A Recovery Asymptote

In math, an asymptote is a value that is approached infinitely closely, but never quite reached. Think of a curve that approaches a straight line, but eventually runs almost parallel to it, getting closer but never touching even out at infinity.  That’s what recovery from my accident feels like.

I’m still making progress, but the increments are getting smaller as I get closer to normal.

On cursory inspection, strangers probably don’t notice my limp, although I still feel that my stride is a bit constricted. I’m starting to feel a bit sheepish about using my handicap parking placard. I do still need it, because I get tired quickly and the limp increases. I’m ever so grateful to come out of a store and find my car right there. The permit expires at the end of October, which will probably be just about right.

I was discharged from physical and occupational therapy at the end of August. It was a strange feeling to say goodbye to people I had worked with thrice-weekly for almost five months and have them tell me they hoped to never see me again, at least at their workplace. Although technically I was functional, being able to walk a short distance without assistance, I still felt far from normal. The burden of returning to my former state, however, shifted from the insurance company’s pocketbook to mine.

I followed instructions to explore gym memberships and finally decided that I would hire a personal trainer for a period of time to help me approach those intimidating machines. After three weeks of work, I’m certain that was the best choice. My teenage son may find the image of Mom lying on a bench pressing 12-pound dumbbells funny, but he didn’t have the broken arm. Now I have a clue how to use all those machines, and how much weight I can use. My trainer has a master’s degree in sports medicine, so I’m confident that he knows what I should and shouldn’t do, and how to get me better in the most efficient manner possible. Having a knowledgeable person there to coach and plan the program is a good investment. I wish I could keep him indefinitely, but he is expensive, as he spends that full hour right at my side, making sure my form is proper and safe and even counting repetitions.

I can tell I’m making progress as I’m able to do more without so much pain. Balancing on the bad leg is a pretty good indicator, since that was the most wicked thing to do after going to full weight bearing. I can now do warrior III (without the arms) all the way horizontal, holding for five breaths. That’s huge! Only three months ago, I struggled to just lift the good leg off the ground for a quick step.

Now I’m mentally working at regaining a normal routine, homeschooling, grocery shopping, cooking, and (very occasionally) cleaning. Everything takes longer than normal. I get tired by evening, especially after workouts or long walks of any type. Since that’s my productive art time, I feel I’m not getting anything much done. But slowly, ever so slowly, I am inching back. I’m just trying to view this as time to reevaluate what I’m doing, to think about new ideas, to let the creativity percolate before it comes whooshing back.

It’s hard to make people understand the magnitude of this injury. 99% of broken legs are different, with casts and crutches for 6 to 8 weeks and then back to life. Tibial plateau fractures are life changing. Sometimes people get totally back to normal, like the Olympic slalom skier who earned a silver medal eighteen months after one (was it normal, or should that have been the gold?). Sometimes people begin a long sequence of surgeries to repair problem after problem. It looks like I’m one of the luckier ones, even if I never quite reach that asymptote.

7 thoughts on “A Recovery Asymptote

  1. Kit and Kaboodle

    Oh goodness, your blog brought back memories! I’ve had a plate and screws holding my arm together since I was 12 (I’m now 47!) but I recall how tiring it was trying to get some semblence of normality back into life after the operation. My parents were advised swimming was my best option as I was unable to straighten my arm and though I didn’t think so at the time I was fortunate to have a very strict army swimming instructor who took no prisoners when it came to persistent nagging! Had it not been for his dogmatic approach I think I’d have given up because it took a full 18 months before things got back to normal. Keep on keeping on Vickie, you’ll get there in the end.
    Kate 🙂

  2. Zoe Nelson

    I know. It’s exhausting. And it plays games with your head. I had an injury that required 2 months of limited activity (basically lying on the couch), then another 4 months of therapy before I was even close to normal. I thought I’d go out of my effin mind!!

    Hang in there. You’ve made remarkable progress so far and the light is shining at the end of the tunnel. I believe it won’t take you much longer to be back to your old self.

  3. Kristi Bowman

    Brings back memories for me too after having surgery on my left foot 2 years ago and now having the same surgery in a few days on my right foot, I get to go through it all again!!

    Balancing is the worst, I really should practice that in the days I have left before surgery. Can’t hurt to improve it before it all goes to heck again lol.

    I’m so happy you’re doing so well Vickie!!

  4. Old fool

    I wish that I had the use of computers when I broke my leg but I didn’t. I am now looking at things that are similar and and am trying to see what to expect and not to expect. I broke my leg back in 2009 and did not have a computer to see what I might expect, which would have been really useful at the time. I jumped from a latter back in 2009 and had never been involved in any medical issues myself nor had I had drugs introduced to my system (other than alcohol sorry no need to search for drugs in my life to date yet) so I think that between the injury and the drugs I was somewhat lost at the time. I am now just looking at what others have gone through to see what they went through as well as information to guide me and it seems that doctors don’t either don’t want to share information in an attempt not to frighten people of just wanting to make money. I seem to have health problems and am not getting to answers I am looking for. I think that other people that have been though similar things might help me to find a path to help finding an end and answers. I broke my my tibia in more than 10 places and was somewhat shocked when I went to the hospital to get help. I was unable to get up from the ground so called for support to get to the hospital. Here is what I have to date that I have been through.
    This is just my adventure of what I went through in breaking my leg. What I learned and have written is only my perspective not that of the other people involved. I know that the people in the medical profession are most likely overwhelmed trying to help everyone they encounter. This unfortunately will most likely get worse with time as all of the baby boomers will be at the age when they will be in need of more medical help than any other time in their lives. Going to the bottom of the page may help a bit to aid in the Q&A portion of surgeries/inquiries for patients and doctors, therefore making visits shorter.
    Believe it or not, this whole thing started with wasps.
    In trying to get rid of a nest on one of the high peaks of my house I was using a spray that was supposed to reach a specific height but true to form it fell short thus resulting in me needing a ladder to make up the extra distance. As the ground I was on was unstable when I first used the spray I had an extra person aiding me by holding onto the ladder but when I went back around for a last spray I forgot I needed the extra person. The ladder did what any ladder would do when placed on precarious ground, it fell.
    I jumped from a ladder that I was on as it was tipping; I honestly thought I would be safer jumping then riding the ladder down. I don’t remember hitting the ground but I did hear the ladder clatter as it lands on the ground; I heard the can of wasp spray as well. I am now on my butt and try to get up several times but my leg won’t follow my command. Then I try to yell for help yet no sound is coming out of my mouth.
    The only family member home didn’t hear me but heard the commotion and came to see what I had done. We call 911 and then not an ambulance shows up but a huge fire truck. I finally can speak but my brain is working at an odd pace, I can only assume this is shock. As I am being loaded up I am giving some pain meds by a shot that didn’t work immediately so I am given more. By the time I am in the truck and we start to leave my mouth won’t form the words I’m trying to get out; I have not had anything in my life that required strong drugs so I guess I was wiped out by the meds. We get to the hospital around 9:30 in the evening and I am put in one of the beds that they have in the emergency room so the staff can assess what damages I have done to my leg.
    I am somewhat fuzzy to all the details that took place until I was released but here is what I do remember clearly… I am moved to get an x-ray while I was in getting x-rays I start to throw-up, as the pain medication I was given have made me not just fuzzy but nauseous as well, and then taken back to the first location I was in. After being back in this location the staff put a half cast on my leg. By half cast I mean it went all the way up my leg but only covered the back half and halfway up the sides. Evidently I have broken my leg. My family and I are left to sit in this curtained covered niche until one of the staff asked us if we know what I had done. When we stated no he left and came back with a paper that showed the picture of what the x-ray had taken.
    It looked to us that my tibia had been broken in numerous pieces. Still no one had told us precisely what I had done. After being in the E.R. for hours, one of the staff (later finding out it was a P.A. not a doctor) comes in with a few more staff members. At this time he states and I quote “there is nothing more we can do for you now; the doctor isn’t in until Monday. You have two options: you can stay here or go home, and call this number on Monday” while handing me a card.
    In the state I’m in I couldn’t comprehend why they wouldn’t just fix my leg. After all, isn’t that what hospitals do? They fix people with broken bones? I had a broken bone that needed fixed. I had insurance; it wasn’t like I couldn’t pay. All that went through my head in the state I was in was why won’t they fix me? What’s wrong with me? Am I not important? Aren’t I of any value?
    So, not understanding why I wasn’t being helped, I figured they didn’t want to help me or want me there; I took the card and said I would leave not knowing what else to do. After all, if they couldn’t help me until Monday then what is the point of staying? None of the staff had given me any real warnings about what could happen if I left, or even a reason for staying instead. Hearing my decision the staff brought me a set of crutches and I got off the table I was on. Being in the state I was in I was struggling with my whole body, now I had crutches that were supposed to help me but not a clue in how to actually use them, and a staff that gave no advice on how to use them either.
    The O.R. staff did helpfully load me into the car from a wheel chair and send me on my way. We were given a prescription for pain meds and then got home at 4 in the morning with no knowledge or clue on how to use the crutches. So with the pain meds still keeping me unbalanced I leave my car. I can feel that I am actually holding my body up as best I can with the crutches but am also walking on the broken leg. I feel the odd way my leg felt as I walked on it but having my brain numb and blocking the pain I continued until I got to my bedroom (up two flights of stairs).
    For the entire time that we are at home we are ice packing my leg for swelling (the only instructions we were given to do) and I don’t leave my bed but once from Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon. I got up and once again I walk on the broken leg with the aid of the crutch to go to the bathroom not realizing that I am most likely doing more damage to my broken leg. I sit at my house throwing up until Sunday when fear of blood clots sends us back to the hospital; the little my family and I do know is that blood clots are dangerous. Why did we think of blood clots? I got a phone call that shook me out of the stupor that I was in and that clearing made me realize that my leg is double what it should be. At this time I ask my family to take me back to the hospital whether they (the hospital staff) want me there or not.
    We are back in the E.R. and they take me back to one of the small E.R. rooms at this time they do a scan and see that I do indeed have a small clot in my leg and admit me to the hospital. On Monday I met with the doctor that is going to fix my leg. All I can think is ‘thank god, someone cares enough that I can just get my leg fixed and I can then be on my way.’ After all, isn’t that what is supposed to happen? At least, that is what I have always assumed; broken bone=go to doctor/hospital=break fixed/cast=on your way home.
    So after the surgery to fix my break I go back to my room. I later learn that I had shattered my leg and was fortunate to have a doctor that was talented enough to make my severely shattered and messed up leg even relatively normal, but back to my room. I am in the hospital and, due to the fact that the pain meds make me sick and incredibly sleepy, I don’t eat but once the whole time I am there (four days). I can’t hold my eyes open but I can hear when spoken to so when the therapist comes in I do my best to lift my leg like I am being instructed but I can’t maneuver my leg well or much. I do feel a bit better after getting a blood transfusion but still struggle to do much more than sleep or just lay there.
    I get to go home, Yeah!! I can’t move fast but the new half cast has been given a lip on the back so it catches on everything. I am trying to get in the car but can’t hold myself up very well so the nurse on duty just grabbed me trying to put me in the car. He doesn’t wait for help from my family to get me in and fails to realize that my leg is not going to move as the lip on the cast is stuck (and I am apparently too slow for him) so until my family helps he’s just pulling my leg, and causing untold amount of pain as well as risking re-injury. Finally, home sweet home; the first week was rough, the second was a bit better and from there it was just slow going but all uphill.
    My first post-op visit to the doctor was after one week. I still hadn’t eaten more than crackers and Sprite for this week so I was incredibly weak. I was somewhat confused again when I learned that I wasn’t going to be seen by the doctor after all but instead his P.A. (the same guy I saw in the E.R.); wasn’t I supposed to see the real doctor, at least for the first visit? I am truly baffled by the way this whole incident has turned out so far. I thought that the P.A. was there to aid in the after care of a patient not in overseeing appointments from the beginning. I am so confused and wondering again if I’m just not important enough to be considered equal to other people (men and women). Everyone seems to be in a hurry so we need to talk quickly to do this process of dressing removal fast.
    I get to the room and wasn’t at all prepared for what I see when they take the dressing off. Keep in mind I have been healthy my whole life and most of my family as well so I haven’t been through the whole doctor/hospital scene or its outcome. I do know that we were told that I would have a couple of four inch incisions with some hardware being inserted as well. But when the dressing came off I was so ill I couldn’t believe what I saw; a six inch, a four inch, a two inch, and four half inch incisions. They were quite the sight but what was shocking was the staples that made everything look much worse. On top of all that the relief I felt when the half cast came off felt so good that I started to lightly rub my upper leg only to find something so gross that my hands backed off immediately. Apparently when you get this type of injury you get something called fracture blisters, I got three.
    The big one on my knee had just burst and left the dead skin the other two were on either side of my leg. They were filled with blood and looked like huge silver dollar sized blood blisters. At this time I learned how I could take a bath without get any of the dressing areas wet. As I stated I was spraying wasps and the contents had also fallen all over my head, back and shoulders. Not to mention that I had knocked down a nest that also had its contents land on me as well. Did you know that when there is a nest, until the wasp goes through its growing cycle that they are just this liquid and juicy form? It was truly gross to have on me all this time.
    At the end of the appointment the doctor poked his head in for a few minutes which brought a great deal of relief and then sent me on my way, not sending me to therapy as my big incision was seeping and I wound up with an infection. Not knowing at the time I had luckily landed with an incredibly skilled doctor, one that most likely saved my leg and quality of life back. Life just continued to get better from there. I started therapy and once again got lucky with a superb therapist, one that knew his craft and was passionate about it.
    Visits 2 and 3 went by with the doctor being present but always rushed and in a hurry. Here is where more confusion came into play. About 2-3 months after my surgery I had pain in my lower leg. I then asked what to do for this pain, I wound up with the P.A. and he told me to wear compression stockings (even though I hadn’t worn any to this point in time). I went in for my last, or sixth month, visit to the doctor and had him tell me not to wear the stockings as they are to be worn only right after the surgery. I was also told that the hardware that I now had should be taken out at the one year mark.
    I went back in at the one year mark not knowing a great deal about this portion of the whole process I just did what I was told. At this time I was seen, again, by the P.A. and when I asked him about removing the hardware he stated that I would have to go through the whole 3-6 month recovery that I had previously went through. I didn’t understand why he spoke like he did. I thought to myself I was told to do this and I am following what I thought was supposed to take place so what gives, I don’t get it. So I left on that note, once again wondering to myself what’s wrong with me? Am I not good enough to be seen? Am I too gross of a person? I am once again baffled. Did I offend someone?
    Four years later and I am now armed with a great deal more knowledge. I have read a great deal about several operations, their outcome and expectations in hopes of having a bit better understanding, but the specialists do have the ultimate knowledge.
    I’m in with the doctor and I’m talking with him when I think that I offend him. I want to explain to my doctor my job/livelihood was on the line if I was at work and didn’t perform the expected duties, as well as what an impact the whole previous incident had had on me in both my personal and professional life. He stops talking as I have unwittingly made him shut down. And, as always before, he is in a hurry and doesn’t have time to hear what and why I am behaving in this manner.
    He is ever the professional and stay’s focused and agrees to remove the hardware that he had put in from years earlier. I wish that I could somehow reassure him that I believe in his talents. Really, why would I go back to someone if I didn’t have a great deal of faith in them? Not to mention that I found out a great deal about his skills from the first incident, he did save my leg and performance in life.
    I am waiting in the room before surgery and the doctor comes in and we talk about a specific pain, which was apparently from a nerve that I thought was something else. I made a mental note to ask about it at the post op visit because it was causing some problems and this information gave me cause for concern. Surgery went well but at the post op visit I am once again baffled.
    Sure, I get to see the doctor but when I ask about the nerve he just blows over it. The doctor and I don’t look at the x-rays that were just taken like we have on all the other visits; instead, he states therapy will be needed, then a few sentences later he goes on to claim that no therapy is needed, and ended it with the statement of ‘no more visits needed. Call if you have a problem.’ That was it. I walked out not quite sure about the future. I look back once again confused and I still have many questions unanswered but afraid to ask them. I know that the wonderful people in the medical profession know and understand all this medical information but I’m the type of person that needs to understand it to a point to be able to feel comfortable and confidant to move forward with these strange and foreign things that are inflecting me. God please give these people the patience and understanding that this peace of mind goes a great distance in moving forward with a positive outcome.
    About a week after seeing the doctor I came home from work and was walking down the stairs when midway down I have incredible pain in my knee when I bend it. I call the doctor the next morning and they worked wonders and got me in that same day. I get in and see the p.a. this time. I tell him I have pain in my knee and can’t bend it at times and not at all when going up and down stairs. He states I need therapy. Therapy? That was what was going through my mind. I make the therapy appointment hoping to get someone in the medical field to support what I am thinking. I can bend my leg fine if I’m not standing too long in one place, sitting too long or going up and down stairs on it or I hold the back potion behind my knee in. I think to myself, acl, pcl or tendon? Only the trained doctor will be able to answer this question.
    I will wait for the month until my appointment to see the doctor again (I don’t want to upset the doc.), mean time I will dutifully do the therapy in hopes of getting someone with a bit of some kind training to see what I believe I am seeing. I have not needed any pain meds until this new development happened, unlike the first time. I am happy to have them but know I am now fully depending on them all day every day to get me through until my appointment. This will be a long month of with a great deal of pain.
    Therapy is bemusing. I’m told I’m not holding my leg right or moving in in line. I already knew this. Pain tends to make you move the portion in pain in odd ways. I know I didn’t walk like I am now, due to the pain. However, in hopes of getting rid of the pain I do what the therapist has instructed. I am now looking for help for injuries that I have had since this first injury but can’t seem to find much help through the medical field and I am now hoping that people that have had injuries somewhat like this may be able to give me information that may guide me to find help and relieve.


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