the 19th April it came into sharp focus.
It was around 6.30 in the evening and I was coming downstairs. My 8 year old son was playing in the living room and I was having a relatively good pain day, so I don’t think I was holding the rail. About 6 steps from the bottom of the wooden staircase my right ankle decided that I was no longer allowed to stand up and I descended on my lumbar spine, hitting the edge of each step with my back as I went.
I screamed. I probably swore even though my son was there and I knew instantly that I’d hurt myself quite badly. Tears streaming down my face I looked at my son and he looked absolutely horrified. I needed to try and stay calm in spite of the panic as it was just him and I at home, and although the pain was unreal my motherly instincts meant that I needed to be calm for him. I used him as a leaning post and managed to get myself off the floor and onto the sofa. I text my husband and he was on the train home. I needed to distract my son so I calmly called my mum and sobbed quietly as my son spoke to his Grandma.
When my husband arrived home I finally admitted how bad things were, I thought I’d broken my back and we needed to get to hospital. We dialled 111 who were kind and patient as they went through the assessment with me, and my husband messaged a neighbour to see if she could look after our son.
As he took him round to his bed for the night, a paramedic (Aaron in Bishop’s Stortford, if you know him please tell him he’s bloody magnificent at his job!) turned up and filled me with morphine, funny distractions and gas & air.
As my idyllic little cottage is down a ramshackle footpath the lovely Aaron couldn’t get me out on his own. A second crew arrived and put me onto a spinal board and then a third crew were needed to negotiate the tight corners and turns and bumpy terrain and finally get me into an ambulance.
I eventually got to hospital around 11pm and an X-Ray revealed no fractures but that my muscle spasms had pulled my spine straight when it should have been curved. I also had a very large haematoma on my spine.
The photos below show the injury the next morning (top), at it’s worst (bottom left) and as it is now, a month on (bottom right). (NB Please forgive the hideous 90s tattoo)
The real horror about this whole thing however wasn’t the pain or the injury or even the fact that I thought I had broken my back; the real terror was the thought of how things would be had my husband not been on the way home. Not only was this not a freak accident that will never happen again this is something that is very likely to recur, given the deterioration in my joints and something that could happen at any time of the day. My husband is a shift worker and works in a place where working late is often inevitable and other than him I had no one to call. And what if the injury had been worse? What if it was dangerous to wait 4 hours between falling and getting into the ambulance? As the third crew needed to negotiate the rocky path were brought over from 60 miles away there would have always been a delay.
The fall meant we had to look seriously at the future and at what adaptations we’d need to keep me safe at home. And we’re probably looking at more than hand rails.