Just call me Hop-a-long
Disaster! A lovely weekend away to Belfast did not go at all to plan for us. And so I find myself on crutches for the Christmas season and maybe longer, and I haven’t yet figured out how to make getting about on crutches and managing an active 20 month old mix.
It happened so quickly. The toddler was sick on Thursday night, but when we got up on Friday morning she was right as rain and by lunchtime we decided it was safe to go ahead with our planned trip to Belfast for the weekend. We arrived up to the Ramada Plaza hotel at 3pm and settled in for a lovely afternoon. We had some dinner, a glass of wine, and then let the kids burn off some steam in the hotel’s well equipped indoor playroom.
That night we decided that the hotel was so nice and the weekend was shaping up so well, we should book in for a second night. So we did. And off we went for an early night, wanting to be well rested for exploring the Christmas markets, visiting W5, and taking a dip in the hotel pool.
But at 5am, I awoke to the sound of the toddler gagging. Panic. I picked her up, jumped out of bed and ran towards the tiled bathroom, which was only about five steps away. I don’t know if my leg muscle was asleep from the way I was lying, or if I twisted my leg awkwardly jumping out of bed, but half way to the bathroom, there was what I can only describe as a popping sensation in my leg followed by excruciating pain.
It’s funny how your mind works when you have a small child in your arms. My body wanted to fall down but my brain was focused on the baby. “Put her down safe, then stop.” So I did. I set her down on the bathroom tiles, and then collapsed on to the toilet seat calling for my husband. I don’t really remember what happened next.
I thought I was going to throw up. Or fall down. Or both. Charlie said he had no idea what was happening when he walked into the bathroom. His first thought was that I was having a seizure of some kind. I fell backwards and he sat me up. He was asking me questions but I couldn’t respond. I fell to the side and he sat me up again. I remember about 30 seconds worth of this. He says he lasted about 2.5 minutes.
When I came around and explained that I had pulled something in my leg, he looked after our daughter and helped me back to bed. As I lay there, I remember thinking something was very wrong. I hoped that a few hours rest would see me right but I knew already that wouldn’t be the case.
I sneaked a look at my calf expecting to see carnage. But there was nothing. A slight swelling of the muscle maybe. No bruising. Nothing to indicate the awful pain emanating from my leg.
Somehow I slept for an hour or two. Charlie says he didn’t sleep a wink. Between the sick toddler and the wife who had scared the life out of him, he was too unnerved to relax.
When I woke I attempted to go to the bathroom but nearly passed out again when I tried to put weight on my leg. I resigned myself to a hospital visit. But before I could get to a hospital, I first had to get dressed and get to the car. Getting dressed wasn’t as bad as I expected. There was a slight argument when I realised that I needed to shave my legs and I was informed that I was ridiculous and there was no way I’d be helped to the bathroom and a razor just because some doctor might be offended by my hairy limbs. The shame. I quickly forgot about it though when I tried moving.
First I tried hopping, but even the jolting as I hopped was too much for my leg. I was immobilized. My husband suggested I get in the buggy and he would push me down. Not seeing any alternative, I agreed. Clearly this was going to be a day for setting my dignity aside. But my weight was too much on the carpeted floor and the buggy wouldn’t move. Charlie went down to reception to ask if they had any suggestions. To my surprise and delight, they had a wheelchair for me. The relief. Maybe we could salvage something from the weekend after all.
Not wanting to waste a full day in a&e, we asked reception to recommend a private clinic to us. And so at 11am, we found ourselves in Kingsbridge private hospital. But when they assessed me, they said that because I had experienced a “consciousness episode” when I hurt myself, they needed to rule out DVT, so I’d have to go to a regular a&e.
This day was not turning out as I had planned. Off to the Mater hospital in North Belfast for my first experience of the NHS. We parked the car and realised the only way to get me from the car park to the hospital was in the buggy. There were a few amused smiles as Charlie pushed me by. A man in a van pointed his phone at me as we went by. I’m crossing my fingers he didn’t share it to YouTube. I was in too much pain to care, but looking back now…best not to think about the picture I made.
I was expecting queues out the door of a&e on a Saturday afternoon. But no. One person ahead of me. I was seen within 30 minutes by the triage nurse, and then 40 minutes later by the doctor. The diagnosis – a gastrocnemius tear. The treatment – support bandage, painkillers, 4-6 weeks on crutches, and a follow up ultrasound and physio on my return to Dublin. No walking. And no driving! The cost – nothing. Wow. Friendly staff. Spotlessly clean and pleasant surroundings. Efficient treatment. This was a far cry from my most recent hospital experience in Ireland.
The rest of the weekend was a wash out for me. And unfortunately for the whole family. We had to cancel our plans to visit W5 and the Christmas market. We left to go home immediately after breakfast on Sunday instead. The disappointment. Thank god the hotel was so nice, because it and the hospitals were all we saw of Belfast.
Back in Dublin now, and I’m sitting in my GP’s office waiting to be seen. The reality of being immobile for the next month or more is starting to kick in. Poor Charlie is going to be very busy. I’m limited in what I can do for the kids. Reading stories, playing games on the iPad, and some coloring. Any other ideas are very welcome! Or better still, tips for looking after your family while on crutches! Please share!