The third week in November 2017 was a shitty week.
A really good friend shot herself after losing the will to live, having battled with years of terrible depression. Two days later , our wonderful friend and next- door neighbour Julie, who was my very first follower of this blog, died under anaesthetic whilst undergoing a very routine minor operation on some nasal polyps, caused by a catastrophic brain haemmorage due to the presence of an unknown brain tumour, and the very next day my husband did a superb job of destroying his quadriceps tendons and lateral knee ligaments by twisting to shoot a high partridge in Suffolk whilst his foot was caught in a deep furrow in heavy plough. Yes, he did manage to kill the bird, just before he fell.
I didn’t know, at the time , just how hard it would be to cope emotionally with all these terrible things happening so close , one after the other. But life does go on!
It is only just now that I have felt able to put a positive spin on things .
The first two disasters are still much too difficult for me to comment on, so I will address here only the subject of how to cope when your breadwinning, sporting and sailing husband suffers a massive injury which requires you to suddenly drop everything and become a carer. Forget those sympathetic, sharing, politically correct, by the book paragons of virtue; I am more influenced in my approach to infirmity by the example set by my Patterdales, “pick up thy bed and walk” or else you may be killed. It never ceases to amaze me how my wonderful Lilly won’t ever touch any of my chickens unless they are terminally wounded or very sick, and only then she will summarily despatch them. Likewise the Cocker Spaniel. She will never attempt to run in unbidded and retrieve a wholly dead bird, but if there is a runner, then I really have to keep a close eye on her as the desire to get it is almost irresistable.
But as to my husband and his accident. It was only after I had arrived with some of the other wives for the shooting lunch that day, and was left wondering what had caused the guns to be so late, that I was appraised of my husband’s fall. Much to the consternation of his host, who had initially been quite sure that my husband was suffering a catastrophic heart attack as all he could see were limbs flailing uncontrollably in the midst of deep plough, the shooters returned , with the youngest , most able- bodied of them supporting most of the patient’s considerable bodyweight on his own ,rather smaller ,shoulders. A clear popping sound had been heard as the husband twisted and fell over his left knee, and it was evident that some serious injury had taken place. Quite fortuitously, the girlfriend of one of the guns was a young, unbelievably pretty GP. It caused much mirth at lunch when she was made to examine the patient. Bless her cotton socks, she did actually pinpoint the probable cause, and wisely said that we shouldn’t treat it as an emergency , ie avoid casualty on a Saturday at all costs, but get it seen to straight away on Monday morning using our Health Insurance cover. Rather brutally, but eminently practicably, I insisted forthwith that my crippled husband drove himself home in our automatic Volvo, with me following close behind in the Landrover. By this time I was pretty fed up with not only having missed the lunch, but also having been denied another opportunity to show off my fabulous picking up act, courtesy of Poppy, the wonder Cocker Spaniel.
The next day, see photo, showed rather a large amount of swelling going on; also my husband was quite unable to perform any sort of straight leg lift, and in fact his whole left knee gave way at least once. Very worrying. Monday Morning saw, miraculously, an appointment with our local GP practice, who had no hesitation whatsoever in making the neccessary referral to BUPA. Yes, in the UK, every box has to be correctly ticked before you can get authorisation from your private medical insurance, and that usually means referral from a GP- if you are lucky enough to get an appointment- or from Casualty. The former route is infinitely preferable if you don’t want to be held in some frightful waiting bay whilst the system deals with you. Unless of course it is a life or death emergency when the good old NHS really does come up trumps. Although a rupture of the quadriceps tendons is not a life or death medical emergency, the chances of a good recovery are hugely increased by having surgery done within the first 7 days. Therefore you must manipulate the system somehow to ensure that you get a review/ surgery ASAP. Fortuitously, my husband was able to get the best surgeon for this job to see him in Ipswich on Tuesday. He was operated on the very next day, Wednesday 29th November.
What followed during the week or so after he returned home, and he was allowed out of hospital the very next day having had a virtual total reconstruction of his knee and associated surrounding tissues, is not a time I look upon fondly. When you have a total rupture of the quadriceps tendon, what you get is the tendon being wrenched from it’s anchor to the kneecap, causing fragments of bone to be dislodged , as well as having nothing with which to connect to the hugely important quadriceps muscle. If you were to ignore this sort of injury, it would never heal back together, but merely stay unconnected with huge amounts of scar tissue leaving a wholly useless lower leg which you could never lift or stand upon. Best to get surgery to repair it straight away! The really boring thing is the recuperation. Tendons have to be reattached to the kneecap and muscles, ligaments sewn back together, and then a really long rehabilitation must ensue. Bone heals in 6 to 8 weeks. I know from my horses that tendons can take up to 2 years to totally heal.
As to being a caring nurse, I have failed!
You marry a man for life, but not for lunch.
When the Skipper gets injured, then there is a whole lot of adjusting to do on both sides. I never expected the post -op blues, the rages, the despair the frustration….and all whilst I had to fetch and carry EVERYTHING. I found myself unable to do half the things I wanted to, and fell into bed exhausted every night! Life only started to get better when we got a wheelchair from the Red Cross, a leg-lifter, crutches, a Smart TV with an indoor aerial and Amazon Firestick , and attached a basket to the zimmer frame so he could transport his own ipad and gin and tonics! And a very strict regime of soup and prescibed exercises.
Yes, the hard truth is that with such an injury the patient will be in a straight leg brace, non-weight bearing and on crutches or a walking frame for at least 8 weeks. Unless you are an athletic chap of around 18 years old, stairs are completely out. Thank God we have a downstairs bedroom and bathroom. Only once did I offer a sponge bath….Never again!! There is always another option, if even a standpipe outside.
Another lifesaver was had by me asking all the people who had kindly invited my husband to shoot this season, which invitations he had had to cancel for obvious reasons, if they would mind it if we still came, but for picking up only! I took the trusty 4X4 Volvo, the wonder-spaniel, grumpy cripple plus zimmer frame, and amazingly managed to procure quite a lot of fun. And the old man got to see some of his mates, as well as have a jolly good bout of fresh air! Sadly, he is not yet able to climb aboard Ranger for a little while yet.
Fortunately things are much improved now. Physiotherapy is in full swing, and more weight can now be taken on the affected leg. The leg brace is a ridiculously designed product, which falls down at every step. He doesn’t bother to wear it at home now, but is as cautious moving around as if he was on Ranger in a storm without a lifejacket or lifeline( quite a regular occurrence)
I do insist that he still wears it when commuting to London in case he gets knocked by a cyclist etc. I did manage to affix it to his leg to stop the downward trend, but his foot swelled alarmingly with my applied rubber tourniquet. The leg brace is only to safeguard him from bending the knee too acutely should he suffer a fall. He is only allowed to bend it up to 90degrees, or he might cause the sutures to fail.