Sunday, January 11, 2009

On the Mend. Post One.

First, let me just type this myself so I'm forced to accept it: this will not be a short two-week recovery. As Dr. B told me yesterday, I had a "giant 'D' planted on my forehead" for the past week. No, this will be a much longer recovery. I'll call today, the day I came home from the hospital, "Day One."

So where should I start? How about at 4 AM last Wednesday? Tom and I got up, got ready, and (I) hobbled out the door to get to Harborview Hospital at our 6:00 "call time." (It sounds so much sexier when used in film production!)

When we got there, Elisabeth was already waiting for us with a wheelchair. It meant so much that she was there! Elisabeth is a great advocate in situations like this, since she'll talk to anyone, ask tons of questions, and ask for detailed explanations if something's not clear. Neither Tom nor I are quite that demonstrative! And Elisabeth worked in the medical field in the Pacific Northwest for a few years (which is how we got the name of "the best surgeon around"), so she's interested. No kidding -- she asked the docs three times if she could watch the surgery. Sheesh! No means NO!

By 6:30 I was registered and ready for my IV. Simple process, right? Oh god -- wrong. It happened at my eye surgery in February. It happened in the ER on Sunday night. And it happened before my surgery. The nurses couldn't find a vein! Knowing it might happen, I hydrated myself really well (before midnight only, of course). But no luck.

Poke. Prod. Tap. Slap. Roll. Poke again. Sigh. UNpoke. Prod. Explore. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This went on and on and on. I tried to stay positive, but I was beginning to feel like a (light-headed) pin cushion! The nurses were great -- so sweet and apologetic. But they simply couldn't find a vein, at least not a "productive" one.

FINALLY! A vein! I was thrilled! Can you tell? This picture was taken just for you!


"OK, you can relax now," Tom and Elisabeth assured me. "That's as bad as it's gonna get! Now you just sleep."

And they bid me adieu. Last thing I remember was seeing the lights on the ceiling of the OR.


Oh. My. God. After seven hours of surgery, I woke up to... I can't even describe it. Truth be told, I woke up feeling like I was caged inside myself, in pain, and unable to express anything. Light hurt, sound hurt, movement hurt, thinking hurt. Everything hurt -- and yet when Tom and Elisabeth asked what hurt, I could only nod my head and cry. I was locked inside a torture chamber and there was no way out. Yes, it was excruciating.

The next day is a dim memory, though I remember thinking that I was doing pretty well. I was on dilaudid (?), and some other concoction and I had a peripheral nerve block pumping directly into my foot so that was completely numb. In addition to the dilaudid drip I took 20 mg of oxycodon orally for the pain that I apparently had -- which made me too groggy to ask what pain, since my foot was numb. As soon as I came out of the naseous stupor long enough to realize that I was in one, I said no more of that -- and I've been on only Tylenol ever since. The block came out this morning (talk about a bizarre feeling!) and my foot is still tingly and mostly numb... and now I'm wondering if it should still be numb?!

I went to PHU (Physical Therapy University) to learn all about walkers and crutches and scooters and going up steps (impossible at this point; I have to scooch on my butt... which is no fun in the rain) and down them. It will be 8 weeks before I can even put weight on my damn foot, and many months in physical therapy after that, so I have a long recovery ahead of me.

Wait -- I need to see that again:

It will be 8 weeks before I can even put weight on my damn foot, and many months in physical therapy after that, so I have a long recovery ahead of me.

Crap! Did you see that? Yeah, so did I.

The nurses were wonderful for the most part. They were kind and empathetic, yet professional and efficient. I made up a list of what I think makes a good nurse. It's just my list with nothing at all to back it up, but...

A good nurse:

  1. Introduces herself within the first 30 seconds by saying something like "Hi Carol (in my case), my name is _________ and I'm here to/for ________. Is that OK with you?" They should look you in the eye and be genuinely empathetic when they say this. I can spot a phoney a mile away.
  2. Move gently, slowly and deliberately when interacting with me -- especially when doing procedures. Efficiency and speed are for other parts of their job, not for drawing my blood, not for helping me move from the bed to the commode the first time, and not even for placing a few pillows under my back.
  3. Don't talk about me in third person to someone else as if I weren't in the room. Talk to me!
  4. Tell me what you're doing if I can't see you -- especially if I can feel you, but not see you.
  5. Tell me why you're doing it and what questions you want answered.
  6. Smile. It makes all the difference!

I was surprised at what surprised me -- and what didn't. Some things that I thought would matter to me, didn't And some things that I thought wouldn't bug me, did.

Things that didn't bother me, but I thought would have:

  • The food
  • Having a roommate. (OK, this only applies to the first one. Remind me to tell you about the second -- certifiable -- one!)
  • Not having a laptop, a book, or anything at all productive to do.
  • Lights on at all hours.
  • A catheter.

Things that did bother me, but I thought wouldn't have:

  • A clock with an hour hand that was slightly off. (Drove me bonkers!)
  • Dirty, dirtier, dirtiest, oil slick hair (though I have a hilarious story to tell about an attempt to wash it... there's even a picture, but it's on Elisabeth's camera and her laptop is acting up.)
  • Finding a vein.
  • Time passing oddly slow... then disturbingly quickly (but mostly oddly slowly).
  • Pages on the PA speaker referring to completely dire circumstances. STAT. (Harborview is the trauma hospital for the entire Pacific Northwest and just about all they do is trauma... car accidents, etc.)
  • Roommates who go a bit berserk right in front of you, leaving you to take it upon yourself to get help. (OK, I just didn't expect that one at all!)
  • Coming out of anesthesia.

All in all, it was a positive experience as unexpected hospital visits go (how do you like my qualifier?!), but I wouldn't want to do it again any time soon.

And since I always like to leave you with a graphic, here's the reason you may now call me Pacific Northwest Bionic Bug:


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Home's Jewels said...

Ok, you are taking me back to my ACL reconstruction surgery. Yes, the waking up was awful. But I really feel for you on the 8-wk recovery thing - oh my! Did the doctor give you a timeframe for back to normal or how long you'll be needing PT?

Sorry you're having to go through this, Carol!

LBaum said...

Wow Carol, that x-ray is quite interesting! Looks like your surgeon stopped off at Home Depot before operating! It's so amazing how a simple slip on the ice changed your priorities in a nano second. Your "coming out of the anesthesia" story is horrifying. Be patient and remind yourself that every day you're closer to being healed than the day before.


Young Momma said...

That's amazing! Sounds like your taking the best you can out of a not so great situation. I give you a lot of credit! And I guess I don't have to worry about my other comment bugging you since you've already got an entire tool box worth of screws and metal in your leg! lol Nice x-rays!

jennifer said...

I was just thinking the same thing Lynn said - about one nanosecond slip on the ice and suddenly your 2009 outlook is so much different...

Why did the surgery take seven hours instead of the projected four? I hope it was just because the docs were being extra-careful. Or maybe they had to take time during surgery to run to Home Depot for more nails and cotter pins.

Goofball said...

oh no, what a long recovery ahead! Yikes.

I am so glad I didn't read your post before I went in to get my cyst removed. Not at all comparable to your surgery, which surely sounds horrendous.

I really really hope it only goes uphill from now! A long slow uphill, but uphill nevertheless. Take care!!!!! And take enough rest!!

Suzanne said...

Wow... that was some break to your ankle! The number of screws and plates is pretty astounding. It's no small wonder about the 8 weeks.
Talk about having to re-prioritize, it's a major deal! I've had a couple of lateral ligament splice and a foot surgery... do what they tell you in PT... and see if they will let you do it in the pool.
Hope you are feeling better soon.

Anonymous said...

Oh geez Carol, what an experience in the hospital! Horrendous. I hope the recovery goes better (although, despite the pounds of hardware, your bones look really straight now!)

I guess one positive is it's your left foot, which in the distant future might get you back into your car sooner?

Take care- do you have someone home with you this week? Other than a dental appointment at noon, I have Wed off if your "nurse" needs some relief. Seriously- let me know.


Anonymous said...

Looks like the doctors did a great job. Your ankle bones look really straight and fine in the xray. Sorry for all your pain. I hope things get easier fast and that you heal well and that you can enjoy the down time somewhat. I'm walking down steps very carefully lately!

Maria said...

Here's to a speedy recovery!

Anonymous said...

I tried to warn you in an earlier comment to ask for an epidural rather than general. Maybe you didn't see it. It's just awful to come out of general when one is, ahem, older.

I know you have a split-level house. Look into renting a wheelchair for each level of your house, or at least for the living level. They're fairly cheap to rent ($30-$40 per month) and it's so much easier to get around and do things on wheels. You can at least make your own lunch from a wheelchair. Plus you can keep your ankle elevated easily while sitting in a wheelchair. You will have swelling and will need to keep it elevated for at least the next 8 weeks. With a wheelchair, you'll be able to get through an afternoon of shopping. Crutches and walkers are all well and good, but you will tire quickly and your ankle will swell and you'll have to go home before you even get halfway through Costco. The scooters in stores will work, but they have no spot to put your leg up.

Carol said...

Hi Anonymous (why dom't you introduce yourself?,
Actually, your suggestion that I get an epidural went right onto my list of questions for the doc. He doesn't so them for foot surgery. Too unreliable to hold, it seems. Best for core of body...

To everyone, thanks so much for your kind words and suggestions! I SO appreciate it! The block suddenly wore off at midnight. OMG!


Sam said...

oh my goodness, what an impressive set of pins and things in your ankle!! I do wish you a speedy recovery!!

vailian said...

It is amazing how the priorities can change so quickly!
But we know that you will find something interesting and witty to say about every new experience, so I (for one) am looking forward to the blog entries about your convalescance...

Margaret said...

You are sounding like yourself--and that's the best compliment I can give. Let's hope that those 8 weeks and the PT after go FAST.

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