Broken Dreams

This report has been a long time coming. Still, better late than never, I suppose.

On January 10th, I was going to let the dogs out for a pee break. I was annoyed, which is not a good way to be when traversing tight areas. I caught the corner of the dog ramp with my foot, and tripped. As I fell, I considered my options: fall on the wooden ramp itself, fall forward and hit a glass coffee table, fall sideways and hit a wire dog crate, fall right and hit a brick fireplace. Eventually, I just collapsed on the floor.

The first (sad) thing to admit is that I had tripped over this particular ramp before. Every time I did, my Spousal Unit mentioned we should get rid of it, but she never will. Even now, it’s just blocking the other side of the couch.

The second thing is that this time, it really hurt. I couldn’t even consider getting up for a couple of minutes. I just lay on the floor, wondering what to do, and thinking I could soon be the second person in this house Dallas Fire Rescue might have to come lift up (RIP my Mom-in-law.)

Finally, I got up and struggled back to the couch. I never twisted my ankle this badly, but I assumed I could “walk it off.” However, unlike other falls, it wasn’t getting better.

By morning, it was worse, so it was off to urgent care. I would have gone to the emergency room, but didn’t want to waste an entire day on a sprained ankle.

The urgent care by us said on the website that they did x-rays and handled minor broken bones. This was useful, even though I was sure it wasn’t broken, because I had never broken a bone in my life.

The website lied. They had the equipment but nobody there who could use it. The physician’s assistant on duty was useless, but she seemed to confirm it wasn’t a break, so I just figured “Suck it up, Buttercup” and get on with life. Since the PA was an idiot, we decided to just get an appointment with my orthopedic practice. We could have driven across town for a x-ray, but the specialists always do their own, even if you walk in with them, so why waste the time and money? Besides, the PA said it probably wasn’t broken (she didn’t see bones sticking out), so even though she was an idiot, that confirmed my lifelong failure to break a bone, so that was good enough.

On Monday, we managed to get an appointment on Wednesday to see the orthopedist. Those guys are busy. So, I just hopped around in the meantime. The PA didn’t think I needed a boot, so I just limped around in my flip-flops, since I couldn’t fit into a shoe.

Wednesday morning, we saw the orthopedist. They sent me for x-rays before he came in, so I got to limp the entire length of their offices to the x-ray room (and back.)

The doctor looked at the x-rays and said I had broken my foot … and my ankle.

Broken, I believe

He asked why we had waited to come in, and we said we went to urgent care on Saturday, and they didn’t think it was broken. “Didn’t they do x-rays?” So, that was that story, again. My wife is always happy to trash one practice to another. “They didn’t put you in a boot?” More trashing.

Urgent care’s care did not look good.

That afternoon, I had a CT scan which also said I had broken the crap out of both my foot and ankle. From tripping over a dog ramp.

As they got me a boot, we started discussing surgery options. It was January 15th. We had an anniversary cruise on February 9th. Nothing major, February 11th was just our 20th wedding anniversary. The doctor said we could go, no big deal, it I wasn’t like I was going to do any more damage, but the idea of a cruise on a new ship with no snorkeling, actually no beach time, and getting around on a scooter wasn’t very appealing.

We canceled the cruise in the 100% penalty period. Always buy insurance! The checks are in the mail.

We scheduled surgery for January 21st. I had to go to the hospital the day before for a surgical pre-check, since there wasn’t time for my family doctor to do it. Luckily, I passed.

Surgery was thankfully not at the crack of dawn. We got to the hospital (well, the day surgery facility) and got checked in. I got my bed and my gown. It almost fit.

The anesthesiologist came in and said he was going to administer two nerve blockers to help get ahead of the pain. After that, it was general anesthesia, as well.

The doctor came in and autographed my foot so he would remember that the one amazingly larger than the other was the broken one.

Off to the OR. I’m traditionally a good patient who has recovered faster than average. This was going to be my first set of metal plates. The doctor said he would probably leave the ankle alone unless he saw something he didn’t like. He saw it. So, one plate in the foot, one plate in the ankle.

I woke up in the recovery room in the worst pain I have ever experienced. I couldn’t focus, it was so bad. Apparently, my body has alternate nerve paths to my foot which didn’t get blocked.

Unfortunately, since I had the nerve blocker, I wasn’t given any painkillers after surgery. So, after I couldn’t cope, the staff gave me Fentanyl and not much happened. They gave me hydrocodone, and that started to help, but I couldn’t get ahead of the pain. They finally admitted me.

After a while in the room, somebody gave me morphine, and that knocked the pain down. After that, it was hydrocodone every four hours.

As usual, the doctors successfully downplayed the possible pain aspects of recovery. They managed to have me never consider what cutting my foot open and screwing stainless steel plates into multiple bones might feel like after I woke up. Well played.

Overnight, my wife discovered the order for hydrocodone was “as needed” and not “every four damn hours so he doesn’t die”, so I had a dose an hour late, and the pain came back. An hour or so after that, I asked for more morphine, and it settled back down. From then on, we asked for hydrocodone a bit early, just in case.

The whole “drugs working slowly” was new for me. A nurse would give me something, and say, “You’ll feel better in a half-hour or so.” It would take an hour or more. So, getting meds on time became critical.

Here’s a funny thing I learned – anesthesia can put your bladder to sleep. Then, you can’t pee. Joy. Of course, trying to pee off the side of a bed into a handheld urinal while two nurses and your wife are discussing your ability to pee three feet away is difficult, anyway.

So, now they had to manage my pain and try to awaken my bladder. Day two in the hospital – the day facility not really designed for overnight guests. You know you’ve overstayed your welcome when they stop comping you’re wife’s meals.

I do have to say, the staff was great. The nurses managed to keep my wife calm and me medicated. I can’t ask for more than that.

Here’s a fun way to start an unexpected day in the hospital – physical therapy. As a new cripple, I had to learn to transfer from bed to a walker, from a walker to a knee scooter and from either to a potty chair. The physical therapist was very insistent that I do this all within about twenty minutes. I was a heavily-drugged patient who had no sleep. It was interesting.

I did enough transferring to get the physical therapist to leave me alone, and tried to get some sleep. However, they still wanted my bladder awake.

Have you ever heard of a catheter? It’s a small tube that goes into your bladder to help drain urine when you can’t pee it out on your own.

Actually, it’s a glass rod a nurse inserts into a body part you had once promised to reserve for your wife. “Small” may be true, but the opening it is going into is even smaller. It hurts like hell, but then it’s in. Don’t move too much, and it’s fine. Well, less painful.

Here’s a tip – drain your bladder for all your worth when the catheter is inserted. Otherwise, the staff will decide you need a more permanent catheter, which means pulling one pipe out of your manhood and replacing it with another one.

You know, a nurse handling a guy’s business is a key part of a lot of porn films (I’ve heard.) I doubt the hot nurses in those movies had catheters in their other hand. That would be a horror movie.

Here’s the interesting part of having a catheter in – you pee without knowing it. At one point, the nurse asked me if I knew when I peed, and I said, “No.” She said, “You’re peeing now.” Three women’s (two nurses and a wife) heads all did the “puppy tilt” to watch the tube running out of me.

Thursday, I got the catheter removed. A while later, I finally peed. I transferred to the potty chair to do so, which made physical therapy happy. I’m pretty sure one motivation was avoiding having the catheter replaced. Since I successfully emptied my bladder on my own (they measured it), I was allowed to go home. I would have run for the door, but … broken foot and ankle.

In Tuesday, out Thursday. For day surgery. I’m losing my touch.

The hydrocodone continued for a few days after I got home. In truth, I would never get addicted to it, but I was afraid to stop taking it. I don’t want the pain back. I finally started dropping the dose, and then spreading them out, and then it was gone.

The main problem with losing a foot temporarily is learning to walk without it. The technical term is “non-weight-bearing.” In other words, I can’t let my right foot hit the ground. I could hop for six to eight weeks, but that’s probably not feasible.

The solution is reams of equipment. When my wife had Achilles surgery years ago, all the equipment was so expensive, you had to get the insurance company to find someone to provide it. Now, you get it from Amazon.

Here’s the foot support gear:

  • Wheel chair (rented)
  • Walker (hospital)
  • Boot (doctor’s office, pre-op)
  • Knee Scooter (Amazon, two tries, sent one back)
  • Potty chair (hospital)
  • Bath transfer bench (Amazon)
  • Bath chair (Amazon, as backup)

I have been living in my wife’s recliner since the operation. The dogs are very confused. If there is a laptop in front of me, I’m at work. If there’s food, I’m on a break. If I’m reclined all the way, I’m sleeping. It’s two shuffle steps to the bathroom, two shuffle steps back. I hate it. My wife lived in this chair after her shoulder surgeries and I don’t know how she did it.

The first two weeks after surgery, I was in a splint, waiting for the swelling to go down.

After two weeks, the splint was replaced by a cast. Before the cast went on, I had more x-rays. This time, I was taken in a wheelchair because it was broken. Then, the cast went on. My first cast.

My first cast (with Graham Gnome)

Three weeks later, the cast came off, and was replaced by the boot. The boot I was given the first day at the orthopedist, after they realized that urgent care didn’t give me one.

My last week in the cast, I moved back to bed at night, because I couldn’t take the recliner any longer. I vaguely remember “just going to bed.” Now, it’s getting the knee scooter to get down the hall, falling sideways into bed, moving the scooter so my wife can put the potty next to the bed, and then go to sleep. It’s still better than the recliner.

The longest challenge is taking a shower. I have a foot and ankle that can’t get wet. So, down the hall on the knee scooter into the bathroom. Do a 180 (harder than it sounds in a narrow room.) Slide onto the transfer bench. Scoot into the tub, sticking the boot out, so the boot can be replaced by a cast cover (waterproof, self-sealing). Into the shower. By this point, I’m exhausted. Luckily, it amuses the dogs. After the shower, everything is done in reverse, drying everything carefully to keep the foot and ankle dry.

I’m very glad I’m home-officed. I can work without much effort other than getting my laptop out and logging into the systems. My team is spread out all over the world, so time zones are a challenge but nobody is missing me in the office.

The only other concern is that the top of my foot isn’t healing as well as the doctor would like. So, he’s keeping an eye on it. Apparently, there’s not much skin on top of the foot. I’m a bit concerned they will be debriding it – which is a polite term for “cutting off a bunch of dead skin.”

It’s going to be an interesting scar. Well, scars.

On March 4th, I can put “some weight” on the foot. I need to ask what that really means. I’m thinking running a marathon is probably out.

On March 11 (a month after our anniversary), I may be able to walk again. Then, starts physical therapy. Two months or so since I tripped and couldn’t fall properly.

I’m hoping to be fully functional by my 60th birthday in April. Yes, this was going to be a year of landmarks without adding “first broken bone.”