It was silent, that was the worst part. All those white and blue gowned people, not saying a word as they laid me out on a stainless table, each of them preparing to do things to me that I knew would be unpleasant.
One anonymous person, fully masked and wearing safety glasses took my arm and I watched as he began to inject the drugs into me, others organizing things around me, strangers everywhere and not a friendly face to be seen.
Then right as the world began to become unstuck, I see my surgeon walk into the room, a friendly face in a sea of strangers and his promise that all would be ok was only a little bit comforting.
How on earth did I end up here? I am a healthy, happy and reasonably fit country girl. I’m not sick!
Well to answer that question I need to rewind a week or so, to a warm February morning, I pulled out my favorite black moleskins, zipped up my ariats, strapped on my spurs, and picked up my favorite thing in the whole world, my saddle!
I always love the smell of my saddle, the oil conditioner, and the horse hair I can never quite get out of the saddle cloth.. I am horse girl, always have been, and I love my ponies..
My dad needed help to muster our cattle in, the Santa cows, they were in serious distress, and we needed to get the calves off them.
Early weaning is not a fun job, taking calves off their mothers as young as 3 weeks old. But it’s a job that must be done in drought, to save as many lives as we can.
I choose to ride my Yoyo, my high spirited 5 year old mare, and we hurried to reach the paddock before the others arrived on their motorbikes. (myself being the only horse user on our place these days) we were firing on all cylinders, despite her drought affected condition, and mustering those cattle was what we both wanted to do. Cantering around the paddocks, mostly watching for cattle flushed out of the wattle by the motorbikes, and shushing them through the gate at the top, and thoroughly enjoying myself I might add, I could hear the bikes approaching, but first I saw the cattle..
A steady canter around them and bring them the final few hundred meters to the gate, for some reason they went to break away just before-as cattle always do, and I followed at a good clip, spinning them around and the last 100 meters to the gate traversed at a higher speed. I turned away from the gate still going in a canter. Right then little sister Emily, appeared over the rise with a couple more cows, and we exchanged a quick wave.
But at the moment my hand left the reins I felt my steed falter underneath me, 3 more paces, and she was going down. She slipped on the hard packed soil of the ridge, heavy because of our speed, and forward thrusting, she fell flat on her side, not the first time it has happened to me I react fast, flicking my leg over the saddle and leaping clear, as I have done in the past.
My thoughts as I did so, that I would have to convince everyone that this wasn’t Yoyos fault this time, and ‘gee I hope I get a decent bruise this time, coz whats the point of stacking your bike and not having anything to show for it’
But I wasn’t fast enough getting out of the road, my toe caught on the ground as she landed and turned my leg around, as her heavy body fell with all her weight on top of me.
I heard as much as felt a slightly wet crunch, and a lot of pressure as her body came to a halt trapping my right leg under her. But not for long, as Yoyo leapt and bolted away completely unharmed.. Lucky her!
I don’t know at what point I moved, but it was my yell that brought my brave girl Emily back to my side. I knew that my leg was broken, but it seemed more annoying than anything else.. What a way to ruin a decent muster, me being the idiot and messing everything up-as usual!
Emily brought her bike to a sliding stop next to me on the ground yelling about how she is not happy with my horse, (if you know my girl, you know I have understated her meaning just a tad) but she halted for a split second before dashing forward towards me, with an indrawn breath and a cry, ‘I think you have broken your leg’
She grabbed my foot, and quickly, she turned my foot around, and straightened my leg out, even before I was aware of how twisted it really was.
More in shock than pain, I was pretty convinced that I was not going to die right then, so off Emily went to fetch my Daddy and little brother Craig.
Some few minutes passed before they returned, and as I lay there in the dirt I pulled the 2-way radio out of my hip pocket, I had landed on it as I fell, but it wasn’t broken. My akubra I placed over my leg, it was still a little too wonky for my liking. Given that time to collect myself, I got to think about how awful this really was.
In the middle of the worst drought in history, with barely any rain for the year-our first summer shower fallen only the week before, cattle starving, water running out, all the work, all the feeding of cattle, everything that was going wrong, and here I was breaking my stupid leg.
Just another thing gone wrong, another straw on the camels back.
My family came back and a blur of activity went past, as Emily, rushed home to tell mum, ring 000, and bring back a vehicle to take me out of the paddock in, Dad too left, when he realized that the cruiser had a flat tyre he had been putting off fixing.
So Craig, my 19 year old brother was left holding me together, rubbing my face and keeping the sun off me.
20 minutes or so later, Dad returns with ‘Betty’ the town car, kitted out with a mattress in the back for me to lie on. Together, Dad lifted me in with Craig holding and supporting my leg, which was floppy beyond belief.
The ambulance was sent out from St George, and after transferring Mum into the drivers seat, and Emily in the back holding my hand, we drove out of the front gate. I forget my Dads exact last words to me, but I know he was apologizing, and the trauma on his face-not something I want to see again.
We met the ambulance halfway to town, it was both the longest and the shortest 60km of my life. I don’t know how long it took, but I wont forget it in a hurry.
The ambos were great, first thing they gave me was that whoppa green whistle, a few sucks on that, and I believe I knocked myself out! I woke up in the ambulance, and had the very pleasant paramedic tell me all about his injury just 3 months before-he said ‘I broke my leg, just like you, hiking in the mountains, it was terrible-much worse than yours, I nearly lost my leg, you wont have it that bad…” His advice was that even though I would have a broken leg, I would not be sick, and it was going to drive me stir crazy, but to take it easy, and be patient, things will heal in time.
He was right of course, about everything but one, my break, was just as bad as his, perhaps even worse.. But I haven’t caught up with him to compare stories yet, maybe one day.
The doctors in St George were fabulous, my own GP being on duty that day, he shook his head in disbelief, and roused on me for being ‘the most accident prone female he has ever met’ I cannot deny that it might be true, he was still getting over last time he saw me with shrapnel in my eyes from an exploding rifle. Initially Dr M was simply going to X-ray and then set my leg before deciding if he should send me off to Toowoomba for possible surgery.
But when he unwrapped the splint the ambos put on my leg, his face changed, and he called in another fellow, Dr T to have a look. Both immediately said I must go to Brisbane, Dr T ringing up a close friend orthopedics to find out what hospital I should be sent to. His friend, A specialist, after having the X-rays emailed to him, immediately offered that I should go into his care, at Brisbane Private hospital.
So the Royal Flying Doctor was called, and I ended up on a plane to Brisbane, only my 3rd time on a plane in my life!
It was a long flight, with the pilot having to make several stops along the way, but eventually I landed in Brisbane and was taken to the hospital where I was to spend the next few days.
A nurse met the ambos in the lobby, and led the way to my new room, D17, a room all to myself, with a city view at that!
The next morning, I was woken by a tall efficient looking man, who introduced himself as Dr Tim,
Surgery was scheduled for 3 pm that day to put a nail all the way down my leg, but by 10am things were not looking good, and by 11am I was being rushed into surgery to save my leg.
When I woke up I had two rather strange contraptions on the bed next to me, with pipes going from there to my leg. Vaccum pumps they called them and they were busy keeping a negative pressure on my leg, to reduce the swelling and clean out the blood and bruising. Underneath the bandaging I had large wounds cut by the doctors to relieve the pressure inside my leg, each side of my leg was opened up almost completely all the way from ankle to knee, and the swelling meant the wounds were over 10cm wide on each side. These wounds were to remain open, the one on the inside of my leg for a week, but the one on the outside for almost 3 weeks, in the end, a large skin graft was taken from my hip to close that wound up.
These funky pumps were cause for more than a little bit of entertainment in the time I had them attached to me, from causing the near fainting of a visitor, and grossing out of many others.
I was on a phentinol drip for the pain, nurses say it was twice the recommended dosage for my size, IV antibiotics, blood clotting medications, as well as two different types of morphine, and other painkillers.
The bleeding in my leg was so severe I had to have 4 blood transfusions, and let me tell you, that’s not as simple as it sounds, the taste of blood in your mouth, nausea, headaches, feeling itchy all over, nightmares and 15 minute observations to check for rejection. My heart rate was up to 150 beats per minute, shaking and dizziness.
Originally we thought a trip to St George, surgery in Toowoomba and home at the end of the week, then it was Brisbane, and my parents drove up the day I had my first surgery, thinking that when they went home in a couple days they would take me with them.
Not so, as for the next month the date of my release from hospital was extended further and further into the future.
My second surgery was 5 days after the first, and unlike the first it was terrifying. The first surgery, they were racing me in, and I was unconscious before I even arrived at the theatre. The second, I was waiting outside theatre in pre-op for 20 minutes, alone, and scared of what was to come, cold from the low temperatures there, and eventually when I was wheeled in to the operating room it was by an anonymous person who never spoke a word to me, blue mask covering most of their face. The lights in the room were brighter than I expected, and the operating table was bare cold steel. As they moved me from my bed onto the table they took the sheets with me, and I was laid out cold and frightened waiting for what I imagined would be the worst experience of my life.
When I woke it was with a sudden fright, and it was as I was being wheeled out of the surgical room. Strange people I didn’t know grabbed me and pushed me back down onto the bed as they pushed me into recovery, where my doctor was called back into the room to calm me down, I remember he told me I was ok, and that I wouldn’t remember any of this when I woke up properly. I disagreed and asked for proof, how many stiches did I have in my leg? He laughed at me, but the number he told me was 26. There was 28 when I counted a few days later.
I had another surgery after that, skin grafts to close the wounds in my leg, but that one wasn’t too bad.. I mean the Anesthetist was pretty determined to get my phone number by any means possible, and who plays dance music in an operating room anyway?
I copped a bit of flack for going to extremes to get a holiday, but it wasn’t much of a holiday destination.
From the beginning everything worked out worse than expected, I had reactions from the blood transfusions, pain like you wouldn’t believe, delirium , fevers, shaking, twitching, seizures, adverse drug reactions, into ICU with suspected kidney failure, back out again, catheters, blood tests, nurses poking and prodding just about every inch of my body, developing a reaction to morphine, allergic reactions to phentinol, withdrawals when they took me off it, reacting to the antibiotics, dressing changes that they would have to give me morphine and sedatives to cope with, and the time they forgot to give me any pain relief for the dressing change. I could go on…
Nurses told me that not so long ago my injury would have been fatal, and when my GP rang me during my stay because he was concerned about me, he told me in any other hospital, under any other doctor I would have lost my leg.
Its scary to think about how close to the edge I have been in the last few months, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t think about it like that.
Why? Because without a word of lie I can say, this has been the best experience of my entire life!
p.s. if you want to find out why keep watching to read part 2 very soon!