Broken legs suck, and so do totalled cars...
May 21, 2009 8:26 PM   Subscribe

My best friend has a broken leg from a car accident and is very depressed. Need activity suggestions and advice on how I can encourage her to comply with her doctor's orders to keep any weight off the leg and keep her immobilizer on.

I was driving her to get some dinner almost 3 weeks ago and a kid with no license pulled out in front of us. My car was totalled. She took the worst of the injuries including a broken leg.

1. Activities. Naturally, she's extremely depressed that her summer is gone and she can't go anywhere or do anything by herself. She is in a wheelchair. A big part of the reason we're both stressing out is that my car is gone so I have a hard time getting over to visit her and can't take her anywhere - I have to borrow my mom's SUV and she can't get in it. The medical bills are already astronomical so I'm not sure seeing a therapist is possible.

She crochets so I asked her to make me a blanket, and she does have a PS3. The only PS3 game she likes is Need for Speed Pro Street and it took her about a month to get good at it - she likes *easy* games with very shallow learning curves. (She doesn't even like Little Big Planet - she finds it too hard, but is okay with the original Super Mario Bros.) I'm thinking of taking her my PS2 if we can get it hooked up to her TV in hopes that perhaps she'd enjoy Katamari Damacy. She's got Netflix. She doesn't like to read. She has a computer that she can wheel over to sometimes. Any suggestions for other activities, or specific games/movies are welcome.

If you were an active person and broke your leg and could no longer go out easily, what helped your depression (or would help your depression)?

2. She is the kind of person who is not exactly compliant. Her doctor did not put her in a cast but an immobilizer that she can remove, and she takes it off to sleep because the doctor didn't explicitly tell her she had to sleep in it. Also, to get up and down the 4 steps to her house when her husband isn't home (e.g. to go to the doctor), her daughter isn't strong enough to lift her so she puts a slight amount of weight on her toes. The doctor said absolutely no weight on that leg for 3 months. She says "it's just a little weight." I've told her she could cut an artery (it's a jagged fracture) or be permanently disabled, but it doesn't seem to register as a serious risk. I suggested she borrow my shower chair but her husband decided she could stand on one leg long enough to shower and she didn't argue, and sure enough, while getting out she came down on it and said it hurt a lot. How can I encourage her to be compliant?

3. Related to number 2 - where can I ask around for someone to donate some plywood so her husband can build her a wheelchair ramp (or possibly request a volunteer to build the ramp)? The ramp would at least enable her daughter to get her out of the house without her putting any weight on that leg, and I could take her for walks when I can get over there. I already asked Freecycle for the wheelchair and I believe my local Freecycle only allows one Wanted request per month.

Thank you so much.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Sorry to hear about your car and your friend. What's the insurance situation like? Shouldn't you at least have a rental car from your insurance company?

Re: activities:

I don't mean this as a joke, but she might enjoy Pain for the PS3, which can be downloaded from the Playstation Store. That's one that's really easy to pick up. A lot of the easier classic arcade games are available for download, too. Of course, this assumes she's on the Playstation Network; if she isn't, that would be something you could set up for her if she has an internet connection.

Have you thought about having some friends over to her place and playing cards? It's pretty cheap entertainment and it's fun to socialize and play (and eat and drink) at the same time.

What about baking or cooking something together?
posted by MegoSteve at 8:50 PM on May 21, 2009

Gather a bunch of her friends and go over to hang out over there regularly for the next few months. Play board games, watch TV series on DVD together, do potluck type dinners, do a crocheting/crafting circle together, maybe pick up an envelope-stuffing gig for a charity (or for pay, depending on needs, even) and do that as a pair or a group.

For the ramp--does she go to a church or other type of local organization? There might be people there willing to help.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:24 PM on May 21, 2009

Oh, and for the stairs: crutches/cane/walking stick?
posted by so_gracefully at 9:26 PM on May 21, 2009

World of Warcraft, kept me and husband sane through a broken arm, broken leg, and recovery from major surgery. You are active and engaged and it is exciting. I only seem to be interested in playing when recuperating from some major trauma.
posted by fifilaru at 9:36 PM on May 21, 2009

1. Free Realms; Definitely try to pull off as many of the other suggestions like so_gracefully's & MegoSteve's as you can.

2. Start off by reassuring her that you respect her right to choose to be as independent as she can be, but now is the time to rest and let her body heal, no matter how difficult she finds it. Then tell her if she doesn't take the injury seriously now, it will make the rest of her life more miserable, less fun and independent, and will make anything already difficult worse. Like even her relationship with her family. And you might tell her you know people who had to learn the hard way, who couldn't just do as the doctor said, who wished for the rest of their lives that they'd just listened the once, if never else. (I'm positive there are plenty of folks here who can testify to that - I'm one of them, so you can be sure you're not lying on the "knowing" front)

3. Craigslist.
posted by batmonkey at 9:51 PM on May 21, 2009

The doctor said absolutely no weight on that leg for 3 months. She says "it's just a little weight." I've told her she could cut an artery (it's a jagged fracture) or be permanently disabled, but it doesn't seem to register as a serious risk.

Tell her that weight on her leg might result in bone mass growing around the fractures or making her leg shorter. Sorry for the mishap.
posted by Brian B. at 10:08 PM on May 21, 2009

someone needs to scare the shit out of her about the consequences of improper healing or re-injury. talk to doctors, physio- or occupational-therapists -- ask them if they have any material which shows legs that didn't heal straight. with photos if possible. x-rays too.

she needs it drilled into her that she could seriously fuck up her leg even more with what she's doing.
posted by randomstriker at 10:08 PM on May 21, 2009

Can she sort of lower herself gently down on the top stair and slide down the remaining ones on her butt with the leg lifted?

As far as games go, PopCap has some really easy, highly addictive games on their site (and available more cheaply through Steam). Most if not all of them have free demo versions that aren't time-limited. Peggle is one I'd recommend. But definitely check out their website.

If there's any way someone could lend/buy her a Nintendo DS, I think she might like that, given how many simple games and software programs are on that system. Plus, it's handheld, easy to pick up and put down. Something like Animal Crossing might keep her occupied for a good while.

When it comes to Netflix, are there any TV series she's always wanted to try watching, or couldn't get into because it wasn't the first season? Now's the time, considering a full season's worth of a standard show runs 22 or so episodes (so about 16 hours) .
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:03 PM on May 21, 2009

Ugh, I really feel for you here, wanting to help her as much as possible but having such limited resources. You may be able to find crutches or a cane/walking stick at a thrift shop or Craigslist for very cheap or free. In the city where I live, there is also an organization that has free medical equipment for you to rent as long as you need it, and then you just give it back to them--now, I doubt that this is a common service, but maybe there are other places like it? It is called the Convalescent Aid Society. Maybe if you contact them, they may know of other places that are close to wherever you live?
posted by so_gracefully at 11:17 PM on May 21, 2009

You can get crutches at any drug store for about $40. Pad the tops with taped on dishcloths to protect the skin under her arms and get her a backpack and a water bottle so she can carry stuff around while using the crutches. A laptop will also help keep her sane if she can borrow one.

Been there, done that - it definitely sucks but it's worth staying off it because otherwise you could have to have more surgeries and spend more time in the immobilizer.
posted by fshgrl at 1:09 AM on May 22, 2009

Crutches might even appeal to the active, not exactly compliant side of her. Getting about on them is definitely exercise, and though I probably wouldn't have admitted it at the time, I found the slightly dangerous feeling of swinging over them quite fun once I got good with them.

You can go quite fast on the flat with two of them, alternating between good leg / crutches, like a tripod. Up and down stairs, I would replace one crutch with the banister and do the same sort of thing.

You might be able to find second hand crutches cheaply at charity stores, or even on amazon or ebay.
posted by lucidium at 3:56 AM on May 22, 2009

You might tell her that putting weight on the leg too soon could result in a far longer convalescence, needing more surgery, healing crooked or not healing. A broken leg is a long, long haul even if things heal correctly. I had a non-union - bone didn't heal and I had to go back for surgery months later including a bone graft. no fun at all. A bad break without complications is still likely to be most of a year of limitations, pt, etc. Depression is a very common companion to a bad break - well worth getting on meds to help.

I recommend going up and down stairs on one's bottom or with crutches since a walker just plain doesn't work on stairs. I think your suggestion of a shower chair is a good one - I just used a metal step-stool but she'll be unstable for a long time and trying to stand on one leg in the shower is asking for a fall.

I found the site my broken leg to be a great source of information and community during the many months I was laid up with my break.

It's probably worth contacting the orthopedic practice where she had surgery - they should have a social worker connected with the hospital who can help with ramp and equipment issues. Contacting local community groups to help with a ramp is also a good idea.
posted by leslies at 4:11 AM on May 22, 2009

If she pays more then 4.99/month for netflix then she gets unlimited netflix watch instantly included. including seasons of TV shows like The Office - US and UK versions, Doctor Who, Heroes, South Park, loads of good movies and other TV shows.
posted by glenno86 at 6:04 AM on May 22, 2009

I'm just getting done w/ having a broken ankle - not as drastic as a leg, but I was supposed to stay off it for six long weeks. So, some thoughts:

1) Try to get across to her both the physical consequences and long-term costs of disobeying doctor's orders and healing improperly. Treating subsequent complications will only compound the cost of recovery and the amount of time she's gonna have to live like this.

She needs crutches for the stairs. To go down, you brace w/ the crutches on the step you're heading to and lower yourself while gripping the banister and leading w/ your good leg. To go up, I would steady myself with the crutches on the next step up, put almost all of my weight on the banister while getting a good grip and kind of hop-yanking myself up the step.

It calls for a little upper body strength, obviously. Vigorous wheelchairing around might help her build some of that.

But she's gotta stay off that leg. There's no such thing as "just a little weight" in this case.

2) She needs to have an easy way to get some sunshine to mitigate the missing of summer and to stave off molewoman syndrome from staying inside all the time. Plus, depression withers in the sun, usually. If there was an ice chest someone could load up w/ cold drinks for her out there, that'd be good. Maybe rig up a little shade, too, if there isn't some available already.

3) Most games have an "easy" setting. If she digs Need for Speed, she'll probably dig the Burnout series. Gamecubes are pretty cheap nowadays and this would be a great time for her to learn to love Animal Crossing. I understand Heavenly Sword for PS3 is pretty easy, as is the recent Prince of Persia. Katamari would be a very good thing.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:58 AM on May 22, 2009

Go back to Freecycle or Craigslist for anything needed. Just be sure to re-post stuff when you're done with it. Ask for a laptop and games. It's not for begging, but it's okay to ask.

The Library is your friend. Get a book on solitaire games w/ cards. Lots and lots of good music - it really affects mood.

Get different books, games, jigsaw puzzles, videos, etc., every week. Novelty is key.
posted by theora55 at 9:59 AM on May 22, 2009

If you were an active person and broke your leg and could no longer go out easily, what helped your depression (or would help your depression)?

Funny you should ask. I recently was doored by a taxicab and fractured my pelvis (right acetabulum) and right elbow. It's been 4+ weeks since surgery and I can't put any weight on my right foot at all for another 2 months.

So, I feel her pain. I even had to move to another apartment because mine is a 3rd floor walkup. And I have a 5-month-old daughter than I can't pick up, change her diaper, or even play with very well without much pain. (Aw. Poor me.)

Anyway, I know you've got the obvious covered (online movie subscription, video games she likes, etc.) I strongly recommend getting something to hook up Netflix to the TV so she can watch anything she wants instantly.

Also, if there's a lot of pain involved, I recommend marijuana over whatever she has been prescribed. Justmy2c, and it may help with the depression as well. Just take it easy with it.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:04 AM on May 22, 2009

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