The Big Break

Well I guess I was due, in my fifty one years of life I haven’t had a serious injury until this Tuesday evening. I was playing Hockey at Vivo in Calgary, we were down 5 – 3, it was 5 minutes into the third period and I crashed into the boards trying to get the puck. I honestly don’t remember the circumstances of the crash but I do remember that it did feel weird on the way down. I didn’t realize that I had some trouble until I tried standing up and my right ankle just buckled and I went down again. Some of my team mates helped me off the ice and into the car.

For those that care we ended up tying the game, my injury lifted the team to their best performance of the year!!!

Luckily Shareen was at the game and drove us to the South Calgary Health Campus. There was no way on earth I could drive, especially with a manual transmission. We were triaged and admitted to the back room fairly fast but then had to wait about two and half hours before being put on a gurney and taken for X-Ray. At this point I’m still not experiencing any serious pain and am hoping that I can get sent home with a bad sprain. The X-Rays come back pretty quick and the attending doctor says “nope it’s broken and it’s the type of break that will require surgery”. I say “shit” followed quickly by “fuck” then “sorry for swearing”. The attending orthopaedic doctor explains that I have a minor fracture on the Fibula that could be treated with a cast (my spirit soars) but then he quickly adds the surgery will be needed to repair all the torn ligaments between the Fibula and the Tibia that will require a plate and some screws, “shit, fuck, sorry for swearing”. In addition there may be torn ligament on the other side of the ankle that may require two more large screws. Turns out it’s a fairly common injury, actually has a name which I can’t remember, and as it was my emergency room neighbour had the exact same injury but higher up on the Fibula, lucky bugger didn’t require the plate because of the location of his injury. They told me the ortho surgeon would visit me in the morning and if everything went well I would get the surgery sometimes in the early afternoon.

At this point Shareen went home to get some sleep and I was fully admitted, got the sexy hospital gown, had an IV setup, and got a temporary splint setup, got to say I didn’t have pain but felt much better after the splint was put on. I bled all over the nurse as she was putting the IV in, everyone laughed, seriously. The nurse asked if I wanted anything else maybe something for the pain, as I can never properly gauge my level of pain at first I said no but she kept asking and I imagined that I heard “wink wink, nudge nudge” (I didn’t). I finally relented and got a morphine bag attached to my IV, best decision I made all night, as it went into me I started feeling warm and my ankle stopped throbbing. I was now able to catch a few naps before the morning crew came in. Unfortunately even with no major Emergencies the ER is a noisy place, equipment and people moving and talking, my naps lasted 10 minutes at a time.

Finally around 9 the orthopaedic surgeon came in, said “yep you’ll have a surgery later, your surgeon will be Dr Hunt (different doctor), any questions, have a nice day”, for some reason I was angry at him and lucky for him I couldn’t chase him down to learn the young hippie what’s what. I kept on napping and time flew by pretty quick, I had blood drawn (ostensibly to test for HIV and Zika) followed by a pre-surgery interview and had to sign a consent form.

At about noon I was wheeled into the short stay unit as a bed became available, this was like a five star hotel, the bed was much more comfortable than the gurney (which wasn’t bad), and I essentially had a room to myself, more questions, and measurements but now I was able to snooze about a half hour before they came to get me for surgery. Before surgery I visited with the attending anesthetist who explained my options, I chose the nerve block combined with the spinal block as I didn’t want the general anesthesia, the nerve block would also last for 24 – 36 hours and would give me at least one pain free day on my ankle (which was and is swollen as shit). The nerve block went in no problem but it took a few pokes the get the spinal block in.

Doctor Hunt came to see me and explained the surgery briefly at which point I was wheeled into the operating room and transferred to the operating table, the actual anesthetist gave me another shot which would be like “having 6 beers without the hangover”, asked me what kind of music I like to listen to then put some headphones on my head, followed quickly by “did you have a nice nap?” as they were finishing up the surgery. The anesthetist told me that I had bad apnea during surgery and I need to lose weight or get it diagnosed, currently I’m unable (because I’m unwilling) to sneak downstairs for a snack so I’m going with option A. In the recovery room I started shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t move my legs due to the spinal block, it was a bit weird but I wasn’t worried as finally everything was as it should be. All anxiety I had before the surgery (related to both the surgery and life in general) was gone and I actually felt great.

I was wheeled back to my five star hotel room where it was explained that I had to stand up and pee by myself before being released, I said “gimme the water” and “bring me some crutches”. I still had to wait a bit as I got antibiotics through my IV to protect against any infections, and for Shareen to come and get me. A nice man brought me dinner that lived up to the hospital food stereotype, even though I’d been fasting for almost twenty four hours I pushed it away after one bite and even that kept repeating on me for the rest of the night. I did chug back a can of ginger ale like it was ambrosia however.

Shareen arrived at about seven and after I hopped to the bathroom and peed all over it by accident (I had to sit but still couldn’t feel some parts of me below the waist so I didn’t notice I had peed all over the floor until I stood up) they sent me home. As we were leaving I heard someone say that they had six more ankle surgery level injuries that day and that the OR would be running into the night. Turns out I was the only Hockey related one, all the others slipped on ice caused by the recent melting we’ve had. Odds are that some of those injuries that arrived later wouldn’t get surgery until at least next day where I was in and out in a total of just about 18 hours.

I was hoping to be more mobile than I am, it was made crystal clear that I CANNOT and MUST NOT put any weight on that ankle and being slightly (moderately?) overweight makes ambulating difficult and trying not to pee all over the bathroom (I’m sooo sorry to the hospital people) while standing on one leg or sitting with one leg still in the air is challenging to say the least.

All in all I’m grateful that I broke my ankle rather than hit my head, I’m grateful to all the great nurses and doctors and I say “thank you for socialized medicine”.