When my partner was involved in work accident and suffered femur fracture, I had to search online everything I could find about the injury, complications, recovery and real live experiences. I found posts written by doctors and specialists, which were extremely helpful, but the one thing was missing- personal touch. Particularly, from the carers point of view.
After searching some more, I came across chat groups in which people were sharing their experiences, but everyone’s story was different- some young men recovered within 6 months, others were never able to walk again, some brushed it off as no big deal, others were full of regrets and even anger about their bitter faith, so days later I gave up, on looking for similar situation and decided to do my best to help my partner, whatever it took.
When I started this blog (not long ago by the way), I knew I will write about femur fracture, this time I will leave out the long story how it happened , but will concentrate on what to expect, when the patient comes home.
Anger. When my partners friend brought him home from hospital, I rushed outside the door, overwhelmed with whirlpool of emotions, I had barely slept since his accident, our 4 years old son also run out, but before we were step away from him, he raised his voice in alarm, that we shouldn’t touch him. It was like a slap to me, there will be no sweetness in his return after 5 days absence, no. I took my sons hand, grabbed the hospital bag and marched into the house. At home I hissed at him: “You will not be speaking to me in that manner!” before promptly bursting into tears.
That little episode was wake up call for both of us. He, understood, that I was so worried about him, it made me vulnerable and extremely sensitive, and I understood, that a man after suffering horrendous pain and trauma after injury and surgery could hardly worry about someone else’s feelings in a natural way, I knew then, it will be all about him, for a very long time.
Attorney. If you believe you are entitled for compensation (work/ road accident), contact your attorney ASAP. And please do not sign anything you do not understand, we have heard awful stories, how employer approaches injured worker offering him 2k compensation (you just need to sign here please…) , understand this- employer will not worry about you, he will want to cover himself, but you should worry about you, so contact your solicitor (and it better be a good one), because possibility is, that instead of 2k you may get 20k or even 200k (Depending on your situation). I must add, that my partners employer never tried to “screw him” like that, and cooperated from the day one. See, intelligent person understands- It’s not personal. Worker suffered injury, insurance is there for a reason, so compensation must be paid.
Arthritis. Bone fracture often means arthritis in future, there is a connection. If you prove that your injury increases your risk of arthritis, your compensation will be bigger (there is ridiculous court case, when woman proved, that hurt knee tissue (after the slip in the supermarket) will result in the arthritis in years to come, she received compensation, that, was unexpectedly generous, for not even one broken bone… But money aside- Arthritis is an awful illness, so when my partner’s doctor confirmed, there will be no arthritis, because break was clean, not in the joint, we were positively relieved. No money is worth that.
Bed. When my partner returned from hospital I expected him to lie in bed most of the time, (isn’t that what patients do?). But not with femur- fracture. My partner was in awful pain and I only admire his motivation, to drag his feet around the house, doctor has warned him, if he lay in bed too much, his bone may grow in a wrong way, causing complications in future.
I have heard gossip, that since he walks already, he has probably exaggerated his injury (never mind one of the best surgeons in Ireland telling him, the complete fracture as his, was a rare case in his practice, and my partner was lucky to walk away on two legs). We had no time for the gossip, and no one saw the pain my partner went through during injury and recovery.
Sometimes it’s best to allow patient to sleep alone. We attempted to sleep together first, but it did not work, because 1- We bed-shared with our 4 years old child, who moves in his sleep a lot. 2- I am a cuddler, lol! I would forget about his injury in sleep and move towards him in careless manner or try to wrap my legs around his, causing him to shout out, because the cut on his leg was still raw (where the rod was inserted) and the pain was too strong to handle, even without someone attempting to push you out of bed. So me and my son chose another bed, anything for recovery, peace and good sleep.
Bathroom. Some people will need bed- bottle for first few days, particularly older people. For young man (or woman) it would be sensitive issue and they will attempt to go to bathroom by themselves, during the night. This could be dangerous. Make sure that your partner knows you are available and willing to help anytime at all. Do not make big deal of it. If the person feels guilty waking you up for third time during the night to help him get up from bed, pass him the crutches or support for the trip to the bathroom, just brush it off, telling, “It’s OK, I know you would do the same thing for me.” And you know that it’s true, he/ she would.
Baby. During my partners recovery we conceived a baby. We have been praying for this baby for almost two years, I suffered 2 silent miscarriages and was losing a hope of having a second child. I cried and I prayed, and I searched for explanation and solutions, I wanted second baby so much, at times it was all I could think of. Until my partners injury, then I had no time to think of pregnancy. Until it happened. I felt blessed. My partner survived accident, that could have taken his life, and we created new life too. I was all about life, we know the timing was crappy, but the God knew better. I think until something like that happens in your life, you will not be able to imagine, that regardless of an injury, life moves on, maybe men feel higher need to procreate after they face their own mortality (not as a decision made by mind, but on the deeper level, somewhere where instinct guides one, without full understanding).
I did not need the crap some people gave me, “Ah, so he is not actually injured, if you were able to make a baby…” My answer was- “I will tell you something, sorry if it will shock you- (in a whisper)- man does not need to use a leg to make a baby”…
Crutches. Your partner will have to learn to use crutches. It’s not very easy as requires strength in arms, however consider it a blessing, your partner is home on his feet, attempting to walk, and it’s great. To avoid difficulties, move things out of the way for more space. You may need to remove fluffy thick rugs, as they could prove a hazard. Do not forget to clean the dirt of the crutches if your partner has been outdoors. The day he/she will stop using crutches is important day for him, so say a prayer, he is on the way to recovery.
Calcium. Your partner will need at least 1.000mg/day, to help bone healing.
Cannabis. I have read it’s amazing for pain relief and fractured bone healing, so if you are living in the country, where it’s use is legal, by all means, take advantage of it, but make sure to use quality product. Unfortunately it is illegal in Republic of Ireland so my partner could not benefit from this amazing plant.
Change. Your plans will change, let yourself to cry a little, but do not dwell on it. Life goes on. We had to cancel engagement party and the wedding plans changed. We planned for celebration in Dublin when I receive my Irish Citizenship, but as a Ceremony happened little under 2 weeks from his injury, he could not go with me. I shed a tear unashamedly as I made a wow of fidelity to the Republic of Ireland, because he wasn’t there with me to celebrate the moment. I tried to look at the bigger picture. I was just happy, that my man was alive.
Doctors. During recovery patient will need to have several visits to doctors, it is best to keep appointments on your calendar, as forgetfulness is a part of recovery process. If you as a carer have concerns, it is advisable to go to speak with your Family doc (GP) and ask for advise, if you are a patient, always discuss side-effects of medicine your GP, prescribes and be in tune with your body. There have been painkillers prescribed to my partner that state side-effects, such as suicidal thoughts, blood in urine, depression, inflammation of the brain, asthma, so you have to decide for yourself if you are willing to take that risk.
Driving. Patient will be off the road for some time, so it’s best to have some system in place who will drive. As I did not have a license we had to rely on other people for the lift, it was frustrating at the time, but we survived. If you have family and friends who are willing to help- great, if not, be prepared to pay. I do not remember for sure, but I think my partner went back driving after about 7 months. (Your doctor must give you all clear)
Depression. It is common for patient to experience depression after injury, and during recovery, however it is not widely known fact, that the partner- the carer- may be experiencing depression too. Patient is feeling dependant on the carer, his dignity is wounded, he is annoyed, and the only person he can take out his anger on , is the wife/ carer, she is there day and night, yet she is free (she could leave the house any time, right? Wrong.) She is taking care of that grumpy person, who looks as if he has no gratitude at all, he is self-centred only talks about his pain, his struggles. (and of course he would! He is suffering!) But she has bad days too, maybe she had bad sleep, or got headache, maybe she got flue or the novel she has written for years was rejected… She is suffering too, but in quiet, because she may feel guilty to complain, after all her legs are fine, she is not in pain. (But I was tired, I was pregnant and I did feel lonely sometimes, however I did not keep the grudge, I accepted the situation, and I was happy for the baby God gave to us)
My advise is- Do not suffer in silence, talk about it. Teach him he has to hear you out too, he has to respect you for all you do. The thing is he is so self absorbed, he does not even understand he hurts your feelings. Once all is out in the open, many things (not everything) will change.
I would advise to have strong support group- friends or family are awesome, but sometimes strangers are the best. If you can join some Social media groups and connect with people, who go through the same experiences, it would do wonders to your emotional state, and they can teach you a thing or two.
Take time for yourself daily, to do what you love (often it’s something unproductive like colouring books or sewing dolls clothes, whatever makes you happy just do it. For me it was Junk journaling. I crafted Birth Journal, as I was pregnant at the time.
I would advise against anti-depressants and opt for natural remedies.
Energy. Lack of energy is expected during healing process. Good sleep and nutrition are vital.
Exercising. Ok, so how can one exercise when level of energy is low. You may not like the answer though- You just push yourself. There are various easy exercises, that should be done if not daily, then at least 5 times per week. These exercises will play important role in your recovery and to help muscle to gain strength again. If the patient is quite passive, it’s up to carer to find way to motivate him/ her to do exercises.
Friends and Family. This is the time when you will need them the most. I (and my partner) relied heavily on our support team. It was a blessing to have all those people in our life, people, who truly care. Another thing- accidents as such, will show, who your true friend is.
Food. Good nutrition is a key. Healthy wholefood diet will help body to recover. It is true- You are what you eat, so if you have suffered injury, now is good time to quit sugar and junk food.
Gratitude. Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful, especially if things are not going well. But take time to be grateful, for all the blessings in your life.
Government. (in Ireland). After an injury you may find yourself in financial difficulty, particularly if recovery takes longer than expected. There is nothing to be ashamed off. You were working and paying your tax, now when you aren’t able to work, you can ask government for support. If your medical costs are sky-high, you may be entitled for medical card, it is means tested, but if both you and your partner are unemployed, most likely you will qualify. You are also entitled for injury/ illness benefit.
Goals. It is easy to become pessimistic and depressed during recovery, particularly for out-going person. My advice is to keep attention on your goals, whatever they are. For us, they were simple goals, yet they kept him and me motivated- First to learn to walk without crutches, then to go back driving. The biggest goal was to buy the house, and since we achieved that, our next goal is to renovate it. Maybe you want to learn new language, why not? Now you have time on your hands, so do it.
Health. Health is your wealth, but mostly we appreciate it when some issues arise. There will be a lot of talk about health in your house, and it’s absolutely natural.
Hospital. We all hate hospitals, but if you suffer broken femur you will have to spend some time there. My partner was there 5 days. He had surgery to insert titanium rod, and he was on Morphine for pain relief. I think hospital bill was around €300, I considered that quite reasonable.
Infection. Well, needless to say, infections are to be avoided at all costs. If you had titanium rod inserted, you will have two cuts, in your hip and at the knee. Bandages are to be changed daily (we changed twice daily) and use disinfectant to clean the wound. First I bought the spray, but later we used Hydrogen Peroxide. My partners wound was very clean, his surgeon done amazing job. When wound is clean it will heal faster. If you get opportunity to leave wound to breath (no dressing), that will contribute to healing process too.
Job. If prior to injury person was in employment, it will feel pretty weird to be at home 24/7. You will miss your work, communication and you will miss your wages. But it is your job now to get better, health is your wealth- remember?
Things to consider:
- You may never go back to your old job. If the job you had, prior your injury, involved, heavy lifting, climbing or running, or was rather physical, you will find yourself unable to do that again (or ever again), so you may want to undertake training, for easier job/ office job or something you can physically do. Be careful, just because you can lift, does not mean you should.
- If you were this kind of person, who done the interview and got the job, the things are about to change. Sometimes companies just do not want to employ people with injury, so you may find yourself unemployed for longer than expected. Even though it is tempting to keep quiet about your injury, it is your responsibility to notify your employer about it.
Kids. If you have small kids, you will have to explain about injury. Kids like when they know what to do and what is expected of them, so if they are 4+ they will understand why they can’t poke at dad/mum, why the patient can’t run, can’t play football and such. It does not mean you will lose bonding time with them, you can still read or colour together. You can play board games like Connect 4 or Snakes and ladders.
Lifting. You can’t lift heavy things during recovery, and depending on your situation, you may never lift heavy things again. Make your health your priority.
Laughter. Yes, you will laugh again, when something is really, really funny. (and when pain does not bother you that much)
Love. If you are a partner of an injured person, trust me, you will find a way to love each other, that will be gentle and beautiful, and fulfilling. The act of love will not harm your partner but will contribute to the healing process and will serve as the bond between partners who are on the rough path of recovery.
I hope this was helpful. Stay tuned for Part 2.