Tag Archives: surgery

Shedding Skin and Learning to Walk

Two steps forward, one step back.  The circle of life can make you feel as if you are repeating a vicious cycle and the only hope is that you will somehow break free of the rotation and get on the straight path to success.

Such is my life this past week, which I have spent shedding skin and learning to walk.  Sound strange doesn’t it?  On the 15th of November I had surgery, an ankle fusion.  It was a three-month, non-weight bearing recovery and when you are living alone that is enough of a challenge, not to mention isolation.  On the 10th of February I was told that my ankle is completely healed, I can’t hurt it.  The hard cast was removed and I am free to walk on it.walk-fly-crawl

I was warned that the foot would be very sensitive.  They weren’t kidding!  Walking is agony.  I am so glad I still have the medical cane from the original accident six  years ago…the kind that has four feet and stands on its own.  The ankle doesn’t hurt – the foot itself does.

How bad is the foot pain?  I hate shoes, they are generally the first thing I shed when I walk in the door.  However my tennis shoes provide padding, much needed padding.  I wore shoes inside my house all last weekend, and I am wearing tennis shoes to work this week.  Once I take the shoes off inside my house I haven’t been able to walk on the cane; I have had to use my knee cart.  Things are improving though.  This morning I was able to walk, barely, with my cane when barefoot.  Tonight barefoot meant the knee cart.  I am hoping by the weekend I will finally be able to make it up the stairs and into my own bed.

At least I have stopped leaving a dead-skin trail, sort of.  I had never been in a hard cast before, and after three months the leg and foot were extremely dry.  I felt like a crocodile that was shedding it’s skin.  I discovered moisturizing shaving cream was the best thing for washing it; better than a moisturizing soap.  I now treasure my 24-hour body cream more than I ever have.  I’m still slightly flaky, but not as bad — no comments from the peanut gallery please.

So I am now shedding my skin and learning to walk.  I haven’t bounced back as quickly as I had hoped, but I am seeing progress every day.  This morning I was able to walk out the front door and onto the porch by myself, but needed my bag carried.  I hope that after a few more days I’ll be able to carry my own things in and out of the house and start driving myself to work.  That is if they don’t kill me in physical therapy, which begins on Thursday.

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Filed under Coping, disabilities, handicapp, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot

When the time arrived, I was fine

I had been nervous contemplating ankle surgery for the past two months.  The day finally arrived on November 15, 2016 and surprisingly I was very calm…well, except for a slight rise in blood pressure.  However that went down once they had successfully inserted the IV and I no longer had to fear a vein collapsing and causing problems.

I answered the name, birth date, and what procedure are you here for question numerous times — their way of making sure the patient is aware of what is going on around them.  My daughter had her three children with her and had to pick me up at 4:45 am to get me to the hospital on time.  Once we had me in my pre-surgery room I told her they might as well leave.  That would allow her to get the oldest two to school relatively on time and since it was 2-1/2 hours until my surgery would actually begin there was no purpose in her staying around.  My sister-in-law was scheduled to arrive and pick me up after surgery.

The time passed quickly and before I knew it they transferred me down to another pre-surgery room where I received a block on my leg from the knee down that would not wear off for 16-24 hours.    They had me place my initials on the appropriate surgical leg.  The block went in easily, but I am still wearing the wonderful iodine colored antiseptic they used before the procedure.  An ankle surgery and I have iodine up to the thigh.   When they placed the surgical hat over my hair I laughed and said “isn’t this wear I should have my cell phone to take the selfie of myself just before surgery?”

After that they must have run some good knock-out drugs through my IV, I remember them asking me to breath into a mask, and the next thing I know I was in a post-op room and everything was done.  I don’t even remember being in recovery.  I woke up about 1-1/4 hours after they had anticipated I would be ready to go home.  My sister-in-law had gotten lost and arrived almost right on the dot with when I was actually ready.

So how are things now that the surgery is done and I am home?   We discovered in the hospital that crutches are not my thing.  I also tried them at home and had difficulty as well.  I am very fearful of losing my balance on them and accidentally putting pressure on the leg, which is non-weight bearing for three months.  I am thankful that I have a walker I brought from my parents home, which is much more stable, especially for hopping up and down platform steps to get in and out of my house.  The knee scooter works very well for most things.

Getting dressed is tricky.  My ankle is bandaged/cast very thick.  Stretch sport pants stretch over it.  I’m not sure if I will be able to wear my dress slacks or jeans until after I have been re-cast at least once.  Dressing for work this coming Monday could be interesting.

I am doing well with pain control.  The block wore off in the middle of the night and I woke up in pain at 3:45 am.  A Norco and ice with elevation helped alleviate that within about 45 minutes and I was able to sleep again.  Pain pills are allowed every four hours as needed, I am only needing them about every five hours.

The next three months during which I am non-weight bearing and dependent on others to drive me will be frustrating, but once I am able to put weight on the leg things should get much easier.   I am looking forward to an active 2017 with a repaired ankle and no pain.

what-is-an-ankle-fusion

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Nervous? More Like Terrified

Last week I went to a surgeon for a consultation on my ankle.  For those of you who don’t know, six years ago I was riding my motorcycle and was broadsided by a car.  Due to injuries from  that accident my left leg is titanium from the hip ball down through the ankle, with the exception of the knee.

A couple years ago my ankle, which has two plates and several screws in it, developed degenerative arthritis as a result of the impact of the accident. I was told then that surgery was in my future, when it got to the point where pain was affecting my quality of life.  That point arrived this spring and has gotten progressively worse over the summer.  When you are forgoing about 75-85% of what you would normally due because of the pain and swelling, it is time to take action.

The good news is that 95% of the people who have an ankle fusion done, once healed, never have pain again.  The process is done as outpatient surgery.  The bad news, the surgery is done under a local anesthetic for which I will be numbed only from the knee down and away during the entire process.  Not good!  I’m a chicken!

Following the surgery there is a twelve (12) week non-weight bearing period of recovery. I am certainly not looking forward to that time, as I will be dependent on people to drive me everywhere, and I will be living in a colonial home alone.  Prior to the surgery I will need to make sure everything I need is moved to the first floor of the home where I can access it.  I lived like that before after the accident, but I had my husband to help me at that time.

When you hear out-patient, the mind tells you it can’t possibly be as bad as you think.  Well, think again.  When I commented that I could probably go back to work in a day or two the nurse practitioner said no, I will be in a lot of pain that first week.  Well isn’t that an encouraging thought to someone who is already extremely nervous about the entire process.

That evening I sat in my house contemplating the process and the fact that I would be alone.  I looked around and thought sleeping on a couch, learning to wash my hair at the kitchen sink, fix my own meals, maneuver to do laundry, carry things, and get dressed, all while popping pain pills and with a cast on my ankle on which I can not put any pressure  at all.

I panicked.  I called my sister-in-law and she has agreed to come down and stay with me those first few days while I get adjusted.  A second bonus, if for some reason she is unable to come, my best friend who lives in North Carolina has volunteered to drive up and stay with me.  I feel much better having someone here while I am learning to hobble around and figure out how to do things one-legged.

So, am I nervous?  No, I’m terrified, but I will get through this.  What other choice to I have?  I have decided that surgery when you are the subject of a trauma and unconscious is much easier to handle then contemplating and analyzing prior to a planned procedure.  Unfortunately I have a lot of time to contemplate as the procedure isn’t scheduled until the middle of November.  Maybe I’ll relax and get used to the idea.  Who am I fooling, that isn’t likely to handle, but one must think positive.

 

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A Punch in the Stomach

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may remember my post called Slippery Surgical Stress in which I talked about my husband’s esophogectomy in January 2015.  After the surgery he tested cancer free, although they had removed several lymph nodes and three of those were suspect.  He recovered quickly, but continued to loose weight.

At his three month follow-up and Petscan it was determined that he now has two cancer spots in his right lung.   He had a permanent port surgically put in and every two weeks he is hooked up to a chemo pack that he wears for 48 hours, then he has a two week recovery period, then back on the chemo for 48 hours.  After a three month period they will do another Petscan to check his status.

It is the cancer that prevented him from gaining weight, and instead caused him to lose more.  Prior to having the tumor he weighed approximately 180 lbs., then due to the blockage by the tumor in his esophagus he was on a thin liquid diet, which caused him to lose a tremendous amount of weight.  When he completed his surgery in January 2015 he weighed 133 pounds, he is 111 lbs now.    While the doctors have not given him a time frame, if he continues to loose weight he will not survive.

Given that information he began checking into our finances, what money I would have coming into the home if he passes as he is retired and collects social security and a pension.  He is putting all the financial records in order, looking at headstones, cemeteries, and planning his own memorial service.  Hopefully it will be a Murphy’s Law situation and by putting everything in order he will end up in remission and live a long time.  Life is a Melting Pot, and sometimes the mix isn’t what you hoped for.

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Slippery Surgical Stress

Why is it we have had great weather until the day we have to leave home at 4 am to drive over an hour away for my husband, Ron’s, surgery? As if the day wasn’t going to be tiring enough, that was the way it started.

We were told that he would need to be at the hospital at 5:30 am for a 7:30 am surgery. Ron is a morning person, so although I thought we should get a hotel for the night before the surgery, he didn’t think it was a problem getting up at 3 am to be on the road by 4 am for the drive to the hospital. I told him if we were driving at that hour of the morning, he was driving.

Of all weeks for the weather to turn bitter cold and some spots on the roads were definitely slippery. Ron is retired and spends a lot of time driving to various locations to take photographs. I work full time and have only a three minute commute to get to work. Although we used to live in a more populated area, I am no longer used to the heavy traffic driving bumper-to-bumper.

Ron’s surgery was scheduled at University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. The drive requires traveling on expressways that tend to be very busy. What I couldn’t believe is how many cars are on the expressways at 4:30 am! What the heck time of day do these people start working? Combine that with it being dark outside, the roads slightly slippery at points, and Ron going only 60mph but still passing everyone on the road, I was tense.

I’ve ridden with Ron for 34 years in all kinds of weather.  He does not loose control of the vehicle, but I guess the days of feeling invincible have given way to the fear of what could happen.  It probably didn’t help that prior to getting on the expressway he slid through a stop sign on our cut across, which is a dirt road, to the expressway.  My words when that happened were “don’t go in the ditch on the way to the hospital.”   Then on the expressway as we are passing other vehicles I would periodically ask if it was slippery and he would respond “it’s getting that way.”  Obviously, I just felt the sway of the wheels a bit on the road!   I used to drive fast on the roads when I had a 4 x 4, but we were traveling in a Ford Focus.

Ron did not have any problems maintaining control of the vehicle.  It was the other vehicles that were making me tense.  There were a couple times when a car decided at the last minute to move over in front of us and was driving considerably slower than we were, requiring Ron to break firmly.  A couple times cars weren’t lane changing but for whatever reason decided they needed part of our lane and moved over at us.  We had a semi we were passing that was very close to us on the passenger side, too close for my comfort.   My downfall was I wasn’t chewing gum, which was probably a blessing for Ron.  When I am tense and chew gum I tend to chew in a way that causes the gum to repeatedly crack.  Probably because I wasn’t chewing gum my jaw was hurting because I had apparently been clenching my teeth.  I also had to repeatedly concentrate on relaxing my shoulders and legs, as they would get sore from tension.

View showing esophagectomy procedure in three steps.

View showing esophagectomy procedure in three steps.

We were only 15 minutes late arriving at the surgical center.  If you have ever been to U of M Medical Center you know it is huge.  I have a map in my purse of the buildings so I know the route from where the car is parked to where Ron’s hospital room is.  His surgery went well.  He had a transhiatal esophagectomy in which they removed his esophagus and raised his stomach up and attached it where the esophagus once was, so his stomach now starts in his chest and is like a long tunnel down to his intestines.  He was predicted for a 4-6 hour surgery and was in 5-1/2 hours.  The surgery was on Tuesday and he is doing very well.  The medical staff are very pleased with his progress.  The normal stay after this procedure is seven days, but release is dependent on certain milestones being met.

Needless to say it has been an exhausting week.  I had the hospital make hotel arrangements for me the night of the surgery, and I was very glad I did.  By the time he got through recovery and into a room it was around 4:30-5:00 pm.  I didn’t leave the hospital until 8 pm.  When you have been up since 3 am and at the hospital since 5:45 am, it is a long day, and I still hadn’t had dinner.  It was 10 pm before I was settled into my hotel room for the night.

I am glad the day of slippery surgical stress is behind me and the recovery process is now underway.  I anticipate Ron being released to come home Tuesday or Wednesday and then life should begin to return to a normal routine.

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