So I’ve realized that, even though 99% of my readers are friends and family who’ve heard at least a version of this tale, it might be a good idea to give people the full story about what transpired a few weeks ago. Especially since it’ll play a roll in some posts I had almost completed (but need to edit) and will provide an explanation if the number of typos and grammatical errors goes up (thank goodness for the WP app and text-to-speech since single hand typing is a pain at best).
On Sunday, January 24th, Dave and I had just gotten back from a great “movement” class at his dojo that combined martial arts, yoga, pilates, and other disciplines. (If anyone is wondering who this Dave character is, he is the guy I was referring to in my last post) I was going to shower up at his place and then head to Windham to pick up my pups, who I missed more than usual that week. We parked in his lot and got out of his car. As we walked away, I heard a small click and looked backwards. The emergency brake had let go and Dave’s car was rolling back towards us. Instinctively I ran up and tried to stop it. Dave was desperately trying to unlock it to get in and start it up. In the rush of the moment, he didn’t know I hadn’t gotten out of the way. It happened too quickly to really make a decision but I remember thinking something along the lines of his car running into a parked car really ruining our Sunday. Before either of us could fully grasp the situation, I was pinned between his car and a parked car. My left hand and leg bore the brunt of the impact. I screamed in pain, Dave came around the end of the car, saw me pinned and yelled in anguish. He ran to his car, got in, parked it again – making damned sure the car was in gear and the brake was fully engaged.
He called 911 and, thankfully since we were in the city, we could hear the sirens before he’d finished describing the parking lot. After the standard vital signs and body part interview, I was loaded into the ambulance and on my way to Mercy’s ER (I was close to both local hospitals but the EMT said “Mercy tends to get you out quicker” which sealed the deal for me). Being the special little flower that I am, the pressure and coolness of the saline flush in my IV hurt a bit – the EMT had never known someone to feel that before – but the Fentanyl they administered did jackshit for my pain.
After arriving at Mercy, I went through extra interviewing, more meds, and I was piled with warm blankets because I couldn’t seem to get warm. Then I was sent off for x-rays. The x-ray table is fucking cold. And hard. Seriously, avoid those things if at all possible. And then they ask you to put your possibly broken limb in various positions to get a clear view. There was more than a little hysterical crying and a very kind nurse delivered some extra meds because she could tell I couldn’t wait until I got back to the room to have them. They got a series of my pelvis (even though it wasn’t hit, yay for being tall) as well as femur and my hand.
Initially the doctor came in and said I had non-displaced broken bone under my left pinky which would need to be splinted but the leg appeared to just be really badly bruised and should take a while to heal but not require any real extra care. I was a little skeptical but also kind of thrilled that recovery wouldn’t be so bad. Then he accidentally touched my knee and I screamed. Apparently blood comes out of broken bones and causes a lot of swelling – when I had arrived it was minor, by the time he touched it, it was a double-sized knee. He pulled back the covers, looked at the amount of swelling, and decided he needed better x-rays of area which had only been partially captured the first time. Thankfully they brought the x-ray machine to me this time and I was even able to help hold an awkwardly angled film in place with my freshly splinted hand. After reviewing the new images with the ortho doc on call, I was promptly trucked off for a cat scan. That table wasn’t quite as miserable as the x-ray table but it was still damned hard to “stay very still” when pain-induced sobbing was threatening to erupt at any moment. A look at the cat scan revealed a broken tibial plateau. The doc showed me the x-ray and I saw a little y-shaped fracture at the head of my tibia. It didn’t look that bad, but he’d been told by the ortho that it would need surgery. I was given a knee immobilizer, some pain meds, and instructions to call the ortho office ASAP tomorrow to get an appointment.
We left the ER about 4 hours after our arrival (not bad by ER standards) and made our way back to my temporary home in Gray, stopping along the way for Dave to pick up supplies, fill my prescription, and hand off my keys to my parents so my car wouldn’t get towed from the Portland streets on top of everything else. Dave appointed himself my chief caretaker, driven by both love and a feeling of responsibility. He spent the night taking care of me, making plans so that he could continue to stay with me for a while, and generally being a wonderful man.
I called the ortho office promptly at 8am the next day and was told they would figure out which doc should be assigned to my case and call me later. I’d asked around and heard that Dr. Hoffman was excellent and not over eager to cut in all cases, so I requested him when they called back – it turned out that was who they’d assigned to me anyways and he had an opening that afternoon. When we arrived at the office, I was really hoping that I’d find out I didn’t need surgery and the pinky break was so minor (it was very hard to see on x-rays) that he’d put me in some sleek, unobtrusive splint for a couple of weeks. I got a big negative on both accounts.
The reasoning for the pinky was easy – that particular bone has a lot of attachments “pulling its strings” so it’d take longer to heal or might not heal properly if it wasn’t held in place. The reasoning for the tibia didn’t make any sense until he showed me the cat scan. How an x-ray and a cat scan, taken probably only 30 minutes apart, can look so different I’ll never know. The image he showed me wasn’t a small non-displaced y-shaped break. It was a big friggin’ chunk of bone pushed down and snapped off! When the knee was bent sideways, the bottom of my femur slammed into the top of the tibia and BAM, big gap in the joint when things were straight. If I didn’t have surgery, there would essentially be a “hole” in the joint that the bottom of my femur would fall into every time I took a step. OK, doc, I’m sold on the surgery. But eek, please tell me recovery isn’t too awful or long…
The surgery would entail cutting into both sides of my knee. Using live imaging, he would raise the broken piece back to even with the rest of the tibial head. He’d then place a donor bone into the hole beneath it and use a metal plate and some screws to hold everything in place. I was looking at probably 3 months of healing and 6 months until I regain full range of motion. Plus, in 6-9 months I’d likely want a minor surgery to remove the screws and plate after the bone heals because young athletic people can “feel the metal” when they exercise. Say it with me now – Ewwwwww! I’ve since had some people tell me that they don’t feel their plates at all or only on wickedly cold days. But if you see some of the positions that I get into practicing BJJ, I’m fairly certain I’m going to feel it a lot.
The swelling had to go down before he could operate, so we scheduled for Tuesday, February 2nd. Groundhog Day. If I ended up pulling a Bill Murray by reliving the surgery, I was not going to be a happy camper. It was also Dash’s “gotcha day” – the first one I’d ever missed. As you might have guessed, the dogs stayed with Aaron during all this time since even simple things like filling water bowls would have been a struggle.
The week passed quietly. Aaron was kind enough to bring each dog over on individual nights for a little fuzz therapy. Neither of them was particularly thrilled about the strange state of my affairs, but it was good to see them nonetheless. Dash did spent a little time cuddling me, though yummy dinner smells had his attention for a good portion of the visit. Delta was mostly all about playing and kissing my face until I needed to come up for air. She also objected to the strange gear and focused on it once I’d put her tug away.
Surgery day came and the pre-op process was a little long and a little late but not too bad. I’d already been warned by Jen, my best friend who spent years working in registration at the MMC ER, that I would be asked for my name and my birthday and what surgery I was there for multiple times by multiple people. Many of those being the same person repeating the same questions again. The nurses, anesthesiologist, and other helpers all had pretty good senses of humor and kept things fairly light. Dave and my mother were there keeping me comfortable and entertained as well. When the time finally came to have my surgery, the anesthesiologist gave me a little something that he said might make me a little loopy and I might ask the same questions dozens of times between my waiting area and the OR. I don’t remember asking any questions or feeling particularly loopy but shortly after seeing the OR doors swing open and seeing several guys sitting at a computer in one corner and the big operating spotlight in the center of the room, everything goes blank.
My next memory is a somewhat incoherent mishmash of pain and crying and nurses assuring me that the drugs would kick in and help soon enough. By the time my pain has gone down enough that I could leave recovery and go to my room, I was coherent enough to have a little chat with the nurse about the fact that she was leaving to pick up her Collie up from doggy daycare and how it had several different health problems. I commiserated and mentioned my own special boy.
As I was wheeled into my room I was overwhelmed and touched to see a line of people standing waiting for me. My sister Lee, my ex husband, my mother, and my boyfriend all standing like some sort of loving guard at the edge of the room. Lee couldn’t stay long but she brought a wonderful bouquet of flowers to brighten up the room and she gave me a loving goodbye with wishes that I feel more comfortable soon. Things were a little fuzzy at that point but I recall having a brief chat with Aaron, my ex, about some sort of various things. Probably the dogs and some comedic moments from the pre-op process. He left a little while later with my mom and Dave still there to keep me company.
At some point my other sister Maija arrived. She is a nurse and used to work in an ortho wing so she was ready and willing to be the “annoying nurse sister” advocating for more or different drugs to help make me more comfortable. While I find the pain scale a bit vague and annoying, I was still stuck between a 7,8, or 9 depending on how much I moved or if something decided to throb etc. One of her suggestions was rejected but they did agree with the addition of dilaudid to see if we could dial back the pain. It didn’t make as big a difference as I would have liked, but at least it took the 9s out of the picture. It was about this time that Dave showed up like a hero bearing a huge bag from Salvage BBQ for all of us to share. Somehow, despite my pain, I could still really pack away the food. I devoured brisket and potato wedges in a way fitting for a woman who had not eaten since 9 the night before.
I won’t really get into all the details of the next two days. But suffice it to say I was only supposed to be in the hospital for one night and I ended up spending two because they just couldn’t seem to get my pain under control. It wasn’t until Thursday morning when the PT insisted that I swing my leg off the bed, stand up on my crutches, and go all the way to the bathroom that they really “got” how bad things were. I made my way into a recliner they moved next to my bed and was helped by the OT to wash up and change clothes so I felt a little more human. They started to talk about sending me to New England Rehab because they couldn’t send me home in so much pain.
Thankfully, shortly after that episode the approval came through to add another drug to my cocktail, Tramadol. It is supposed to be a lighter narcotic than what I was already on but somehow it was the magical ingredient for me. It got my pain back down to around 6. (Ironically this is the only pain med that Dash can have. And I’m pretty certain that he broke his left leg while living with his first owners, two months before we got him.) When they asked me if I was willing to try moving from the recliner back to the bed I agreed and to everyone’s surprise it wasn’t that bad at all. No tears, no screams, no gasping. My nurse asked where this patient had been earlier in the morning. I didn’t say it at the time but the answer is that patient was there all along, just buried under all the pain and the frustration that no one seem to understand.
I had my one week post op appointment on Wednesday. The PA decided that I needed to stay out of work another 3 weeks until my check up with Dr Hoffman. My splint was swapped out for rocking purple cast. I was given a better knee immobilizer and very small dressings over my incisions that were allowed to get wet. Combined those two things meant that I could actually wear pants, and fully bathe myself (minus my left forearm) for the first time in weeks. In a situation like this, that sort of progress is pretty exciting.
So now I wait. I have three weeks to fill with puzzles, games, audiobooks, and Facebook. With the aid of text to speech I hope to get some writing done as well. At very least it’ll keep me entertained, hopefully it’ll entertain you as well.