Cycle 78km + thoughts about my arm in 2003

AM. Cycle 78km (47km with Jules + 31km) Steady easy. HR127(162)

Went out with Jules for an easy spin, and then did another brisk hour on my own. Still quite mild outside.

Fix me
We watched the BBC Horizon programme “Fix Me” the other night ( It used young people who have health problems that could be fixed by stem cell research to show the state of current developments and the way that they could be used to help them. When I saw Anthony with the amputated leg and he said that he’d lost it by breaking it in a rugby game, I immediately thought that it must’ve succumbed to a secondary infection. Sure enough, when he got the chance to tell his story, that was what’d happened. The break had needed external fixators, but a secondary MRSA-type infection got into the bone and it couldn’t be healed and eventually his lower leg was amputated – pretty extreme for what must, initially, have been a relatively simple emergency condition.

This was a situation I got very close to in 2003 when I broke my left arm in a road race and an infection got into it which blew up a few weeks later. He tried to describe how agressive the treatment was, but I know from my experience in 2003 that it’s very tough. After a series of operations to clean things up inside my arm, I was given very strong antibiotics – initially through a vein in my other arm, but that collapsed it (!) (it’s still missing, you can see it in my right forearm), so then through a tube that went directly to one of the biggest veins near my heart where, when injected, the drugs wouldn’t be so close to the vein walls to damage them. I felt ill all the time and every “edge” of my skin, e.g. around my fingernails, nose, corners of my mouth, etc. got very red and sore. Even after the I.V. antibiotics I spent another 6 to 8 weeks on Amoxycillin.

Seeing Anthony with his amputuation now makes me realise why the doctors were so quick to act in my case, and although they made me aware at the time it could be quite serious, they didn’t actually let me know I could’ve lost that arm. I am very relieved I still have almost full use of it (it’s slightly longer than the right arm now, and can’t rotate to the same degree – tricky when typing but OK when I play the piano), and just some nasty scars to show, and some titanium to carry around. I was lucky and evidently in good hands! Some time later I was asked if I’d like to have the plates removed, but it would’ve meant yet another full anaesthetic and I didn’t think it was really worth it – I could also potentially get infected again, although removing the hardware apparently reduces further complication risk by 90%. It’s been a long time now and I doubt I’ll have anything done to it now.