In September 2010, published author, wife and keen walker, Annarosa, 54, Sydney, was on an early Sunday morning walk in Balmain, when she tripped over her bootlaces and landed heavily on her wrist.
Soon after, she visited hospital emergency, where she underwent an X-ray that confirmed a fractured wrist. A few days later, Annarosa returned to hospital to have a plaster cast applied and to undergo a bone mineral density (BMD) test, which revealed she had osteoporosis in her hip and spine. She was only 48 years of age at the time.
This is her story.
“When I tripped over my bootlace, I thought, ‘oh gosh, this hurts’, but I never suspected I had broken anything,” said Annarosa.
“I was breaking in some new but very heavy walking boots at the time. They were hurting my shins, so I hadn’t laced them up to the top.”
When the excess boot laces became entangled around Annarosa’s feet, they tripped her up, and sent her falling to the ground, and landing heavily on her wrist. Yet despite the excruciating and escalating pain, Annarosa was determined to walk the five remaining blocks home. On her way home, and in the absence of a mobile phone, she entered a local corner store for help, and contacted her husband.
“When I saw the convenience store, I decided to enter and call my husband because I was in so much pain,” Annarosa said.
When her husband arrived, her drove Annarosa to the emergency department of hospital.
“It was early Sunday morning when I arrived at hospital, and there was a hype of activity. So I was administered some painkillers and told to remove my rings to avoid any excess swelling,” Annarosa said.
Eventually, Annarosa was admitted to hospital where she underwent an X-ray, which revealed a fractured wrist.
Concerned about how the fracture had occurred, Annarosa’s doctors continued to probe her on the incident.
“The doctors kept asking me how I had fallen and how the fracture had occurred.
“I was confused why they kept asking me at first, but they soon explained that when you fall from your own height, you shouldn’t break a bone. So they had to be certain of how the break had occurred,” said Annarosa.
“That’s when they referred me for a bone mineral density scan. But first, they sent me home for a few days to allow the swelling to subside. I then returned to have my wrist set in a cast and to undergo the scan.
“That’s when I discovered that my bones were not healthy at all – in fact, they were much weaker than the rest of me,” Annarosa said.
The doctors subsequently diagnosed Annarosa with osteoporosis in her hip and spine, and enquired about her family history of the disease.
“Osteoporosis is hereditary, so, although I hadn’t given it too much thought up until then, I do have a family history of osteoporosis. My grandmother on one side, and my grandmother’s sister on the other side of my family both had osteoporosis,” said Annarosa.
Despite her diagnosis, which left her in shock, the doctors said it was a positive thing that they have identified her brittle bones early, in order to effectively manage and treat the disease, and to minimise the potential for re-fracture.
“When I was diagnosed with osteoporosis, I was really surprised and a bit upset – I was only 48 at the time, and I had not considered that it was a disease that people of my age developed.
“Fortunately, we caught the disease early, so were able to commence treating it and to care for, and improve the strength of my bones,” Annarosa said.
Annarosa’s diagnosis of osteoporosis spurred her to rigorously research the disease.
“I started reading up on the bone disease, and soon learned that it can severely impact a person’s quality of life, particularly with age. So I now fully appreciate the importance of caring for my bones now.”
Post-diagnosis, Annarosa tried a variety of osteoporosis treatments and has now found one best tailored to her needs. She also takes a combination of calcium and vitamin B supplements to support her medication regimen.
As a vegan, she is particularly mindful of consuming sufficient serves of fruit and vegetables to aid her bone health, and works hard to avoid tripping or unnecessarily injuring herself, in a bid to ward off re-fracture.
“If it’s raining and I’m heading down a staircase, I will hold onto the railing as I don’t want to break another bone.
“Fortunately, I have been able to effectively manage my bone health post- diagnosis, by taking positive steps to protect my bones, the strength and density of which have actually improved,” said Annarosa.
“I’ve received very good care from medical professionals, and am yet to re-fracture, which has made a big difference to my quality of life.”
Annarosa is an advocate for the new SOS Fracture Alliance – Australia’s only national alliance of medical, allied health, patient and consumer organisations focusing on the prevention of osteoporotic fractures, to “make the first break the last.”
“It’s very important people are diagnosed with osteoporosis so they avoid fractures and the SOS Alliance can help to achieve this.
“There’s no need to fall over your bootlace and break your wrist like me,” Annarosa said.
“It’s important to get a handle on your bone health early in the piece and to put things in place to minimise your risk of fracture.”