Accidents and Arias - Part 2
Writing this section has felt much more like a litany of woe than the dramatics of the last entry, but I found this time much harder to deal with. Despite the horror of the accident, operation and hospital stay, I was able to stay positive and upbeat, and focus on getting better. But as the months at home rolled away and it felt as though I wasn’t getting any better, my mental health took a serious toll and I became the most depressed I have ever been.
The care I had received in the hospital was, generally speaking, exemplary, but once I arrived home, problems began to pop up. We realised there was no way I could use the toilet because I couldn’t bend my leg and so couldn’t sit down on the loo. I hadn’t been for a number 2 since before the accident and we weren’t sure how to get around this. Also, I had been sent home without any morphine despite being hooked onto a drip for the past week so I was having major withdrawal as well as agony in my leg, despite the dihydrocodeine every couple of hours.
After many phone calls to the doctors and a weekend of no sleep, agony in my leg, aggressive headaches and cold sweats and shakes, I finally managed to get some morphine prescribed to me. My mum had set up a temporary bed for me in the kitchen/living area so I could lie around watching TV in the day, but we couldn’t figure out how to get around the toilet situation. Fortunately that evening, we rang some district nurses who came around with a commode which I could perch on without bending my leg.
The physios from the hospital rang me that day after I got home and attempted to give me a physio session over the phone to go up and down the stairs. They couldn’t see what I was doing and I couldn’t hold the phone or hear them properly over the phone speaker in their busy office, so the whole experience was difficult and awkward. That was given up on fairly quickly. Thankfully we were able to get hold of some physios from Harrogate hospital who could come and visit me at home.
I must say my mum was an absolute saint during this time. She was constantly with me, looking after me and making sure I was doing my physio, helped me with the commode and my wheelchair and I can’t possibly thank her enough.
The next few weeks consisted of me lying in bed watching tv, standing up and trying to walk about once a day, taking 6 pills and a shot of morphine every 4 or so hours, my mum helping me to use the commode in a humiliating ritual, and injecting my tummy with blood thinners twice a day which was painful and caused it to bruise and swell horribly. Everything had to be done from the bed in the kitchen/living area I was living in. I couldn’t go upstairs or have a shower so every day I was given a washing up bowl of soapy water and a flannel and I gave myself a wet wash on my bed. I shaved in bed, I bought a wee bottle from Amazon and used that from bed, I ate in bed, everything. Bryony visited me regularly despite having just started her course at Trinity Laban which was really lovely and I had some friends round now and then to watch a film together.
Sleeping was still a major issue. At no point over the next few months did I ever sleep through the entire night. I had falling dreams every time I fell asleep and would always wake up with a jolt, trembling and need more painkillers. I noticed it always happened as the painkillers were wearing off after about 3-4 hours and my leg was hurting more which must have been triggering the memories. I hated the nights and usually just lay awake waiting for morning.
My sister Ellen visited frequently to help out and helped give me my first hair wash since the accident from my bed on 13 September. We hired a wheelchair and we went on little trips to the park which was so nice and much needed after being cooped up indoors all the time, although I realised just how bad the paths in Harrogate are for wheelchairs and disabled people with endless potholes, cracks, lumps and bumps all over. There were several routes we just couldn’t do because even the smallest jolt was excruciating on my leg. On one of her visits, Ellen took me in my chair to see Tenet at the cinema which, unfortunately, was the biggest load of bollocks I’ve seen in years.
I started my course at RNCM on 28 September online while everyone else in my year was taking part in person. I watched the group classes on a live stream from my bed, and I started my singing lessons online perched on my bed with my voice almost completely gone. I had completely lost touch with my body and all the painkillers and blood thinners meant I was feeling tired, faint, spaced out and vocally useless. We just spent this time on breathing and building my voice back from the ground up.
I gradually improved, I managed to shower in late September sat on a shower stool, although I still needed help getting in and out, and after having another x-ray in October, I was told I could stop using the massive boot I had been using to support my broken ankle and I had my staples pulled out.
On the last weekend of October I made the biggest journey I’d attempted. Bryony drove me to Snape Maltings for a performance with the National Youth Chamber Choir, our first since the pandemic began. It was a wonderful experience and a much needed pick-me-up but I found it very tiring and hard going as I had to sit and my singing voice was still very thin. While this was a lovely weekend and it felt like we were emerging from our lockdown cocoon, the news said otherwise and it was announced while we were there that we would being going into a second lockdown.
The November lockdown was the toughest period for me. While it was a looser lockdown than the summer for everyone else, for me it was everything. I couldn’t do anything, nobody could visit, I wasn’t able to go anywhere and my leg was still excruciating. I felt like I was making no progress. I was still stuck in bed, I could barely move, my singing voice was still weak, the constant use of crutches was making my back and shoulders get really tight and achey, I could barely sleep, I was paying rent for a flat in Manchester I wasn’t living in, and thanks to the drugs I could barely concentrate on the course I’d spent years wanting to go on, and I started to fall into a state of depression.
I was getting very irritable and having trouble getting off the morphine. I was trying to reduce the amount I was having but I was getting sweats, shakes and headaches, and I couldn’t sleep at all until I’d had some. It was pretty hard work to reduce the amount slowly, even while I was still on dihydrocodeine which is also an opiate, but the worst moment came when they doctors mixed up my prescription and only gave me half the amount I should have got. I had the same amount as usual but ran out quickly, I rang up and asked for more but they refused saying I had enough for another 2 weeks, which I assured them was wrong. Despite this, I had to cope on just paracetamol for a couple of days until it was sorted and my leg was excruciating, quite aside from going completely cold turkey from all the opiates. It was just horrible.
It was during this time my mum moved house too which was insane. I had to stay at my cousin’s house on the day of the move, and I remember sitting on a stool in my cousin’s kitchen, dosed up on everything, feeling as low as a I’ve ever felt, doing an open online masterclass with Toby Spence on no sleep with a broken leg. Mental.
The good news was that I was starting to be able to bend my leg more, and managed to sit on the toilet and go to bed upstairs in my actual bed! But after an x-ray on 30th November they noticed a large gap on my bone that wasn’t healing at all. My inner leg was doing well but the outer leg was ‘inert’. This really stunted my progress as the physios had been encouraging me to put more weight on my leg, but now I was told to put less weight on and that if it didn’t heal, I’d need a second operation to have a bone graft and a metal plate added. This was a major blow and I felt really upset by the news.
By the time Christmas rolled around I was more mobile, albeit still on both crutches, and off the morphine, but still unable to rest much weight on my leg and still feeling depressed. Our planned family Christmas after a crappy year was derailed somewhat by the introduction of tier 4 which meant my brother was trapped in London on his own, but at least Bryony, Ellen and her partner Callum could all visit. It was a lovely time, Bryony took me Christmas shopping on a mobility scooter, but just as things seemed to be looking up and I was gearing up to come back to Manchester in January…
Once again, thank you for reading this as far as you have. I have never before been as depressed as I was during the November lockdown, and I was becoming a difficult person to be around and care about, so this is a huge thank you to everyone who has stuck by me and helped me mend during this time. I really do owe you all a big one. Part 3 will be my final entry in this triptych of blogs detailing my eventual arrival in Manchester and my second operation, so stay tuned!