Broken leg – my biggest challenge yet

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Paramedics tending to my broken leg

It is exactly two years today since I broke my leg. A poor first touch, a mis-timed challenge and bit of bad luck saw me snap my tibia and fibula 30 seconds into a game of football. It wasn’t pleasant and not an experience I would recommend.

Paramedics tending to my broken leg

Paramedics tending to my broken leg

The question most people asked me after the break is ‘what did it feel like?’ Well the very second it happened I knew it was broken. I heard the crack and felt the shooting pain. It hurt. In fact it hurt a lot. But I would probably say the initial pain was not as bad as you would expect. I didn’t scream or yelp in pain. I just lay there clutching the grass tightly and hoped for the ambulance to arrive quickly. I even managed to have a bit of a laugh with some of the lads when my nephews started throwing grass at me. That said, the part where I had to straighten my leg and put it in the inflatable cast was excruciating. Similarly the ambulance journey to hospital was unbearable despite the heavy dosage of morphine. Every bump and turn felt like my leg was breaking a bit more.

It was a clean break, so I had a choice to have an operation or let it heal naturally. There are pro’s and con’s to each option and I chose the natural option. The result was a full length cast for six weeks and a cast to my knee for nine weeks after that.

The first three weeks were the most difficult of my life. The pain was constant and even the smallest movement sent excruciating bursts down my leg. Going to the toilet was a two person job as I couldn’t move my leg myself. For this and indeed the whole period my wife suffered almost as much as I did as she had to live every moment and do everything for me. She was an angel and my family and friends were fantastic too.

I had some pretty dark times throughout but tried to stay positive and focused on recovery. So, I watched a lot of motivational youtube videos. I downloaded a calorie counting app to make sure I was eating enough to recover but not so much as to get fat. I talked about when I would play football again despite not being sure if I ever would. I focused on small milestones – reducing the dosage of painkillers, going to the toilet without help, the big cast coming off. And that is when the next big blow came. The cast came off after week five and although I anticipated a lot of muscle wastage I was devastated when I saw how small my leg had shrunk. To make matters worse I still wasn’t recovered enough to really do anything much about it.

After the big cast came off my knee joint had completely stiffened up, so my focus for the next week or so turned to physio and getting the movement back in my knee. The next milestone was the small cast coming off. Again the wastage in my calf was shocking and I had zero movement in my ankle. So after thirteen weeks in a cast I spent the next eight weeks on crutches trying to regain movement in my ankle and learning to walk again. It was difficult, frustrating and a real challenge, but being able to see progress helped me stay positive.

I eventually managed to leave the crutches behind in March 2014. Crucially, during the recovery period I bought a lot of gym equipment and with the help of friends converted my garage into a gym that I could use to rehabilitate. I spent the next seven months working harder than ever before to rebuild my muscle and get my leg back to full strength. At first I couldn’t even leg press the empty weight on my multi-gym and the idea of running or playing football seemed a distant dream. However, slowly but surely the muscle built up and whilst I thought I pushed myself to the limit in the gym before, I learnt to push myself beyond the limit. I was driven to get fit again and my commitment was relentless. Everything I did was focused on recovering.

On 24th October 2014, thirteen months after breaking my leg I decided I was ready to play football. I was manager of my football team, the mighty International Allstars. So I put myself on the bench with a view to playing the last fifteen minutes. Unfortunately we were a bit short of players that day so I was the only sub. A stroke of good or bad luck, depending on how you look at it saw one of our players have to come off after fifteen minutes. I had to go on with seventy five minutes left to play. The good thing about it was that I had no time to think about my leg. I was tentative at first, but five minutes into my return a chance fell to me in the area. I side footed it beyond the keeper and scored! Adrenaline pumped through my body and any doubts I had about playing football again were immediately eradicated.

Since that day I have continued to work hard on building the muscle in my leg. It still isn’t quite perfect, and I get stiffness in my ankle after heavy exertion. But in the two years since breaking my leg I have been playing football regularly on Saturdays and Wednesdays. I have run a couple of 10km races and completed a Total Warrior event. In many respects I am fitter than ever before.

Breaking my leg may not have been a pleasant experience, but it was an important one which has helped shape the person I am today. It has taught me to commit to things 100% and not let anything get in the way. When it comes to getting fit now I make no excuses however busy I think I am. I am mentally stronger and able to push myself through pain barriers in a way I never could before the injury. I am focused and driven. Now I know I am not invincible .So I’ve decided I need to get on with doing everything the world has to offer. In the words of Pope Paul VI…

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”

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