Judith, 61

From Paisley

In February 2011, I broke my ankle – nothing dramatic, just walking along a rough pavement and went over to one side. My friends thought it was amusing and made a lot of jokes about my being drunk but, just this once, I wasn’t! It was a simple fracture and, once it was in plaster and I got the hang of the crutches,  I managed for  the  6 weeks it took for it to heal. I couldn’t go to work because I had to sit with leg raised to stop it swelling and I couldn’t drive. However, I kept in touch - with my laptop perched on my knee plus phone calls and visits from my team. What I did manage, by dint of a kind Pilates teacher and good friends, was to get to a Pilates class. The classes were adapted for me and it really helped to keep me fit whilst I wasn’t able to do any walking about.

Once I got back to work, things returned to normal.

However, because I was over 50, I was scheduled for a DXA scan, via the Fracture Liaison Service, to check my bone density. This didn’t come through for several months as there is a huge demand on the service. I wasn’t remotely worried as there had never been any suggestion of osteoporosis in our family so, when the results showed I had osteoporosis I was shocked, stunned, horrified, confused, terrified etc – all rolled into one. I cried all over the Specialist Nurse and the Radiographer until they, very gently, threw me out as the unit was closing for the night! I will never forget how kind they both were. I left with information on the National Osteoporosis Society and a referral to the specialist physio.

I admit that I cried for the next fortnight – I guess I was in shock  and very frightened of what the future would hold. I felt very fragile and as if life, as I knew it, had ended. At the grand old age of 59, my life was over.

Nevertheless, I attended the physio and was assessed, given advice on diet and exercise and numerous helpful booklets…and put onto an exercise programme run by the physiotherapy service specifically for osteoporosis sufferers. It was a twelve week programme and was great fun – made so both by the physios and the other group members. When I confessed to one of the physios how frightened I was, she gave me a lot of encouragement and told me of cases where individuals had improved their bone density considerably by following the exercises, eating the right things and taking their medication. That gave me the impetus to start to help myself. When the twelve weeks were up I was re-assessed and recommended to join the Vitality programme, run by the local authority, in conjunction with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. This is an exercise class for those with health issues . The instructors are specially trained to deal with a range of health issues and I go once a week to a local village hall to the class. This sounds like it might be for the “walking wounded” but I have to say that the people who attend – male and female  and of all ages and types/shapes and sizes – are great fun and very lively. I really enjoy going to the class for the benefits to my physical health and, of course, catching up with the gossip – the coffees and lunches afterwards are good too!!

I forgot to mention that, between my broken ankle and osteoporosis diagnosis I had a hip replacement – I won’t forget 2011 in a hurry! So, having worked long hours in a very busy and challenging job as an HR Director in a big college, I was suddenly somewhat incapacitated for quite a lot of the year. I was keen to get back to “normality”, i..e being tied to a desk for 10 hours a day with a queue of people all needing to see me about their issues. It was great to get  back in January 2012 but it soon became evident that I just couldn’t sit at a desk all day anymore. I had spent my convalescence getting as fit as possible. Remember the kind Pilates teacher and the great friends? Well, they had come into play again and I was as fit as it was possible to be, at the point of returning to work. However, within a couple of weeks I had just about seized up and was really struggling physically. I had to make the very difficult decision to retire and was, once again, afraid of what the future would hold. Cue another fortnight of tears!!

I was initially, prescribed alendronic acid and Adcal but couldn’t take the alendronic acid for very long as it affected my digestion quite badly – as did residronate. The Adacal continues, though, and I make sure that my diet includes to include baked beans, cheese, salmon,  almonds and lots of fruit and vegetables, none of which is a hardship!

Now the good bit. Since I left work, I have been very busy, both physically and mentally. From a starting point of fairly poor physical health and a dread of what the future held, I’m now happy and healthy and have the energy and strength to do so much more than I had been able to do for quite a long time.  I go to three Pilates classes a week, plus continuing with the Vitality class and doing an easy circuits class (very similar to the Vitality class) each week. I’m on the Boards of our local Hospice and the local church. I take singing lessons and have joined a choir - and the Spanish classes start in October. Oh, nearly forgot to mention that I took – and passed – my PCV test and can now drive a bus. A good friend in the village actually allows me to drive for him sometimes, which I absolutely love.

I am also able to garden again, after several years of real limitations caused by a painful back causing me really frustration. All my classes have made me so much stronger. Building a path, using ornamental stones, was one of this summers jobs, and I had absolutely no pain afterwards, which I would never have thought possible even 12 months ago. Not only is the garden looking better but I’m getting the additional sunlight to increase my bone density and my husband is managing to offload some of the heavy work to me, what’s not to love!

All in all, that broken ankle back in February 2011 has been really beneficial. Had it not happened - and had there been no Fracture Liaison Service  - I may not have known until the osteoporosis was advanced that there was  a problem.  I’m so glad and grateful that I was able to find out about the osteoporosis early and have such good support in taking  steps to improve my health. It really hasn’t been hard work – I enjoy my exercise,  meeting a whole range of new people,  eating well my time spent out of doors. All things which improve my health.

One final thing, I tripped recently  and fell heavily onto a concrete area. My wrist swelled up and my first thought was “oh, on my first broken wrist”. But I was wrong, it was just bruised. Roll on my next DXA scan in 2016, I expect good results...