On December 5th, 2020, I hit an unexpected pothole while riding my electric unicycle which caused a loss of balance; my legs bounced on the pedals and fell on the ground in front of my wheel which hit my right leg hard enough to cause my tibia and fibula to break.
Somehow, my big toe on the right foot broke as well.
This post is merely a chronological account of the healing process week after week. It will be updated every week until I want to stop documenting this experience and the date will reflect the last time I made an update.
The following links will jump to the relevant sections of this post and they also serve as a TLDR. Frankly, I am surprised you even read this far already...
- Week 1: The accident
- Week 2: Blood rush pain when getting out of bed
- Week 3: Stitches removal and surprise walking
- Week 4-5-6: The end of blood rush pain and transitioning to a cane
- Week 7: 100% cane
- Week 8: Phasing out the cane when at home
- Week 9: Freely getting on and off my electric unicycle
- Week 10: Testing the limits of my broken-healing leg by bouncing on it
- Week 11: First electric unicycle ride outside since the accident
- Two years later (latest update)
Week 1: The accident
The accident happened in the afternoon of December 5th, 2020 as I was heading home to buying groceries. The adrenaline rush allowed me to crawl from the middle of the street to the sidewalk.
Once I was out of the path of cars, the adrenaline went away and I felt the full force of the pain. It was so painful that I wasn't even thinking about asking for help or calling an ambulance.
A Good Samaritan who drove by stopped his car to check on me and he called the ambulance. It felt like an eternity before the arrival of the ambulance. It also felt like an eternity before getting to the hospital. In actuality, I was at the hospital an hour later.
At the hospital
At the hospital, I was treated like a trauma case, possibly because of the intense pain and also because I was on the verge of an open fracture.
They gave me strong painkillers and while I was being pushed on a stretcher to get an X-ray and an MRI, I was looking at the ceiling lights passing by and I may have been hallucinating that I was in a galaxy far far away. I was thinking that I would end up with a bionic leg the same way Luke Skywalker had a bionic hand. It was surprisingly a comforting thought.
I also thought those lights on the ceiling were part of a transition into the afterlife, which wasn't as comforting.
Eventually, I was moved to a room.
The next day, Sunday, a nurse checked on me. I already deduced that I would need surgery. That much was obvious. The question was when and unfortunaly, the nurse said she didn't know when it would take place. It could the same day or in the next few days.
By a stroke of luck, only a few hours later, I was taken into surgery which was extremely fortunate. I was actually given the option to let my leg heal on its own or do the surgery which involved inserting an intramedullary nail into my tibia to stabilize it.
I chose the surgery. It was choosing between 2-3 months to heal vs 6 months, so the choice was easy.
The procedure went very well according to the surgeon and I was going to be discharged as soon as I could walk with crutches and he expected me to be able to do that within 24 hours, but it wasn't until 48 hours later, on Tuesday, that I was able to “walk”.
This video is a one-minute animation of the surgery which took 2.5 hours.
Things like fractures will reveal things that aren't very apparent otherwise, such as what muscles you use when making certain movements.
This situation also revealed which areas of my house are the most important on a usefulness level: bathroom, kitchen and bedroom.
With that in mind, mutiple changes had to be done at home to make my place handicap friendly. This meant putting everything I use most to those places for easy access.
Week 2: Blood rush pain
No change. The worst thing at this point is getting out of bed.
When you have an injury such as a fracture in the lower body, one of the things to do is to keep your leg elevated by putting one of more pillows. This is mainly to prevent swelling or rather to reduce it, because at this stage, the swelling seems inevitable.
What makes getting out of bed so bad is the blood rush that goes into the leg when it gets down from the bed, or from any place where it is elevated.
This pain will continue until week 4.
Week 3: Stitches removal and surprise walking
I had an appointment to remove my stitches.
The great thing about having an intramedullary nail is that a cast is optional. In addition, you can put weight on your leg as long as the pain is tolerable. This makes wearing a walking boot rather comfortable.
However, thus far, the swelling prevented my leg from fitting into the boot until this week.
I was able to take a step further and walk with a cane and even take a few steps without it. Even if I could only keep this up for only a few steps, this was an incredible surprise.
In the same week, I took it even further and tried to ride my electric unicycle in the house and this is what it looks like.
Week 4-5-6: The end of blood rush pain and transitioning to a cane
The blood rush from getting out of bed started to go away and I transitioned from using crutches to using a cane.
Week 7: 100% cane
I had a follow-up appointment at the hospital and I was able to drive myself, a car with manual transmission which means having to use both legs. It was very uncomfortable, but not painful.
At this point, walking with a cane is comfortable and walking without it is difficult, but doable.
Week 8: Phasing out the cane when at home
I use my cane less and less when at home and definitely use it when going out.
Week 9: Freely getting on and off my electric unicycle
I stopped using my cane when at home and still use it when going out.
I can put more weight on my leg, enough to be able to mount and unmount my electric unicycle without holding on to anything, but it needs to be done softly. This means at this point, it isn't a good idea to go outside and face “street scenarios” yet.
Week 10: Testing the limits of my broken-healing leg
Just training and doing personal physical therapy to test the limits of my leg at this point of the healing process.
I am able to fully stand on the broken leg, but it is difficult to maintain balance.
Week 11: First electric unicycle ride outside since the accident
Autonomy to move around is fully back even though things like jumping still hurts.
For about 3-4 weeks, I've been trying to ride my electric unicycle inside the house and this week, I finally had enough confidence in the healing process to ride outside. I had to be careful not to ride on ice, so I was pretty slow.
My ankle still can't fully flex and I have a feeling it will remain the case for much of 2021. This is possibly because the fibula was not stabilized in the surgery and it plays a role in movements of the ankle joint.
Two years later (2022-12-04)
I can't walk or run for a long time the way I used to without feeling discomfort and sometimes pain. I accept this is how it will be for the rest of my life.