Rolling Without Limits

Your mobility may be limited. Your voice, boundless.

Take These Broken Wings And Learn To Fly Again.....
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Take These Broken Wings And Learn To Fly Again.....

 Who remembers that song, from the title of this blog?  It is one of my favourites. In my case, it was not broken wings, but broken legs! I wouldn't say I am disabled as such, not now anyway, but I know what it is like to be completely incapacitated. A few years ago, back in 2006, I had a terrible car crash, in which I broke both my legs, as well as several bones in my upper body, e.g. several ribs and my sternum (breastbone). So right after the accident I was completely helpless in a hospital bed, I could only sit up and just about use my arms, with great difficulty.

The pain all over my body was phenomenal, especially in my legs, but also in my chest, and I was on very large doses of morphine for the first few weeks, so I was “out of it” quite a lot of the time! I still remember how painful it was though, despite the morphine; it didn't take the pain away completely, just took the edge off it, so it was more bearable. It was not just the physical pain that was horrible, but also being so helpless and dependent on other people in that way; I could just about feed myself, and brush my hair, etc., but apart from that I needed help with everything. I had to be washed and dressed, and had a catheter in my bladder, and other bodily functions...well, I won't give all the details, but it was extremely degrading, to say the least! (Fortunately that phase was only for the first couple of weeks, before I was able to move about a bit more).

My chest bones were able to heal themselves, but I needed to have at least  two operations on my legs to reset the bones. The X-rays  (see accompanying pic) showed that both of my femurs (thigh-bones) were broken, and also the knee of my left leg. They were very bad fractures too, in one leg the bones were completely shattered, so the surgeons had quite a job to piece them back together. They inserted metal rods in both my thighs, which acted as internal splints, while the bones were healing themselves. My knee was also pinned together internally. The rods and pins have stayed in place since then, so I still have a lot of metal in my body. I thought that this meant I would automatically set off the security scanners at airports, for example, but so far this has not happened!

I was in a wheelchair for the first 3 months after the accident, and stayed in hospital for this period. The wheelchair was a purely manual one, which meant I turned the wheels with my hands, and although it was very basic and labour-intensive, I was really glad to have it, as it meant I was able to get out of bed and move around (and that was something, even though it was only round the hospital). I was not allowed to stand up or put any weight on my legs during this period, in case I bust the metalwork that was holding them together. My arms became strong very quickly on operating the wheels, and I used to whizz round the hospital corridors, which was my main form of excitement, during that bleak period! The sense of motion was exhilarating after several weeks in bed.

After the first 3 months I had more X-rays and the orthopaedic consultant advised that the bones were healing well, and that I could progress onto crutches, although I still had to be very careful. I found it very elating actually being able to stand up and walk, albeit very painfully and slowly at first, “baby steps”, in both senses of the phrase. The physiotherapists at the hospital coached me in walking with crutches, and that did take some getting used to. I was in a huge amount of pain with my legs at the beginning, and exhaustion set in quickly, I couldn't walk far. But gradually, day by day, I got stronger and adapted, and after a few months I was able to use just one crutch, and eventually, nearly a year after the accident, I was able to dispense with them completely. It has taken a long time for my legs to heal though, as the consultants said it would; even after ditching the crutches I was still in quite a lot of pain and still walked with a limp for a while. They said it would take around 3 years for the bones to completely build up again, and they were absolutely right.

The accident was around 6 years ago now, and I am very lucky that I have made an (almost) full recovery. I can live a normal life, but my legs are still not quite as strong as they were before, and if I am on my feet for a long period of time, they can still get very painful. Equally going up flights of stairs is sometimes a problem, and I often have to cling on to the banisters. However, I know I have been very lucky, all things considered, as it was a very bad crash, and I could have been killed or much more seriously injured (i.e. a fractured skull or broken back or neck).

One thing that was really borne home to me was the sense of helplessness and the lack of dignity that there can be in being incapacitated. I understand this now as I have been temporarily disabled, and sometimes these things happen for a reason, they help to build character; I have become more patient since this event, as I had to wait so long for my legs to heal! The whole experience has definitely given me a strong insight into the lives and problems of disabled people, so I hope I have become more understanding of that as a result.

Please vote and comment if you enjoyed this blog.

Picture courtesy of (The images look very similar to my X-ray pics – I have them on a CD from the hospital, but I was unable to  use them to illustrate this blog, sadly!)

Leave a Comment

  1. Pauline Palmer
    I feel for you. The closest I have gotten to have my mobility taken away was burning my legs to the bone. I, too, had to be on morphine for a while, and had to change dressings on my legs at least 3 x's a day, and debride them at least once a day (that is scraping off the bacteria -green stuff) off of my legs. I did spend time in a wheelchair for 5 months--it was too painful to walk.
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    1. Broken English
      Broken English
      Thanks Pauline. Your accident sounds even worse than mine! So, like me, you know what it is like to be in that situation.
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  2. Marita Gold
    Good blog, voted.
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  3. SignLanguage
    At long last, you're here, Maggie! Welcome! Well, I didn't know you had to go through this, and I can definitely say that I feel for you. It is one thing to be born discapacitated and another to suddenly be thrown into it. This, some say, may actually be worse... although I'm sure the ones who have had to live with it all their lives go through other issues that are tough to deal with, such as the constant harassment of never having access to most places... Anyhow, voted! And I will be posting another one shortly as well.
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    1. SignLanguage
      Damn you, Maggie! Now I can't get that song out of my head!!! ;) Your fault!
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  4. Daniel Andrei Garcia
    Daniel Andrei Garcia
    #7. "I still remember how painful it was though, despite the morphine; it didn't take the pain away completely, just took the edge off it, so it was more bearable. It was not just the physical pain that was horrible, but also being so helpless and dependent on other people in that way;" I could only imagine the pain you've been through. I'm glad to know that you're feeling better than you used to feel.
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  5. jkess123
    Hello Broken English, I'm glad to see that you have made it thru a difficult time. These things give us a better understanding of ourselves and others who have struggled with temporary setbacks in their lives. I say temporary because to go thru these times makes us stronger and empathize with others. God knew that you would come thru with His help and guidance. I wish you the best for the New Year. I know it holds great things for you!
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  6. pftsusan
    Vote #9. Glad you had recovered and grew from this experience, as a person. Your writing is superb, Maggie,and it teaches. I associated with your pain, as I was reading this.
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  7. Broken English
    Broken English
    Thank you for all the votes and kind comments everyone. I don't often think about or talk about the accident and its aftermath now as it was a very black period, and I have moved on. I try to be positive, focus on the future and good things. However it was quite cathartic to write and share this account of it!
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  8. Lori Emmons
    Lori Emmons
    Life seems to have a way of waking us up at times. I've been disabled for 20 years now & am still amazed how many people are oblivious to what the needs of the disabled person behind them might be or all they take for granted.
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