Comrades in broken bones.

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I keep my URL tag from the hospital on my wrist by way of superstition. My fantasy is in keeping it there I reduce my chances of a return to hospital. When I am no longer fearful that the bone might move, only then will I remove it. What a great day that will be. Like cutting off the dried placenta cord from a newborn’s navel.

This morning my husband removed the brace while I kept my leg steady on the bed and he washed it down in warm water with a face washer. The bliss of having my increasingly itchy leg rubbed down is without words. My husband then dried my leg and rubbed it with moisturiser. My leg glowed. I could see the yellowish bruise as it curled around my knee cap down my calf on the left side, faded now but still tender to touch.

This brace that has replaced the original plaster cast, is a wonderful invention, however ugly, though the orthotics fellow says it is not a new invention. The materials may have been ungraded but the device and its design have been around for aeons.

The brace consists of a skin covered section covered in air holes that the orthotics fellow, whose name is Damian, first heated to soften and then molded to my leg. When it had cooled and hardened, Damian snapped the mold down the centre and peeled it off. Later he cut it in half at the area of my knee. He has since fitted hinges there on either side. The hinges are fixed at the moment with the option of opening them to allow my knee to move incrementally at fifteen degree angles over time.

The brace is held in place with thick black Velcro straps that run up and down my leg from ankle to thigh. The whole lot is then further held in place with two hard plastic strips, velcroed on either side of my ankle. These then fit into a cup into which my heel fits. This last piece is finally kept in place with a shoe. Underneath the brace I wear an elasticised white ‘sock’, a long tube of towelling type stretchy material that covers the length of my leg to protect it against rubbing from the plastic and metal of the brace, which itself is padded.

The sock is tight fitting and snug. It keeps me warm but it does not allow my skin to breathe.
‘It’s the dead skin’ Damian said. ‘Once you wash your leg and rub it down with moisturiser, you’ll feel better.’ He was right.

The world of orthotics is a whole new world to me. The shop in Prahran is located at the grungy end of High Street near Punt Road. I do not imagine they need a high-class show room to demonstrate their wares. They have a captive and regular market. Their goods are in constant supply.

On the two days I was there, on the first to be measured and on the second to be fitted with my brace, Damian told me about at least three other broken legs that were on their way to him, including a woman who had broken both her legs. Two broken legs. Imagine that. She had broken them down near her ankles, Damian said. She will be wheel chair bound.

I find I am getting into a broken leg rhythm. After two weeks my strength on crutches increases daily and I can now hop on my right leg with confidence. The broken leg itself causes little pain most of the time, though occasionally it gives me a twinge. But every twinge passes as soon as I change position.

Once a day now my husband helps me to take off the brace and he washes down my leg. My leg looks strange, like a beached creature from the sea. The bruise is now the palest mustard yellow. It has a sallow look like jaundiced skin.

My husband rubs my leg vigorously with the face washer and although it is blissful for my neglected skin to be rubbed in this way, I am also terrified to keep my leg still. Damian had suggested I do this in the shower while seated on the shower chair, but I am not yet confident enough to let my leg hang down unbraced.

In my imagination the bone could pop out of place at the slightest jar when exposed like this and I am so fearful that I will only undergo the procedure on top of my bed with my leg stretched out in front of me, unable to drop or fall or slip out of its moorings.

I have an odd relationship with my leg, my left leg, as if it is a withered appendage that I despise and at the same time a beloved and fragile infant of whom I must take particular care. These opposing impulses give rise to the odd flash of indignation, the odd impulse to dash my leg onto the ground, to bear all my weight on this one broken leg and go racing up the corridor.

I have this perverse impulse at times when I feel most helpless or when I feel angry, like last night with my husband for leaving the light on in our bedroom when I had been trying to sleep.

In the past I would have gone to turn the light off myself but in my helplessness, it is such an effort to get up, to get the crutches, to hobble to the door, to turn off the light. I have become the dependent one who waits for others to do these things and I was angry with my husband for his lack of consideration, or his temporary failure to recognise my needs.

I can be cranky in my new found immobilised state, far more impatient than I have ever known myself to be. It is hard being waited upon. It is hard when others have control over when you eat, when you can enjoy a cup of tea, when you can wash. The list is endless.

I have learned to ask more clearly. My husband and children resent it when I do not, when I throw hints.
‘A Cup of tea would be lovely’ is not the way to ask for a cup of tea.
‘Would it?’ my husband says. ‘That’s nice.’
No, I must say, ‘Could you please get me a cup of tea?’ A clear and direct request.

Have I developed this tendency to hint at my needs or requests from my mother? She is a master manipulator. She rarely asks directly for anything. As a child I was amazed at the way it worked.

On Sunday mornings we walked to Mass in Cheltenham. The church was a good half hour walk from where we lived on Warrigal Road. We straggled in a bunch up and down side streets, our mother in our midst. She liked to point out to us the houses and gardens that she most admired.

After Mass, the thought of a repeat walk home was always daunting. My mother never asked anyone, not as far as I could see, but invariably she managed to get a lift home, while we children wandered back through the same side streets, this time unaccompanied by our mother who reached home at least twenty thirty minutes before us and was already sitting with her cup of tea in front of the fire and reading her copy of The Advocate.

Women of my mother’s generation, I have been told, women who grew up believing their place was in the kitchen attending to the needs of husband and children, needed to develop new ways of getting their needs met that did not include direct approaches for assistance.

I have a touch of this. I can sense it. I do not like to ask directly,
‘Can I please have a cup of tea?’ It seems too demanding, however clear it might be. And yes, I would rather someone offer me a cup of tea.

That way I do not have to ask. That way I do not run the risk of their annoyed expressions if they feel inconvenienced or if they should say ‘no’. My family never say ‘no’, but sometimes they say ‘in a minute’, and the minute can extend into an hour, as I sit waiting as patiently as I can, not wanting to nag.

Don’t get me wrong. I have progressed now to the point where I could make my own cup of tea, but it is the task of getting the tea from stove top to my place on the couch that is such a challenge.

I have no hand free when I use the crutches and so I must support myself on one crutch and carefully pass the full cup from stove top to bench top and from bench top to table, from one flat surface to another, until I can get it to its destination at my table near the couch.

I hear and see broken legs everywhere. Yesterday I received a letter from my writer friend and correspondent, Gerald Murnane. I had written to tell him the saga of my leg and he sent back a copy of an article he wrote for The Metaphysical Review called ‘The Falling’ in which he describes how he too broke his leg on 14 October 1994.

Given that GM was born in 1939, as I recall, he would have been in his mid fifties when this happened, not far off my age now and it happened, it seems, for similar reasons.

GM writes, ‘Before last October, I had never been a patient in a hospital. The only surgery I had ever undergone was my circumcision as a baby (unless I was born without a foreskin) and two small operations for the removal of cysts from my scalp in 1955 and 1990. Neither of these required a stay in hospital. Before last October I could say that I had never broken or dislocated any bone in my body.

‘As of last October I had more than ten months of accumulated sick leave, so seldom had I been ill… So I was someone who needed to be reminded that he was not made of imperishable stuff; who needed to be brought low – literally as well as figuratively.’

The cause of his fall, as GM goes on to describe, is one of excessive busyness, working as he was, full time as ‘the Selection Officer for the [Creative Writing] course at Deakin [university] by day and trying to finish [his seventh novel] Emerald Blue by night and at weekends’.

But the real catalyst was the fact that in 1994 GM’s twin boys had finally left home for good. All year the boys had been looking for a place to rent and finally they found it three days before their father’s fall.

I resonate with GM’s comments here: ‘The crowdedness of our small house was becoming unbearable, not to mention the strain of finding dirty dishes on the sink at all hours and the feeling that we [GM and his wife, Catherine] were being used up. I say this without meaning to speak against my twin sons. However, a time comes when the parents of any animal turn away from it. I used to watch with interest many a mother cat boxing its half-grown kitten over the ears when it was time for the young one to stop trying to suckle and to get out and catch mice.’

After the boys finally moved out, GM and his wife were left with ‘these two empty rooms given back to us after we had lived like Japanese for so long, with our belongings piled up in cupboard…’

The accident happened three days after his sons had left, on a fateful Friday evening, when GM took to moving filing cabinets and their contents. He had ‘opened a six pack of Coopers Sparkling Ale and got to work…At about eleven thirty, I was standing on a chair and pushing a row of books along a shelf near the ceiling of what had been for so long my son Martin’s room and out of bounds to me but was now my new playground. Some of the books began to fall. Instinctively, I reached out to save the fuckers.

‘I do not know how I fell. I recall lying on the floor and knowing, as one knows these things in dreams, that something was wrong with me. I recall hearing the last of a stubby of beer pouring out onto the carpet from the ironing board nearby. As I had fallen, I must have clipped the corner of the ironing board and caused the stubby to fall onto its side and to pour out its contents. I recall reaching up and standing upright the now empty stubby.

‘I recall lying where I lay for a minute or two, knowing, as I just said, that this had been no ordinary fall. I recall using the chair to drag myself to my foot. I wrote foot because I had not as yet put any weight on my left leg, which, so I divined, was not quite right. I recall standing up with my hands on the chair and putting weight on my left leg.

‘I recall – and I’ll never forget – my left leg buckling under me as though the bone from knee to ankle was a strap of licorice. I recall – let’s be frank – hopping out to the toilet with the chair as a walking frame and emptying my bowels for fear of what I had done to myself. I recall hopping to Catherine’s and my bedroom and waking her up to tell her that I had injured my leg. I do not recall any pain. God is merciful. Injuries such as mine seem to be painless. You can say I was in shock, if you like.’

And here GM’s story and mine diverge considerably. I was in pain after I broke my leg, the worst pain I can recall beyond childbirth. As my husband drove me in the back seat of his car to the hospital, every time he turned a corner the centrifugal force pulled the bone out in some way, even as I tried to hold my leg in place. The pain was like a hot sword through to the bone.

But if the pain I suffered then as opposed to the pain that GM does not recall suffering is any indicator so far, my progress has been more steady. GM also broke his tibia near the knee cap, but GM’s break required surgery, screws and plates inserted and a bone graft from his pelvis to replace the damaged bone.

So far no such treatment has befallen me. GM’s period of hospitalisation extended beyond two weeks and he was not fully recovered for another three months. I am confident, at this stage at least, that my recovery will not take as long. Touch wood.

I am cheered to be a kindred spirit of one of my literary heroes. We are comrades in broken bones.

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78 Comments on Comrades in broken bones.

  1. lakeviewer
    September 19, 2010 at 3:23 am (7 years ago)

    I feel for you! The worst part is that feeling you describe, when you want something and you don't want to demand it, that feeling that the littlest thing, like a light left on can be so irritating. Hope things easy up quickly.

    Reply
  2. Glenn Ingersoll
    September 19, 2010 at 5:24 am (7 years ago)

    My husband has a tendency to mumble and his "I don't want such-n-such" can sound like "I WANT such-n-such" and vice versa. It drives him crazy — but not to speaking clearly or slowly or turning his head toward you before he speaks.

    But then, maybe I'm going deaf, like my mother who would complain about not understanding her sons because we failed to enunciate clearly or slowly or turn to face her when we spoke.

    And I don't mind the idea, particularly. My eyes aren't so good as they once were and that just is.

    I'm not the only one who misunderstands him. At the hospital the nurses would mishear him in just about the same way.

    Patients need a lot of patience.

    Reply
  3. little hat
    September 19, 2010 at 6:05 am (7 years ago)

    Lovely reading Elisabeth. It's turning into quite a health memoir.

    Reply
  4. jabblog
    September 19, 2010 at 8:22 am (7 years ago)

    Glad to read that you're on the mend. The patient needs as much patience as the carers – probably more. Being dependent on others is never easy.

    Reply
  5. Ruth
    September 19, 2010 at 9:29 am (7 years ago)

    I agree with little hat, Elisabeth. It is lovely to read you. I had a hysterectomy, so I know what it's like to rely on others and to focus on healing while in pain. But I think with a broken leg like yours, the psychological anxiety that it might "pop out" would take its toll.

    Reply
  6. Jim Murdoch
    September 19, 2010 at 10:44 am (7 years ago)

    Carrie has no broken bones but suffers from fatigue constantly and so I’m regularly required to do her little services: cuppa, blankets, slippers, opening and closing windows. Her internal thermostat is all skewiff and so she can be cold one minute, hot the next and then clammy a few moments later. A question she frequently asks is, “Is it hot in here?” More often than not it is. If she gets too cold it takes a long time for her to warm her core. What has been hard for her is to relinquish independence. I have a blog coming up in a bit where I talk about writers and their other halves and end with a few comments about my own better half which she spent more time editing I think than anything else I have ever sent her. The point is that I never married a fetch-me-catch-me woman – far from it. That was never part of the deal. I married a fiercely independent person. So it can be a bit of a strain at times having to be needed in this way. But it cuts both ways. I’ve been unwell since she came back from the States – a rather nasty stomach bug – and so she’s shifted up a gear. “I’m not dead yet,” was one of my mother’s favourite expressions and Carrie has much the same attitude. Having me available is a bonus. She would cope without me. The blanket wouldn’t be folded neatly in between uses; the slippers would also stay within easy reach. And perhaps she would make a flask of coffee rather than a single cup. You cut your cloth and my wife was an engineer long before she became a poet. But she never hints. If she wants something she asks. And, most of the time, I respond directly although not always I have to confess without a telltale sigh. That said I can show far more irritation when she starts doing chores that are mine. I don’t especially enjoy the chores but once I have assumed a duty I take it seriously: that’s my job. Perhaps what makes it easier for me is that I have become resigned to the fact that this is going to be an ongoing problem; this is not a broken bone which will heal in a few weeks. That does affect one’s perspective.

    @Glenn – with me it’s the difference between, “All right,” and, “I’m all right.” It took my wife a while to realise that if she asked me if I wanted something and I said, “I’m all right,” I was declining her offer, whereas, “All right,” was me saying, “Yes.”

    Reply
  7. Zuzana
    September 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm (7 years ago)

    I am happy to hear that you are slowly recuperating…
    Wat a wonderful husband that helps you rub and wash your leg.;)
    Hope you had a lovely weekend despite everything,
    xo

    Reply
  8. Richard
    September 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm (7 years ago)

    It's a pain in the rear for sure.
    But it will come right.

    I broke my leg in 2004. I had an operation. I didn't experience a lot of pain but it was at times very – well tedious and inconvenient – the worst part was constipation I experienced after my operation – too much anaesthetic and some morphine I used although I stopped or kept pain relief as low as I could.

    I, however , kept a note book of events then and after and included it in what I called my 'Hospital' section of my poetry book "Conversation with a Stone" (Titus Books). However I was at home by myself (I got some home help but I used to wash myself but sitting on he bath near a wash basin. I had a wooden trolley that my mother had used so I used that to move my lunch etc I did cooking and washing – everything for a week or more with crutches but when I went fr check up I was told I was not supposed to hardly move! The months after breaking my leg – using crutches were rather frustrating and it did take some time to get confidence to walk again. But it was also quite an interesting experience.

    I like Murnane's book 'The Plains'. I also have 'Inland' which I haven't read most read it.

    Well – people cant read your thoughts – clear requests are essential. "Hinting" is nonsense – there are good books on learning assertion skills. Women and men have = difficulties in this area. Myself also. One point is that people have difficulties with certain people or in certain places. (But not other people and other places.) But communication skills can be learned. It is hard to learn, but the most important things are always so.

    That said I also need to work on this area myself.

    After time you will look back fondly to your experience of a broken leg! All the best.

    Reply
  9. steven
    September 19, 2010 at 12:45 pm (7 years ago)

    elisabeth – what an extraordinary tale this is. i truly have such a deeper understanding of what goes on between a "serious" break and your eventual rehabilitation. being at another person's mercy or requiring them to be available to you to such a degree carries so much weight. i avoid it at all costs but then you simply have no choice. oh boy. steven

    Reply
  10. Kirk Jusko
    September 19, 2010 at 7:44 pm (7 years ago)

    Sounds to me that on the one hand you don't want to be a burden to your husband, thus your inability to ask directly. Yet if you can manipulate him to get you tea or whatever, then you can tell yourself it was somewhat voluntary on his part.

    Hope you get better soon.

    Reply
  11. Woman in a Window
    September 20, 2010 at 1:56 am (7 years ago)

    I have just learned a great deal about myself, I'm afraid. I am terribly drawn to your friend because of his determination, because he drinks beer, and because he swears fiercely. Yikes.

    I believe you both are, most likely, indomnitable spirits. Heal quickly and don't be too afraid to ask. I'm sure your family is pleased to help.

    xo
    erin

    Reply
  12. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 2:35 am (7 years ago)

    The more time passes the easier it gets, Lakeviewer, still I continue to find it difficult to be so dependent on others. I've had to give up some of my old ways.

    Thanks, Lakeviewer.

    Reply
  13. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 2:53 am (7 years ago)

    You're right, Glenn. There are lots of ways to be unclear in our communications, including mumbling and turning away as we speak.

    Being hard of hearing doesn't help one bit either. It's almost as if we need to develop a capacity to lip read and then we also need to be able to look one another in the eye as we speak.

    Unfortunately, so often our communications happen on the run. We all need to slow down to be hear and understood.

    Thanks, Glenn.

    Reply
  14. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 2:58 am (7 years ago)

    At the university in the English department they call health memoirs, 'pathographies', Little Hat.

    The word sounds grim to me. Its letters begin with 'path', which to me speaks of illness and disease. But this indeed is the essence of a pathography, the story of a person's illness.

    I prefer to think of my broken leg as an incapacity, or as a disability, rather than as an illness, however indisposing both might be.

    Thanks for the good wishes, Little Hat.

    Reply
  15. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 3:19 am (7 years ago)

    You are so right, Janice, patience is the essence of healing.

    It takes time for broken bones to mend, and time to be able to get back to our usual way of life after an accident or trauma.

    We all have to be patient, patients and carers but it's easier said than done, especially for some one like me – a chronic hurrier.

    I was always in a rush. But not anymore.

    Thanks, Janice

    Reply
  16. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 3:23 am (7 years ago)

    The anxiety about the leg popping out of place, ruth has been the most wearing of all, beyond this new found dependence.

    But it's probably just as well to be suitably anxious.

    Knowing me, as the pain subsides, I'd be more likely to experiment with my leg, bending it and the like -not that I can at the moment, the way this brace is designed.

    The danger is I'd risk a set back unnecessarily, except for my fear of moving that bone. So I am now more patient than ever.

    Thanks, Ruth.

    Reply
  17. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 3:41 am (7 years ago)

    Ah the joys of communication, among the long standing relationships that exist between couples who have spent more years together than apart. We get to know one another's foibles well, don't we, Jim.

    I could not tolerate my husband proof reading my writing now, though when were together in the first few years, I would not send out an official letter to anyone without his editorial help. Occasionally now i ask for his help for official letters, but never with my 'creative' writing.

    My husband only reads my writing now after publication. He doesn't read my blog and I am glad of it. Not that I say terrible things about him but I'd prefer that those near and dear to me not muddy the waters.

    This more so after the fracas over the post about my beloved first born's wedding. How easy it is to reinterpret what those near to us write.

    As for the business of caring and sharing, my husband and I seem to switch positions. When he's down, I'm usually okay and able to go on and support him. When I'm in low spirits he usually rallies to take some of the emotional weight off my shoulders. We are rarely brought down low together. That would be awful.

    More recently as my husband has slowed down and dislikes housework even more than me. I've tended to take over things like the rubbish collection, and like you that made him cranky.

    Interesting though, since I broke my leg, although he is not as constant in doing house work, my husband is meticulous.

    The Le Creuset pans that stand on a rack beside the stove have never been so clean since they were new. My husband is something of a perfectionist. His perfectionism can stop him from getting on with things but when he needs to take a stand, he does it to the highest standard possible.

    As fr illness, we've managed so far to avoid it more often than not, though my husband's heart attack six years ago set him back for several months. Now it's my turn with the broken leg. Now once more we share the caring, helping role.

    Thanks, Jim.

    Reply
  18. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 3:48 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Zuzana, for your good wishes. I am fortunate to have such a helpful husband, although sometimes he grizzles he mostly helps, especially when I really need it.

    Reply
  19. standing on my head
    September 20, 2010 at 4:12 am (7 years ago)

    it's the illnesses and dis-abilities that remind us, forcefully, how interconnected we are, and how interdependent we are. and how much we resist that knowledge.

    Reply
  20. Kath Lockett
    September 20, 2010 at 6:18 am (7 years ago)

    You've opened my eyes to what sorts of empathy and willingness to help is involved in looking after the injured and – dare I say this, but it doesn't apply to you, Elisabeth – the elderly and the ill.

    To have the control and ability to do so much for yourself taken away so suddenly whilst coupled with an anxiety about the recovery process – sounds like a miserable time for you, Elisabeth. But keep writing – please!

    Reply
  21. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 7:29 am (7 years ago)

    Richard, how can I complain when I have so much help compared to you?

    I stand – or sit more like it – humbled.

    You had to deal with a broken leg essentially on your own. Occasional home help couldn't have been much help.

    I don't know how you did it, certainly not in that first week. I'm getting stronger now and can manage a few things for myself more, but in those first few days at home I felt like I could not do a thing.

    I was too scared to move for fear of damaging my leg. Maybe surgery makes people more confident. The surgeon has said to me the only way to 'guarantee' a successful out come is tho operate and pin the bone. Given that so far we have avoided the dreaded surgery I do not have any such guarantee.

    It amazes me now when I talk about and blog about a broken leg how any others have also had this experience

    Finally, Richard I agree with you hinting is not a good idea. Clear directions and requests are best, but some of us are hesitant to do so for the all reasons I suggested.

    Perhaps assertiveness training might help.

    Thanks, Richard.

    Reply
  22. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 7:34 am (7 years ago)

    It is hard when we have no choice but to accept the help we need, Steven, in more ways than one.

    Some of us must have gotten it beaten out of us the easy acceptance of help. You and I both by the sound of things. Mostly it's okay, when you can fend for yourself.

    But it is almost inevitable, sooner or later, if we live long enough that we will have to learn to accept help one day – all of us.

    Maybe you should get in some practice, but don't get it by breaking your leg. I'm sure there are less dramatic ways.

    Thanks, Steven.

    Reply
  23. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 7:37 am (7 years ago)

    That is the point, Kirk.

    Manipulation is an attempt to get what you want or need without having to run the risk of asking. It is not a helpful thing.

    We need to run that risk both to be able to acknowledge our needs and also to show gratitude when it's due or even irritation or acceptance when we don't get our way.

    It's all part of the process of give and take, and sharing.

    Thanks for the good wishes, Kirk.

    Reply
  24. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 7:42 am (7 years ago)

    Gerald Murnane has an indomnitable spirit, Erin. I'm not sure I can boast the same, though I can be fairly determined when necessary.

    I think you would like GM and it's heartening to hear you identify with him. This suggests to me that you're also made of stern stuff, but I've already picked that up from your writing.

    Thanks again for the good wishes, Erin.

    Reply
  25. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 7:44 am (7 years ago)

    We are interconnected, Standing on my Head. Blogging makes that clear and also as you suggest our shared response to adversity. Along with our shared responses to joy.

    Thanks for your good wishes.

    Reply
  26. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 7:49 am (7 years ago)

    I shall keep writing, Kath.

    I am amazed at what a comfort it has been to me to have this trusty lap top by my side.

    It's like a 'transitional object' in the Winnicottian sense, if you're familiar with that term, Kath.

    A bit like Schultz's character Linus and his cuddly blanket. It's a source of immense comfort and one that is in large degree under my control, unlike everything else in my life.

    Thanks, Kath.

    Reply
  27. Niamh B
    September 20, 2010 at 9:29 am (7 years ago)

    Another great post Elizabeth, sounds like you're really doing well with this whole ordeal.

    Reply
  28. Elisabeth
    September 20, 2010 at 10:04 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for your kind words, Niamh. It feels like I'm doing well, at the moment. My husband has washed down my leg, I've had a shower. I feel wonderfully clean. My kids have cooked the dinner and we're about to eat. Some nights are good.

    Reply
  29. Ann O'Dyne
    September 20, 2010 at 10:09 am (7 years ago)

    'pain' – what a concept. Murnane not recalling any is funny, as there must have been.
    or maybe the Coopers Sparkling Ale was the trick.
    Going into shock is fascinating. I sat on the road, waiting for the ambos, at 2am with a motorcycle policeman whose leg was in the gutter after a car hit him. He was lucid and we had a conversation, he wanted his leather jacket off.
    The car and driver went in the Yarra which was 'dragged' in the search. The big boot was stillon the leg when the ambo bagged it, and like Murnane, I do not recall all the blood there must have been.

    Elisabeth – what happened to your P-plater who must need psychotherapy before driving again?

    Reply
  30. Reader Wil
    September 20, 2010 at 10:41 am (7 years ago)

    I am sorry that you still suffer from broken bones! Thanks for your visit. I removed the organist, because the video covered half of my sidebar.

    Reply
  31. River
    September 20, 2010 at 11:58 am (7 years ago)

    I just had to laugh at the vision of you hopping from surface to surface with your cup of tea, and thinking, gosh it'll be cold before she gets to drink it.
    Me? I would have stood at the sink and drank while it was still hot.
    I hope you soon feel brave enough to let the leg hang while in the shower.

    Reply
  32. Ms. Moon
    September 20, 2010 at 12:42 pm (7 years ago)

    Bones are so fragile, even as they are so strong- like us. Oh. Just like us.
    And I hate having to ask for things directly but I know I have to learn.
    It's hard, isn't it?

    Reply
  33. Kass
    September 20, 2010 at 12:52 pm (7 years ago)

    Shocked to read of your accident and broken leg. I was looking forward to getting caught up on your posts, which are always well-written, but I'm not fond of this subject matter. It's hard to read of your pain and the adjustments that must be made to facilitate your healing. I send you my best wishes for a full recovery.

    Reply
  34. Eryl
    September 20, 2010 at 10:08 pm (7 years ago)

    It sounds like things are moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction for you, Elizabeth. I can see why you are afraid of the bone popping out, how grim that would be, but it must be less likely every day as it all knits back together.

    A friend of mine broke his leg so badly a year ago that it's not healing and he will need to undergo a third operation, but the last caused him such pain he's asked for it to be postponed until next year.

    I know exactly what you mean about having to rely on others for the smallest thing and how difficult it is to have to ask, having had an operation that rendered me useless last Christmas. But having cared for several incapacitated relatives in my time I also know how much easier it is if someone gives a direct request. Trying to second guess what someone wants is very wearing.

    Anyway, best of luck with the recovery.

    Reply
  35. Phoenix
    September 21, 2010 at 12:16 am (7 years ago)

    Sometimes the best communication lessons come from when we are sick and we need to ask for what we need, clearly and directly.

    I learned in college that if I needed help, no one was going to offer it to me unless I asked. So I started asking.

    Lo and behold, a couple years later, I am a very direct communicator. It's made things about 4000 times better than they used to be.

    Reply
  36. Robert the Skeptic
    September 21, 2010 at 2:07 am (7 years ago)

    I broke my 5th metatarsal stepping on a vacuum cleaner hose. But even though it was only a little toe, the cast went up to just under my knee.

    I dealt with itch as well, trying not to get it wet in there, but failing. Blowing the hair dryer down between my cast and skin helped a little.

    The worst day was when I was to have the cast off, I missed the appointment, thinking it was the following day. They were going to "punish" me by making me wear it another week. I told them I would go straight home and cut it off myself. Instantly they found a technician who could remove the cast.

    I broke three ribs falling off our bathhouse roof soon after my retirement. No cast used there.. just pain killers. I got very tired of sleeping on one side, rolling over and being awakened by pain. That too passed.

    Reply
  37. Richard
    September 21, 2010 at 3:24 am (7 years ago)

    I think it is good you are open about all this. I wasn't all that marvelously brave- I had times when I was really annoyed in hospital and sometimes quite frightened- to be honest I am on medication for a (long term) nervous problem- so I used those -that said I tried to 'make do' as they say – but there were times of terror as well as 'interest'- as I say "interesting times – but I let my daughters, my son and sisters know (don't doubt that!) and so as the comments here say or indicate here it shows that these "human condition" things are far from being "redundant" and we can be wary of burying ourselves in abstractions and theories (not to dismiss all such things) and forget about this reality – and that I had a worse time than you or better is irrelevant – I mean (not me and you literally – I mean we) but the fact is it is indicative of the problems we have in life – young or old – and as someone said on here – re how interconnected we are – we cannot afford to be too aloof (not that you are) and this is something unique on this Blog – this openness and humanity as well as intelligence and thoughtfulness… The confessional – perhaps not as way of art or writing but as an "informer" of the process – has its place. And I resist that it is only for women. Not so – men fear and worry as much )(Of course a lot of worry is useless – if not all! Concern or anxiety are perhaps different – offset by action at some point…) – perhaps some men "bury" or hide these fears to varying degrees..hmm..not sure…in some cases even more. We all have different kinds of courage in different circumstances.

    Keep well as you can! Being sick in anyway is awful.

    Reply
  38. Richard
    September 21, 2010 at 3:36 am (7 years ago)

    I think it is good you are open about all this. I wasn't all that marvelously brave- I had times when I was really annoyed in hospital and sometimes quite frightened- to be honest I am on medication for a (long term) nervous problem- so I used those -that said I tried to 'make do' as they say – but there were times of terror as well as 'interest'- as I say "interesting times – but I let my daughters, my son and sisters know (don't doubt that!) and so as the comments here say or indicate here it shows that these "human condition" things are far from being "redundant" and we can be wary of burying ourselves in abstractions and theories 9notto dismiss all such things) and forget about this reality – and that I had a worse time than you or better is irrelevant – I mean (not me and you literally – I mean we ) but the fact is it is indicative of the problems we have in life – young or old – and as someone said on here – re how interconnected we are – we cannot afford to be too aloof (not that you are) and this is something unique on this Blog – this openness and humanity as well as intelligence and thoughtfulness… The confessional – perhaps not as way of art or writing but as an "informer" of the process – has its place. And I resist that it is only for women. Not so – men fear and worry as much )(Of course a lot of worry is useless – if not all! Concern or anxiety are perhaps different – offset by action at some point…) – perhaps some en "bury" or hide these fears to varying degrees..hmm..not sure…in some cases even more. We all have different kinds of courage in different circumstances.

    Keep well as you can! Being sick in anyway is awful.

    Reply
  39. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 4:54 am (7 years ago)

    The beer may have helped reduce GM's pain, AnnODyne, but I suspect it was probably more the shock.

    How dreadful it must have been for your poor policeman and his bashed leg. Equally how traumatic for you as witness to the event.

    I think of the P Plater often. Her name is Macy. Somewhere on a scrap of paper I still have her telephone number.

    She did not seem so terribly upset at the time, though she was suitably concerned for me i felt, and very hopeful that I was okay.

    I'm not sure whether she was not concerned that I would hold her responsible or whether she in fact held me responsible.

    I heard the words 'jay walking' muttered in the back ground and because I had veered off the crossing beyond the lines at the time M came into contact with me, it may well be that I would be deemed responsible.

    We haven't gone down the path of allocating responsibility or blame. We've avoided involving TAC etc. I consider it a series of unfortunate events that lead to this. A more experienced driver may have seen me and stopped sooner.

    She was in a hurry too, I suspect as she talked about needing to get to the airport to farewell a friend who was going off overseas. She had toyed with leaving even before my husband arrived but a bystander advised her against this, and so she rang the police and reported the accident, which I understand is the correct and necessary thing to do.

    I rang M that night from hospital to reassure her that despite my broken leg, I was okay. She seemed a little shocked by the call, but to me it seemed the decent thing to do. I have daughters Macy's age and I'm sure they'd be troubled by this, but I do not know more than that as I have not spoken to her since.

    Thanks, AnnO Dyne.

    Reply
  40. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 4:57 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for the good wishes, Reader. I enjoyed the organist, but if he gets in the way on your blog, you are right to move him.

    Reply
  41. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 5:00 am (7 years ago)

    I can drink my tea in a gulp, River, but I prefer to take it slowly and seated, hence the effort I go to to get it from the jug to the table. I've done it several times since and every time it gets a little easier, but it still takes time.

    Thanks, River.

    Reply
  42. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 5:03 am (7 years ago)

    You're right about our bones, Ms Moon, so strong and so fragile all at once, particularly when they are damaged, strong enough to heal, but weak enough to break.

    I'm glad I'm not alone in asking for help.

    Thanks, Ms Moon.

    Reply
  43. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 5:07 am (7 years ago)

    I'm sorry you found it all a bit awful reading this stuff, Kass. I've said as much on your blog.

    It's hard but it's bearable and writing about it helps me, at least. I'm sorry though if it's too awful for my readers. I don't write to distress others, though it helps to share the pain.

    And as i said over at your place, Kass, I can well understand your distress given your mother's frailty at the moment.

    At least a broken leg will – in all likelihood – heal.

    Thanks, Kass.

    Reply
  44. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 5:12 am (7 years ago)

    Your friend's botched leg and a third operation pending convinces me again Eryl, that it's best if I can to avoid surgery.

    Surgery, like the accident itself, can add to the difficulties as much as it's designed to help.

    By the sound of things here you've been on both sides of the caring/being cared for divide. You must therefore know more about patience than me, but I'm learning to go slow, get help and to be more direct with my requests as well.

    Thanks, Eryl

    Reply
  45. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 5:15 am (7 years ago)

    You sound like a 'direct communicator' on your blog, too, Phoenix.

    I think it may in part be a generational thing as well. My daughters are all much clearer in their requests than I ever was.

    Hopefully we have brought them up to be that way. They seem to have the confidence of their convictions by and large at least in relation to their parents. With us they can usually call a spade a spade.

    Thanks, Phoenix.

    Reply
  46. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 5:20 am (7 years ago)

    Standing on a vacuum cleaner hose, Robert. What rotten luck. And who would have thought a little toe would require such a cast.

    The itch is a little better these days given that the brace is removable. At least my skin can see the air for a few minutes each day.

    I'm also lucky. It's not the height of summer. I hate it when it gets too hot. It itches even more. Out with the chop sticks

    You have had some bad luck, with your ribs too Robert, but as you say – a great comfort from my perspective – these things pass.

    Thanks, Robert.

    Reply
  47. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 5:31 am (7 years ago)

    I agree with you one hundred percent, Richard, men and women both suffer from their vulnerability and fears. The trouble is, in western societies at least and certainly in the past, men have been discouraged from expressing their fears.

    Men have been required to take it on the chin – in public at least.

    It's better these days, I think, with more of an emphasis on the 'confessional', or autobiographical – call it what you will. The notion that it's okay for all of us to speak more honestly about our experience prevails.

    Mind you when I think of early precedents for autobiographical writing, in the likes of Saint Augustine and Proust among others, men have been able to write about their experience directly for some time, though mostly in those earlier days personal experience needed to be fictionalised or as you suggest theorised and intellectualised.

    Thanks so much for your kind words here, Richard. I appreciate the encouragement. I also value your honesty.

    Reply
  48. Elisabeth
    September 21, 2010 at 5:32 am (7 years ago)

    The bliss of being able to scratch, indeed. Thanks Laoch.

    Reply
  49. Alesa Warcan
    September 21, 2010 at 9:32 am (7 years ago)

    I guess we'll have to refrain from puling your leg with any tall tales for a while.
    Glad to hear that you're convalescing smoothly!

    Reply
  50. Gabriela Abalo
    September 21, 2010 at 10:48 am (7 years ago)

    Sorry for you leg and glad to know you are doing well. Just be patient and make the most of this time.
    Wonderful post, I learn a lot

    🙂

    Reply
  51. Se'lah
    September 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi Elisabeth,

    thanks so much for visiting my Necessary Room.

    I am sending lots of positive healing vibes your way. You sound like you are taking it all in stride. I do hope you are back to tip-top shape in no time, but listen to your body and be patient with yourself.

    one love.

    Reply
  52. Mim
    September 21, 2010 at 7:59 pm (7 years ago)

    Cheers for the medical treatment–orthotics, etc.

    Nifty to have a husband who knows how to use a face cloth on a leg.

    All best for your recovery!

    Reply
  53. R.H.
    September 21, 2010 at 9:46 pm (7 years ago)

    I broke my little toe and thought it was just bruised. I walked around on it for three days before going to a GP who sent me off for an x-ray, confirming it was broken. He then taped it to the adjoining toe and that was it. Maybe life is too practical here in the west.
    You shouldn't have to wait an hour for a cup of tea, you've been looking after them for thirty years.

    Reply
  54. Ann O'Dyne
    September 21, 2010 at 10:57 pm (7 years ago)

    re The P-Plater: I was feeling sorry for her, but now am not.
    The first rule of driving is to 'Drive at all times to avoid any collision' – it over-rules all other conditions, wherever the person or other vehicle is.

    She was going to leave the scene!!
    That is the worst crime.

    A P-Plater can lose their Probationary licence for the tiniest infraction of road regulations.
    She must have been approaching the crossing at an excessive speed if she did not see you as you left the footpath, whatever place you left it from. Naughty girl. She should have sent flowers by now.

    Reply
  55. Meggie
    September 22, 2010 at 9:35 am (7 years ago)

    A beloved Nephew has recently broken his leg, with shattered and splintered tibia and fibia, at ankle level and also below knee level. He has plates and rods to assist healing. Kneeling was an important part of his skill as a boat builder. His pain seems reflected in this post.
    I do hope you are feeling stronger every day, and the comfort of the washing and massages continue.

    Reply
  56. Alberto Oliver
    September 22, 2010 at 10:31 am (7 years ago)

    Fortunately,,this is when progress begin to be an obvious thing. In a few weeks,,fuull mobilty again and then,,to recall,, like your friend does with his bad experience. I wonder Elisabeth,,have these experiences any value or any reason to be?? i am not specially a brightside guy now that i think on it,,i mean,,i,,and i am sure, we all,,appreciate our bodies enough as for having to receive such a painfull lesson,or any other kind of terrible lesson in order to learn soemthing. Anyway,like they in America say,,"Shit happens" and as with superstitions, we like to find meanings and explanations when feeling vulnerable. And why not?? despite it all,,it is comfortable to think, or at least imagine,,that everything have a reason to be,,or that by doing these, or keeping that object by,,we can seize some kind of control in an uncertain world. We are still humans despite it all, like those primitive beings that dwelled in caves and that trembled with fear with the thunder and the fire. They needed gods, religions, beliefs,,in order to explain it all. We still need amulets, superstitions and rituals, in order to not to feel like fragile rods than can be cracked that easy.

    I wish you to get better soon Elisabeth,,my best regards for you =) and sincerely wish that you have not to experience EVER something like this again.

    Reply
  57. Elisabeth
    September 22, 2010 at 10:54 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Alesa. I'm sensitive when it comes to jokes about my leg, not the metaphorical kin, but any literal leg pulling, or toe twitching which my husband occasionally threatens and I go slightly troppo.

    When my leg heals, I'm sure I won't mind.

    Reply
  58. Elisabeth
    September 22, 2010 at 10:56 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for the encouragement, Gabriela and the good wishes. Lord knows I need them.

    Reply
  59. Elisabeth
    September 22, 2010 at 10:58 am (7 years ago)

    Please keep the positive vibes coming my way Se'lah. Sometimes it seems I am taking it in my stride, other days it seems impossible and interminable and too much altogether.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  60. Elisabeth
    September 22, 2010 at 10:58 am (7 years ago)

    Please keep the positive vibes coming my way Se'lah. Sometimes it seems I am taking it in my stride, other days it seems impossible and interminable and too much altogether.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  61. Elisabeth
    September 22, 2010 at 11:02 am (7 years ago)

    It's not hard to use a face washer on a leg, Mim, but it is tedious. Every evening our little leg washing ritual. My husband is kind in a vigorous sort of way and he likes to joke about where the surgeon might chop, were he to decide to take the leg off, which of course the surgeon will not do. Just a joke, as they say.

    Thanks, Mim.

    Reply
  62. Elisabeth
    September 22, 2010 at 11:07 am (7 years ago)

    I thought of your comment about not having to wait an hour for a cup of tea today, Robert, given my long dedication to my children.

    They aim to reciprocate but it's easy to get distracted. As for that broken toe, Robert the Skeptic writes about his broken fifth metatarsal and the treatment he received, much more elaborate than yours.

    Perhaps it depends on which metatarsal, but yours was the fifth, too, wasn't it? As you say maybe it's different here.

    Thanks, Robert.

    Reply
  63. Elisabeth
    September 22, 2010 at 11:12 am (7 years ago)

    Your poor nephew. It sounds so much worse for him, not only the nature of his break but also the way he gets his likelihood.

    I earn mine sitting on my bum. I need my mind and my wits but I can still work without the use of my leg. I hope he recovers well.

    Thanks, Meggie.

    Reply
  64. Elisabeth
    September 22, 2010 at 11:15 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, AnnO Dyne. You've set me thinking about the driver of the car.

    My husband was suggesting that given the bruises on my leg it may be that the car hit me after all, but I thought the bruises came from internal bleeding.

    Reply
  65. R.H.
    September 22, 2010 at 12:36 pm (7 years ago)

    I think the metatarsal is a bone in the foot, more serious. But I saw a photo of a lady celebrity not long ago with a cast up to her knee for a broken toe. (????????????)

    -Lots of question marks, needs investigating.

    Reply
  66. Tommaso Gervasutti
    September 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm (7 years ago)

    Tremendous post and narration Elisabeth. I have written a bit of a digression in my blog but I will never, unfortunately, be able to be precise and "detailed" like you.
    Anyway my latest post is in a way dedicated to you because you are the one who knows ( after a comment of mine here ) what ordeal characterises the present texture of my life.

    Reply
  67. KleinsteMotte
    September 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm (7 years ago)

    Glad to hear you're getting better. For me the visit to a hospital began at age 5 and has been part of my life on a regular basis. For me it's hard to imagine never having had that experience. Broken bones? Yup, several times! One was a stress fracture that happened while I was washing the windows. The bone just cracked. That was annoying.

    Reply
  68. Claire Beynon
    September 22, 2010 at 10:58 pm (7 years ago)

    Dear Elisabeth — I always seem to trail in after everyone else! (I've been away from home and computer but have been back-reading this amazing account of your med. experiences). Great memoir material, indeed.

    Your story together with GM's brings to mind a rather different event in my life that literally turned me on my head and made me think seriously about ways to slow my life down (up till then I kept talking about it, but without making any effective changes in support of the talk)… I had just had new brake pads fitted to my car and went away for a few days to work on my old mud house. I spent three days and nights up ladders, stripping and painting, loading rubbish onto trailers, carting, rigging, you name it… and at the end of it all, had to make up beds and get things ready for the house's first paying visitors… I have an appointment to get back to in Dunedin at noon so took the 'short cut' – a gravel road detour through the back of beyond (the 'wops' as we call them). My new brake pads didn't like the freshly gritted surface and although i didn't think I was going terribly fast at the time, my car went into a skid as I came out of a corner and my first move was to put my foot on the brakes… not a good thing to do in a skid, we all know this, but nevertheless, that's what I did. My car went out of control and we rolled across the road, landing on the roof in a ditch, within a metre of a power pole. I was shaken but otherwise unharmed and able to crawl my way out through one of the bashed in front windows. A 5 litre tin of 'oxblood' paint burst on impact and spattered the car with what looked dramatically like my own blood. The car was a right off. I walked 20 metres or so along the road till I could fine a bar of cellphone reception and rang the local hotel to tell them what had happened. They sent someone out to me and all was well that ended well…

    Reflecting on the details of this 'accident' afterwards, I realized how much I'd had it coming – and how it was in fact 'no accident'. The metaphors contained in this incident were powerful and gave me an unflinchingly clear message. I was grateful for being spared injury – or worse – and for the learning that was able to come out of it all. I already knew I needed to slow down, but this was a fierce (and kind!) reminder to me that it was time I put my actions where my mouth was and make the changes I needed to make in my life.

    I turned a corner, went into a spin, rolled, landed on my head and came out it a mess in so many more ways than my car incident suggested on its own.

    Thanks for reminding me of this learning – I'm sharing the story with you because I hear you saying something similar here re; your broken leg and the way it's frustrating you and hindering your movement right now… it seems to me you recognize, too, that your leg is revealing other things, perhaps offering you something new and fine to walk forward with?

    A friend recently sent me a few lines spoken to her by her late husband way back in 1966. I was touched that she should remember them all these years later. What he'd said to her was this – 'It's not the burden we carry but the way we carry it.'

    A little ferocity, indignation and humour are all a part of it! You show us this. Thank you.

    Love to you
    Claire

    Reply
  69. Claire Beynon
    September 22, 2010 at 11:03 pm (7 years ago)

    PS. Dear Elisabeth – I've just written a bit of a screed here – so much so that Blogger told me it's 'too long to process…' at the same time as it gobbled up my comment! Eeurgh. But perhaps it's made its way through to you anyway? In case it hasn't, I just want to let you know I've been to say hello. Glad you're on the mend – and am really enjoying this much-more-than-medical tale. Take care, Claire.

    Reply
  70. Elisabeth
    September 23, 2010 at 4:51 am (7 years ago)

    You're right about the fifth metatarsal, RH. I googled it. If you're interested see: http://www.foothealthfacts.org/footankleinfo/fifth-metatarsal_fractures.htm.

    Obviously all out bones mater, especially the wight bearing ones. I don't know about the actor with the full cast for a broken toe. Maybe it was a special break. I doubt that it could have been for cosmetic reasons only. those casts are ugly.

    Thanks again, Robert.

    Reply
  71. Elisabeth
    September 23, 2010 at 5:01 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Davide. I have just now visited your poignant and heart wrenching post.

    I understand that you perhaps better than most understand what a struggle it is to live with physical hardship and disability, sadness and disease.

    I hope in time it gets easier for you.

    Reply
  72. Elisabeth
    September 23, 2010 at 5:11 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for telling us this story Claire, and what a story. Far more powerful than my encounter with someone else's car.

    I can see what you man when you write that it was in fact 'no accident'.

    I recognise the same inevitability in what happened to me. I had felt all day long that something dreadful was about to happen, though this is not such an unusual expectation for me.

    Equally, I often tell myself that something good will happen, but not this day. This day I was so overloaded with busyness, too many things to do, too many balls to juggle in the air. It was inevitable I can see now that I would lose my grip on them sooner or later. I am not superwoman, however hard I try.

    I too hope that I can learn from this. Already, I can see myself slowing down. Already I can hear myself making plans in my mind to take on less. Not to let myself rush on ahead. To set more limits around my time and activities.

    Thanks, Claire, for your wonderful comment, one that deserves to be a post in its own right.

    Reply
  73. Reader Wil
    September 24, 2010 at 1:12 pm (7 years ago)

    So you are actually Dutch by origine! Do you still speak Dutch? BTW "Schoon" means beautiful or clean, but it's an oldfashioned word and only used in the sense of clean.

    Reply
  74. Elisabeth
    September 25, 2010 at 9:37 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks again, Alberto, for letting me know what a Tomte is. The origins of such creatures are fascinating.

    Reply
  75. Elisabeth
    September 25, 2010 at 9:37 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks again, Alberto, for letting me know what a Tomte is. The origins of such creatures are fascinating.

    Reply
  76. Elisabeth
    September 25, 2010 at 9:40 am (7 years ago)

    My Dutch is very limited, Reader. I can understand the language more than I can speak it.

    I was born in Australia but four of my older siblings were born in Holland. My parents came to Australia after the war.

    I have always known that my second name meant 'clean field' or far field. Thanks Reader. I did not know that 'schon', was an old fashioned word.

    Thanks, Reader.

    Reply

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