About four weeks after spinal surgery the Chinese physical therapy team wanted to get me standing and up in a frame. This frame was customized to have wheels on the bottom so the physical therapists could lift you up into the frame, and then push your legs forward one by one in order to get you “walking.” I was still in a neck brace at the time with surgery only four weeks prior when I was put back into this frame.
Unbeknownst to me at the time my osteoporosis has advanced quite severely. I got up in this frame and about three minutes later my body started giving me signs that it was in severe distress. I started sweating above the level of injury, my neuropathic pain shot through the roof, and I began to turn bright red. I insisted I sit down immediately. I went home and the next day my right knee was completely swollen.
My sister managed to catch me walking in the walking frame 10 seconds before my leg broke …
Check it out on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvxxVDzaBvk&feature=youtube_gdata
I went in for an MRI and was told by the Chinese orthopedic surgeon that there may have been some fluid build up in my knee from a previous break in the past, but I was fine. You must understand that I was one of the first foreign patients to participate in their rehabilitation walking program and they did not want to “lose face,” which essentially means to be dishonored in Chinese culture, by injuring their foreign patient.
I tried to explain to them that I had not previously broken any bones, but I do not think they wanted to accept this. They proceeded to try and get me to stand for the next several weeks, which I did, but things kept going south.
Since I just had spinal surgery I figured I might have twisted my knee, but the pain was coming from that. I proceeded to spend the next three straight months in bed in extreme agony day in and day out. I had my parents there, but my entire support system was back in the United States. I was alone in this tiny bed in China with just my thoughts. This is probably the darkest time in my life, which I will dedicate to a blog later on.
About three months later I lifted my leg in the air and my right leg hyper extended in the wrong direction… It was terrifying. It looked like a “Gumby” leg bending backwards and forwards. I sent my MRI’s to the United States and had an orthopedic surgeon look them over. To my great surprise I learned that I had a distal femur fracture and a Tibial shaft fracture. Basically, I had a clean break across my femur and my shinbone. I asked the surgeon what I could do to rectify the problem, but he informed me that since the bones had already fused back together, and I did not put a cast on it immediately I was out of luck. At that point the only other option I had was to go back to the United States, re-break my leg, and set it properly. This option also did not offer any guarantees. So, I was stuck with my Gumby leg. I ordered a highly specialized knee brace from Germany that would allow me to stand again, but I am sad to say I never walked in the frame again.
Physical Therapy in China is still a relatively new field, so I was not working with the most experienced physical therapists at the time. They did the best they could, but at the time having just underwent spinal surgery and a broken leg at the same time I made the best of a bad situation.
So, the Chinese did save my life, but I suppose the price I had to pay was a few broken bones and chronic neck pain left over from the surgery. In my opinion, life is all about compromises, and this was mine!