Femur Fracture from Car Accident- 25 years old
In May 2004 I was 25 years old and in a pretty bad car accident. A van pulled out in front of me and I hit the driver side door going 70 mph. I remember the windshield shattering and lunging forward into the airbag and dashboard. The snap of my femur against either the steering wheel or the dashboard didn't hurt, but I felt the pop in my whole body. I unbuckled my seatbelt, forced my door open, and tried to exit the vehicle. That's when I realized what happened. As I lifted my left leg out to get out, my right leg didnt slide with it. Instead I felt a little nub twisting around inside my right thigh and saw no movement in the right leg. I fell out of the vehicle with my right leg at an "unnatural" angle... and it started to hurt. I had fractured my femur.
Once I straightened it out I did whatever I could to avoid moving it. If I even tried to move my right side a little bit I could feel that tiny little nub of a femur wiggling around with no resulting leg movement and a LOT of pain. I'm sure shock was setting in right away. I stayed conscious and actually pretty calm. EMTs quickly got there and determined there was no femural artery damage, which is pretty much a worst case scenario. In the ambulance the emergency crews gave me morphene and told me they were going to set my leg. I remember they guy telling me repeatedly it was OK to scream and yell because this was going to hurt. He was right... it was the most intense pain I had ever felt. I passed out after that. I remember a couple of very brief scenes at the hospital, but pretty much nothing until after surgery.
I had suffered a "subtrochanteric" femur fracture... which means I broke it below the hip and above the knee. It was a "comminuted" femur break, and that means it was in more than two pieces... about five to be exact. The surgery took about three hours I think. If I could go back in time I would've asked the doctor to record the surgery. My doctor told me that repairing a femur fracture is one of the most violent surgeries you can ever go through. A friend of mine, who is an M.D., said that while in residency his supervisor had him assist during the procedure. My friend said it took two or three people to hold the patient (who was of course asleep) steady as they lined up the titanium rod and began to literally hammer it in like a railroad tie. "Just keep hitting it... HARDER!" The supervisor told him.
I believe it. My right leg looked like it had been run over twice by a dump truck. It was swollen to twice the size of my left leg. To my surprise though, there was no cast. I woke up laying there with my legs elevated, about 30 staples, three screws, and a titanium road from my hip to my knee (one screw in my knee and two in my hip area). The rest of my body had no breaks, but my left leg was pretty bruised (it actually looked worse than my right leg because my left knee had a knot in it the size of a cantelope and horrible discoloration up and down the leg). My shoulder was bruised from the seatbelt and my hand was cut from going through the windshield.
So there I was. I had no idea what I was in for. I had a great orthopedic surgeon who took a lot of time to answer all my (and my family's) questions. I ate a little food and a couple hours later a couple guys came into the room and said they were there for my physical therapy. With their help, I sat up in bed a turned to get my feet off the side. That was about all I could do. They said once I could use a walker and get myself to the bathroom without help I could go home. I remember on day 2 or 3 I stood up for the first time and all the blood rushed out of my head. My mom said I turned white as a sheet. I'll never forget the ringing in my ears. My body had lost a lot of blood and had not recovered yet. On day 6 I made it to the bathroom and went home. Remember, statistics show that patients heal faster at home. Do what the doctor says but don't get lazy and milk the hospital too much. Get home!
At my parents home (I was single and living not far away so I went to their place) I began recovery. Be sure to clean and rotate bandages/dressing accordingly. Use plenty of iodine. DO NOT GET AN INFECTION. I also recommend taking the pain killers as directed. I tried to be a tough guy and stop taking them for a couple days, thinking that maybe I woudl heal faster. All that resulted was bad sleep and bad moods. I got pretty good on my walker and eventually could take a shower instead of sponge baths. The doctor said it could be several weeks before I went back to work and that I would be on crutches for six months. About 4 weeks after the accident I went back to work on two crutches. Driving was a little tricky but I had more control of my right ankle than you'd think. I lived with my buddy Aaron who was very helpful. Shopping is a complete pain in the butt. I never understood what lawsuits meant by "pain and suffering" until I broke my femur. If you are able to collect any damages from insurance or whatever please do not feel guilty getting as much as you can. Your life is a COMPLETE inconvenience for months and months after a femure fracture. The doctor bills are just the beginning. Stairs, groceries, pumping gas, driving, getting the mail, showering, cutting the toenails on the bad leg, it is all a complete mess. Oh, and did I mention you'll be EXHAUSTED every day. I had a great boss who basically let me put in five and six hour days because he knew I was pretty tired. Remember, your body went through some of the worst trauma it could ever experience... there is no shame in taking it easy for a couple months. Further, if you are smart you will be doing your femur physical therapy like the doctor said. You'll be dog tired every day.
PHYSICAL THERAPY- You have to do it. I was a pretty athletic guy before my femur fracture. My biggest fear was permanent disability. The doctor said I should heal completely but to expect a slight limp when running. I committed to doing all the therapy by the book. All the stretching, all the workouts, all the walking around. I also used the electric shock thing for about a month. I didn't buy it, but most insurance companies pay for you to keep it about a month or so. Use that thing. You don't want your quad muscles to shrivel up and experience atrophy. Don't be afraid to turn the knob up and spasm your quad. It hurts but it's good to push it. I lived near the beach, so a few times a week I'd go down and walk in the waves. I really credit this to my good results. Swimming and especially walking around in small crashing waves helps you get the muscles back without risk of further injury. I eventually graduated to using only one crutch, and then by October-November I was off crutches completely. Don't worry, just because the crutches are gone doesn't mean you're ready for pick-up basketball games. Keep doing the rehab and going to the doctor. I think November was my final appointment with the orthopedic. I'm not sure, but it was probably December or January before I could really jog steady... jog, not run. By the next spring I was running with a limp. By the next fall (almost 18 months after the accident) I was no longer limping at all. My right thigh has never 100% regained muscle mass, but I haven't exactly been doing a bunch of squats. I work out and run a lot and nobody has ever noticed anything (people used to ask about my limp during that first 18 months). I can snow ski or go to the lake without pain or aches. Maybe once in awhile my right knee will ache during cold and damp weather, but that happens maybe twice a year. Those darn femur screws are what's causing it. A doctor will tell you that the screws and titanium rod can be removed from your femur, but it is not neccessary unless something weird happens like the screws come loose and bug you or something. Some people just dont like walking around with it. I have heard the removal procedure is not bad at all, just knocks you down for a couple days.
I have never had a problem at an airport and I have traveled to Paris and China. I don't even bother carrying around the "implant" card the doctor will probably give you. One time I had a wand beep by my right hip, but a quick peek at my scars calmed the airport screener down.
So that's it! Please email me any questions and I'll add answers to this article. I hope we can build more stories like this and help others learn from our femur fracture!