John Winslow: Staying Safe and Fracture-Free
A resident of Hamilton, John Winslow liked to spend his leisure time swimming, skiing and playing tennis, often teaching neighbourhood kids how to enjoy sports.
All this changed the summer of 2017. John had just stepped off the local bus in front of his home. As the bus turned the corner, John lost his balance and fell on the curb, injuring his elbow. He walked home thinking he had suffered a minor bruise from his fall.
When the pain in his elbow became unbearable, a friend drove John to St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton, where emergency care doctors confirmed that John had broken his elbow. John had to have surgery to fix his broken elbow, which took several months to heal.
A year later in July 2018, it was déjà vu for John. He fell on the curb after stepping off his local bus, thereby breaking the same elbow. “I felt discouraged that I had not learned anything from my first injury. It was the same kind of break, the same fall and the same elbow. My father often told me, knowledge isn’t any good unless it is between your ears. I wish that after my first fracture, I had remembered my father’s words of wisdom,” laments John.
What John didn’t know then was that his multiple fractures could have been caused by osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become thin and porous, decreasing bone strength, leading to an increased risk of fracture.
It was during a follow-up visit to see his orthopaedic surgeon after his second fracture that John met one of the Fracture Prevention Coordinators with the Ontario Osteoporosis Strategy’s Fracture Screening and Prevention Program (FSPP). The Program helps screen men and women aged 50 and over who have had fragility fractures.
The coordinator spoke to him about fragility fractures (any fall from a standing height or less, that can result in a fracture) and the link between multiple fractures and osteoporosis.
“I am so thankful that the Fracture Prevention Coordinator reached out to me during my follow-up visit to the hospital. I had not heard of the term fragility fracture before, let alone the fact that it puts one at risk of another fracture. I was asked if I would like to be screened for osteoporosis and I readily agreed,” says John.
Part of the screening involved getting a BMD (bone mineral density) test. The BMD test results assisted in determining that John was at high risk of breaking another bone. “Osteoporosis is not a topic you talk about every day. But this needs to change. People shouldn’t have to break a bone to learn about osteoporosis. Awareness of our own propensity to break a bone can save our lives,” adds John.
“It took me two fractures to understand that a broken bone is a life-changing experience. People should be learning by hearing and not by an injury. No matter if you’re seven or seventy, you need to know about your risk for osteoporosis. Health classes in school should include information on bone health. This will go a long way in preventing osteoporosis in later years,” says John
Talking to the Fracture Prevention Coordinator made John more self-aware about bone health. It was through the FSPP that John met the rheumatologist who ensured John received appropriate treatment to help reduce his risk of a future fracture.
“You have to take a giant step outside yourself and adhere to the doctor’s advice. The doctor tells me not to be complacent about health. His advice is: Treat your diagnosis as if your life depends on it. I take his words seriously. Without treatment, I am at high risk for another break. It would be devastating if I were to break my hip in the future,” adds John.
John continues to take vitamin D supplements and includes calcium-rich food and beverages in his diet. John now sits on the Hamilton’s Seniors Advisory Committee, where he advocates for better health for fellow seniors.
After two fractures, John’s priority is to stay safe and fracture-free. “Those who injure themselves have to learn to deal with the injury while managing every day activities. Being organized is the key to staying safe and keeping others safe,” he adds.
John has also made a few changes at home to prevent re-fracturing from a fall. “I have better lighting around the house and have taken off all the rugs. I also had a grab bar installed in my shower recently. Vision, sensitivity and dexterity are all important to stay safe,” adds John.
“I was unable to ski, swim or play tennis after my second fracture. Macular degeneration prevents me from driving and I now have to use a cane to balance myself,” adds John. He now spends time watching hockey or sci-fi shows on television. “But, staying active is important to me and I walk daily, sometimes in the mall and at other times up and down my street,” says John.
John wishes he had known about the link between a fracture and osteoporosis after his very first fracture. “It may have saved me from my second break. The doctors and nurses treating you in emergency may never see you again. If someone has had a fragility fracture, I hope they meet someone who can save them from their next break,” he adds.
John is hopeful that his story motivates people to become aware and get screened for osteoporosis. “After all, knowledge isn’t any good unless it is between your ears, right?” asks John, as he steps out into the sun, ready for his next stroll.