My name is David, I am 52 years old and work for the Ambulance Service. In September 2018 I injured my lower back while transferring a patient from the floor to an ambulance stretcher. Over a period of two weeks the injury increased to a point where I noticed one late afternoon that I was walking funny – almost like a dog with bandages around his feet – with excruciating pain to my lower back. The next morning I could barely get out of bed and then deteriorated rapidly over a period of an hour to a point where I could almost not stand or walk anymore. By the time I got to the hospital, I was unable to stand or walk, unable to move my toes, had numbness in my toes, and very poor control over my legs and feet.
I started with physiotherapy in the hospital and had to learn how to walk again. I was able to drag myself around with a walker – initially just a couple of steps inside my hospital room. 14 days later I was able to do 2 laps of walking with my walker in the hospital ward with great effort. By the time I got discharged from hospital I have just started to use crutches to assist me with my walking attempts. I still struggled with severe back pain, was unable to stand without assistance, had to sit on a chair in the shower and mainly used the walker at home to move around. Any walking attempts – even from my bedroom to the kitchen – was a massive effort and made me feel exhausted very quickly. And this is how Ellenbrook Physiotherapy became involved in my life after I got discharged from the hospital after 2½ weeks.
At this stage I also obtained a second opinion from another specialist and was informed to “expect the worst and hope for the best”. Even my Neurologist informed me at a stage that when he assessed me the first time, he thought to himself that I would never walk again.
Three Physiotherapists at Ellenbrook Physiotherapy were involved in my therapy and rehabilitation since the beginning of October 2018. The treatment consisted of 2 sessions per week of physiotherapy or later exercises in the gym, 2 sessions per week of pilates and 1 hydrotherapy session per week. All the sessions worked together and complimented each other to ensure the best results and outcome. Initially the exercises were extremely basic and I struggled with most of the movements due to poor nerve function, loss of muscle mass and strength, and high levels of pain in my back, buttocks and legs. I was determined that I will walk again and be able to return to my operational functions at work again. In addition to the formal sessions of therapy with the Physiotherapists at Ellenbrook Physiotherapy, I also received “homework” which I attempted to do twice per day, 5 times per week. I usually took the weekends off to give myself a break from the exercise routine.
I have never realised that so much was involved in walking and that it is not just about walking, it’s about every single movement one has to make that involves one’s legs – sitting, lying down, standing up, standing, bending forward, bending backwards, kneeling, squatting, lunging, walking up stairs, walking down stairs, climbing onto obstacles, climbing off obstacles, climbing over obstacles (e.g. the hob in the shower) and rolling over in bed to name a few.
Slowly we started to see improvement as I started to regain nerve function in my legs and feet and started to build up strength in my muscles again. Every small improvement was something big to me and my family. Suddenly I was able to move my big toe 1mm, a couple of weeks later I was able to move both feet a little bit up and down – every minute movement counted. A couple of weeks later (around the end of November 2018) I noticed that I could stand at the kitchen bench for 10 sec without holding on to it. Every small improvement indicated to me that we were winning and inspired me to continue with Ellenbrook Physiotherapy.
In the early stages of the treatment I measured the changes on almost a daily basis but as time went on, the improvement slowed down and it became necessary to measure the changes on a weekly basis. Later (around the six month mark) I noticed that it was better to measure the changes on a monthly basis.
In December 2018 I was able to mainly walk with both crutches, however, I still used the walker at home as it was just easier to get around, especially when I had to carry something – for example a cup of coffee. In February I was already down to one crutch. By this time I have also started to do a bit of free walking inside my house. I was like a young bird stretching its wings to get ready to fly. In March I was able to stand in the shower, but still struggled a bit to wash my feet because I couldn’t keep my balance. I returned the walker and shower chair to the hospital in April because I did not use these items any longer.
From this point onwards the improvement slowed down, the exercises at Ellenbrook Physiotherapy became physically more challenging and harder to do. At the end of April I was able to walk freely without the use of crutches and went for walks up to 400m. Walking up slopes and on uneven surfaces was still challenging and also required more concentration. I also started to challenge myself to make attempts to run short distances (25m), however, this is still a bit difficult to do and causes pain. In July I started to climb stairs with much more ease – I have practiced walking up stairs since February. I also increased my walking distance to nearly 2Km. I will continue with Ellenbrook Physiotherapy for ongoing treatment and support as I am still struggling with lower back pain and sciatica on almost a daily basis – some days are better than other days. Only time will tell if I would be able to make a full recovery and return to my full operational duties at work again.
I strongly believe that the amazing team at Ellenbrook Physiotherapy has given me life-changing treatment and without their professional therapy and management of my injury, support, motivation and care I would not have made this remarkable recovery. It is my personal believe that this team has contributed the most to my successful recovery and is the biggest reason why I can walk again today. Every session at Ellenbrook Physiotherapy was handled with the greatest understanding and empathy and highest patience and professionalism. A huge THANK YOU to Andrew Slade and his entire team of outstanding staff members and therapists at Ellenbrook Physiotherapy for the exceptional work they have done to get me back on to my feet and walking again.
I would also like to make use of this opportunity to say thank you to my family, my employer and colleagues and friends for their continued support and interest. Without you this recovery would not have been possible.
Lastly, but not the least, also a big thank you to all the nurses, hospital staff, Radiologic technologists, doctors and specialists who looked after me and are still monitoring my progress and assisting me with treatment.