Wednesday, 7 October 2009

If you're squeamish... look away now!

There have been a few comments about traction and since it's my first name I thought I ought to show you why it's so painful and what exactly is involved.

Most people have a mental picture of traction gained from old Carry On films or cartoons of people with their leg in an enormous plaster cast with the leg hauled up at a 45 degree angle. That is, or was, one form of traction but basic traction is far less comical. It involves pulling the leg horizontally with a hefty weight. I have the equivalent of a constant 10kg pulling my leg straight at all times. The weight is attached to a frame which in turn is attached to my leg by means of a pin that goes right the way through my shinbone. That pin bears the weight full 10kg at all times.

Ouch... that pin hurts when you move.

As well as being pulled horizontally, that pin is also pulled upwards by the vertical frame you can see here with a cable attached to it by a scientific piece of sticky tape. This lifts the leg a little so it's free to be pulled horizontally.


  1. I used to work in Ortho! Looks good to me! Well, as long as it is in your leg and not mine!

    The knee surgeries I have had were quite enough of an eye opener thank you very much! I couldn't understand why people were always saying it hurt so much till i was on the receiving end!

    Hope it stays clean and healing well!

  2. The weight is about five bags of sugar. That's a lot of pull on one knitting needle. Keeping those pins clean and free from infection means careful cleaning and redressing. I do that bit myself as there's less chance of me infecting myself. It's a constant battle between me and that bloody weight. It keeps dragging me down the bed so I have to keep pulling myself up the bed and that 10kg weight!

  3. Ohooo my goodness, thank you for sharing. I have to admit I had thought of you with your leg in plaster up in the air like the carry on film. Does traction have something to do with the back too, or am I getting confused. Again being naive I take it traction is something that can never be done at home. Why did you need it, was the bug destroying your bone.

    Apologies all the questions.

    Great *pins* though ;)

  4. aaaawwww , poor baby , that looks very uncomfortable .you have my sympathys and my heartfelt best wishes

    rhonda, usa

  5. That is zero fun, TM! I think you should paint your toenails a nice colour, just to worry them a little... lack of essential nutrients disturbing the chemical balance in your brain etc..... simple cure - steak/chips/onion rings.....

  6. while i didn't have an image of your leg up in plaster, this was definitely not what i expected to see. and doing this for so many weeks... :S and being able to blog at the same time... i don't think i could have done that.

    they really should start giving you better food all the time. not as and when they feel like it (though i have a feeling that you might have a guardian angel among the staff...)

  7. Not squeamish but not unsympathetic. Good thing to let people know what's involved in being on traction as I know it bloody hurts - not from having been on traction but from having been a theatre bod.

    Glad you're cleaning that pin yourself. Very sensible. Have you also got one of those "monkey bars" that you can use to haul yourself back up? Rather than just having to drag yourself back up again with no help.

    It must feel as though you're alone, but we're all with you in spirit, urging you on, willing you to get better, ..... all vomiting as one each time you upload another treat from the caterers .. that's teamwork :-)

    Courage mon brave. Just think of thousands of us round the world all crouched over your blog, wishing we could each send you a smoked salmon bagel. Salmon would hurl themselves onto the banks of lochs and rivers up here in Scotland JUST for the chance to be smoked and sent down to you in slices to feed you up. LOL! I'm not sure about the cream cheese though, it always was a little nervous about community participation ..

    Hang in there TM! Just think - Christmas at home. Fab.

  8. Reminds me of when my mom had a similar get up. 8 pins re contructing her shin bone after getting hit by a snowmobile. It was a "walking" cage around her leg, pretty crazy to see as a little kid.

  9. i am very squeamish but simply couldn't tear my eyes from the screen. How are you still even remotely sane? I get fidgetty sitting through a feature length movie.

    Was feeling sorry for myself this morning as I have woken up with a bad head cold. Pales into insignificance looking at that leg of yours. Ow.

  10. Mmmmm...that looks delicious. Some fava beans...a bottle of Chianti...

    Hannibal Lecter

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your misery. I bet you're not feeling particularly altruistic, but you are making the world a better place with every post. I love how often you post, too - each blog of yours is like a shot of valium for me. The more the better.


  12. Wow! What a big response and a lot of questions and interesting points. Thanks for the lovely comments. As it's 3am and since the diazepam has worn off, I'll see if I can answer some of them.

    @ Marry Poppins: Traction can, be used for the back but I'm not sure it's much these days. You can't do it at home as I need to be wheeled in my bed to x-ray once every three weeks. I feel a bit like the old Pope in his Popemobile as they wheel me through the foyer of he hospital. It's really strange seeing so many people milling around. Bloods and monitoring need to be done so unless you had a nurse and a doctor on call at home, it wouldn't be practical. As far as needing the traction, osteomyelitis is caused by certain types of bacteria lodging in your bones and then feasting on the marrow. It eats the bone from the inside out and can leave it crumble like a biscuit. If not treated then it's amputation. I nearly lost my whole left leg so I'm lucky to still have it and really grateful. My wife insisted the doctors try to save it and refused to sign the consent until they'd had a go. The bone isn't suitable for an external fixator because of the position of the fracture. internal rods are out of the question because of the bugs starting up again.

    @stoplooking at food: The staff here are really good and I guess I could have a panino(i) every day. I guess I could try asking for other things to eat but it's so hard to think of anything you might fancy to eat because you have no idea how you will feel towards it when you see it. Imagine if I asked for roast swan and then wasn't able to eat it once it arrived. It's very hard to feel hungry when you are totally immobile.

    @Sooz I'm so glad to hear you have such selfless and noble salmon up there in Scotland. Maybe I should get the blog sponsored by a smokery. I do have a monkey bar and that's how I pull myself up the bed and I use it to try to keep my upper body muscles in some sort of working order.

    @beth: Your mum had an Ilizarov frame. They are a amazing for shattered limbs. I wasn't a suitable candidate.

    Twittertales: I'm glad you enjoy the blog. It keeps me sane although I do worry about finding enough interesting things to write about. It all has to come from my imagination. Reading the newspapers online is good inspiration.

    Okay, I think that's most points answered. I might try and get a cup of tea now as the old lady has woken up and sleep will not now be an option.

  13. lol @hannibal lector , it does rather look like he is already spitted , want to fire up the rotisssiere?

  14. OMG! That looks extremely uncomfortable. You have my deepest sympathies - not only for your condition, but also for that horribly 'food' you are served.

    I found your blog in a danish newspaper, where there was an article about your food-bingo. Not to add insult to injury, but here in Danmark restaurant quality food are served a' la carte at the hospitals. Here the focus is on proper nutrition = better healing and wellbeing of the patients. So the pictures of your 'meals' are quite shocking. I am a retired chef myself, and if I didn't had FMS, I was ready to catch a plane - not only to feed you, but alså to inspire and educate 'your' kitchen staff. Well, its the thought that counts, right? :-)

    I would like to write somthing about the english hospital 'food' on my own food-blog. Can I use your pictures?

    I hope for many great meals in your future!

    Best regards

  15. Please feel free to use some of the photos if it helps to spread the news and get hospitals to take food seriously.


  16. Boy that looks unpleasant. I had a hip replacement a year and a half ago and I imagine the pain must be on par with in the few days after surgery (if not worse). I have no idea how you keep sane lying in the same bed, looking at the same view and lying on your back for so long. Still, guess it's better than no leg and with a bit of patience hopefully the infection will be cleared at the end of it all and it will soon become a distant memory. The food might take a while longer to forget!

  17. Oh TM - you really are having such a rotten time of it. I too thought it was the old leg in the air thing - this looks so terribly painful and I am really sorry you are having to go through it. Good on your wife for insisting the doctors try to save your leg rather than cut it off and good on you for putting up with this miserable existence with such fortitude and such humour. I check in most days to see how things are going, and read back postings if I have missed a day or so, and am amazed that you are able to keep on writing such funny posts in the face of so much pain. I hope you have a really decent television screen to watch stuff when you can't sleep. This blog must be doing a bit to help you at such times, especially when you can see that people from so many parts of the world are thinking of you and hoping you are able to get out of traction soon.....
    All the best from one of your Canberra Australia fans......

  18. Your comments, replies and good wishes keep me going more than you could ever know. I wouldn't have lasted the course otherwise. I never knew there were so many lovely and kind people in this world. It's restored my faith in the human spirit.

  19. I love that sort of photo!!!

    Reminds me of the extremely short time I spent in hospital after 'the incident on the mountain bike #36577853' where I ended the evening with a fractured os calcis (spelling?). 24 hours after my pins and plate had been fitted I discharged myself because I couldn't stand (no pun intended) being in hospital any longer. I have a photo of the x-ray somewhere .. .. ..

    That you are still insane enough to write, and brave enough to identify yourself through the medium of photographic evidence, does you great credit sir!

  20. Whoa mate, that looks a like a total nightmare. You've made me count my blessings a bit over the last few weeks I must say.

    Tea is a wonderful thing though, isn't it? In times of despair, a cup of tea always, without fail, gives a modicum of comfort.

  21. Can I ask why the 10kg weight to pull your leg? How does it work? Is it just to keep the bone growing straight?

    I've got lots of sympathy for you TM. I used to work on a cardiac ward in Brisbane, Australia and felt sorry for people who were only in hospital for 5 days! Thank goodness for the internet or you'd be completely nuts by now.

  22. The weight keeps the leg and bone straight. The slight gap it creates encourages callous bone to grow around the break almost like a bone bandage. The broken bone itself is a bit like a Crunchie bar or an Aero and won't mend in the way a normal break might.

  23. My daughter 12 has just had two external frames on over the last two years, we wish you all the best.

    The food looks so awful, we both check your site every night for a catch up.

    During her period of bone growth, we were told to feed her full fat milk, double cream, cheese - as to grow new bones your body uses so many calories that you need to eat alot more than normal.

    I totally agree with you about the pin site cleaning - better to keep that sorted yourself.

    Hope your bones grow quickly.


  24. I bet those pin sites itch like mad too, you poor man.

  25. I think, for your sanity that it is a wonderful thing that you have access to the internet. Imagine how people coped before this? My dad is from a small village in Scotland. He had to have an operation to remove an ear drum when he was 10 in 1953. He was shipped out to a hospital about 30 miles from home and was there for a YEAR. He had a visit from my grandparents only ONCE. In all that time, that was the only visitor. My nan had 9 other children and couldn't get to my dad to visit him.
    I think it's great to see the internet used in ways like this. I look forward to seeing what you've posted each day...yet I have to admit I often wonder what will happen when you're well and out of hospital? What will we do without our dose of Traction Man? Will you post photos of your dinner offerings from her indoors?

  26. so were after the sympathy vote now, are we ??

  27. should have been we're not were

  28. Gosh.That is serious ironwork. I had 5 metal bits in my wrist and felt hard done by.

    btw how long do you think your toe nails will actually get before you are mobile again and need to cut them?

  29. Why is the world and his brother are trying out do my broken toe?? The day after it happened, I was all set for a sympathy party until one of my colleagues had a rather nasty MTB accident and was airlifted to hospital! (he's doing good tho and is back home now)

    Seriously, I think I would go insane if I was attached to a hospital bed by what I can only describe as a modern day torture device. I had bone grafts done a few years ago and it was bad enough having to lay first in the hospital for a week and then at home on the sofa for 5 more, but at least I could get around with crutches for the most part.
    Keep you upper lip stiff and your chin up TM, my thoughts are with you :-)

  30. TM, I cannot even imagine what you are going through, and to have to sit day after day in the same position would drive me mental.

    I really hope to God you get well soon, i add you to my prayers you know.

    One question... Is there not a risk of you getting DVT by sitting all the while or do they tell you to move your leg or something to avoid getting it ?


  31. Hi Ness, I have an injection of Fragmentin (anti-DVT drug) each evening. It stings like hell and leaves huge yellow bruises. I really don't like it. :-(

  32. Another clue to your appearance/whereabouts, TM.

    I keep imagining trainspotter or twitcher types spending their days wandering through hospital wards at visiting times in search of you. Have you noticed any strange folk about, maybe carrying a photo of your leg?

    The press have gone you think they have given up trying to find you?

    How did you break your leg? And sorry for all the questions but doesn't you leg get cold, exposed like that?

  33. TM,

    The second picture made me think of this:

    Where are your toys?

  34. I contracted osteomyelitis back in February in my left femur. That left my femur with the texture of a biscuit or an Aero bar. One night I turned over in bed and the bone just snapped. That was back in April after I'd been home from hospital for just a couple of weeks.