War Memorial Gary Trouton

A Cautionary Tale

November 2001

Watch where you're going!

June and I had spent a week in the west country visiting relatives. On the day before our intended return home I took a walk with my sister to visit my brother-in-law's grave. I was walking on a narrow strip of pavement/footway alongside the busy A361 and looking ahead to the point when the footway stopped on our side and we had to cross over, a fairly daunting prospect in view of a bend in the road and the speed and frequency of the traffic. As a consequence of looking ahead I did not notice the raised inspection cover near my feet.

In an instant I caught my right foot, it was caught too securely for me to perform the usual trip and stumble and I fell. My hands did little to break my fall, they just suffered deep grazing and embedded grit for their effort, so I pitched forward and slightly to my left so that my left hip, protected only by light summer wear, hit the edge of the kerb - hard! I rolled into the road in the path of the traffic and just had enough self preservation instinct to roll myself back on to the path. There I lay in severe pain and any attempt at movement meant severe became excruciating. My sister, who had been ahead of me, was saying she would get an ambulance and I was saying; "No no! The pain will go away in a minute." Some hope.

The first car to stop and offer assistance was driven by the local District Nurse who called an ambulance straight away. It was quickly on the scene and I found myself whisked off with morphine injection, saline drip and oxygen mask, and delivered to the A&E dept at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. After I had been x-rayed a cheerful young surgeon, who looked like a full-back from the Bath team, told me what I had already realised, that I had fractured my femur at the neck and that he would be fixing it back together the next day. And so he did. In the subsequent x-ray I could see that they had fixed a steel plate alongside the femur, attached by a number of what looked like 2inch No.8 screws, the plate had an angled boss at the top end through which they had screwed what looked like a 0.5inch bolt into the ball of the hip joint. It had all the appearances of a fairly good d.i.y repair, you know, the sort of 'that should hold it until we can get a new part' type of job.

I was out of bed the day after the operation with a zimmer frame but every step was murder. I remained on a drip for a day or two, I had injections of anti-biotics to reduce the risk of wound infection, more morphine, injections to reduce the risk of blood clots, anti-inflammatory drugs and regular doses of paracetamol along with iron pills to counter a perceived anaemia. This cocktail combined with the lingering effects of the anaesthetic did nothing to lift my spirits. I was also fitted with tight stockings, said to help prevent clotting. Things improved slowly over the next few days, the nights were long since it was impossible to get much sleep, the only position possible was flat on my back and any movement painful. The situation was compounded by a new mattress designed to reduce the risk of bed sores. This mattress had a surface with corrugations created by air pressure generated by a small compressor. At regular intervals the air was released from some of the corrugations and introduced into others, thereby changing the points of contact between body and mattress. It was rather like lying on a living creature, which was not very conducive to sleep, furthermore the peaks and valleys hampered any attempts to move that one might make in order to get more comfortable.

Despite everything the stay in hospital was not at all bad. The nursing and auxiliary staff were marvellous, they worked really hard and were often short staffed, yet they maintained a sense of humour and displayed a measure of patience and good nature in situations that would have tested a saint. The food, though simple, was very palatable. I was in a small ward with five fellow patients, some with more serious problems than mine, but the atmosphere was extremely cheerful with a good deal of banter. We do hear many complaints about the NHS, no doubt some are justified, but in this instance I do not believe that I could have received better treatment anywhere in the world, a comment which extends to the ambulance service also.

After six days I was discharged, still with my zimmer frame, and made the journey by taxi to my sister's, but that journey was enough to convince me that I was not ready for the long journey home.

After leaving hospital the leg remained painful. The lower leg turned all colours and swelled up like a balloon for a few days before the bruising and swelling transferred to the foot. After a further ten days in Somerset we were driven home. June drives and is happy pottering around Stoke Ferry and Downham Market but she did not fancy the two hundred and odd miles journey, so I had had to arrange for the car to be transported home.

Now, at the time of writing, it is almost four weeks since the operation. I have to wear stockings for another two weeks, and can't wait to get rid of them. I can get about with two sticks, the foot is still swollen beyond the point where I can put a shoe on. The pain is greatly reduced, more in the nature of nasty aches and twinges, but it is still not possible to get a decent night's sleep. Needless to say the accident has ruined plans and generated a number of problems. We were away for a month instead of a week and you can imagine how the garden looked. All those autumn jobs that I had in mind, including painting the first floor windows at the front of the house, have all gone by the board. Whilst I can get about with two sticks I can't carry very much, especially cups of tea, and I tire easily, so I am very limited in what I can do and it has all been a bit of a burden for June. Nevertheless things are progressing well, I look forward to steadily improving mobility and getting back to driving in a week or two.

Even now I find it difficult to believe that it could happen when just walking along. If it's that easy how come I have survived all these years? Everybody has been very sympathetic, even four year old Eve, but she was the only one to say what many others were no doubt thinking; "You should look where you are going Ga."

Ron Watts

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