Fracture Recovery Part 1: The Injury and ER Visit

Ankle xray

One of the biggest highlights of my week is my hours on the ice every Sunday. As much as I love figure skating, it’s a dangerous sport, and the most dangerous falls are always the ones you’re not expecting. In the last five minutes of my session this past Sunday, I was doing one final run-through of a step sequence, and had the worst fluke fall of my just about 20 years of skating. Falling backwards on top of my left leg, I collapsed on the ice and knew something was very wrong. 20 years of skating has made me pretty tolerant of minor injuries, so when the pain radiated through my left leg, I knew I needed a trip to the ER.

I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by kind people who got me to Sunnybrook’s ER (by recommendation of our clinic director, Dan) and got me set up for the SEVEN HOURS I would spend in the ER that first night.

The biggest thing I noticed that night (beyond the pain in my leg) was that Sunnybrook’s emergency department was severely understaffed. By the time I left the ER, just before 11 that Sunday night, there were only a couple nurses (maybe 3) and one physician’s assistant for the entire section of the ER I was in, which, admittedly, had only 10 or 15 beds, but that still meant that not only did I have to wait about 4 hours just to get in to a bed, but once I was there, it took another 3 or so hours to get the X-rays done and get a temporary cast put on my leg.

The X-rays were far worse for me than the actual injury. As much as the fall on the ice and the subsequent drive to the hospital were, X-rays are their own kind of special hell. If you’re fortunate enough to have never needed an X-ray, let me first just say I hope you never do, because the techs need to move the broken or potently broken limb into various positions to get clear images to be certain of the state of your injury. Despite having been given pain medication and anti-nausea drugs, I still thought I would throw up from that pain, but once they were finished, it was clear that my fibula was broken, even before a more thorough examination of the imaging. At this point I was brought back to the ER, given some more pain medication and left for a while until the physician’s assistant on duty that night had time to see me, explain my options and get a splint on my leg.

The staff at Sunnybrook were clearly overrun, overworked and struggling to see everyone, but for most people, even if their situation is not life and death, they are in pain, scared and probably really want to go home as soon as possible. This situation leads to a whole lot of frustration from everyone waiting to be seen, and while the others in the ER with me were lovely for the most part, even the most calm and collected person has the urge to yell at someone after sitting and waiting for hours on end.

The staff at our hospitals are not to blame for the long wait times, but when they are the only face you see, when there’s no one you can take your frustration out on who really deserves it, it is easy for people to take their frustration out on the wrong person. The Sunnybrook staff took all of the complaints I saw in stride, apologizing, but not backing down and maintaining a positive attitude, even though their days are long, tough and full of people in pain.

Because of the type of fracture I had (a spiral fracture of the fibula), I needed to check in at the fracture clinic to determine whether I needed surgery to repair it. My day at the fracture clinic was a whole adventure of its own.

-Alicia, Endeavour Office Manager