Hand, My Hip: Going Under the Knife, Part II
Last update: Thursday, 12/13. 6:30 PM
Wednesday, November 14.
Good news: Wednesday I went for physical therapy for my finger with the bone graft and because of my rigorous work on it, I am back to 85% of range of motion after just one week, so I don't have to go back to PT, just continue on my own. That progress blew the therapist's mind (Connie Stevenson, the hand specialist at Duke).
Very bad news: Wednesday I also went in yesterday for a follow up visit about my hip (where they took the graft), which isn't healing right, and the doctor saw the wound and the inflammation (the area is hard as a rock) and said I HAVE TO GO BACK INTO SURGERY TOMORROW (11/15). Anesthesia and all -- they need to go in and reopen the incision in my abdomen to see what was wrong; they aren't sure what is in there. I will be re-stitched up and flat on my back again! Geez.
I couldn't believe it, I was expecting to get some antibiotics and be done with it. Oh well. I guess I can be thankful for the hand, anyway!
I have to call the Duke Ambulatory Surgery Center (aka "drive through chop shop") after 4 PM to find out when the surgery will be the next day. I call and it's at 2:15 PM, but I have to be there at 12:15 for prep.
I call my staff into my office to break the news that this medical nonsense isn't over yet, and that I don't know how long I will be out this time. They are incredibly helpful and understanding. I have a meeting scheduled with Operations managers Susan and Agnes (a weekly meeting) and we go over stuff, including the impending surgery, and take care of some tasks that I am able to wrap up or assign to someone in my dept to do in my absence and email my staff.
I ask Annie, a friend and colleague in the Journals dept. if she can take me to surgery in the AM (someone has to stay through the operation to take me home, since I will be very doped up). She graciously agrees, and plans to pick me up around 11:45.
They did do general anesthesia and regional block (which kept me pain-free for the next 8 hours or so, than I went on the heavy meds). The hip wound/abdomen was indeed full of infection.
I didn't eat much after getting home; I did do some email to tell folks everything went ok (at least folks off the top of my head, I couldn't concentrate all that well), called Tim. I also didn't sleep much after the initial nap. Having to deal with the drainage device embedded in me is a big irritant, all these tubes and things coming out of my gut make me feel like the Borg in Star Trek. I have to empty it 3x a day and record how many ccs of "stuff" is in it onto a sheet to take in on Monday at 10AM. [Drained 15 ccs by night time.]
They tell Annie that they are out of Oxycodone, and don't bother to call over to the other nearby Eckerd to see if they have some! When she came back to my house to tell me this, that's when we called around and found out the new Eckerd on Broad had it. She went over there and said they were so much more efficient there. She walked in and out in a half hour! All my information was transferred over there. I will definitely do my business with that branch now.
The nice hip block wore off in the middle of the night and the pain was like a literal fire in the belly, so I downed the oxycodone. I'm on the max dose this time and it says every 3 hours. Last time it was 4-6 hours. This surgery was more invasive, since the area affected was larger, according to the doctor, so that's why I went under full general anesthesia this time, plus the block.
Friday, November 16.
God, my throat hurts. It feels like it's closing up. I am very hoarse and sore. Apparently this is normal after intubation for general anesthesia. I occasionaly cough up, but nothing comes out. I think they scratched the back of my throat, as drinking lemonade stings. Annie suggests cough drops. I have some in the kitchen.
I had to eat something as I went back on my regular diabetes meds, the painkillers, and a 14-day course of Augmentin (penicillin antibiotic) to hopefully stave off another infection. I was able to keep food down while on the antibiotics. I'm a little queasy now, but mostly very tired, so I'm off to bed as soon as this feeling passes.
I don't sleep much in the afternoon because of the annoyance of the drainage device. I am very groggy from meds, but I do some work via email with folks. Eventually my mind is too cloudy and I have to lie down, even if I'm not sleeping. Of course I get interrupted by telemarketing ^%&*$ phone calls, and even worse, the MORMONS ring my bell (two nicely dressed young men, in tie and crisp white shirts is the dead giveaway), and I stagger to the door and tell them that I just had surgery and to leave me alone please. So much for rest.
Yet another airport insecurity incident -- some jackass in Atlanta bypassed security and ran up an escalator into a restricted area where you have to be screened. They caught him on video, but have yet to find him. This caused all flights to be stopped and held up for over 4 hours! All the national guards, incompetent, undertrained screeners, regular security and this sh*t continues to happen all over the country. It's a disgrace and immoral to tell people that it's "safe" to fly. Well, I guess it is safe if you're on Air Force One. Otherwise, you have to deal with hours of delays for nothing, since they cannot seem to screen and catch anyone from bringing knives, stun guns and even in the last day, meat cleavers into the terminals! Go here for more of my ranting on airport security.
I kept the KFC down, but it was questionable for a short time there, but I fought off the nausea. I waited and took the antibiotic before bed. My whole body is sore. The anesthesiologist said I might have some back pain and general discomfort this time around. I forgot why, but he was correct. I typed up this entry and nearly fell asleep at the keyboard, so I headed to bed.
[Drained 27 cc of stuff today, mostly blood, not infected stuff].
Saturday, November 17.
I got up around 5AM and took some pain meds; I am going longer than 3 hours, but when I do, my whole body is sore, especially my hip area, back, neck and shoulders. Again, I am hoarse. It seems to be worse if I have been at rest and not talking. It takes a while to get my voice back to normal. I went back to bed and actually got some good sleep from about 5:30-8AM. The sun was bright, so I had to get up. I emptied my drainage reservoir -- 5 cc.
Looking around, I saw the fur tumbleweeds again. I hadn't vacuumed since last week. So, I dragged out the vacuum and did the rooms. Now I am tired. Do I rest? No, I get out my wet swiffer and do the bathroom floor and the living room. Now I feel better, since the house smells clean again. I put some clothes in the laundry and update the log. I need to test my blood sugar. I am not hungry, but I need to eat something to take my meds and antibiotics.
The discharge nurse said I can take a "quick shower" after a whole day, which means today is ok. I am still trying to figure out how I am supposed to do this with all these long tubes and the reservoir to hold up. I need 3 hands! It's a chore to go to the bathroom, never mind taking a shower (and during the last recuperation I fell in the shower). A full bath is out of the question for a good while, since I cannot soak the wound. Hmmm.
I mostly napped or worked on this web site the rest of the day, grabbing some images appropriate for the pages off the Net. Answered some emails. I had tater tots for dinner. How nutritious. That's all I wanted. The thought of anything else made me nauseous. How strange.
[Drained 17.5 cc total, some infected stuff, some blood, some clear stuff].
Sunday, November 18.
Was up 3x during the night. I had to take pain meds, and adjust the drain, which keeps poking me and waking me up.
8:30A: Get up, clean up and get dressed. Meaning I put on pants, albeit loose, lounging pants with an elastic waist so I can easily deal with the drainage device. I had been wearing long nightshirts for the past few days, so I didn't have anything pressing against my abdomen. I am not in any pain now, so the pants don't feel uncomfortable. I better get used to some kind of pants anyway, as I am NOT going to the clinic tomorrow in a nightshirt, lol. The area where the tubes go into my abdomen itches, but of course I cannot scratch it. There's all kinds of waterproof taping so I cannot get to it.
I empty out the Jackson-Pratt for the AM: 10 ccs. Seems I drained quite a bit more this AM than in the last 2 days. I don't know what trends I am supposed to be looking for, other than the total amounts should be going down each day, so that hopefully the doctor can take this thing out of me on Monday. I have tunafish for breakfast, with some saltines. Take my regular meds and antibiotic. I keep it down (so far).
I think Annie will need more steroids to bring down the inflammation for immediate relief and she needs to insist that they do some allergen testing. Something is triggering it and they need to do more than treat the symptoms.
After she left, I went on the web and researched some things for her to try, including an elimination diet. Sometimes you just have to be proactive, because waiting for the doctors almost always results in delayed or even misdiagnosis. She's had a history of regular seasonal allergies, you'd think they'd try connecting the dots and forwarding her to a specialist right away, instead of leaving her in the dark for months on end. Oh, I'm starting to get angry just thinking about our sometimes ass-backwards health care system again...
I did that one Saturday, and even though they had all the cashiers open, the lines were backed up -- and of course everyone had 5 million items in their cart (it's a bulk discount store, so that's no surprise). I remember saying to myself "never again". So now I usually go at 11AM, when they open to the public. Next best time is right before they close at 7PM. Emily chatted for a bit, and I showed her the drainage thingee. She thinks it is attached to me much like an IV, which means if they take it out tomorrow, it should only need taping up.
Once she left, was time to empty the drain. Only 5cc this afternoon. That's not bad. Perhaps it is slowing now. It looks like it is mostly the clear yellow fluid, with some instances of unpleasant stuff here and there. It's weird how the composition varies. Maybe tonight it will lessen some more. I don't want to have this thing in my abdomen another week. I want to take a freaking BATH. A nice long soak.
Monday, November 19.
8AM: Got up, very drowsy, sore. Hadn't gotten up for my pills earlier. Take meds, wash and get dressed. 5cc in drain.
9:40: Susan, another work colleague, was very kind and picked me up to take me to my appt with Nunley the surgeon. She dropped me off at the front door, which decreased the walk to the clinic by at least half, which was great, as I was sore. I happened to run into Connie, the physical therapist that worked on my hand, and she asked about the second surgery (How on earth did she remember I told her this? I always assume these folks see so many people that it is all a blur).
Today's doctor visit was interesting. Nunley said that during the surgery a lot of bad, yucky (my words) fluids were drained out, and that the amount of post-op draining seemed fine. He ripped off the dressing, took out the drain, but left in the valve so he could put another in if the antibiotic didn't work in a week. He told me to rest a lot, watch for fever and chills. I can finally take a shower. The dressing he put on is waterproof. He said I may leak since it isn't finished draining, and gave me extra waterproof cover and gauze in case.
He said that I had a hematoma where the bone was removed, and that the hematoma got very infected with an aggressive staph infection. Why I am I not surprised at this?! [It is my lot in life to get wacky health crap.] I didn't catch the name, but I will call to find out and research it. My whole left abdomen is still sore and a bit swollen. I have to go back again next Monday for more followup.
11:15: Susan gets her car and picks me up out front. I feel nauseous and I am limping. I think the painkillers I took at 8AM wore off like _right now_. Good thing the drive is short. I get home and update the log, and answer email (our fulfillment system crashed again at work; something is really wrong and it may have to do with the hard drive in the server), but I am barely awake. My ace endo, Ann Brown, reads my record and tells me the infection is "rare staph coag neg" (or staph epidermidis). I am not sure what this is, of course, so I looked online. One description:
And yes, everywhere I look it says diabetics are at higher risk than the norm for contracting an infection of this type. Incidentally, this particular bug is implicated in some diabetic foot infections and osteomyelitis (chronic bone infection). Treatment, they say online in several places, is vancomycin, though what I am on (Augmentin) should work. It's been in the news that this antibiotic has become ineffective in some cases because the bugs are mutating and becoming more resistant to it.
Enough research for today. I need to take some meds and lie down and concentrate on getting better. I check my dressing. No leaks.
5:40: I am so tired and my head hurts. The fatigue is really bad today. I need to sleep now, but I better test my blood sugar to make sure it is ok. I added some information to the web site, had a sugar-free popsicle and now I am going to lie down for a while. I know I will need to eat dinner sometime soon, so I can take the next dose of antibiotics. I know I am weak and tired if I don't even feel like showering.
Tuesday, November 20.
8:AM: I got up and s-h-o-w-e-r-e-d. That felt so good. Dressing stayed on just fine, and I didn't slip, lol. Breakfast today was some plain popcorn (freshly popped). My blood sugar was fine, so I could have the carbs. Took meds and antibiotic, but no painkillers. I had to take the max dose last night before bed, because my abdomen hurt, but this AM I am ok so far. It's just a little sore where the dressing is. I am still tired; despite the meds last night I only slept from 4AM to 7:30. I was in bed at 11 and just couldn't sleep. Was just in pain, I laid there in bed till that eventually wore off, but I didn't fall asleep.
Since I was awake around 2AM, I watched a really bleeped-out airing of "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982) on AMC. Overall, the film has aged well; it is a throwback to the kind of films they made in the 1940s, if you take out the sex and cursing. One would call this a "date movie" par excellence in the dominant culture. Richard Gere isn't as bad as I remember him being when I first saw it. [For what I think is his best performance, check out the twisted "Internal Affairs (1990)."]. One big caveat: I thought AMC was supposed to air movies uncut and unedited. It was badly looped, and some of the subsitutes for curse words were ludicrously dubbed in. I wish I could recall some of the offenders, but I was zoned out. I'm sorry, but if AMC is going to air something as a "classic", then they better not air hatchet edit jobs like this. Next thing you know they will cut the horse's head scene out of 'The Godfather (1972)." Anyway, if you're a film addict, a great place to surf is Filmsite.org. They have full synopses of some of the greatest films ever. It's a good read. It also helps you check out whether there's been a hatchet job on a film that you've recently seen on TV.
10:30: updated the log. I need to put out the garbage. It is cloudy outside, kind of cold. Maybe it will rain. We haven't had rain here (or even a cloudy day) in weeks. I think it rained slightly when I returned from NYC, so that was around October 19. My impatiens out front are pretty dead. I haven't had the energy to water them all. I also need to rake/sweep the leaves down my walk way or someone visiting me will slip and fall. I'll get Tim to do it when he gets here tomorrow.
5 PM: Tim called and he is driving down tomorrow AM. He will pick up the perishable groceries. I will get myself together and go to Kroger later this evening, hopefully when no one is there - maybe after 8PM. Standing on a long line is the last thing I want to do. I fell asleep on the couch for 2 hours earlier and woke up dizzy and nauseous. I hadn't taken any pain meds today, hoping that I didn't need them (I bet this is withdrawal, as I am crabby). I am going to tough it out for the rest of today. My incision area is still swollen and sore, but I will just bear it until before bed and take it then only if I am in pain. My blood sugar is low, I heat up some tater tots, because it's the only thing that doesn't make me feel sick thinking about it. Such bad nutrition. I have to get some other food groups in here, but I'm not hungry enough to try.
7:45 PM: My aunt Patricia from Chicago calls. She is in town and wants to visit on Thanksgiving. I gave her directions. She wants to bring food, but we will have food already. I was dizzy while on the phone with her. Maybe I am dehydrated.
8:30PM. I shouldn't have done this feeling dizzy with my head splitting and feeling half-dead, but I went to the Kroger up the road because that was what I had planned to do this evening. Dammit, I am just going to do it, so I did, which of course is pretty stupid and bullheaded, but there isn't anyone to stop me.. Tim called and asked what he should be buying, and I told him that I had gone to the store and see what I could get before bottoming out. [I was there about a half hour. I was too tired to do the self-checkout, which I normally use.] I got several things, including a small ham, small turkey breast piece, fresh kale and ice cream; got some cat food and rawhides. Cheez Its. I saw a sweet potato pie there, and I got it. I imagine I can eat a small piece of that without barfing. This whole idea of eating for Thanksgiving is making me nauseous. I hope this passes before Thursday. I am really not supposed to eat kale, even though leafy greens are generally thought to be good for you. It is on the hit list for kidney stones (high oxalate), but hell, I only eat it once a year, it won't kill me. I need to take my antibiotic and to go to bed. My abdomen hurts. I think this is the popcorn from this morning. Too much roughage, lolololol.
Wednesday, November 21.
10AM: I have been oddly alternately dizzy, nauseous, or tired the last two days, but I think this is the antibiotics and/or infection remnants. I am not, however, in notable hip discomfort at all this AM, which is a relief. It just itches for some reason. I only took painkillers at bedtime last night. Checked email.
I don't think I have energy to vacuum. Tim will just have to see the tumbleweeds of fur, which are not too enormous yet.
I fixed some tuna fish for breakfast and took my regular meds and antibiotic. I washed the kale and put it in a pot on the stove to boil. It will cook a good part of the day at low boil. I can at least cook this ahead of time without much effort, as it actually tastes better the next day when reheated. Checked email and updated log.
A news aside: looks like another case of inhalation anthrax has turned up -- in CT. A 94 year old woman has it. Where on earth could she have gotten this? She lives in a rural town. If it came in her mail, it seems like folks at her post office would at least have contracted the skin version. They are all on antibiotics now. I don't get this at all. There's not a clear pattern to this case or the poor hospital worker in NYC that died of it. Neither had contact with government officials or the media, yet they came down with the worst form of anthrax from somewhere.
Poor postal workers must feel under siege. Unfortunately, unless a case turns up in their district, they don't get tested, and they have to keep coming into possibly polluted workspaces. The government won't/can't afford to shut down the mail system without dire consequences, but these postal workers didn't get hired to be on the front lines of terrorism attacks, either. It's amazing how little the CDC knew about the way "weaponized" anthrax could spread. They thought it could be contained in an sealed envelope. That's absurd to anyone with common sense. Envelopes are so porous. Sometimes you have to wonder about these scientists that are supposed to be protecting the public health. God forbid if some whack job lets smallpox loose on the population. I received that vaccination way back in the 60s, but I am sure it is useless now without having had a booster.
3:00 PM: No rest for the weary. I turned the kale off to cool some before refrigerating it. Doorbell. It's the appraiser. He is chatty. He tells me the abovementioned anthrax patient just died. This is sad, but isn't surprising. He is here because I am refinancing my house (did it all online via e-loan, sitting in my pjs filling out stuff between narc naps before this last surgery) to take advantage of the low rates. Doing stuff online is infinitely more simple, especially for someone on painkillers after surgery. Should close next week or the week following. My payments will actually go up though. I am going from a 30-year to 15-year mortgage. I want to actually live to see myself pay this thing off. Unless of course, I had to move, not that I am planning on doing so. Actually, just the thought of moving crossing my mind made me ill. All that packing, cleaning. Ugh. I am also cashing out enough on the refinance to retire my '88 Tracer (my first and only car!). I am not sure what I am getting yet, but it will be something practical. I am terminally practical (Choice 1, Choice 2, Choice 3). It's just transportation, not an extension of my personality, right?
Thursday, November 22-Sunday, November 25.
Over the weekend, we watched an X-Files marathon on FX, vegetated a lot. Ate leftovers. Watched some DVDs, including "Legally Blonde". That film is disturbing on a lot of sociological levels. I don't have the energy to go into it now, but trust me, it's disturbing.
Also in the disturbing category, was the pathetic Star Wars I (the Jar Jar Binks one). It aired on Fox on Sunday, non letterboxed, and it was worse than I remember it being in the theatre. Then again, my mouth was agape from the moment Jar Jar opened his mouth. What was George Lucas thinking? An animated Stepin' Fechit? Oh god, Tim and I were grimacing at that atrocity, as well as the heinous faux-Asian alien warlords in the film and the faux Jewish merchant alien. So many stereotypes packed into one film -- it's embarrassing to watch. And someone please flog that awful child actor playing Anikin (Jake Lloyd). Oh lord, he is bad, every emotional note false. After you've seen Haley Joel Osment ("The Sixth Sense"), the junior thespian bar is way too high to allow bad child actors like Lloyd onscreen. Come to think of it, he's about as bad as Mark Hamill was in "Star Wars: A New Hope" (1977), only I found that performance at least amusing.
Monday, November 26.
7:30: Tim left my house to go back to DE. [He called later when he got in and said the traffic was uneventful. He had debated on whether to leave Sun or Mon, but Mon is infinitely better.]
9AM: Doctor appointment today. I am much better, though not out of the woods yet. The finger is healing well, though it will be sore and stiff for a good while. The doctor didn't take my hip stitches out today because of the chance of re-infection. The aggressive staph infection in my hip was so widespread that there is chance this course of antibiotics won't kill it all. I have to go back again next Monday -- which is 3 days post-antibiotics. He wants to make sure I don't have recurrence of more symptoms -- chills, obvious signs around the wound, before cutting me loose. Nunley says he took a chance the first time around, so he wants to be cautious this time. In other words, he doesn't want to have to do a third surgery if this bug isn't killed and it rebounds in me.
My resistance is also pretty poor nowadays, so I also need to stay away from folks with colds or flu. One of my staff called in sick today. Thank goodness I didn't get exposed to him. I have to build myself back up. I did, however, stay until 5PM. I had so much paperwork from a month of backlog. I think by tomorrow I will finish that part up, then go to the next backlog -- database exports. Ugh. I feel the grind coming on already!
Wednesday, November 28.
7PM: Tuesday was such a horror that I almost don't want to remember it, and didn't make an entry. I have been so slammed at work, that I wonder why I ever returned. Oh well, it had to happen sooner or later. I just don't know how I will get un buried. So many "urgent" things with no time to do them. I've worked long days yesterday and today, and was up last night working on stuff. There has got to be a better way.
Anyway, my hip felt fine today, I took the stairs at work. It is itching a lot, but no leaking. I have 2 days of antibiotics to go. Monday I will get the stitches out and then it is wait and see if the infection is really dead. My finger was acting weird today; it didn't want to point straight out, it stayed somewhat bended. This probably means I need to exercise it with the brace on for a while.
God I wish I could soak in the tub, but I cannot until the hip is really healed. Right now I am going to take off this old bandage, wash the wound carefully, and tape up again. Then I will surf the web and research grad school some more. Thinking about going back, for either social or health psychology (psych was a minor back at Fordham). Tim, of course thinks this is a great idea. I just have to find a way to ensure that I can have adequate health care if I go that route; that's my primary concern for a yes- or no-go. If you total up all my diabetes meds, it would be over $800/month if I had no health insurance! Isn't that evil? I pretty much already know how to live like a poor student otherwise. There are so many logistics to making the change that it makes my head hurt though. Bleh..
Tuesday, December 4
I've been negligent in updating the log, but nothing much has happened healthwise, aside from a lot of itching in the stitch area on my hip.
The tenants are being helped out by the local Red Cross and the Hispanic center in town for shelter and clothes. OWD residents are also donating clothes and money as well. It was a rental property, and my bet is that there won't be any attempt at rebuilding any time soon.
This house used to be occupied by a real interesting character, we called him Sarge. He was a veteran of the Korean War, and he clearly had some psychological issues as a result. He would often break out into shouts to no one in particular about his war experience in the grocery store, and would raise the flag on the pole and ceremoniously bugle sometimes. He hung up his uniform attire on his front porch and displayed his medals and awards on a little table out front. He wasn't crazy in a bad way, just odd sometimes; it was actually comforting to have him as the sentry for the block. One day folks noticed he (and his car) was gone. The story I was told was that he hadn't died, but that he had become incapacitated enough that it wasn't safe for him to drive and his relatives moved him across town.
On Monday I went to see Nunley to get my stitches out (actually, I saw one of his residents), and now I have Steri-strips covering the wound, which bled some, but otherwise seems dry. I have to watch it carefully to be sure that infection doesn't recur. I have been off the antibiotics since Thurs. No hot baths yet. Damn.
Last night I tried sleeping on my stomach. It's still too uncomfortable, like I sore lump in my abdomen. Guess that will pass eventually.
6:30PM: It's been a while, no? Actually, it was an uneventful break. I haven't gone back to yoga yet (plan to try this Monday). I was doing fine in terms of pain -- meaning none -- until Monday. It started raining (for the first time in months) while I was in a training class for budgeting software at work. When I came out to drive to the office, my hip felt like it had a big hole in it and the pain radiated all around my left hip area and upper thigh. It sort of reminded me of the time when I broke a toe and I could "feel" the weather changes until it healed, only this time around the pain was dull sometimes and acute at other times. It hurts primarily when sitting too long, or taking the stairs. I feel so old and hobble at times. This has gone on since Monday -- the weather and the pain. The pain was so bad last night that I had to actually take the painkillers to go to sleep. It hurt to lie down, and definitely tummy sleeping was out. I am so demoralized about this. I felt I was on the upswing. I did know that this kind of pain was likely to occur, but it had been dry here for so long that I sort of forgot about this potential problem.
Back to the original operation.