Breaking (back) Bad

So this is hopefully a pretty unique blog that is intended to show the other side of injuries and what people go through. I am in a pretty unique situation in that I am a physio and have now experienced both sides of the desk, treatment table, MRI scanners, x rays and hospital beds too.

I am part of a pretty unique physio setup too that is aiming to promote functional training and injury prevention for minority sports and activities such as climbing and boot camp style fitness.

I did a very stupid thing on 18th February 2017 and played hide and seek up a tree (yes really!) I pulled on a rotten branch which snapped on me about 15 feet up in the air and i ended up landing on my shoulders with legs whiplashing over me on the floor.

I did the textbook check that everyone (I’m sure not many) do in that situation – wiggled my fingers, toes and thought thank **** for that. In truth it was very unpleasant and all i can describe it as is the hardest winding you’ve (n)ever experienced along with an audible crunch of the spine like crunching snow under your feet.

The next bit was even more stupid. The winding subsided after about 5 minutes and the pain wasn’t intense or uncontrollable, as I thought it would be, so I asked for help up to walk back inside. I am sure it was the adrenaline working wonders but I was helped inside and asked for paracetamol and ibuprofen to settle the pain a bit. I sat on a chair and was asked if I needed to go to hospital. I promised I’d go if the pain didn’t settle and after about 10 minutes it was clear I needed to go. I tried to lie on the floor but was struggling to stand or move so collapsed back in the chair. I was asked if I could get in a car but said no and that is when the panic from everyone else started to kick in.

Looking back now although a very serious situation it was quite amusing to hear that my brother in laws first reaction when finding me on the floor (after realising it wasn’t me mucking about) was “I’m shit at first aid”.

It is a bit of a blur but I know that there was difficulties for the paramedics getting to me due to us being in fenland and the technicians that arrived quickly asked for qualified paramedic support due to me being stuck in a chair.

The paramedic was simply amazing. She was calm, the ultimate professional and I haven’t known multi-tasking like it. She was quickly contacting the air ambulance support to notify them the amount of morphine I was taking due to quickly maxing out what you can normally give for someone when you don’t know if they have any health conditions that could cause further complications. Due to me being fit and healthy she was allowed to continue topping me up in preparation to move me. I think in total it took them about 2 hours to move me from the chair but it felt like 5 minutes.

My wife is a doctor and had been at a children’s birthday party with our Daughter at the time. On arriving and seeing the ambulance, her first thoughts were for my father-in-law who had recently fallen out of a tree and badly broken his ankle in the same garden. She didn’t once expect to see me sitting, clearly in pain, doing a Darth Vader impression thanks to the entinox.

Her first reaction was trying to make light of the situation by jokingly telling me off but I could see straight away how worried she was. When you have known someone for over 12 years communication is almost telepathic and between us we were answering all the questions needed and Danielle knew how much pain I was in despite me denying it to the paramedics and not talking. I think this was when I started to worry and a million different scenarios ran through my head. I don’t think it was any different or anymore severe but before the paramedic properly took over I knew there wasn’t a plan and everyone kept asking questions. Research shows the power of the brain and the powerful role of psychology but I do think it was just panic that made things so difficult. As soon as my wife told me to calm my breathing and be honest – somewhat sternly did I realise I was going to be ok (it could be however that the morphine had really kicked in by then!)

The air ambulance had landed and they had placed a chair type spinal board around me but there was the problem of me getting on to the stretcher. My wife had already shouted at me telling me to be honest about my pain but after I calmed down I asked what was next and how best I get on to the stretcher… the simple answer was for me to stand. So I said come on then. My wife really didn’t like this clearly because it was far from ideal but I had little other choice.

The stand and sit took less than 5 seconds, they quickly shifted me on to the stretcher and before I knew it we were blue lighted on the way to Addies (not on the helicopter as I had hoped!).

I was doing really well, the pain was more dull, I was much more with it and aware than I thought I would be considering I think Sherlock Holmes would be proud of my narcotic state but the paramedic caught up with my wife having gone to the same school in different years and I was occasionally asked questions by both purely for distraction purposes and for reassurance. The paramedic student that was with them was driving and clearly he thought he was the next Lewis Hamilton because it was comical how much we were all bumping and rocking like on a budget roller coaster. There were a few stern words exchanged and things settled to a coast down a familiar set of roads to my old place of work.

Things definitely slowed now, there was a handover between the paramedics and A&E staff and I was basically waiting for a CT of my neck and back. A roughly 5 metre fall means they want to have a good luck and I think I am right in saying (from my 24hours in a&e viewing while off) that falls above 4 metres in height have a 25% mortality rate.

I spent a good 2 hours looking at plugs in the A&E bay that are above your head on a strip and noticed that there were 2 lights not working which annoyed me intensely…. I had nothing else to do. I then saw footprints on the ceiling as they took me for my CT that they place for children to keep them calm and amused.

I had already made a porter and radiographer laugh by this point telling them how I did it and my next thoughts were to of trying to get in contact with work as I was supposed to be doing overtime the next day on a Sunday on orthopaedics…. I know the irony!

My wife left a few messages on people’s phones and phoned various members of my family but with very little concrete news other than I had hurt my back.

After what felt like an age but in reality was probably completely insignificant a lovely junior doctor calmly and sincerely told me the news. I had fractured 4 vertebrae in my back.

Right… Ok… Erm….
BUT they were stable.

This sounds stupid but I couldn’t have asked for better news. I won’t deny that my first reaction was SHIT I have broken my back but when they follow it up with I can roll in bed and in the morning I can sit out and walk (after the doctors say so) you genuinely can’t ask for much more. I was suddenly off of the spinal board with a surprisingly easy roll and my wife had removed all my clothes to take home (we debated on the protocol of boxers on or off) and I was laying ever so slightly inclined in a hospital gown that I have always sworn I would never wear eating a sandwich, a yoghurt and probably the best cup of tea I have ever had.

I made my way up to the neurosurgical ward for an overnight kip and accepted an offer of another cuppa due to the 2 cup minimum rule at my in laws.
My nights sleep was non existent really. I had some cracking snorers in my bay, a pleasantly confused man who was being watched over at all times meaning that there was always quiet conversations going on, plus the regular care needed for other individuals needing more attention than myself.

I really didn’t mind. I was already thinking about getting home by this point. I knew as long as I could stand and walk a few metres I would be able to get there. My wife had texted and said she would bring me in some reading and music but I refused saying that I didn’t want to think about staying in any longer.

I had hopped out in to the chair as soon as I was allowed, whatsapped family a photo of me sitting in a gown to amuse and ease their worries and eventually made it to the shower. I dropped the soap three times (no comments thanks) and soon made my way to another ward due to the ward being so specialist and the bed being so ‘valuable’.

I therefore made my way with my two possessions – a phone and broken glasses that were Harry Potter taped together.

I very (im)patiently waited for an x ray and to get home. I was visited by my Dad and step-Mum who brought The Angling times??? to keep me occupied and suggestion of an alternative hobby as well as my Nan and Auntie who drove halfway up the country to make sure all was ok. I made it back early evening and then the process of getting back to ‘normal’ began and as much as I thought I would know what to do in this situation with my experience and profession I didn’t have a clue!

Next time…. The rehab begins!