I've tried to keep emotion out of this and relay the impacts fairly factually. I hope it will position the accident and the emotional / physical responses I want to discuss in the next part of this series. I hope it briefly explains what happened (and how it continues to affect me) and most importantly in the reflection element (third in this series of posts) I'll talk about tools I've found to help me cope.
On 19th June 2007 I slipped on the decking in my back garden. I was 38 weeks pregnant with my Little Man at the time. My left leg slipped out unnaturally to the side at speed and although I did not fall to the ground, the force of my legs doing the splits horizontally (literally the way your hip doesn't extend) combined with a heavy baby / pregnancy hormones resulted in significant injuries.
A freak accident, taking only seconds but it changed my life forever.
I knew immediately something bad had happened. Little Lady was 20 months at the time and was by my side when I slipped and I managed to stay calm and tried to call out to my neighbours over the fence. I was admitted to A & E at the local hospital where I was examined, the baby was confirmed well and unscathed and I was given a bit of gas and air to deal with the pain. I was unable to walk or stand and any movement (of myself or the baby) was agony.
Later that day I was transferred to a larger city hospital for an immediate cesarean section. For whatever reason, by the time I arrived the Doctors had decided not to undertake those steps. I was examined but was not x-rayed as baby was inside so it was a judgement call as to what was best. I was placed in a side room with a bed and commode. This was to be my prison for the next week. I was in immeasurable pain - every movement was agony and this was compounded by baby moving inside me. I moved only inches during those days - having injections to avoid clotting. I fainted through pain alone twice and plea'd for them to give me a cesarean every day. The hospital was well over an hour each way away from our home and so I only had a visit once a day. It truly felt like a torturous prison cell yet the wonderful baby moving inside me, my glorious girl and my best friend gave me hope.
Seven days later I had a C section and my beautiful boy was born - a gorgeous blessing. It was also the first time I could be pain relieved properly and in the short term this was a huge relief. I was then x-rayed and the Doctors realised the true extent of my injuries. I had broken my pelvis and my hip and ruptured my symphis pubis so nothing was holding either side of my pelvis together. I had only had paracetamol to treat the pain until this point and still could not put any weight on my left leg.
The next four days passed in a blur in that same room... but were far happier. Little Man slept in my hospital bed between my legs as I was still unable to walk to get him from the bassonette and we were very hopeful for full recovery thinking that the nightmare would soon be over. I was then transferred back to the local hospital and although physically I was struggling I was closer to home and that made visiting easier for everyone.
However, I then had a number of further health complications after his birth which meant that my lovely boy was discharged home while I stayed in hospital with a super bug unable to have any visitors for a further 5 days - including my lovely children. I was so ill I genuinely thought I would die. After the peak of this illness my milk came in and baby was miles from me. Gladly though, I recovered from the super bug and was allowed home after a full occupational health assessment.
When I returned home I was only able to walk a few slow and painful steps on a frame with the pain medicated by lots of meds including oral morphine. Of course, I could not feed baby from myself due to potential health implications for Little Man and subsequent opiate withdrawal. We put a bed in the lounge. My mum came to stay for 2 months to help me with the children [and my supposed recovery] for which I will remain eternally grateful. The hubby had used all his paternity leave during the time I was in hospital - so without Mum and his help - I don't know what would have happened. Little Man had his own health problems highlighted at the 8 week check and it was at this point that my emotions took a set back. It was the last straw on a very heavily laden camel.
After the first month I began to feel pressured to recover. I was asked daily - if I was feeling better, were my movements easier, and this combined with helpful suggestions from well meaning friends of 'needing to get out' meant I forced myself to do the baby groups, soft play... The more I did this, the worse my pain became and the lower my mood sank. I became terrified my children would be taken from me and so channeled Super Mum. I masked my symptoms from all but my closest friends and family and would return home to collapse sobbing in a chair - unable to walk for the next few days and emotionally exhausted. When people asked after my improvements I used to say "I've got two wonderful, healthy children, I'll be alright" like a mantra - a phrase to live by. Then as the implications of Little Man's health became clear and suddenly one of my babies was not healthy my heart and my mind broke. Not right there and then but little by little over the next year.
Around 2 months after the accident, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and continued to have flashbacks to that hospital bed where I'd lain in agony for months afterwards.
Of course, I prioritised Little Man's health above mine and the numerous trips to Bristol Children's Hospital combined with both of our Doctor appointments it felt like we lived at the Doctors. Slowly I became engulfed by worry. Who I was as a person became lost. I knew something was wrong with me mentally but kept trying to think my way out of it - to rationalise myself well. But of course that didn't work. I was unwell mentally and physically and finally accepted treatment for anxiety and depression.
After that first year...
... I was diagnosed with early onset Rheumatoid Arthritis in many of my small joints as a result of the trauma that my body went through.
Between age 3 and 4 Little Man's condition thankfully became less acute and the fear could start to subside.
Six years on I am unable to stand on my left leg without medication and take a prescribed cocktail of drugs to help manage the pain including slow release morphine and oral morphine. My physical condition will not improve in future but I have learnt to live with my new capabilities.
I have replayed that fateful day in my head so many times. I had huge guilt and regret associated with the memory - "If only" and "what if" were all consuming sticking points in my emotional recovery for a long, long time. This is probably the biggest element of my healing in my road to recovery and I'll talk about that in the next part of this series: My Physical & Mental Journey.
I guess if I wanted someone to take anything away from these revelations it would be to smile at the stranger who looks a bit distracted; show kindness to people at the park or on your street; send that text or make that call you've been meaning to. It may just be that little thing that makes life for that person that bit brighter and make a small difference.
I'll continue with the next post on My Disability Journey next week. I've relayed these events fairly factually and avoided adding emotion to it - apologies if it reads a bit like a time line of events. The next post fully encompasses my recovery journey and I'd rather focus on this but you need the facts to be able to make sense of the rest! Take care for now,