A Photography walk goes wrong

This story is also posted on our family blog but thought many more would see it here.

It was a dull grey Monday morning 12th December but I still chose to go out for a walk. I usually do to get my regular exercise and hope to see new things for my camera to focus on.  I chose to visit a park I’d not been to before. I’d only just learnt about it two days prior at the local market where I held a stall to sell my photography items. Think that was my first mistake. Mind you, it had been raining on the weekend but the tracks didn’t look soaked to me and I stayed off tracks that weren’t visible due to overgrowth. Only the big wide tracks like the firetrack at the top, a road down the side and another track that sloped slightly downhill but was wide – looked wide like the other firetrack. That was the next mistake. Walking down that path.  I now know that there was dirt covering a large smooth rock near where the grass ended, but I didn’t know till I slipped on it…

As soon as my left foot slipped underneath me I heard the crack and felt the snap.  I yelled out to no-one in particular, as I was on my own, “oh no, I’ve broken my leg!” I went down and tried to brace myself on my elbow but as my left heel tried to touch the ground to rest, pain shot through my left leg and I knew I could not do that again.

I don’t know which order things happened in – did I get my phone out of my pocket first or did I brace my leg with my arm? I suspect the phone first.  I hung my left arm under my hamstring to brace my left leg in the air and then rang 000. Or tried to. I rested on my right elbow for quite some time. I could make my hands meet so I could use the phone but not sure if it was my third or fourth attempt before I actually got my fingers working to make the call. I was shaking badly and knew I was in shock.  I was relieved to hear a voice answer quickly and I asked for the ambulance operator.  I was switched through to Andrea and she stayed on the phone with me for the next half hour or so, till the Ambos had arrived.

I spoke and cried to Andrea often during that time and if her voice went quiet I’d call out for her and she’d assure me she was there and not leaving me.  I’m sure I rambled in my fear and pain. I eventually laid flat on my back as my right elbow was getting numb, I had pins and needles in that arm, and my left hip and knee were aching severely from being propped up by my left hand and arm. To make matters worse I got cramp in my left calf and screamed out in pain.  When I could talk, Andrea asked me questions about my condition and where I was. I got frustrated because I felt like I’d described where I was three or four times but perhaps I was slurry and not very clear, I don’t know.  I told her my mouth was dry and I was shaking, I had water with me but thought perhaps I shouldn’t and she told me I was in shock and not to take a drink.  Andrea assured me the Ambos were on their way even though I often said “I can’t hear the siren”.

I knew the track I was on didn’t show up in the directory or GPS and I was going to have to talk them in, via Andrea. It was important I remained conscious, even though I felt light-headed and panicky and in oh so much pain.

I told Andrea I could feel something trickling down my left leg. I could see a lump protruding under my trousers and knew I had a compound fracture – no-one had to tell me that. Andrea asked if I could pull my jeans up to have a look if there was bleeding but I baulked at that idea and told her I couldn’t do that.  She calmed my panic and told me it was ok.  Was I comfortable where I was?  What was I lying on? How was I dressed?

The ground beneath me was slightly damp but I had my photographer’s jacket on, which is waterproof, and a cardigan too. My body felt warm to me and I didn’t feel cold even though I was shaking a lot.  We kept talking, now and then me giving more instructions about what road I’d parked on, where the park was, the Ambos have found my car now, they’re on the track, they won’t be long.  And then they lost radio contact with Andrea so I had to scream out help every minute or two till I heard a voice saying “Coming!  We can hear you”.  Seemed still a long time before they got to me.

I really don’t know how long it was but I’d say it was around 40 mins before the Ambos arrived after I first dialled 000.  I was so relieved to hear the man’s voice and then see the top of his head. I shouted to Andrea “I can see him, I can see him, thank you so much, thank you, thank you”.  She told me she would leave me in their hands then.

DSC_5595_edited-2The rest of the day is in a bit of a blur. Kevin and Eva gave me a green tube to inhale and breathe out (like a cigarette but I don’t smoke so strange to try and get it right) and that helped relieve the immense pain to some degree. They put a plastic boot on over my foot and up my leg. I asked Kevin to take photos as you’ll see (yes, my camera was safe – I always wear the camera strap around my neck, never just in my hand or wrapped around my arm).

My hubby later commented wondering how many ambos get asked to take photos of their patients. The ambo even slipped on the same rock I did – but didn’t hurt himself thankfully.  They had to ring around to get someone to unlock the park gates so a vehicle could be brought in and then they had to get a 4 wheel drive with a stretcher brought in to retrieve me. My guess is from the time of accident to when I was finally in the first vehicle is close to an hour.  They had to drive me to a road at the edge of a park where I could see there were two further ambulances and I was transferred to one of them.  By that time I had rung Graham and left a phone message for him saying ‘it is my turn now’ and what was happening.  It had been around 2 hours since I’d left home that morning.  So much for my nice walk in a ‘new park’. I did see a bird I’d not seen before but didn’t get a photo of it.

I was taken to one hospital where they knocked me out, straightened my leg and put me in plaster. They confirmed I had two broken bones in a compound fracture – the Tibia and Fibula.  Great. I was hoping they could just plaster and send me home. Instead I was going to have to have surgery.  My husband had joined me at the hospital and we discussed what was best for me with one of the doctors there. We decided it was best to go to a private hospital and to a surgeon the doctor recommended.

Graham left me to meet up with his mate Dave to go retrieve the car I’d gone in and which was still at the park – our daughter’s car.  Later he met up with me at the new hospital but it was a few more hours before I got transferred.  I drifted in and out of pain and confusion and wishing I could start the day all over again, making different decisions. But that was not to be the case.

I had to wait two more days before surgery. I couldn’t understand the wait but was later told by the surgeon that they don’t like risking bleeding in the muscles and feel it’s best to wait for it to settle. Those two days were excruciating, even if I was on pain killers. I couldn’t move from my bed, my heavily plastered leg kept sliding off the pillows it rested on and I was not comfortable in any way possible.  The next week was going to be hell, I was sure of it.

The day after surgery I remembered that I could access Facebook on my phone. Ahh!  I can keep in touch with some friends!  I remembered earlier I should make contact with a client whose work I was supposed to be doing that week and explained what had happened. I kept in touch with one of my VA team members to let her know what was happening and had Graham divert the phone to her.  My phone and the television kept me occupied for the next five days.  I finally came home on day 8 after the accident.

Thought you’d like to see what a good job I did of my leg.  Pretty colours hey? :p Also one of the xrays. I have a nail and cross fixation in my leg and ankle. That is, a large nail or stainless steel down the centre of my leg and then cross screws top and bottom. I’m told nothing will break those but I have to keep the weight off that leg for six weeks to give it time to settle, otherwise I could end up with a shorter leg. Don’t want that. And I definitely want to be able to go out walking again with my camera – just not on that track!

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And below is what I could see while waiting for the Ambos. Not much at all.

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P.S. I have now notified both the Friends of the Park and Shire of Yarra Ranges of the problem on this track. Considering my accident and the near accident of the ambo who came to rescue me, many others could also get seriously injured. My injury is serious but recoverable, others might not be so fortunate.

PPS.  I am recovering. It’s now 3.5 weeks after the accident. My leg is no longer sore and most of the swelling and colouring has disappeared, nor do I have to keep it elevated all day long, but I still do at night time. I’m learning to use the crutches better and have been able to manage to get myself something to eat or drink, even if it means I have to stand on one leg and crutches where I have that drink or food – as I can’t carry things.  I can answer the door now and let people in and am learning to negotiate my way up and down the few steps in our home.