Well this sucks. . .
There’s really not much more to be said about it than that. I’ve been out of pocket for about five days, trying to get myself, the kids, the household back on track after an unexpected trip (and prolonged stay) at the hospital. Truth be told, I don’t like drawing attention to myself, but when I found out that there wasn’t going to be an quick in and out trip to the doctor, I decided to post a screen shot of my hospital bed to give folks a heads up.
So here’s what had happened. . .
You all know that I’ve been doing my best to lay low after this last tendon re-tensioning surgery. I’ve watched so much tv. I’ve surfed every corner of the Internet. I’ve sat around with my leg propped on pillows and let life continue on around me, a human rock letting the river of everyday rush and tumble over and across me. It’s been a challenge, to go from 60 mph to about 10 mph, but I keep telling myself, “If you do this, you’ll heal better, faster, stronger. Suck it up. Suck it up.” So I’ve been doing it.
Last Thursday, I finished the last set of 20 deep knee bends I’m supposed to do 5 times a day. This is what my workout regimen has become — deep knee bends. When I was done, I sat down to wrap my ankle in an ace bandage. Things felt a little warm to the touch and when I finished with the wrap, I noticed that my hand smelled a little funky. Chalking it up to sweaty feet, I got ready for bed and forgot about it. Friday, I kept noticing that things were a little tender on my ankle and that the smell was not necessarily coming from my feet but from the surgery site. Have I grossed you out completely? Because of the angle of the incision, I couldn’t really see anything. I tried, unsuccssfully, to snap a few pictures with my phone. I ended up waiting for the Hubs to come home that evening. I said, “Um, I need you to take a look at something,” which, if you’re ever asked that, usually doesn’t bode well. Ever the poker face, the Hubs got down, took a look and said, “Yeah, that doesn’t look right.”
Subconcsiouly, I knew something was wrong, but I was in denial. I called a good friend of mine who is a wound nurse, sent her some photos and was not surprised when she said I needed to call my doctor. Let me set the scene for you. It’s Friday afternoon at 5:30. I had planned to have a little quality time with the Hubs, had been looking forward to it all week. I’d laid out a nice little spread:
My doctor is based out of Baltimore. His office closes at 4:30. Nothing good is going to come of me calling, but I do. The doctor on call is very genial, very concerned. He gives me his personal cell number, instructing me to take photos and send them along. After a series of exchanges and a few harried calls, he tells me not to eat anything else and asks me how soon I can get to the ER. In Baltimore.
[insert expletives of your choosing here]
By now, it’s approaching 7pm. The kids are zoned out in front of the TV. My wine and crackers are an afterthought. The doctor’s text message — “Don’t eat anything else. We’ll prep the OR just in case, but get to the ER as soon as you can. Tell them I’m expecting you and if you have to wait more than 2 minutes, we’ll fire everyone who stands in the way.”
I don’t know if I should be impressed with this level of patient care or worried that something is seriously wrong that requires this kind of bad-assery. We get my mom to the house, throw some clothes in a bag and hit the road. It’s now 8pm.
Traffic on the 95N corridor at 8pm on a Friday is fuster-cluck. We make it to Baltimore by 11:30 and I’m in triage by 11:45. No one got fired.
A new doc comes in, a self-proclaimed minion of my doc. She’s young, whip-smart and the type of person I’d like to be friends with under completely different circumstances. She’s got my doc on the speakerphone, running down everything she sees, everything I’ve told her. She’s snapping photos, texting dimensions and referring to my doc as Batman because 1) he never sleeps and 2) he’s just that awesome.
I’ll spare you the details of what went down in the ER. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have to go to the OR (hallelujah), though I would have much preferred being knocked out than being stuck like a pincushion. Lidocaine is no friend of mine; the treatment was worse than the cure.
By 4am, I was patched up and wheeled to a room. The Hubs was almost delirious from lack of sleep. Despite the morphine, lidocaine, and adrenaline, I could have run laps up and down the unit. Awww, running laps. . .how I miss it. A parade of nurses came in to check vitals, hook me up to IVs, assess this, that, and then some before leaving us to contemplate all of what happened.
What had happened? A post-surgical infection — not uncommon — has started percolating at the distal end of my surgery site. It wasn’t because of something I did or because of something I didn’t do. It just happens. Unfortunately, it happened to me. Fortunately, we caught it before it blossomed into something really nasty.
By now, it’s Saturday morning around 8am. My surgeon comes in, along with the doc on call and the ER doc. more assessments. More poking, prodding, and palpating. After all the ministrations, we were left with some instructions to just “hang tight” while they ran cultures to figure out what exactly they were dealing with.
I was more than ready to go home, figuring they’d done everything but hand me some antibiotics. However, that wasn’t going to happen. They had to know what exactly they found in order to know how best to treat it. Okay, I can understand that. I’ve had enough anatomy, physiology, and biology to know it takes time to grow cultures. My doc says, I should be home on Monday. Not ideal, but manageable. He talks some more before concluding that Tuesday will probably be the earliest that I can leave. Wait a tick, he just added a day. He says, “I’d rather add more days, then let you go early. Then I look like a hero. If I say you can go early and then it turns out we have to keep you, then I like a doofus”. His words, exactly.
So, I hunker down and wait. And wait. And wait. It is the absolute worst. I try to think of all the silver linings that I can:
- I’m getting the best medical care.
- The kids are taken care of.
- The Hubs is with me.
- I’ve got great docs.
- We caught it early.
It’s a small consolation, but I’m really trying to stay positive. Sunday comes around, with another parade of nurses and doctors. The information is the same: “We’re still waiting on the cultures to come back from the lab.” More waiting, more hospital food. Monday morning. No news. Monday afternoon, no news. Monday evening and a new doctor, this one the head of infectious diseases. Great. He says what they know it’s not. He tells me what they think it is, but he can’t know for sure because, guess what? “We’re still waiting on cultures to come back from the lab. ” at which point my demeanor changes considerably.
I start peppering this doc with information and questions based on everything that I’ve heard so far and everything that I know about anatomy, systemic infections, and bacteria infections, which is considerable. I spoke clearly, concisely, with my words dressed in displeasure, dissatisfaction and impatience. The Hubs was sitting in a chair working on his computer just letting me skewer the doc, despite my looking over at him like, “C’mon, Tito! Back me up, here!” No matter. I handled it just fine and let Dr. Infection simply repeat that we’re waiting on the cultures. I should have told him not to come back in unless he had cultures in hand.
Tuesday morning. 7am. The doc on call came in and guess what he said? Yup. Not back yet. I ask if the lab is actually in the building or if they’ve outsourced it. He doesn’t know, he just knows there’s a lab in the hospital because he’s been in it. How reassuring. I ask how, with no labs back, Dr. Infection could tell me what he thinks and what he knows about my situation. Doc on call says, “Well, it’s like trying to determine if this thing is Asian or Caucasian. We know it’s Asian, but we need to figure out if it’s Japanese, Chinese, Cambodia, or Filipino.” Then he apologizes for that terrible analogy. Since he’s feeling contrite, I hit him with the fact that I missed V’s birthday yesterday, and that I’ve got two other kids at home that need my attention. Nothing like a little guilt to grease the wheels of the culture lab.
Tuesday morning. 11am. word on the street is that the cultures are back, but not yet in the computer. I’m seriously about to disconnect myself from the IV and run the daggone samples myself. Tuesday afternoon. Dr. Infection come up with some information. They’ve figured it out. They can write a scrip instead of running a picc line (excuse me? that was under consideration?). I have never moved more purposefully in my life. I started folding up my stuff, packing my bag. Hell, I even made the hospital bed and folded the extra blankets. I was so done and ready to bail.
By 4:30, I was being wheeled down to the lobby. I felt like a mole, coming out into the sun for the first time in five days.
So here we are. Trying to put things to rights after having been away from the helm. I’m beyond grateful for my parents, my friends, my girls, and my husband for all of their help and support. I’m so thankful for everyone who has checked in on me, who has offered to help in some way. Truly, just checking in has been the biggest balm in this entire situation. I’m thankful that my leg is still attached, that I’ve got the right combo of medical intervention to keep it that way. I’m back to taking it slow. Dialing it down even more from 10mph. I’m at like 7mph, maybe even 5! Not ideal, but like everything else, you’ve got to put in the work to see the results. In this case, the work is actually refraining from work. Funny how that shakes out.