After years of living with a metal cage on his left leg pinning broken bones together, biker David Jenkins has almost given up hope of walking again. But now, thanks to the hard work of Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust’s physiotherapy team and his own gruelling efforts to recover, the lorry driver is not only walking, he’s running around after floppy-eared, Jack Russell puppy Honey.
“The team played a big part in my recovery,” said the 64-year-old granddad. “They got me back on my feet.”
David was riding his triumph adventurer through Tunbridge Wells with his girlfriend Sue riding pillion on a bank holiday in 2005 when the accident happened. “Before Sue could even shout out, it was too late…a car pulled out in front of us. “I swerved but it smashed into my trailing leg – the bumper hit one side, and the bones shot out the other. I knew I was badly injured; my leg was mangled. I have never experienced pain like it.”
The lorry driver was rushed to hospital where surgeons cut through his leathers and worked fast to pin his broken bones. Despite the clean break, David woke to find a metal T-frame around his leg, with bolts and pins joining his bones and spent five days in hospital. “I couldn’t weight bear but was convinced I would be back at work driving lorries within six weeks. I was told to rest up in bed. After that I had an x-ray and the break looked like it was healing well, so the frame came off and my leg was plastered, but within a week I got out of bed to go to the toilet and felt my leg break again.”
With a nasty infection caused by his open wound, David’s bones had failed to heal properly and he was referred to King’s College Hospital in London to an orthopaedic consultant.
In a second operation, bone was shaved off David’s leg, which was broken in a second place to stretch his leg and prevent one from being shorter than the other and re-pinned. “I had a double frame this time all around my leg and was in a wheelchair for three months,” he said.
With a long recovery period ahead, David was referred to Kent Community Health NHS Trust’s physiotherapy team at Victoria Hospital in Deal to try to prevent the muscles in his leg from wasting away and regain movement in his ankle. “The frame had to stay on for a year-and-a-half. I had one-to-one physio to try to regain some movement in my ankle.
“Then they asked if I fancied trying the gym! I couldn’t believe I would be able to go in the gym with the frame, I couldn’t go on the rower or the bike but I did things like bungee rails; I could go on the stepper and the wobble board, which helped me build up strength.
“I hadn’t been getting out and I had been getting really frustrated so it was nice to go for an hour. Being part of a group is good – most of them were only there for a couple of weeks but I was the hard-core one there every Wednesday! The physios are a really nice, friendly bunch and with them keeping an eye and encouraging me, I wasn’t as frightened to put weight on my leg and I started to feel improvements.”
After 12 operations and regular physiotherapy the frame came off. David said: “When my consultant said the frame could come off I didn’t believe him – I asked him to put it in writing.” With just a walking boot for the first time in years, David started one-to-one sessions with Senior Physiotherapist Natalie Wells.
By the end of 2013, David felt fit and strong enough to say goodbye to his physio sessions and to invest in a new addition to his family, a puppy. David said: “The team had given me all the tools I needed to get back to full strength and continue my recovery. I’ve bought the same gym equipment and made a mini gym at home. I’ve always wanted a dog and now I’m mobile again I decided to get Honey. I can walk her to the seafront and back without worrying. I couldn’t drive for four years, but I’ve got an automatic now so I’m back driving too – although I’m not too keen on getting back on a motorbike anytime soon.”