Wednesday, 13 August 2014
Beware of Loose Gravel
By Maureen Browning
It was 2006 – Memorial Day weekend – and our planned three-day trip through stunningly majestic Oak Creek Canyon and surrounding area unfortunately came to an abrupt end as we were walking from a scenic overlook up to the parking lot.
My left foot slipped on the loose gravel along the edge of the narrow walkway. In a split second I had literally tipped over. My right hip struck squarely on the asphalt walkway with the thud of my full body weight, 125 pounds. No pain in the first second or two but suddenly the air still inside my lungs burst out into a piercing scream.
My immediate instinct was to roll over onto my left side, which I did. Another piercing scream. I knew then that bone had separated from bone. People gathered around as Gary knelt down trying to comfort me.
The asphalt was so hot that it was burning the outside of my left arm which I had bent and tucked under the side of my head. Suddenly I felt an overwhelmingly flush feeling move throughout my entire body – a heavy suffocating feeling – perhaps from an adrenaline rush and the hot asphalt under me.
Within minutes, a park ranger approached with a mobile phone and a blanket. He knelt down and gently wedged the small blanket between the asphalt and my arm. He had already radioed for an ambulance.
His main concern was keeping me absolutely still and as comfortable as possible until paramedics arrived. Endless minutes of waiting for help turned into more than an hour.
While still on the asphalt and having received valium and morphine through an IV line, I was transferred onto a stretcher, carried up an incline and then lifted into the ambulance. Minutes later I was on my way to the Flagstaff Medical Center – Gary followed close behind.
I awoke in the emergency room as staff members were using scissors to cut away my clothing. I lifted my head ever so slightly to look for Gary. He was right there near me. Then I heard someone announce that I was ready for x-rays.
With no memory of having x-rays, I was awake again – this time in an acute care room. Dr. Mickey entered and introduced himself as an orthopedic surgeon.
He apologized for his casual dress. He had been out golfing. It was probably his weekend off. I was about to find out that my situation was far more serious than I could ever have imagined.
He proceeded to explain that the x-rays showed that I had suffered a femoral neck fracture. The ball – also known as the femoral head – along with its neck, had totally separated from my thigh bone – also known as the femur.
The fracture had cut off the blood supply to the head and neck, thus that section of bone had bled out and was now dead. It would be removed and replaced with a bipolar prosthetic femoral head that swivels during movement where it is attached to the stem.
Bone would be removed from my femur into a shape to accommodate the stem which would then be cemented into place. I would be as good as new. Surgery was scheduled for early morning.
Morphine got me through the night. Gary tried to sleep next to my bed in a firm leather recliner with wooden arms. I slept. He didn't.
One of the nurses with me on the way to the operating room wanted me know that she had worked with Dr. Mickey for many years. He was renown and revered and according to her, he was the best orthopedic hip surgeon in the state. She assured me that I would be in good hands. I believed her.
I was told weeks after the surgery that up until the surgery, the jagged dead bone had been resting less than an inch from my femoral artery. With a wrong move, I could have bled to death in minutes.
Little did I know that at that time, 90 percent of hip fractures happened to people over age 60. I was 64. About 20 percent of people who suffer a hip fracture, die within a year. It is estimated that only one in four persons have a total recovery from a hip fracture.
Today, eight years later, I consider myself one of those very lucky persons. I will forever beware of loose gravel.
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