Recovery - The First Two Weeks

October 30, 2015
My ankle surgery was scheduled on September 25, and as it turned out it was only one week after my mom died. I debated putting it off, but the choice was clear when I found myself furious at the thought it could be postponed; after having received a letter from my insurance questioning whether it was an in-network procedure. After confirming with my insurance that the doctor, facility and procedure were covered there was no turning back. I didn't waiver despite the nurse doing my pre-op registration encouraging me otherwise. I was reluctant, but I knew it had to be done.

The morning of my procedure, Frank flew to Portland. The trip was booked long before I knew about surgery. Scheduling with the hospital is tough, and I didn't want to wait even longer for the next availability so I took the first available date. I figured I could have Mike or Amy, or a combination of the two get me there and back home. I planned ahead, and set up the spare bedroom & bath downstairs with everything I thought I would need. What I selfishly didn't consider was how much help I was going to need in those first few days. Amy was stuck with the brunt of it. She took me to the hospital, and stayed with me until they whisked me away to prep for surgery. She felt the anxiety of waiting to hear all went well, which came a little slow. She took me home, but first stopped for In-N-Out because we were both starved and at the pharmacy to get my prescription. Because my attempts at filling it beforehand failed; apparently, Las Vegas is suffering from a shortage of pain pills. She waited on me, made my meals and dealt with my range of emotions and did what she could to keep me comfortable. All while growing a human and caring for her two kiddos. I don't know what I would've done without her. I felt terrible for being such a burden.

Surgery a week after a major loss is not recommended.

While grieving it's fairly common to question your own mortality, and it's also amplified when facing surgery and/or the need for general anesthesia. I don't think it's uncommon to feel on edge when you're in a position that asks you about advanced directives. The night before my surgery I was wrecked with worry. I had barely slept all week, the pure exhaustion only fed my fear. Thankfully, the morning of I was holding it together, but I knew I wouldn't feel relief until it was over. I appreciated that the staff was kind and patient. I confirmed with every new face, and those that were familiar, that it was my right ankle that was being operated on. I was incredibly paranoid that the wrong foot would be done. The doctor signed the proper foot to confirm that no mistakes would be made in the OR.

My skin was dry and itchy from the body wash they gave me to shower with the night before and that morning. Plus, they had me wipe down with antimicrobial wipes before putting on the hospital gown. The gown was one of those new contraptions that blow warm or cool air for comfort. When it wasn't running, I found it incredibly sweaty. My skin couldn't breath due to the fabric. I'm sure my nerves encouraged me to perspire too. I was moist, yet still my skin felt too tight and itchy. To make things even less comfortable, I started my period that morning, so I was given a hospital pad and net panties to wear. If you're lucky, you've never had the pleasure... Needless to say, I was eager to get the show on the road. After meeting with the anesthesiologist, they wheeled me back for a nerve block which would help with pain. Somehow, I missed this little detail when discussing the surgery with my doctor. It was for the best, otherwise I would have stressed over the injection to the back of my leg. When it came time for it, though, I remembered I took a giant needle to the neck in March - I could do this, piece of cake. It wasn't too bad. I was most worried it didn't take, because it wasn't numb. It didn't become obviously numb until they asked me to move from the gurney to the operating table. They secured me in place, the last thing I recall is checking the dry erase board to be sure it was my information on it and I breathed a little easier when I saw that the right ankle was notated.

When I woke in recovery, I sort of recalled that the surgery went well and there was need to repair the peroneal tendon, in addition to the arthoscopy to remove scar tissue and the Brostrum Repair. I asked again just to confirm. Yes, I made it! It was over, and I felt pretty great. No nausea, pain wasn't an issue and I felt rested. I had begun to forget what that felt like, since sleep had become so rare.

I was discharged, we scarfed down burgers and fries, everything was great until I had to pee. It came on strong and quick, Amy was in the pharmacy. She left her phone in the car. When I couldn't wait no more, I called the store and asked her to come outside. I knew I needed to hurry things along. It's probably less than two miles to home, but my goodness it felt like eternity and wouldn't you know it we were stopped by every stop light. We got to the house and I took off on crutches, I felt like a horse being released from the gate at the Kentucky Derby. I made it just in time. I really don't think I had a minute to spare. That's when I learned the first rule of not being able to walk. Do not wait to use the bathroom.

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That first night went way better than expected. I was in a splint for the first two weeks to allow for swelling, I kept my leg propped up on four pillows to keep it properly elevated. I took the pain meds to stay ahead of the pain and two per dose were suggested, but I opted for one. I really didn't think I needed them, and I certainly didn't want them, but I followed doctor's orders. I figured they knew better than me. I was confused by how long the nerve block would last, I heard different answers - as little as a few hours and as long as 18-20. I was good until sometime the next day. Then, it was clear why they suggest two pills for each dose for the first 72 hours. I took two every four hours. There was no losing track of time. My body was very alert, it knew when the meds were due.

The next few days were a blur. It was an extremely uncomfortable time. My skin remained dry and itchy. I developed a rash, anti-biotics or pain meds? I'm not sure, but it did clear up when I weened myself of the Percocet. That's likely to blame. They say general anesthesia makes you hyper-emotional, maybe it does, but I also was grieving and overwhelmed with the duties that come with the death of a parent. I was a mess. The pain was strong. I depended on the pain meds more than I would've liked. They caused constipation. Anytime my foot wasn't elevated was extremely uncomfortable because the throbbing would increase in intensity. All I could do was lay in bed, I'd take deep breaths and repeat "This is only temporary" it's been my mantra for weeks now.

I had great expectations of watching Netflix, reading, and writing. But I couldn't focus, my days and nights were spent trying to find a comfortable position, fighting for sleep, and re-watching all the episodes of Sex & The City. The highlight of my days were visits from Nick and Addison. Frank returned from his trip. I couldn't help but feel envious of his adventure. I'd give anything to escape my thoughts or the four walls that surrounded my bed. I was so stir crazy and anxious the first few days, I had no idea how I would survive two weeks off work, and stuck in bed. My outings were limited to errands dealing with my mom's death. I enjoyed the warmth of sunshine (even if the sun felt too bright) and the fresh air the outings provided. Even if it was a struggle & painful to leave the confines of my bed.

I couldn't help but reflect on the last year, and my heart broke for my mom. I was only recovering from ankle surgery and on pain pills for 10 days. She was battling cancer, while fighting to breathe... she had no choice but to depend on stronger and stronger medicines for pain. And all the awful side effects that come as a result. I suffered only a month of the insomnia she complained of for year, and I was going mad. I did all I could for her, I did my best, but now that I found myself in a similar hell. I wished I had been more patient, more compassionate. That's all I could think at all hours while I laid awake, praying for sleep, in the very bed she'd lay during her stays at my house.

Coming off the pain meds seemed to improve my mood, and by then the routine became familiar. I still felt isolated and depressed, but my spirits were lifting. I was eager for the next step in my recovery.

1 comments:

KathyinNY said...

Wishing you a speedy recovery!

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