When the worst happens… a fractured acetabulum

When the worst happens… a fractured acetabulum

I thought I’d write down my story in case anyone else suffers something similar. Four years ago my husband went to London (about an hour’s train journey from us) for a night out with his work colleagues. He’d had shall we say some lubrication (a few pints) and decided to race against another sporty colleague to see who was faster. I know, macho pride and all that. The first time, he fell over. They decided on a re-match. He fell over again… he didn’t get up. I was expecting him home around midnight, I went to bed but had half an ear open for him coming home. I think I vaguely woke up around 1am and wondered where he was. At 2am I got a phone call from his boss saying he’d had a bit of a fall and dislocated his hip.

I was angry, of course, but more importantly worried about his welfare. I thought he’d had a car accident, but no, it was a simple fall onto an unforgiving kerb/pavement. I got another call about an hour later from the doctor in A & E, he needed to be put under general anaesthetic to put his hip back in and as he was under the influence I needed to consent. I felt like I was his mother! I debated about going up to London, but with 2 children (at the time, this was pre-Daniel) asleep at the time I didn’t know what to do. At 6am I figured it was morning so I called his Mum and explained. She came over to watch the children and I travelled up with his Dad.

When we got there, he was lying flat on his back in a bed at St Thomas’ hospital, next to the window overlooking Westminster. I wanted to sit him up, but soon discovered he was in traction, with a weight attached to his right leg. It turns out it wasn’t a simple hip dislocation, but he’d managed somehow to fall on his knee and the force of it pushed his femur bone back into his pelvis and he’d broken his Acetabulum (the socket of the hip bone). The leg needed to stay in place to be stabilised. He’d need an operation to pin it all into place. We had to wait 3 days for a transfer to St George’s hospital to perform the surgery. During that time he developed bad back pain from staying in one place, and had to have another scan to rule out spinal injury. I went up every day, it was so scary seeing him vulnerable like that and having him so far away.

The view from his hospital bed

Once he was transferred, we learnt he would need to spend 3 months on crutches and in a wheelchair, as he wouldn’t be able to put weight on the leg. Then he would need to rehabilitate slowly, so no running or intensive exercise. Prior to this we’d been doing obstacle races together and it was a real blow. He had the operation, which left a big scar running from his back down to mid thigh. It took just over a week of physio and recovery and then he was allowed home. He was in for 3 weeks altogether. He was quite emotional leaving the hospital, he was so grateful for all the care, right down to the tea lady. Before we left they showed us his X-ray, just a bit of metal in there! He has to tell airport security and needs a letter when he travels.

Once home, we didn’t know quite how he would get up the stairs and how we would manage. He got around on crutches and we had a wheelchair from the red cross. He got upstairs by shuffling up on his bum! I never thought I’d be choosing mobility aids for my husband whilst in my 30s, it was very strange. We also got from the red cross what is known as a ‘perch stool,’ so he could sit on it in the kitchen whilst cooking and washing up – no excuses! I remember it was so difficult because my eldest son was starting school and we had it all planned that when I went to work 3 days a week he would take them to school. I was working as a community Midwife at the time. Luckily, they were understanding. I could only take 1 days carer’s leave and then had to take annual leave and go to work.

How we coped when my husband broke his acetabelum

Things that helped us:

  • We bought a second hand dishwasher, well worth it as we didn’t have one before
  • The red cross, they will loan equipment to you, find out more and where your local centre is here
  • Family and friends, their support was invaluable
  • A perching stool
  • A bath board
  • Good nutrition and hydration for healing

We thought we might have to fit a more accessible walk in bath, but we managed to get away with a bath board and a shower tap attachment. We had to have regular trips to the practice nurse at the beginning for checks on his blood and warfarin levels, and I had to inject him with blood thinners. I may have taken some small pleasure in doing this.

By Christmas, the 3 months was up, and he was able to weight bear, and gradually walk without the crutches. In January, he did a phased return to work after 4 months off. 6 months on, he saw the consultant again and he was happy for gentle exercise.

The effects of a broken acetabulum 4 years on

Now, he goes to the gym around twice a week, does cross training and swimming. If he doesn’t go, he finds it stiffens up and he is more prone to cramp. He may be prone to arthritis in later years in that area. The scar has faded and healed and is hardly noticeable. He hasn’t returned to running as he used to, I think he’s still a bit scared of repeated pressure on it, but he runs after the children and you wouldn’t know from how he is. He still drinks, but not to the same level, and I think he is a bit more careful. Every time he goes out without me, I do worry, I always will. My youngest son Daniel broke his lower leg 2 years ago, and my husband felt awful for him! It wasn’t quite the same, and the cast was only on for 3 or 4 weeks. We called it, ‘Doing a Daddy.’

I hope that’s the end of broken bones for our family, we’ve had quite enough now thank you very much!

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