It all began innocently enough as a family picnic at a nearby lake on a hot summer’s day just before I turned twelve. Our family had decided on going to Lake Learmonth for a Sunday picnic and swim for us kids.
It was a day that would change my life forever and, that again, would be brought into sharp focus this past month…
On the day in questions, shortly after lunch we kids decided to go for a swim in the lake. The water was cool, but the lake had a muddy and murky bottom, however in the midst of an Australian summer it was a godsend!
I remember splashing around with the other kids and was wading out into between knee and hip deep water when I suddenly felt a sharp pain on my left foot. I lifted my foot high to take a look and noticed that I had a cut on the top of my foot…hhhmmm that’s strange I thought to myself. As I placed my foot back into the water a large red blood cloud appeared almost immediately, so I lifted my foot to take another look and to my horror notice that blood was pouring from the open wound.
I yelled for help and dad quickly waded into the water to retrieve me. He snatched me up in one lightning movement, took a quick look at the damage and splashed toward the bank, yelling for all of the kids to get out of the water.
My mum and sister quickly wrapped my foot in towels to try and stem the bleeding but to little avail, clearly I needed help and I needed it fast. Without any conversation, dad grabbed me and placed me in the back of the car, my sister who was a trained nurse and radiographer sat with me as we sped to the closest hospital (Ballarat Base) some 13 miles distant.
In those days we had a 1959 FC Holden Sedan which had a top speed of about 50 miles an hour before it shuddered itself almost off the road. I remember I kept saying sorry to dad for ruining the picnic, but he didn’t say much as he was too focused on keeping control of the car.
He was clearly worried at the amount of blood I was loosing and he drove like a man possessed, my sister holding my hand and reassuring me that everything would be okay, but even I could see that this was not good, especially as there was a large amount of blood pooling on the floor of the car and the towels soaked red with my blood. I felt the panic starting to rise in my throat and chest as we drove, it felt like an eternity…it was the shock setting.
Dad drove straight into the emergency roundabout, screeching to a halt before lifting me from the car, the hospital orderly standing nearby ran to help and I was whisked into emergency room and quickly surrounded by doctors and nurses to try and stem my bleeding foot that continued to pour blood over the floor.
That afternoon they put 36 stitches into my foot before I eventually hobbled out of the hospital on crutches many hours later and into the hot and humid Australian summer air.
I was unable to sleep that night because of the excruciating pain I was experiencing. My sister who worked at a nearby hospital sensed something was awry and the next morning went into the hospital to review my x-rays. As soon as she saw the x-ray she realized what was wrong – the doctors had missed a large sliver of glass inside the wound. I was quickly summoned back to the hospital and they operated immediately to remove the sliver of glass.
To this day I live with the legacy of the four small toes on my left foot, and the inside of my calf from my ankle to my knee are completely without feeling where the nerves were severed after stepping on the broken bottle.
Unfortunately, my never ending left foot/ankle issues can all be traced directly to this initial accident all those years ago.
Recently as I mentioned in a recent blog I rolled my ankle while on holiday in the Philippines (yes, on my last day – thank goodness!).
After finally getting it checked out five days later I was diagnosed with a double fracture. The first at the big toe and the second at the base of the ankle. Oi vey!
Now, this isn’t the first fracture or break I’ve had on this ankle. Nope, rather its the fourth major one.
The others were all from my days playing Australian Rules Football. The challenge always was that I would easily roll my ankle in the blink of an eye and I wouldn’t be able to feel the roll or break (with my numb toes) until I found myself on the ground. I would then be stretchered off and taken to the local hospital where they would pronounce I’d broken or fractured my ankle once again.
Fast forward to last Thursday to my check up with my most recent fracture from my trip to the Philippines.
As the doctor and I reviewed the x-ray he pointed out the number of bone fragments and new growth bone that was hindering my ability to flex my foot fully.
One option was to have these removed via arthroscopic surgery (non invasive) to remove the bone fragments and trim the bone growth, thus potentially providing me with great foot movement.
As you can imagine I jumped at the chance and before I left his clinic I had received a date of Sept 6th for my surgery.
No sooner than I had gotten back to home and the surgeon was on the phone to see if I’d be interested in coming back in the next morning for surgery as there was a place opened up because of a cancellation.
Things were definitely moving fast and I was optimistic with the quick change in plan. 🙂
At the time it all seemed straightforward and rather routine except that my surgery went a little longer than the hour they had originally planned for. The other strange thing I noticed is that my numb toes have now extended up my foot even further – truly the weirdest feeling…and not in a good way!
I had no pain while at the hospital, but over the course of the next 36 hours the pain went through the roof. I’m talking it was a 15 on a scale of 1-10.
Now before you put it down to me being a guy with a low pain threshold, I’m the same guy that walked on my fractured ankle for five days before I finally got it checked out.
The pain I experienced on Sunday was the most searing you can imagine. It felt like someone slide a large knife in the back of my heel and ran it up the achilles, calf and hamstring before withdrawing it and starting again.
Waves of pain…yes, waves!
Needless to say I spent the entire day in emergency as they went through all the options – (1) blood clot (very bad), (2) secondary infection in the incision points (also very bad), (3) infected ankle joint (very bad). Degrees of badness I suppose…none were good!
After an ultrasound looking for a blood clot, cutting out my stitches and prodding the wound for puss and finally, the worst of all…and most painful was to jab a needle along the length of my ankle joint over and over again with a syringe looking for puss and infection without an anesthetic.
Oh yeah, I screamed at that point…
Without any conclusive findings they sent me home with the strongest pain medication I’ve ever had. Fortunately, I’ve been very sparing in my use and decided to try and tough it out with Tylenol or Advil instead of being totally being out of it with the opioid based pain medication.
Who would’ve thought that me stepping on that broken bottle all those years ago would still be impacting my life today? I mean really!
My follow up is coming up and hoping that the swelling will at least go and that the searing pain will abate somewhat, maybe even regain a little feeling in my foot.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring!
Until next week!