A Bit of a Break

by John

No posts for a couple of weeks.

I am taking a break, after experiencing a break.

Several weeks ago one of my grandsons broke his wrist. In a discussion about the accident with SWMBO I mentioned that I had never experienced a bone fracture. (mistake #1).

Some days after that I collected a metal melting furnace from Stuart Tankard. A loan, so I could melt enough bronze to cast the Ottoman bombard. My own furnace has a capacity of 3kg of bronze, but I needed to melt about 10kg for each of the two parts of the cannon. Stuart’s furnace is gas fired and will take much larger crucibles than mine. He readily agreed to the loan of the furnace, but I noted that he hesitated when I rang to arrange the pickup. I discovered why when we loaded it.

It is bloody heavy!! The two of us could not lift it more than a few centimeters. It must weigh around 200kg.

So, we manoeuvred it onto a hydraulic lift trolley, and used that that to roll it to my Landcruiser, jacked it up, and slowly and progressively moved it into the back compartment of the cruiser. I assured Stuart that I would be OK unloading it. (error #2) I have an identical hydraulic lift trolley. And I was sure that I could carefully manoeuvre the furnace onto the trolley.

So, at my workshop I backed the cruiser to the concrete pad where the trolley was positioned, jacked up the trolley platform to the level of my cruiser and slowly pulled the furnace towards the trolley. But it would not budge.

The furnace has a handle for rolling it around. The handle slips into position quite neatly. So I climbed onto the cruiser floor, and started pulling and manoeuvring (error #3). Suddenly, the handle came free, and I was flying through the air tumbling backwards. Fortunately the furnace stayed where it sat.

But I hit the concrete pad.


With my chest.

Initially I was winded. And my chest hurt like hell. And my head hurt. When I stood, I realised that I was conscious, bit giddy, and in PAIN from my chest. Oh shit. I knew that I had probably broken a rib(s). It hurt to breath. I took shallow breaths. No bleeding, but I was sure that there would be some impressive bruises.

As was alone, with no-one nearby, I rang my wife. By then I had regained my breath and I reassured her that I was not seriously hurt, and did not need an ambulance. But if I did not turn up at home that evening maybe she should come and find me. (sensible#)

As time passed, the pain did not seem too bad, so I had a cup of coffee, some Aspirin, finished unloading the furnace, and a couple of hours later drove home. I took some more aspirin, and started cooking dinner as usual. My wife said that I should see a doctor, but hey, I used to be a doctor, and I knew that nothing serious had happened. (error #3). Also it was a public holiday. My doctor would have either been on call, or arranged suitable cover. But I figured that it could wait until the next day.

After an uncomfortable, restless night, the next morning I felt sore, but not in severe pain, and it settled with some more aspirin. We were child minding that day, so seeing the doctor would have been very inconvenient. So I did the child minding with my wife, with no great problems. Then another restless night. I planned to see my GP the next day. Or at least to talk to him with a phone consultation.

Next morning, I sneezed. Hay fever. The chest pain was suddenly much worse. Aspirin hardly touched it. Some movements were very painful. I was terrified that I would sneeze again. Deep breaths were out of the question. I rang for an urgent appointment with my GP. It was made for late that afternoon. I knew that I needed an X-ray of my ribs, so I sent an email to my doctor. It is almost impossible to get to talk directly to a doctor without a prior appointment but I thought that an email from an ex-doctor might might get through. And it did. I had a phone call from him within minutes, and the X-ray was arranged. He also arranged an electronic prescription for a stronger pain killer, which my wife collected. It helped.

I had the X-ray, driven there by my wife, who by this stage was very concerned.

At the pre-arranged consultation the GP examined me. Clinically he agreed that at least one rib was fractured. However the X-ray report said that there was no fracture. He invited me to view the X-rays, and I was certain that I could see a fracture. I was no radiologist but I had seen a lot of X-rays in my medical career. A second radiologist opinion would be obtained. (the second opinion confirmed the fracture). My lungs were intact at that time.

I did not require hospital admission. I was given a prescription for more pain killers, instructions about keeping active, taking laxatives (to avoid the analgesic induced constipation), and to stay in touch for the 6 or so weeks that healing would require.

The next day the situation changed. Despite the strong pain killers, the pain progressively worsened. By evening, when SWMBO arrived home I was having frequent episodes of agony in the area of the fracture(s). I discovered the meaning of the phrase “pain bringing someone (me) to his knees”. It was worse than the root canal pain, the ski accident multiple ruptured ligaments and crushed bone ends pain, you get the picture. I was almost fainting with the pain. SWBMO wanted to get an ambulance. I did not want the delay. So she drove me to the hospital casualty. Every bump in the road provoked the agony.

At the hospital, I staggered into the casualty department while SWMBO parked the car. There was a queue at the triage assessment. I had put on a mask as per Covid regulations. I was doubled over with pain, and wondering if I would faint if a severe wave occurred. I was aware that I was groaning with the pain. Waiting people were staring. But the triage nurse was not looking. So I walked to the window and said “I am in severe pain”. She said “sit there”. I said “I cannot sit down”. She pointed to an adjacent room and said “wait in there”. So I did, while she continued getting details from the two people ahead of me in the queue. I was bothered by the attitude, but in no condition to argue. I guess that she was following protocol. I wonder what protocol would have required if I had collapsed.

Eventually, after an interminable wait (probably about 5 minutes) I was motioned to window, gave my details, and I was walked with assistance from 2 orderlies, into a cubicle. Things moved quickly then. An IV line was inserted, and I was given IV Morphine. A few seconds later the pain was almost gone. It was heaven.

A CT scan confirmed the fractures. And partial lung collapse. My liver was intact. There was no internal bleeding. Hospital admission was recommended, and SWMBO insisted that I accept, although after the Morphine I was tempted to go home. Anyway, I stayed overnight, with strong oral painkillers every 3 hours.

I was discharged home the next day with a supply of really strong painkillers, and arrangements for follow up. Since then, I have been slowly improving. I have a strange “clicking” sensation at the site of the fracture. Something is moving. Yesterday I visited the workshop, but not really up to anything interesting. Doing a lot of dozing.

So that is my excuse for no posts for a while.