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Sue3 : Trimalleolar Fracture of Right Leg, 40-year female
Diary entry posted Tue 2:17pm 22 April 2014

I'm a 40-year-old woman, 5' 4", and 170 pounds. On Monday, March 10, 2014, I slipped on ice in my neighborhood and incurred a trimalleolar fracture of my right leg, which is basically the worst break you can have. This is my story.

Day Zero - March 10, 2014

Began as a normal Monday morning. Still in my PJ’s, I got my keys and put on my winter boots (with no socks) so I could move my car out of the driveway to across the street. It was mild, about 30°F, so I didn't bother with a coat, nor did I take my phone. After all, it was just across the street. Sure, there was an inch of ice on the road, but it had been that way for months. No big deal, just another late winter day in the upper Midwest.

After moving the car, I walked across the road and the next thing I know I'm falling to the the ground in the middle of the road. I don't remember exactly what happened except I knew I had lost my balance, and that I had felt a very strange sensation in my right leg, down by the ankle. When I looked at my foot I realized it shouldn't be pointing that way.

That's when the panic set in.

I was laying in the middle of the road. I knew there was no way I was going to stand up, I couldn’t even roll over with all that ice. I screamed, I yelled, I tried to crawl, I cursed myself for this accident, I cursed myself for not having a phone. I panicked - who will take care of my elderly mother? What about all the stuff I needed to do around the house? What about my job? What about… The car coming down the street????

The ice that cursed me was also my saviour, as cars were forced to drive very slowly and carefully down my street. I waved my arms frantically and the kind gentleman got out of his car at the same time my DH came running down the driveway. “DON’T SLIP” I yelled at him. (I’m helpful).

Together they helped me into my car. (That was the first of many "thank you’s", "I appreciate it" and "you're so kind" that I find I am repeating - like a mantra - as I get through the day.) DH ran back inside to put our dog in his kennel while I sat in the car and concentrated on breathing.

Our closest hospital about 15 miles away. I know I started to hyperventilate while we drove up there, as the realization of the impact this would have of my life began to set in. The shock caused my hands to cramp up which was very painful. More painful than my leg. Ironically. I tried to pry my hands open by pushing them along with the center column of the car. It was so surreal to feel my body just take over and nothing I told it with my brain made any difference.

The pain started to get really bad as we were about halfway to the hospital. I just concentrated on breathing and staying as calm as I could. When we got to the ER my DH and a nurse helped me get into a wheelchair and brought me in to the reception. One glance was all it took for the nurse to and reassure me that they would see me as soon as they possibly could.

This whole time I kept my winter boots on. They were sturdy Merrell boots, that went halfway up the calf. Whether they were so grippy they caused the fall, or so strong that they held the fracture from piercing the skin, I will never know.

I concentrated taking deep breaths when waiting to be seen in the ER. I have a high pain tolerance, and I'm usually a very patient person, but this was really testing me. After about 15 minutes I begged my DH - please ask if they could see me soon or at least give me something for the pain. The nurse came out and explained that they had two ambulances arrived about five minutes before I did one with a severe car accident and second cardiac patient. I realized these injuries were far more serious than my broken leg, so I said I could suck it up and hang on until they could see me.

It didn't take long, about 10 minutes later I was wheeled back and helped into hospital bed. The efficiency of the staff and the knowledge of the surgeon was amazing. I tried to maintain a sense of humor but I was so scared and in so much pain. I adopted a soldier's tactic – whenever somebody new approached me I repeated my name, my date of birth, and my allergies and then asked for them to knock me out.

They did give me a mild sedative to calm me down, and then wheeled me to the x-ray room - boots and all. My DH was with me the whole time, reassuring me they did need me to stay conscience while they evaluated the injury. I understood, and kept repeating the mantra: my name – my date of birth – my allergies – and please knock me out.

After the x-rays I was brought back to a room where the original doctor told me that they needed to remove my boot. I could feel the ankle had swelled, and I was absolutely, utterly terrified, I told them to cut the boot off. I groused that these were brand-new boots. And I held DH’s hand tightly as the gently - very gently - removed the boot. I didn’t hurt that bad. It just felt really weird.

I also made a conscious decision not to look at my foot. I figured that, if I didn't have a mental image of what the injury looked like, I could trick my brain into not knowing the pain would be located. (It works! Trust me - don't look!). I did have DH take pictures of it, because I knew I'd want to see it someday. He insisted to the surgeon that I have ORIF surgery immediately. I am forever grateful for his pro-activeness.

My ORIF consisted of an internal, stainless steel plate and screw fixation of the lateral malleolar fracture and internal screw fixation of the medial malleolar fracture. I also had a syndesmotic connecting rod of FiberWire. I have a 7-inch vertical, J-shaped incision with 15 stitches on the outside of my right ankle and a 3-inch vertical scar with 7 stitches on the inside of my right ankle.

I went home the same day, although I could have stayed the night, which I didn’t know that at the time. In retrospect, staying the night would have been smarter than going home. Still, the surgeons had given me a nerve blocker after the surgery that ended up lasting me for a solid 36 hours (I was lucky, it usually only lasts for 12 to 24 hours!)

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 Tue 2:17pm 22 April 2014
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