2 years later..

Two years ago on 22nd May, and 28 days before my honeymoon, my whole world got turned upside down. From a normal Sunday day out with the family I ended up dislocating my knee and rupturing my Patella Femoral Ligament. I spent 3 days in hospital, over 6 months on crutches, had over 50 hours of physio and surgery on my knee. Last year on the anniversary of my accident I was 6 months pregnant and in awe of how I had come so far and that I had gotten my knee to a point where it could carry the weight of myself and a baby.

For the second anniversary of my accident I have been thinking about the day and the months after my accident a lot. I have been reliving the moments when it happened and feeling quite anxious. Now my accident was partially self inflicted (playing with my nieces!) so its absolutely silly to be so worried about normal things like walking and climbing up and down steps but it really has made feel so anxious. The accident and recovery period felt like such a massive period of time in my life and one of the hardest challenges I have ever faced. I never thought I would walk again, I never thought I would regain full bend of my knee and I absolutely never thought i would be able to sit comfortably cross legged again. However, 2 years on not only can I do all the above but I have also been able to grow and carry round a human.

I have found writing as an outlet to manage my anxiety so I thought i was put pen to paper about my accident.

Sunday 22nd May 2016 was a glorious day and Chilworth Manor had their open house day to raise money for charity. Steve and I went with the rest of his family and grandparents. I had been taking part in the British Heart Foundation’s MyMarathon and due to the huge amount of money I had managed to collect off my generous friends and family I had decided that in the month of May I wanted to complete two marathons instead of one. It had meant that every night after work and before dinner I was running betweem 4.5-6km to be able to reach my target. Before this challenge I was not running at all so to be able to get my fitness up to this level in three weeks felt amazing. Sunday however I had pencilled in a rest day and it was perfect for us to be able to go and spend time in the sun with the family. After a walk around the gardens we stopped for some tea and cake. I sat cuddling my 6 month old niece whilst watching my other nieces playing to nicely together and I decided that I wanted to go and play with them. They were doing gymnastics and I joined in showing them a few of the things I was still able to do it. A year or so previously I had been able to do the crab and I proudly tried to show them how to do it. I just wanted to be the cool fun auntie. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out how I planned.

I knew instantly I had done something bad. I felt something buckle and as I fell to the ground i just remember shouting to Steve telling him that it was bad. I will never forget the feeling after I hit the ground where the pain was so intense I thought I was going to throw up. Steve came running over as did his dad, and tried to comfort me and assess what had happened. Luckily there was a doctor also attending the open day who came over to see if she could help. The doctor asked if I could feel my toes and wriggle them which I could. All i could think about at this time was thank god I am not paralyzed. It sounds so silly now but at the time it was (and still is) the worst thing I have ever gone through and I had no idea what I had done. As I had fallen funny they wanted to stabilize the knee/leg but I was in so much pain I just couldn’t let anyone touch me. Steve sat there and held my hand while we waited for an ambulance. A small medic car was the first to arrive on the scene and his initial assessment was that I had either broken a bone, torn a ligament or dislocated something. He was able to give me gas and air for the pain but we would need the ambulance to come and take me to hospital. For me the gas and air took the edge of the pain and made it bearable. I don’t really remember much when I was on the gas and air and it only felt like 10 minutes between the medic car and the ambulance arriving. Later I found out that I was lying on the ground waiting for the ambulance for nearly an hour. I also embarassed myself by asking if there were any “McDreamy’s” in the hospital they were taking me too!

When we arrived at The Royal Surrey County Hospital I had to sit in the waiting room to be seen as it was so busy with a couple of major arrivals coming in just before me. I wasn’t allowed to continue on gas and air in the waiting room so I was strapped up in a leg brace in a wheelchair. Steve, my mother in law and I sat in the waiting room for an hour before I couldn’t take the pain any longer. The pain was like nothing I have ever felt and I would even say that its worse than childbirth. Steve went and saw a nurse who was able to take us through to triage where I was able to have some gas and air. Steve’s mum headed off home and I settled back into the rhythm of gas and air as pain management. Bless those poor doctors and nurses who were run off their feet with another two major traumas that came in while we were waiting to be seen. I had injured my knee around 2pm and by 9pm we were still waiting to be seen.

Absolutely high as a kite on gas and air in A&E

After my first examination it was decided that I needed to come back to the fracture clinic the next day and was to be sent home with a leg brace. My knee was so swollen at this point and my jeans no longer fit over my knee. During a second examination for the leg brace the doctor decided that I was in too much pain to be able to self manage and wanted to keep me in overnight. He also decided that he wanted to do an X Ray that evening to see what was going on. The next challenge was to wait for a bed to become available on the ward. It had gone 11pm at this point and I had sent Steve home to put together an overnight bag. I was taken up at just before 1am and given Morphine for the pain. I had to be monitored every 2 hours so I didn’t get much sleep.

By morning, after a night on morphine, I woke feeling like it was all a dream until the pain seered up my leg and I was unable to move. I think this was the scary part of it all; not being able to move. The next couple of days were a blur of people coming to visit, morphine, X-Rays and physio. I wasn’t able to move without help to begin with so everything was just so tiring. The hours merged into one and all I wanted was my Steve. We were very lucky that Steve’s work were so understanding with the situation. The hospital is about a 40 minute drive from home so poor Steve was a bit back and forth between here, home and work. He was able to be there for the first day which I couldn’t have done it without him. I had lots of scans which involved moving around a bit and moving my bad leg into different positions. Again the pain was unbearable but I just had to keep telling myself that it wasn’t forever. I had to keep my head above the water and keep going and I could only do that when Steve was near. The scans showed that I had dislocated my knee and ruptured a ligament taking a bit of my kneecap with it. There was lots of fluid on the knee and that made it harder to assess the extent of the damage.

After two days the physio team got me standing with a knee brace on and crutches. I have never felt so wobbly in my whole life. I had barely eaten, was on an IV drip for fluids, high as a kite on morphine and had to learn how to walk with crutches. Crutches are harder that they look and it felt like I had to not only re-learn how to walk but also to have the confidence in my weight going onto the crutches. That day I managed to take some very slow steps and learn how to go up and down the steps. By the third day I had ticked all the boxes for the physio team and they were happy to discharge me. I was so happy to be discharged and to be coming home with my Steve that I didn’t even think about it till he was wheeling me out of the hospital towards the car. I felt so vunerable in this wheelchair and my anxiety levels were sky high. As I was unable to bend my knee and I also had the leg brace on it meant getting in and out of my low small Ford Fiesta was quite interesting but we got there in the end!

My lovely knee brace

My first day at home was pretty tough and although I had only been on morphine for three days the doctor said I would most likely show some withdrawral symptons and he wasn’t wrong. For days after coming out of the hospital I felt so nauseous with a lot of vomiting. I am really lucky that I live in a ground floor flat which meant that I didn’t have any stairs to tackle but unfortunately my flat is quite narrow and long, and my toilet is quite far away from my living room. I remember the first time I tried to go the toilet from my front room with Steve’s help. It took me half hour to get there and I had to have a seat half way to take a rest. Looking back at it now I can’t believe I couldn’t even make it that far as its really not that far away but to me in that moment it felt like miles away.

In the first week I was sofa bound and pretty much reliant on someone else to be there to help me. Steve had to go back to work by the time I got home so I was on my own which normally i wouldn’t have minded but I felt that it was different. I felt so vunerable to be left alone when I couldn’t move or even get to the toilet. Steve did his best bless him to help and used to make me packed lunches and flasks of tea near the sofa before he headed off to work.

Five days after my accident I attempted my first walk outside; it was slow and painful and I didn’t get very far but it was a massive achievement.

Photo from Lauren Newbury
My first walk outside with my crutches

Six days after my accident and 10 days after my last hair wash my lovely Auntie offered to wash and blow dry my hair at her salon. Steve’s mum picked me up and helped me get there and it was just what I needed. I have heard people say that going to the salon helps them to feel like a whole new person that can face the world and do you know what, I 100% agree with them.

I was extremely lucky through my work to have private healthcare so we found a consultant within the first week who specialised in Patella dislocations. Within the first month we had been seen and sent for further MRI and X-rays. Something, unfortunately on the NHS, would have taken around 10 weeks on the waiting list to be seen. The scans showed that I had fully ruptured my Patella Femoral Ligament and also taken a large bit of bone with it. In regards to treatment there wasn’t anything that could be done to “fix” the ligament back to the kneecap so the focus was to regain movement and strength to prevent future dislocations. As I had very little movement and bend due to scar tissue behind the knee my consultant suggested a Knee Arthroscopy. This key hole procedure would been done under general anesthetic to remove all scar tissue followed by intense physio to build my strength back up.

With two weeks to go before my honeymoon we got the all clear that I would actually be able to travel and we scheduled the surgery for when I returned. The relief that washed over me when he said that I could go was amazing. Yes the honeymoon would be different to what I had planned and dreamed off but I was desperate for some time away with Steve after a tough couple of weeks. So off I went to Singapore and Bali on crutches, wearing a knee brace, and a bag of painkillers and I loved every minute of my honeymoon.

My surgery was booked for 1st September and as the date drew closer and closer the nerves really started to kick in. I don’t like hospitals or needles, and being put to sleep scares me that I might not wake up so my anxiety was high and I was worrying about everything. My time on honeymoon had not only been good for the soul but also my knee. The rest combined with time in the pool allowed my knee to regain some movement and strength which put me in good stead for the operation. I had moved to one crutch and was able to get a 90 degree bend in my knee.

From Left to Right: During Pre-Op (top left), After surgey on the compression machine (top right), 8 hours after surgery at home (bottom left) and 24 hours after surgery (bottom right)

Apart from passing out when they were trying to pop a cannula in my hand for the operation it all went well. They were able to remove all the scar tissue and manipulate the knee to a 120 degree bend. I woke up drowsy and quite sore but it was good to know that this was the start to getting back to normal. I had to go back to using two crutches after the operation to help support the healing. The procedure had cleared the way for my knee to be able to achieve a full bend; now it was up to me and re-training my muscles to do it. It had been 15 weeks since my accident and my muscles were shot to pieces and I had to start all over again teaching them and strengthening them to move my leg. Twelve days later I had my stitches removed and my first physio session. Due to swelling I wasn’t able to achieve the same degree of bend as my surgeon had got during the operation and only managed 105 degrees. My physio was really pleased that my quads were still activating when I tried to move my leg but there was little strength going through the knee. We started off in the Hydrotherapy pool to build up strength in the knee and then we moved to the gym where we used the anti gravity machine to help build more strength. By the middle of October I was signed off to drive again and by middle of November I was only relying on the crutch every now and again. It took a while but after 212 long and painful days and over 50 hours of physio I was able to step up stairs with my bad knee AND step down stairs with my bad knee! The little things like this became everything to me and I now appreciate the little movements we do with our body without thinking. The amount of effort and muscle control to do the smallest thing is just amazing.

12 days after surgery with my stitches removed

Throughout the accident, the surgery and then all the physio sessions my work were fantastic. I had two weeks off sick initially after my accident and then a further two weeks after my surgery. I was able to work flexibly in the beginning to my pain level either in the office or from home and especially around physio appointments. I don’t know many companies that would have let me work like that and it was so nice to not have to worry about work on my plate with everything else that was going on. Also thank you to my lovely friend Hannah for basically being my chaperone for 5 months!

Steve and I had spoken about children and before my accident we had thought after our honeymoon we would start trying for a baby. With everything that happened with my knee this just felt like a distant dream. I couldn’t see how my knee was ever going to be strong enough to carry the extra weight of a baby during pregnancy nor being able to move around with a newborn. I couldn’t see myself being able to kneel down or sit cross legged and play with my baby. I am sitting here now two years on and writing all this up has made me quite emotional. Not only did we (my physio and I!) get my knee strong enough to carry and grow a human but it was actually the only thing during pregnancy that didn’t give me any problems! As time has gone on my knee has got stronger and stronger and I am able to sit cross legged, move around with my daughter and do things that I didn’t dream I would ever be able to do.

I know it sounds all quite dramatic as it was only a dislocation but for me it felt massive. It by far is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me impact wise and it has taught me a lot of things. I am grateful for mobility, I am grateful for my job that gave me private healthcare as a benefit, I am grateful for the care from the NHS but most of all, I am grateful for my friends and family for seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when all I saw was darkness. It was a tough period of my life and I wouldn’t have got through it without them.

but that’s it.. it was a period in my life, a chapter in my story…

Thanks for reading!

Lauren signature

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