I hope my story will help you realize how important bone health. And are careful to pick a good Osteoporosis treatment or Osteopenia treatment.
I was in my early 50’s when my doctor suggested that I have a DEXA scan. After reading the results of the DEXA scan, he gave me a diagnosis of osteopenia. He prescribed Fosamax. He said it would slow down and maybe reverse the effects of bone loss.
I took Fosamax faithfully and every two years I had a DEXA scan. And, as my doctor predicted, my bone density test results improved. And after about four years, he said that my number improved. That was great news, so it thought. I continued taking Fosamax.
A Femur Fracture Caused by a Slip and Fall Changed Everything
Then one day everything changed. I was walking into a store one October day in 2009. It was snowing very lightly that day. As I walked into the store and stepped from the damp carpet runner to the tile floor, I slipped and fell.
I found myself lying on the floor. I didn’t really feel any pain at first. Then a store employee came up to me and asked me to sign a document. I thought that was strange, and that it was no big deal that I fell.
Then a kind woman came up to me and gave me my glasses and said, “Don’t sign anything. You are very hurt.” Then I noticed my right leg seemed to have two 90-degree bends in it. I really could not figure out what had happened to me. Why was my leg lying in such a weird position?
EMT’s To the Rescue
It wasn’t long before two local firefighters showed up and started taking care of me. I don’t remember much of what was going on at the time, but I do remember how kind they were to me. And it wasn’t long before the police and an ambulance arrived. They carefully stabilize my leg, put me on a stretcher, and loaded me into the ambulance. That was the first time I felt any pain. I do remember thinking that the ride to the hospital, which was only seven miles seemed to take forever. And I do remember thinking that it was a rough ride. Too bad they don’t have shock absorbers or something to soften the ride.
In the Emergency Room
The next thing I remember is my wife meeting me in the emergency room. Some of the effects of shock were wearing off and I began to notice the pain. And it was intense. Unbearably intense. We waited what seemed forever in that room until an orthopedic surgeon came to talk to us. He comforted us. And told us that he was very comfortable with fixing this type of fracture. And that he had many years of experience. But he would not be until the next day.
Femur Fracture Surgery
The next day the surgeon made an incision on the side of my hip to allow access to the top of the femur. He then drilled a hole in the top of the femur and inserted a titanium intramedullary rod and guided it down the center of the bone through the fracture site and into the bottom portion of the bone. Then he installed surgical screws in the top and bottom of the rod to secure the rod to each end of the femur.
I spent the next 4 days recovering from the surgery in the hospital. I remember the pain being so intense that I could hardly stand it. They gave me a button to help control the pain. It was a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump that let me control the amount of pain medicine that was fed into my IV.
When they took me off of the IV drip of morphine, they prescribed Oxycodone. But since it wasn’t strong enough to cut my pain to a reasonable level, they added Hydrocodone. Each was taken four hours apart, alternating every 2 hours. This helped make the pain bearable.
While I was still in the hospital, my wife received a call from the hospital asking for some payment on the bills. She explained that we had medical insurance. They said our medical insurance wouldn’t cover this type of injury/treatment. Because it happened on the store’s property and they would be liable. When she contacted the store, they said that they did not have insurance to cover slip and fall accidents. This added to the stress that my wife was dealing with at the time– stress for us that would not go away for years. The issue wasn’t resolved until 3 years had passed.
Moving from Hospital to Nursing Home
And if that was not enough stress, the hospital wanted to discharge me. The hospital suggested I either recover at home or in a nursing home. We weren’t certain I could maneuver the steps in my house; going home seemed insurmountable. They said I would need to start outpatient physical and occupational therapy. This was more than my wife and I could handle. We decided that I would be transferred to a nursing home so that I could get the care and the therapy that I needed. It was embarrassing. I felt I was too young to be checked into the nursing home. I was only age 57. And was in the same nursing home that housed my mother-in-law, age 83, with Alzheimer’s disease. We didn’t have money to pay for the nursing home. The insurance wouldn’t cover it, but we didn’t have much choice; we would deal with expenses after I was well.
Femur Fracture Complications
For ten days I lived in the nursing home. Every day I had physical and occupational therapy. The physical therapy was focused on helping me strengthen and stretch my muscles. So that I could walk again. Occupational therapy was designed to help me perform activities of daily living. The sessions were intense and very painful. But I was thankful to be getting the help. The nursing staff was great, but I felt I needed more pain medication than they were giving me. I later learned that I was taking opioids, in the same class of drugs as heroin and fentanyl. Thankfully, I did not become addicted to pain medications, as many people have.
In physical therapy, I was able to learn to walk with crutches. It felt good to be a little independent–to be able to walk around on my own. As I learned to navigate stairs in therapy, I was sure I would be able to get around in my home. At the nursing home, I graduated to a walker. My next hurdle at therapy was to learn how to get navigate a 4-inch barrier so I could get into my shower at home. My therapist helped me accomplish this. So I could go home. One day while doing my physical therapy exercises. I felt a pain in my inside thigh, and something snapped and hurt like crazy. But I had made it. The next day I woke up with a huge bruise on my leg. But I was happy because I could go home. 5 days in the hospital and 10 days in the nursing home and I was free to go home to heal!
I continued outpatient physical therapy and my leg got stronger, but the pain would not go away. An X-ray at 6 months showed that the bone was not healing. And they thought that I would have to have an expensive injection(s) to stimulate the healing. But the injection(s) were very expensive and were not covered by insurance. This kind of treatment is often used for pro-athletes. The doctor gave us the option of waiting to see if it would heal on its own. We waited 6 more months and the X-rays at that time showed that the bone was finally healing.
Back to the Orthopedic Surgeon
But still, the pain persisted. Finally, in the spring of 2011, my orthopedic surgeon X-rayed my leg. And found that one of the screws was catching on my nerve sheath. It was determined that the bone had healed. So, he scheduled surgery to remove the screws. That seemed to relieve the pain in my right leg. At my checkup, the orthopedic surgeon said that things looked good and that I was very lucky. He said that 20 years ago when he first started in this field, they didn’t do a lot of surgeries like mine. Because many people died from the fracture.
2nd Femur Fracture
Time passed, and the pain in my right leg subsided, but I could not get rid of a limp in my step and an ache in my other leg. Finally, in March of 2012, I persuaded the orthopedic surgeon to X-ray my left leg. The doctor found a stress fracture in the left femur in nearly the same place as the break on my right leg. There was a stress fracture partially across the left femur. Which may actually have fractured when I fell in 2009. He ordered me to immediately stop using my left leg. He said to be very careful. Because it could easily break like my other leg. And we would be starting that same recovery process all over again. The doctor cleared his schedule to operate on my left leg that week. This time he inserted a rod into the femur, but no screws, because the leg was still intact.
3rd Femur Fracture
By this time, we thought the trauma was over, but not quite. In April of 2012, a month after surgery, the stress fracture in the left femur completed the break. The rod held it together, so all that could be done was to medicate and not put any weight on it. The pain was extreme, so, I was again prescribed the dangerous opioid medications.
The last bone took over a year to mend. The doctors were concerned that something else was wrong with my bones. I was still taking Fosamax for my osteoporosis. Many doctors ran tests on me that all appeared to be normal. I finally saw an endocrinologist who was not willing to give up until he found more answers. After many tests and research, he concluded that Fosamax was the issue. He found medical studies that were showing many people were getting femur fractures. And with little or no trauma. The experts found that bisphosphonate was the problem. Fosamax increased the density of the bones. But it also seemed to make the bones brittle. He took me off of Fosamax immediately.
End of the Story
By the end of 2012, my legs were both healed, and I was walking without pain or a limp. It had been over three years since my first injury. It was a long and painful road. Looking back, I wish I had never taken Fosamax in the first place.