The Day My Femur Broke (by Samantha Moss)

Today’s author blog post brings you a special treat! Enjoy a sneak peek from Samantha Moss’ memoir titled My Medical Musings: A Story of Love, Laughter, Faith and Hope; Living with a Rare Disease.

Purchase this book here!

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“The Day My Femur Broke”

My left femur broke spontaneously on October 6th 2014. It just snapped in two as I walked to my bedroom door, no warning, apart from pain at the site for a few weeks, it just happened!

From a medical perspective, it is called a pathological break. As a result of this huge and unexpected event, we now know I have a rare bone disease.

It’s The Strongest Bone In Your Body. It Can’t Just Break!

The break of the strongest bone in your body is much more than a medical episode…it is life changing. It is forever etched in your memory and for me it is still an ongoing nightmare as it remains broken over eight years later.

The medical term is non-union. The personal story is one of ongoing pain and disability.

As my bone disease continued to spread, a year later we discovered a stress fracture in my right femur. It needed a rod placed in it as a preventative measure, as it too was about to snap without warning.

Neither my orthopaedic surgeon nor I wanted to relive the nightmare of “the day my femur broke.”

Every now and again I allow my mind to return to that day. To remember, to muse about the circumstances surrounding that moment. It has its own story and it’s both awful and amazing. 

It Was Anything But An Ordinary Day

A story like this should start something like…

It was an ordinary day…

The day my femur broke was anything but ordinary. It was supposed to be a day of celebration and excitement and it certainly was heading in the right direction.

My aunty and cousin had been planning a trip to Australia from the UK for over two years. We had emailed so many times discussing the details, getting excited about being reunited after 30 years and it was going to be the trip of a lifetime.

My cousin was only a new-born when I had first met him on a trip to the UK when I was 18. My aunty and I had been enjoying getting to know each other online. We were so excited about actually spending time together.

Anticipation was high. Their arrival date was all booked, October 6th 2014.

We were to pick them up from the airport at 1:30 a.m. It was going to be a struggle for me at that time of the day with my stoma and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I also had a very sore leg which had just been diagnosed as muscular pain, as an x-ray taken the week before was supposedly clear.

I was determined to get there to greet them. I was using a walking stick as I had, a few weeks prior, been diagnosed with a stress fracture in my left foot. 

I had no idea what was to eventuate in the coming hours.

We made it to the airport and the reunion was wonderful as we greeted each other in the arrival lounge of the Brisbane International terminal. We’d had the perfect trip driving to the airport at that time of the night, so we were able to quickly return home as well.

I had prepared a light supper. We sat around the table eating and talking. So much to talk about, so much to share. Conversation flowed easily. They were family and both Peter and I felt like we had always known them and always been a part of their lives.

Before we knew it the clock chimed 4:00 a.m. and we decided it was probably best if we all tried to get a few hours sleep. 

It Was As If The Birds Could Sense Something Wasn’t Right

Oh, how nice it was to climb into bed. My leg was really hurting even as I lay there but it was muscular pain, so I was told, so I just hoped the pain killers would kick in and some sleep would help restore some energy.

We had been up for 20 hours! Way too long for someone with a chronic illness. I was so proud of myself for managing to hold it all together and for meeting them at the airport.

I closed my eyes to see if sleep would come but the birds outside were so loud. I can still hear them now as I think back. It was quite an unnerving sound and I couldn’t put my finger on why. I heard them every morning and their song was usually beautiful. It was almost as if they could sense something wasn’t quite right.

9:00 a.m…I could hear some rustling downstairs and thought it might be my aunty. We all expected my cousin to sleep late! Peter and I went downstairs and joined my aunty for breakfast on the back deck.

It was a beautiful morning and we chatted away about the week ahead and what they might like to do. The excitement continued to build, despite our tiredness.

About 10:00 a.m. my cousin joined us, much to our surprise. The poor guy looked so jet-lagged!! Coffee was needed, lots of it!

The Longest Monday Ever

My aunty and I decided we should get out of our PJ’s and get dressed for the day. No point trying to get anymore sleep at this stage. I remember my aunty saying, “This is going to be the longest Monday ever.”

If only we had known how true those words were going to be.

I walked upstairs and was just about to open my bedroom door when I felt a snap! My leg was like jelly. I don’t know how I knew but I knew my leg had broken. I can’t recall pain at that point. I remained standing on my right leg with my left leg off the floor. I called out, rather loudly and definitely, for my husband. My specific words were, “Peter, my leg has broken!”

He came running up the stairs in a flash. My aunty shot out of her bedroom and was right behind him. He said later he knew by the tone of my voice I was definitely in trouble.

Would you believe my aunty was a registered nurse in the UK and had just retired? What a blessing to have her there, just at that moment, for such a time as this! She talked Peter through what to do. They somehow managed to lay me on my side on the bedroom floor, and placed a pillow between my legs and under my head.

You know I still can’t remember feeling any pain at that point. The shock must have just taken over. I didn’t feel sick, I didn’t faint…I just organised!! That is so me!

I was crying but not for me, I was crying because I felt like I was ruining my aunty and cousins holiday. I just kept saying, “I am so sorry, I am so sorry!” Everyone was telling me, it’s alright, it’s not your fault, but I felt so bad for them.

I could hear Peter downstairs arguing with the ambulance 000 operator. He was trying to get them to understand I had actually broken my leg and there hadn’t been a trauma to cause it. It had just happened.

We now know a major pathological femur break is such a rare occurrence, the operator hadn’t heard of it happening. Even the first set of paramedics who attended me couldn’t believe it was possible. They thought it might be a ruptured tendon. I was seriously hoping it was only a ruptured tendon at this stage!!

I remember the paramedics trying to work out how to get me past a piece of furniture on our landing. They were discussing dragging me around it. Aargh!! I quickly yelled out to my husband and cousin, to please move the cabinet! There was no way anyone was going to try to drag me around anything with a broken leg.

I can’t believe I was still able to organise…up until that point anyway. Soon after, the painkillers the paramedics had administered, started knocking me out.

A Blood Curdling Scream

They eventually got me downstairs and outside using a chair stretcher. As they tried to move me onto the ambulance stretcher, they saw the bone slide outwards…there was now no doubt my femur had snapped in two.

I let out a blood curdling scream…this was pain and I remember it like it was yesterday! The first set of paramedics panicked and called a trauma ambulance. We had two ambulances in our driveway at this stage, all providing a wonderful show for our neighbours, now lining the street wondering who had been murdered!

My Stoma Eruption

I must just fill in one part of the story. While Peter was organising an ambulance, my aunty stayed by my side upstairs with me lying on the floor. Not surprisingly my stoma decided to erupt. Probably it was the shock setting in, but all I could think was I needed to have a clean stoma bag, especially before the ambulance arrived.

Here’s where my beautiful aunty stepped in with her nursing hat on and she jumped into action. I was able to tell her where all my stoma supplies were and she gathered everything we needed. Together, with me still lying on the bedroom floor, we changed my stoma appliance.

What an amazing aunty! What a bond we had made. A bond so special, it would become even stronger over the years to come. We were sharing the most extraordinary day.

How thankful and sure I was God had provided for me, in this extreme time of need, with someone by my side who knew exactly what to do!

How amazing she came from the other side of the world just when I needed her most.

How amazing we had no idea of this need when making her travel plans. How could I not see God’s hand at work, caring for my needs in advance…needs I didn’t even know I had.

Back To The Main Event

So, once the paramedics decided I could be stabilised with my legs bound together, we finally set off for hospital in the ambulance. My aunty got to ride in the front seat and the ambulance driver gave her a sight-seeing tour along the way. Not quite what we had planned but it was certainly an adventure. She had quite the tale to share with family and friends, back in the UK, in postcards over the coming days.

The rest of the day was spent in the ER and the x-ray department. I remember being in a world of pain as I was moved in directions my leg just couldn’t cope with to get the right x-ray image.

The young radiologist couldn’t find anything to begin with. She was so lovely and was so careful with my leg. She was focusing the images on the femoral neck as this was the usual place for a non-traumatic femur fracture.

I could tell she was getting concerned as x-ray after x-ray wasn’t showing anything. She eventually asked me to point to where the pain was most intense. With so many pain killers on board my memory of the intense pain was waning already. I remember explaining it was the middle of my thigh and my knee was hurting.

That was the key!

She positioned me for the next x-ray image and ran to take the shot. Within seconds she returned to my bedside and I’ll always remember her words, “You are definitely in the right place. We will look after you. I’m so glad you told me about the knee pain.”

I was so relieved. I quickly asked if she had found the break? She replied with a mixed look of relief, horror and sadness, she had indeed found it.

Finally I got to my ward room at 7:30 p.m.

The worst was yet to come!

Five nurses were organised to move me from the ER bed to my room bed. Oh the pain! They shut the door of my room and gave me a pillow to put over my face to try to dull down the sound of my scream. It was not a scream you could control. It was all so awful. They finally managed to get my leg in traction, where I stayed for 24 hours before surgery the following evening. While it was horrific, once the leg was placed into traction, the relief was fantastic.

The nurses felt so sick. They had seen the bone move sideways and push against my skin as they were moving me. They were so lovely, so concerned. They wanted to do absolutely anything to make me comfortable and asked me if they could get me anything to eat and drink.

The first thing I asked for was a cup of tea…what else!! I’m an Aussie but I was born in the UK and we all know tea fixes everything! 

Tea Makes Everything Better

It was the best cuppa ever. I was finally alone in my room. I had time to reflect. What a day. So many disappointments but so many blessings.

We don’t know how we would have coped had my aunty not been with us. Such a long way to come to be there to help her niece in her hour of need, but we felt such a strong sense of us all being in the right place at the right time.

We were told the next day by the orthopaedic surgeon, who was to become an integral member of my medical team, my x-rays taken three weeks prior when I was complaining of pain, did in fact show a periosteal reaction in my left femur. This was due to my bone being diseased and it hadn’t been picked up. My break was so serious it could have severed my femoral artery. It is a miracle I am here today to tell this story.

I was so grateful my leg broke at home and not at the airport. So grateful for my loving husband. So grateful for the hospital staff, who knew me well from previous stays and made me feel like I was in good hands.

I didn’t know what the future would hold but I felt a sense of peace. God had looked after me all day and He would take care of me in the coming days, weeks, months, years as well.

I was so aware my life was changing. At that moment, alone in my room, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply.

I was so relieved the 6th of October 2014, the day my femur broke, was nearly over. 

I was so relieved I was safely in my hospital bed receiving amazing care. 

Tomorrow would take care of itself. For now I relaxed and sipped my tea, enjoyed with crackers and cheese. I savoured every mouthful. The simple things suddenly seemed so important and so meaningful. 

I was acutely aware life would never be the same again, after this very extraordinary day.

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We hope you enjoyed todays blog written by Samantha Moss! If you liked what you read so far, you can purchase her book here!