Meet Jessica: Osteoporosis Patient

Married mother-of-three and music enthusiast, Jessica, 32, Toowoomba, scaled a ditch on her way to a music festival in January, 2013.

This somewhat mundane jump, which caused a sharp pain upon landing, created serious bone health repercussions for Jessica.

In extreme pain, Jessica was rushed to the emergency department of the Gold Coast Hospital, and after three hours post- arrival, had an X-ray which revealed a broken calcaneus bone in her right foot. After receiving a temporary cast on her foot, Jessica opted to return home to Toowoomba.

The following day, she was referred straight to St Vincent’s Hospital, Toowoomba, by her GP, where she was admitted overnight, and then subsequently transferred to St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, Brisbane for surgery. She emerged from surgery, confined to a moon boot for three months, and to physiotherapy for the ensuing six months.

In April 2013, during her rehabilitation, Jessica underwent a bone mineral density test, which revealed she was living with osteopenia.

This is Jessica’s story.

“In 2013, I was on my way to a festival on the Gold Coast, when I casually jumped over a pot hole in the ground and landed abruptly. As soon as I landed on my right heel, I was in agony,” said Jessica.

“I was escorted immediately to the paramedic tent, and then sent to the Gold Coast Hospital for an X-ray.

“After the doctor reviewed my X-ray, he confirmed I had shattered my entire right calcaneus, and organised for a temporary cast to be put on my foot,” Jessica said.

After the cast was applied, Jessica chose to leave the Gold Coast Hospital, and to return home.

“I went back to my hotel room, called my husband, and waited for him to pick me up and take me home.

“I was in complete agony. Fortunately, my friend’s mum who was close by, visited the local chemist and purchased some pain relief medication for me,” said Jessica.

Jessica spent that night in her own bed. The following morning however, still crippled with pain, she headed straight to her local medical centre, and was subsequently referred to St Vincent’s Hospital, Toowoomba.

After spending one night in hospital, Jessica was transferred to St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, Brisbane, to undergo foot surgery.

“After my admission to St Andrew’s Hospital, the doctors had to wait for the swelling in my foot to subside before performing surgery – a process that took around eight days.

“While I waited for surgery, the nursing staff kept me very comfortable and ensured I was in as little pain as possible,” Jessica said.

Post- surgery, Jessica spent several days recovering in hospital, before being released on Sunday, January 28, 2013, complete with moon boot for the ensuing three months, and confined to bed.

Fortunately, Jessica and her husband, Liam, were living with his parents while their house was being built, which allowed Jessica to obtain the necessary rest she required to mount a strong recovery, while her in-laws helped care for her children.

“I was confirmed to a moon boot for three months, and was only allowed to walk to the bathroom or shower. During this time, my in-laws assisted with school pick-up and cleaning the house,” said Jessica.

Once their house build was complete, Jessica and her family relocated to their new home. During this period, while Jessica was still in her moon boot, her mother moved in with her family for two months to support her daughter’s recovery.

“Overall, I had six months of help from both sides of my family, during which I visited a physiotherapist for rehabilitation exercises and a podiatrist, who produced a special sole for my foot. I now only wear supportive shoes with this tailor-made inner-sole.”

In April 2013, Jessica’s moon boot was removed, and she underwent a bone mineral density test – the results of which confirmed she was living with osteopenia.

In response to this news, Jessica increased her dietary calcium intake, joined a gym full-time to build up the muscle around her foot, and started taking supplements to strengthen her bones.

In early 2014, Jessica and her husband decided to have their third child. However, given her foot injury and her brittle bones, doctors advised against gaining weight.

“When I fell pregnant, I couldn’t gain any weight because of my foot, so I started to go to the gym four times a week and ensured I followed a consistently healthy diet,” Jessica said.

“I attended the gym right up until the week before giving birth to my son, in October 2014.”

In February 2015, just four months later, Jessica visited the doctor for another bone mineral density test, which revealed a loss of bone density that forced her to stop breastfeeding.

More recently, Jessica has begun to experience spasms in the middle of her back, and has since booked an MRI to determine whether her osteopenia is now in the thoracic region of her spine.

“My family history of both osteoporosis and osteopenia has made cognisant of protecting my brittle bones. Both my great-grandmother and my grandmother lived with osteoporosis, and my auntie lived with osteopenia, so I’m very cautious when walking nowadays, and focus strongly on my diet and calcium intake,” said Jessica.

“Pre-diagnosis, I never thought my bones would be brittle at my age.

“I fractured two-bones in my foot when I was a teenager, one from tripping up a set of stairs, and the other from falling down a set of stairs. But I never thought anything of it at the time.”

Jessica believes there should be more focus on younger women developing osteoporosis, as opposed to osteoporosis occurring during and post- menopause.

“There needs to be more focus on osteoporosis at a younger age, and I believe the Know Your Bones fracture risk health assessment tool is a great way to do that!” Jessica said.

“If you fracture a bone, you need to ask yourself why, because bones are strong and are not meant to break.

“Knowing your bone health is the most important thing you can do for your health and wellbeing,” said Jessica.

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