Gower Landscape Paintings

Woodland drama (or how I broke my leg)

While the rest of the world is on coronavirus lock-down I am confined to my bedroom with my leg in a very heavy plaster. Moving from the bed to a chair involves a lot of hopping and a zimmer/walker frame. It all takes a lot of effort to achieve simple things that I never gave much thought to before.

I broke my left leg. I have broken both lower bones and dislocated my ankle. Six days ago I had an operation to pin the bones in my ankle. My brother asked if breaking a bone is more painful than a toothache. The answer is definitely yes. I have endured 50 shades of different pain since I went for a walk with our dogs 2 weeks ago in my favourite woods, near Ilston, Gower. It was just about the worst time to break my leg, to be honest.

By Ilston River

Ilston River (SOLD)

I had walked about half a mile along the side of the stream. I had bought a new camera with me and my attention was caught by the sunlight on a mossy tree. I decided I would move closer to take a photo.  Instead, I stumbled over a muddy stick and as I put my left foot out to steady myself I felt it twist and a sickening snap. I rolled on the wet ground, hoping against hope that I hadn’t done something dreadful but the horrible pain told me that I had. My foot was bent out of shape. Just to think about it makes me feel ill, even now.

As I lay on the ground, I wondered what to do. I tried shouting “Help” a few times but felt silly/useless. What could I do? My husband was in Ireland. Fortunately, I had my mobile phone in my handbag and it was charged with credit so I rang for an ambulance and waited, and waited. The call handler told me not to move. It was cold on the wet mud. I took a photo of my bent leg. I have not looked at it since. I don’t think I can bear to.

DSC_0942-001

Ilston Cwm – Close to where I broke my leg

I assumed that the ambulance would not be too long (I was very wrong on this score) and I started to worry about my two dogs, what would happen to them?  I rang my neighbours Rob and Liz and told them what had happened and where I was. Rob said he would come for the dogs. So I waited. I lay and looked up at the sky. Blue patches and white clouds drifted by. It started to rain. Then the sun came out again. I was still lying on the ground. I don’t remember what my dogs were doing but they were nearby. I think Biddy, the collie-cross, tried to present me with a few sticks to throw for her. I clutched my injured leg, it really hurt. I rang my husband. It went to voicemail. “I am lying in Ilston Woods, I think I have broken my leg. I have rung for an ambulance. I have spoken to Liz and Rob. Rob’s coming for the dogs….” I felt bad about leaving him a message when there was nothing he could do.

Painting of Gower Woods

View From the Bridge 100 x73 cm

After a long time, a family appeared on the track, a couple with their two girls. “Help, I think I have broken my leg”. I think they were surprised by this as they walked towards me very slowly. I told them that I had called for an ambulance and my neighbour was coming. They took my phone number and said they would go down to the road and look out for Rob and/or the ambulance.  So they left me and I waited and waited. Company had distracted me from the pain in my leg and being on my own meant being with the pain. I rang my husband again and then Biddy started barking. It was Rob. Thank God. 

“How long have you been lying there?”

“45 minutes. The Call handler said to stay where I was”

“That’s stupid advice. She can’t see your situation. You will get hypothermia. We need to get you up”  So with great difficulty, Rob helped me up off the wet mud and I hopped in slow agony to a mossy tree, where I first leaned against a trunk and later sat on a low branch. He had brought a heavy hi-vis coat which he put around my shoulders. It was blissfully warm.

I wish I could say that was the end of it. That the ambulance came soon after but they didn’t. We waited and waited and rang the ambulance again. It was difficult explaining where I was to call handlers who were not local. They wanted to know the name of the church at Ilston. Ilston is the tiniest of Gower villages. There are about 10 houses. There is only one church. What did it matter what saint it was dedicated to? 

So after another long wait, I asked Rob to walk down to the house opposite the church at Ilston to ask them to ring the ambulance, perhaps they would be able to give better directions. We had often passed the people who live here, they waved in a friendly manner and I was hopeful that they would help. Rob left with my two dogs, Biddy and Mitzy, in tow.  I sat and waited. The pain was worse when I did not have any company to distract me. I looked at the mud by my feet. I was dimly aware of a robin on a branch a few feet away from me. And then like a miracle, little Mitzy appeared by my side. She was collarless. I was so glad to see her. She was not leaving me. Good loyal rescue dog to the rescue. I took her photo as a distraction from the pain.  

Mitzy

Mitzy the faithful rescue dog, to the rescue.

Rob returned with David (and Biddy on her lead). David is 73 and lives in the house opposite the church. He made several trips along the track, and brought me many very welcome items like a big blanket, gloves, hat and a hot water bottle. I was really thirsty and he also bought a bottle of water but David’s wife had said I could not drink anything, her advice turned out to be right, so I just washed my mouth out with it. He made several trips. The last one in the dark with a torch. He took quite a risk, helping us in the dark. We got excited because the beam of his light reflected in the stream and it looked like two people were coming along the track, but it was just him. It got very dark, The moon came out and a barn owl hooted. We told him to go home, we were worried about him in the cold night air. He reluctantly set off.

I started to think that no one was ever going to come. I was so cold. It would be difficult enough to get me out of here in daylight but in the dark? I kept thinking up with ideas for getting how to get me back to the road; What about a horse? A wheelbarrow? One by one my desperate ideas were politely considered and sensibly dismissed. Rob was a reassuring presence. They will come he said.  Then eventually, Rob said, says, “I think I can see lights along the track, more than one!”

At long last, the ambulance service had come. After 5 hours of waiting.  Two figures dressed in green, a woman and a man, carrying torches were coming along the path, with David and his brother-in-law leading the way. I was so relieved. Once they were there, I knew they could sort everything out. And they did. Lyndsey the paramedic was lovely and reassuring. She worked under very difficult circumstances. It was dark and very cold. She checked my blood pressure, temperature and although I felt so cold my body temperature was normal (hurray for thermal vests, I say). I was given a small dose of morphine which had me seeing stars and then liquid paracetamol. They called Sketty Fire Brigade to put me on a stretcher to carry me half a mile down the track (and over the church fence) to the waiting ambulance. It was a long journey looking up at the cold frosty stars through the tree branches from that stretcher. It was a full moon. They carried me wordlessly. There was a short snort of laughter when I said “Well Done” after they had hoisted me over the churchyard railing. 

Yew Tree in Gower

Ilston Church Yard

It was a very long night. The journey to Morriston Hospital Hospital seemed slow. Where are we now? I would ask. It was the pain that made it feel that way. We waited outside A&E in the ambulance for quite a while. Lyndsey told me her mother was the first baby born in the NHS and called was Aneira, after the Welsh founder of the NHS Aneurin Bevan. Eventually, I was taken in for my first X-ray. I was visited by a number of doctors who introduced themselves to me by their first names;  Jeremy, Mohammed, Chris there were others but I have forgotten them. After a wait, the doctors in A&E manipulated my leg (I was under light anesthetic) and put it in plaster so that the agonizing swelling could start to go down. The leg was X-rayed again. Everything was aligned nicely. Every now and then the average waiting time in A&E was announced on the loudspeaker. It started at 8 hours, later it was 13 hours and then by lunchtime the next day it was down to 2 hours. I lost track of time. I didn’t get much sleep in A&E. It was a fascinating place, very hectic. No wonder there are so many drama series set in Emergency Rooms & Casualty Departments. 

Anyway, to cut a very story short I waited a day for a bed in the trauma ward. I then spent another 7 days waiting for the swelling to go down so the ankle could be pinned. I was “nil by mouth” for 4 days in a row but never made it to the operating theatre. Thankfully, on Monday I did, finally. It was probably just as well as the ankle specialist was working that day. The coronavirus emergency meant that the ward was rapidly cleared, as they needed the beds and staff elsewhere. I was sent home on Tuesday via Red Cross Ambulance. 

All through this experience, I have been impressed by the kindness and amazing patience of medical staff as well as just how much pressure the NHS is under. The pressure has just intensified ever since. I would like to thank Rob and David in particular, who waited so long in the cold with me, and Liz and David’s wife, and anyone who I came in contact within A&E, Ward A (which then had to move upstairs to become Ward G), the operating theatre and the Red Cross. Thank you xxx

Postscript:- Biddy and Mitzy went home with Rob and slept all the next day. Seamas flew back from Ireland on a plane full of racegoers heading for the Cheltenham Races.

 

 

 

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47 replies »

  1. Oh no. What a terrible ordeal. I’m so glad that things worked out ok in the end but thank goodness for good people and kind helpers. Hope you’ll recover very swiftly

    • Thank you,Ceri. All the time I worried about walking along the costal path alone and I had no problems….I suppose it has stopped me wanting to go out anywhere, at all, until I get my new light weight plaster in 9 days time!

  2. Oh Emma, how awful. I speak from experience, having broken my ankle on December 19th, ingloriously right in front of the house. Thankfully I had my phone in my pocket as my husband was away for the day (also!) and a neighbour came in 10’ and drove me to the hospital in Caen, 40’ away. They saw me straight away( French health system before the virus!) I had to wait until the afternoon to be operated on since I’d had breakfast, but then went home the next day. Zimmer frame and no weight on foot for six weeks. So I’m with you in spirit and sending positive energy. All best wishes for a speedy recovery 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹

    • Its so nice to hear from omeone who gone through something very similar. I am 8 weeks off this leg. I have some crutches as well as a zimmer. Good neighbours are wonderful people!

      • I had crutches too, but not good on them. My ankle is still a little swollen and gross-it has six screws and a pin in it- but I’m walking more or less normally and it hurts a lot less. I had a drop foot before (due to Lyme disease) so was worried about taking the cast off, but it was fine. Phew! I’m sure it seems endless now, but hang in there… anyway, everybody’s locked in and you’re not missing much. I had to cancel our yearly holiday, I was not happy about that. And you could still do some sketching- and loads of reading. Xxx

      • Thank you, Marina. My ankle has a plate and pins in it apparently. I have to have the stiches out at some point. Glad to hear that you are walking OK now. I am such an active person, it’s a real shock to be immobile. Yes, I prefer the zimmer frame to crutches. My house is full of super steep stairs and came up the stairs on my bum and haven’t been down them again since!?! I am sorry that you lost out on your annual holiday. This virus is going to hit a lot of us really hard. I think that most of 2020 will be cancelled but if it stops this virus spreading and killing older and vulnerable people then it will be worth it!

  3. Oh Emma, what a frightening ordeal! I am so sorry this happened to you. My thoughts will be with you as you go through recovery. Thank goodness for the good people who helped you, and your sweet loyal dog.

  4. Oh my goodness, what an ordeal Emma! I cannot believe you had to wait 5 hours for the ambulance to arrive and be rescued…!!! Is that normal for such a rescue? Your dog is the cutest little thing, and thank God for good neighbors. As you recover confined to your house, at least know that the rest of the world is not out and about having a good time either! Hope your recovery is speedy and you stay healthy.

    • Thank you, Pam. Sadly the NHS (national Health Service) has been starved of funds since 2008 under a policy called “austerity”. It means they struggle to do their jobs. I assumed that they would be much quicker than they were, but Rob told me later that he’d waited with another neighbour 8 hours for an ambulance to arrive on New Years’ Eve when she broke her ankle out in the street near by. Mitizy is super cute, isn’t she?

  5. OMG, what an absolute nightmare! I love Ilston Woods, but would not want to be stuck there for 5 hours with a broken leg. I’m glad there were people to help and your sweet dogs, and I hope you’re feeling better now.

    • Yes, I love the woods too but not lying on the ground! I feel better for being home although I have not had a chance to see the dogs yet. I am up in the bedroom and they are down in the basement. I hope that they can hear my voice and I know I am home now.

  6. Wow, definitely an ordeal. I suppose that has always been a bad thought for me, getting injured when alone and being in pain for a long time (without Advil) and waiting for help to come. I still remember my twisted broken wrist and don’t like to think about such unnatural looking things either!! Nope not at all.

    I will say, and your break sounds way more painful than my broken wrist, that the worst pain of my life was actually due to a dying tooth needing a root canal. For that I understood what seeing stars meant.

    I certainly do hope that your healing process is very quick and no more pain. And, that you are safe and sound at home with visions of the mossy trees enfused with light, your trusty palette nearby, to distract from the fall.

    The things we do for art, eh? With photography, I call it The Life of the Image!! The story of what all it took to get the picture. Forever linked!!

    Healing prayers your way!!

    • How I wished that this had been a twisted ankle, Pam! Yes tootache is dreadful pain but you usually get to a dentist and have it sort quite quickly. This has been a thoudsands types of pains, even sitting in this comfortable chair with my leg up, there are pains in my lower leg, in my foot,the weight of the paster and dont get me started in the wierd itches that appear in different parts of the plaster! I am just at the beginning of my life in plaster but I am hopeful that it will be an improving life and one where I get my unfettered foot and leg back at the end!

  7. Egads, what an ordeal. So glad you had your phone and that thermal vest. Take Care. Aso wanted you to know that my ‘like’ button stopped working a couple of weeks ago. WordPress still has not answered my request for help (your ambulance came faster). Half the time I find it hard to comment on posts, but I am around.

  8. Oh Emma, what an experience! Your neighbour Rob sounds like an angel, and I am glad that you had so many wonderful people helping you. I understand what you say about Emergency Departments. I have sat in a few with my partner, and the staff deal with everything with patience and a smile, even the most difficult of cases and people. I hope you will be able to sit at your easel soon and create more beauty for us.

    • Thank you, Anne. My current plaster is like a block of concrete. Its 3/4 plaster and designed for a very swollen leg after an operation. I feel very vulnerable as the front part of it is just bandage, not plaster. I hope that I will be more mobile when I get my next lighter plaster in a week’s time (if the hospital plaster clinic is still operating).

    • Oh, how I wished I got away with a scar on the knee! I have never broken a limb before (although I have taught many kids on crutches over the years, thise were usually sporting injuries). I was surprised that medical staff weren’t surprised at how easily I broke my leg & ankle.

  9. What a dreadful experience Emma I wish you a successful mend. The insanity of this government starving the NHS of funding for so long beggars belief, and we are watching the endgame being played out now. We have heroic medical staff just about holding the thing together.
    Very best wishes for your recovery

    • Thank you, Jo. I think that now I have written this blog, that I can “forget” about it. I wasn’t able to speak at length with my husband, or my parents for days afterwards so I sort of bottled it up. I needed to get the details out. I cried when writing about the ambulance people arriving but not at the time. I had to be brave and hold it together all the way through the “adventure”. It wasn’t that I was in shock, as such, it was just that fear wasn’t a useful feeling and had to be put to one side for the time. I realise now that I was very frightened when it went cold and dark. Still, it all came good and my leg and ankle are slowly healing.

  10. I call things like this a “misadventure” and you had a very big misadventure Emma! Makes one wonder what we did before Cell phones eh?
    You won’t be forgetting this any time soon! Five hours? Is that normal? If you had been in a worse state this could of ended differently.
    You’ll have lots of time to paint now I suspect but no wandering about for awhile!
    Rest up!

  11. That all sounds perfectly terrible. I was going to comment when I saw the location photo that at least you fell in a beautiful place–but it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is when you’re in agony. Pleased to hear you got all the difficult parts sorted out–now you just have the long boring healing to go. Wishing the best for you!

    • Thank you, Alli. Yes, I fell in a beautiful (but quite remote) place. Wierdly, I had a parallel self noting the moonlight coming through the night-time trees (it was so bright I actually asked my neighbour Rob,if they were lights from a house), our breath that was visible in the night as well as the stars up above me. It was easier to appreciate these things from the relative safety of a stretcher. The paramedic said that a barn owl flew along in front of them as they came up the track in the dark. She said it was very Harry Potter! It’s funny the things you take note of in times of crisis.

  12. Oei! Wat een verschrikkelijke ervaring.Ongelooflijk dat je zolang hebt moeten wachten op hulp en gelukkig hebben je buren je niet alleen gelaten en goed voor je gezorgd en gaat het na die nactmerrie weer een beetje beter.Wens je een spoedig herstel en haal hier een les voor mij uit want ben meestal ook alleen op stap op afgelegen plekken en soms vergeet ik mijn GSM wel eens.Daar zal ik nu altijd eerst aan denken.

    • Ah ja, Marylou. Het ongeluk was een kleintje, maar het brak mijn been en enkel! Mijn man dacht dat ik langs de rivieroever was gegleden, maar nee. Mobiele telefoon is erg belangrijk, maar mensen zijn belangrijker

  13. Ow Emma, so sorry to read about all that happened to you with your broken ankle. As you may remember I had to walk with a broken ankle for more than 3 weeks since christmas 2018. So I can understand how much pain you have had or maybe still have. But at least I was only about 5 or 6 hrs on a cold stone floor and when they moved me I was in my warm room under a comforter.
    I am happy to read they were able to align your bones. 🙂
    Have a speedy recovery.
    Love from me.

    • Oh dear Cecile! I remember now. I bet that stone floor was freezing! I will be asking you for rehabiliation tips. I was sent home from the hospital with no plaster cast (just a plastic ankle brace) and a leaflet for exercises in 4 weeks time beacuse of the horrible coronavirus!

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