Fracture Recovery Part 9: Learning to Walk Again

Crutches leaning against a wall
The last couple of weeks have presented a new challenge. Now I’m partially weight bearing, but with that comes more pain than I had had in weeks, plus a mental challenge of re-learning how to walk. This followed an extremely challenging appointment at the fracture clinic.
 
These appointments take up my whole day each time I go in, and while they’re frustrating on a normal day, this one was on a new level. For the first time it felt like the appointment as a whole was a waste of time. The x-rays were valuable, but they took up only about an hour of the four or so I was at the hospital. It’s important to know how I’m healing, but honestly, this felt like it could have been a phone call in the next couple of days.
 
The biggest source of frustration for me was not the amount of time I was given, but the lack of care I was shownI saw someone new, which was not at all surprising, but he was in the room no more than two minutes with me, including time in which I stopped him from leaving because he had not provided me adequate information. This is a huge part of what has had me fuming all day. I am far from the most needy person in this hospital, but when I am brought into the hospital for an appointment I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect to actually get the full attention of a medical professional while they’re in the room. Plenty of these appointments have been short, but in those other appointments I felt like I was actually getting value out of it. This time around, I felt like just a number on a piece of paper. I also wasn’t asked about my pain. He didn’t seem to know much of anything about my case, so he wouldn’t have known that I’ve been off their pain medication for weeks. Most people who aren’t able to get as much (good) physio as I am are still in a lot of pain at this point, so for all he knew, I needed a renewal on one or both of my prescriptions, but he didn’t ask.
 
I don’t actually know who this man was, as he didn’t introduce himself, but he told me my x-rays looked good, asked me to flex my foot (then didn’t watch) and told me to start partial weight bearing for the next 6 weeks (which sounded like forever in that moment) and took a cursory glance at my incision site. That was apparently going to be the end of my appointment. The problem though, is that he didn’t actually provide clarification or directions for partial weight bearing. I am fortunate in that I have the Endeavour team working with me throughout the whole process, so I had an idea of what partial weight bearing was, but before this whole process I had no idea, and I imagine most people in my situation don’t either.
 
Keep in mind that I still had not been referred to physio. When I asked how to partial weight bear, I was told to get my physio to teach me. Now I get that these people are understaffed, but the fact that there is no one in the fracture clinic who can teach people how to do this is kind of insane. What if you can’t get in to see your physio for a week or more? Should you just wait? That seems to be the idea, but that is only going to drag  out the recovery process which is long enough as is.
 
There has to be a solution that allows people at least the option of learning at least the basics of these kinds of progressions in the hospital. Even if it’s not an ideal situation, even if it’s a long wait to see someone to teach you, there should be an option of some sort, especially when you add in the cost of physio. After a surgery like this if you don’t have (good) health insurance, you could pretty easily run through a whole lot of your own money getting healthy again. Adding extra appointments to learn these progressions is expensive and not an option for some people who are struggling financially, but this is an essential thing to learn how to do correctly, and if someone misunderstands, they could seriously hurt themselves.
 
So what’s the solution? There’s a couple options in my mind, some of which are more expensive than others.
 
The best option is for the residents or other medical professionals to know how to teach these progressions. This is an expensive option, in large part because it’s time consuming, and our hospitals are already extremely crowded, but people would always be able to learn how to progress correctly and therefore safely.
 
The next best option (which would also be expensive, but effective) would be to have one physio in the fracture clinic, so that people who want to have the option to learn from them how to progress. This would be time consuming, and would likely have long wait times for patients when the physio is inevitably quite busy.
 
So that leaves us with my third option which would be cheapest (also has the most risks, but is still much better than the current situation). This would be to teach the volunteers and students who are already in the fracture clinic, often with nothing to do, how to teach these progressions. Each time I’ve been to the fracture clinic, there’s been at least one co-op student there, just shadowing. It would be inexpensive to teach these students how to teach exercises, and everyone wins. The students have something to do, the staff don’t have to teach exercises and can therefore move on faster, and the patients get more attention and can be relatively sure they’re progressing safely.
 
It’s been a week and a half since that appointment. Since then, I’ve learned how to partial weight bear properly, gotten pretty okay at it, and made some progressions. I can’t imagine having to do this on my own, but there are far too many people in that situation.
 
I’ve been able to incorporate more parts of my regular life back in day-to-day, but it’s still a huge struggle. Moving around still takes way more energy than it did before I broke my leg, so while I can stand, as soon as I have to take even a couple steps, it becomes much more challenging. And just forget it if I need to carry something while I’m moving. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to do a bit more, but that still feels very far away.

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