You will be in an altered state for many moons...

If your Achilles tendon is ruptured, torn, or even simply inflamed with tendonitis, your life is about to change. Mine sure has - so I decided to chronicle these events, and create a place for others to share their experiences, advice, resources and emotions during our journey toward recovery.

Nothing in this blog is meant to take the place of the medical advice of your physician. Follow the instructions of your medical professionals, not me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I got to thinking about everything and I realized that in order to be completely honest about this whole venture, I should talk about what I am beginning to think is inevitable emotionally - frustration and even depression.

My surgery was four weeks ago, and I returned to work two weeks ago.  Objectively, I know that I am slowly but steadily healing, and that one day my life will be normal again.  At least, that's what I believe, and the odds are definitely in my favor.

But...I gotta warn you, disability is frustrating.  I am SO SICK AND TIRED OF THE CRUTCHES AND THE ROBOCOP BOOT.  I am tired of sitting on my flabby butt being inactive.  I am tired of not being able to clean my own house (and I'm a neat freak).  I am tired of everything being a struggle.  I'm tired of being bored.  I'm tired of my house.  I'm tired of not being able to shop without it being a major hassle.

I am tired of not being able to wear two shoes!

My leg and ankle are weak and pathetic.  My tendon is swollen to twice it's normal size.  On the bright side, the scar itself is not shocking or distracting - I think within a few months it will be nothing more than a small white line down the back of my ankle. 

But I think the hardest thing for me to deal with is the solicitude of others.  Now isn't that weird?  But I hate to be dependent on others.  I hate asking people to do things for me.  I hate, hate, hate being a burden!  When I'm at work, I hate worrying my customers, who are inevitably alarmed when they see the crutches or see me get up to help them.  Oh, how I hate the clumsy, painful limping along on crutches, and the sympathy that pours out of people!

There - there's my rant. 

I have to remind myself that I was in pain BEFORE the surgery - and things were getting worse, not better.  However, that's hard to remember at this particular point - when I am MORE disabled than I was before the surgery, and I have months to go before I am recovered enough to resume life as I knew it before.

This achilles tendon injury and surgery are exactly what I said they were - DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA!

One thing that has been very helpful is that I can track this same set of emotions on other blogs - and the vast majority of those bloggers eventually report excellent results - after many months of rehab.  And I have read as they hit this same wall I'm hitting now - and lived to tell about it.

If you're struggling with this, also - KEEP THE FAITH!

23. Gettin' jiggy wid it!

Well, well, well - good news and bad news.  The good news is that I can tell I am regaining strength in my ankle and calf, and I'm able to put weight on it without cringing - though at this point there's still so much swelling that I can't imagine ever putting that gimpy foot back into a regular shoe!

The other good news is that the incision is healing very well.  The top of my foot is still numbish and tingles if I stroke it - and it seems to be the type of thing that could very well be attributed to the tourniquet that was used in surgery, as Dr Langford said.  This could take months to correct itself - and may not ever be 100 percent fixed, but I can live with that.  But back to the incision - it's a nice, straight, pink scar - not too bumpy, but still definitely tender.  The achilles tendon itself remains quite swollen - roughly twice as thick as the one on the other foot.  UGH!

And all these years I've been a bit vain about my nicely tapered ankles.  Now I only have one nicely tapered ankle!

Every morning the swelling has receded, and every evening it's back in full force.  I have a feeling I'm going to be battling that swelling for months to come.

So the swelling and tingling are the icky news items, but one more good news item is that my ankle seems pretty mobile.  Overall, I'm definitely seeing improvement.  Not every day, but slowly over time.

Another thing that's improved is that I'm getting quite nimble on these crutches.  The key to crutches is to rest your weight on the HANDLES - NOT the pads under your arms.  If you rest on your armpits you will hurt all over.

One ominous sign when it comes to the length of recovery time - my doctor gave me a six months handicapped placard for my car - and I'm beginning to believe I'll need every day of that. 

I have a doctor's appt Wednesday - so I'll update this again then!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

22. Twas brillig, and the slithy legs did gire and gimble in the wabe...

Oh, frabjous day, calloo, callay, I'm chortling in my joy!  I went to the doctor a couple of days ago and I am out of the plaster and gauze cast and into a boot, which allows me to (very gingerly) put a little weight down on my foot!  This is important for several reasons:

1.  It makes walking on crutches a LOT easier.
2.  I can get my leg wet.
3.  It will allow me to use the leg in a limited manner, which should decrease the atrophy of the leg muscles.

Yes, I said atrophy.  Take a gander at the difference in the size of my legs - in just two weeks!  Now - I realize that neither of my legs actually qualifies as "scrawny," but...there is a definite difference between the two:

So - as much as I've appreciated my knee scooter, I'm retiring it for now.  I've found that walking with crutches, while still maddening in it's own way, is not quite as scary when you can bear a bit of weight on the gimpy foot, and I can't help but think that using that leg will offset some of that scrawniness.

The rest of the good news is that my tendon is healing very well, better in fact than average.  This is VERY exciting to me because achilles tendon injuries and surgeries are notoriously bad at healing well, because blood flow to that area of the body is not good.  The fact that I'm healing so well so far has me thinking that my rehab will probably go well when I start physical therapy in a couple of weeks. 

When the doctor took off the plaster cast and unwrapped my leg, it looked AWFUL!  I will spare you images of the abomination of the desolation, and will just use mental imagery instead.  My leg was shriveled, wrinkled because of the gauze wrapping and muscle atrophy (sorry, but I'm used to firm, tight calves!), orange from the iodine wash they used during surgery, and (this was the WORST PART!), HAIRY. 

And then I got a look at the scar......

OK, I have to admit - I'm going for effect here.  Actually the scar itself isn't as bad as it looks - the black stuff is glue.  My totally cool doctor used glue rather than stitches or staples.  So in spite of the grody look of it, this scar is actually beautiful.

Monday, October 25, 2010

21. Warzone photo

Thank you, Dr. Langford, for following my expert instructions so well!  And thank you for sending me this photo - it's always nice to be validated.

OK, seriously, I feel that I was very blessed to be a patient of Dr. Langford.  He has a rock solid reputation in this area, excellent bedside manner, and - most importantly to me (though I admit this is not usually a high priority for most people) - he has a great sense of humor.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

20. The case of the shriveled leg

OK, NOW I am alarmed.

You know, I just can't figure this out, but for some reason I am obsessed with this leg and this cast.  Call me crazy.  I can't get my mind off of it.  Maybe subconsciously I'm getting subliminal messages that say, "Pssst - your leg hurts.  Hey, guess what - you can't walk.  Hey - you may not have noticed this, but your heel feels like it's on fire, and your ankle is throbbing.  Pssst - get a load of this:  You have huge wads of gauze and plaster, and bandages all over your left leg and the cast weighs about 40 pounds.  Hey - did you know that to get up and go to the bathroom means that you'll have to balance on one leg while you pull down your pants and underwear?"

Yeah - I'm a bit fixated.

So anyway, last night as I was in that purgatory also known as the master bathroom, trying to manuever a fairly large scooter in a fairly small space, which requires the same level of skill as it takes to back a trailer into a small parking space, I got to thinking,

"Dang it, my leg is hotter than Hades.  I think I need to let things air out a little and maybe loosen up the bandages a bit."

So I sat down and propped my leg, the bane of my existance, up on the counter and began to unwrap the Ace bandage.  Now - I'm not completely crazy.  I had no plans to unwrap anything else, or to mess with the ankle area whatsoever.  No, just the Ace bandages.

Well, I got all that off, and of COURSE my curiosity got the better of me.  For starters, as any other girl would wonder, I wanted to see how long the hair was on my leg.  I had a mental image of long, curly, coarse black hairs sprouting everywhere.  After peeking down into the gauze, I am pleased to announce that the hair growth is minimal. 

But - I was alarmed by the loose, papery skin over the calf.  I looked at my other calf, which was relaxed.  Hmmm, the skin on THAT calf was nice and smooth and supple.  I tensed up my "good" calf, and everything firmed up nicely.

So I tried to tense up my other calf.  Hey.  I couldn't get it to work.  I mean, NOT AT ALL.  WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?  So, balancing precariously on my stool from WalMart (not a good combination of elements), I heaved both legs up onto the counter in front of the mirror, for comparison. 

This is AMAZING - in a surreal, alarming way.  My left leg is CONSIDERABLY smaller than my right leg.  It's also kind of sunken in where my formerly firm, rounded calf muscle was.  Now - my surgery was only ten days ago.  Granted, I was in a boot cast before that off and on (mostly on) for several months, and I've been limping for a year, so maybe there was already some shrinkage I hadn't noticed. 

But DAMN - this is NOTICEABLE.  The other weird thing was that, try as I might, I simply could not tense up that calf, not for anything.  It's not that it hurt, or that it was stiff - it just simply doesn't work.  Like it's not connected to anything.

I think this must be why:

Look at where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calf muscles.  I guess if the tendon is very weak and fragile, or traumatized, it stands to reason that it just doesn't work well, including doing whatever it needs to do to support the calf muscles.

Note to self - ask doctor about this at the Wednesday appointment!  Meanwhile, surf net like crazy between now and then. 

Physical therapy cannot begin a moment too soon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

19. Euphoria and consequences

Well, yesterday marked one week out from surgery, and I woke up feeling like this:

I hadn't taken a pain pill for about 15 hours, and I'd slept thru the night, and woke up so refreshed that I nearly forgot I had a leg which weighs about 140 pounds and is basically useless.  I was quickly reminded of this fact when I tried to swing my legs over the side of the bed - but nothing could dampen my mood!  The coffee was fresh, the October sky was brilliant, and my knee scooter was waiting. 

Michael had errands to run, so out the door he went - glad to escape into the beautiful fall day.

After a couple of cups of coffee, I decided I would brave the bath again.  I was full of confidence.  I scooted right on into the master bath, and as I was undressing, I had an idea - I would try to get on the scales.


Now - this news will inspire any girl - but especially a fluffy 48 year old girl, with six different sizes of jeans hanging in the closet.  I decided to try on some jeans and see just how low I could go.  The cast proved to be a challenge - but not impossible to work around.

I could get into my smallest jeans!  Now - I didn't say I could get into them ATTRACTIVELY - and the blood flow from the waist down would definitely be impeded - but I can always hang onto them in case I have to have surgery on my other Achilles tendon, because they would be a very effective tourniquet (and that word looks so weird typed out that I had to spell check it - but apparently it's write).

OK, I was feeling fine fo sho now.  So good in fact, that I rolled back over to the bathtub and squirted in some bubble bath and filled that bathtub to the very rim with steaming hot water and bubbles.  Then I heaved myself over the bow again and sunk into bliss.

This was when I made my first mistake.  I didn't realize that bubbles are so wet.  And I also couldn't really judge the depth of the water.  Long story short - I got my cast wet.

Man, bandages and plaster really soak up water in a hurry.

As soon as I realized what I had done (which was instantly), all my joy was taken from me.  So...I just got back out (as gracelessly as I had gotten in) and sat there nekkid on my scooter, trying to assess the situation.  I finally got out my blowdryer and sat there for the longest time, holding it till my arm hurt, and then decided I had done the best I could.  The plaster seemed to be holding.

It takes a lot to knock me down when I'm in a fine mood, so as soon as I got bored with worrying about this (about 3 minutes), I scooted back into the closet and got out REAL CLOTHES - real pants, not workout pants, and a real shirt, not a T shirt, and a REAL BRA and even cute panties - and got dressed.  I put on makeup -even mascara, which I had been avoiding for days - and even spent extra time on my hair!  Yes, life was mighty fine.

I felt so good, I even did what housework I could on a scooter - which isn't much, and that in itself is a blessing.  Hey, this isn't so bad - feel good, look cute, and capitalize on the inability to actually do much work!

I decided to brave the big outdoors, and I even scooted down my driveway to the mailbox, which was an adventure because the driveway is a pretty pronounced downward slope, and I found out that my rear brakes on the scooter don't work all that well.  Note to self - don't use the scooter outside barefoot.

In the mail was some stuff I had ordered with wild Vicodin-inspired abandon a few days ago.  Honestly, can life get much better?

I opened the blinds in the den wide to enjoy that brilliant Texas sky, settled down on the sofa with my new toys and my Kindle and a cherry flavored Coke Zero and began to entertain myself.  It was then that I noticed something odd about my cast.

It seemed to be getting WETTER.  I don't know any other way to describe it. I had only dipped my cast into the water for a split second - and only the calf part of my leg at that - and now, even my toes were wet.  What the heck?

Here's what I think happens with all that gauze and bandage stuff.  I guess it is just HIGHLY absorbent, and must retain moisture like crazy.  So - I had to put my toys aside and scoot back into the bathroom again - this time to get serious with that blow dryer.

With great trepidation, I unwrapped the Ace bandages.  Yep, all that gauze was wet, wet, wet.  The plaster splint seemed unaffected, which was good, but a leg full of wet bandages cannot possibly be condusive to proper healing.  Damn!

I didn't dare unwrap the gauze under the bandages, because that stuff is fragile, and I could tell there would be no way to rewrap it - and I didn't have any new gauze.  So - I broke out the blow dryer again and this time sat there for, I don't know, a long ass time, thoroughly bored, with my leg in a very uncomfortable position, drying the results of my 2 seconds of inattention.

Come to think of it, 2 seconds of inattention is what put me here in the first place - I think this whole thing started when I fell off that stepladder a freaking YEAR ago...grrrrrrr, my mood was deflating.  "I don't WANT to go back to the doctor - I don't WANT to get a new cast - I just want to have a carefree day!"

Eventually, I got everything pretty dry, though sitting here the next day, I can tell that things are still a little damp.   This is my project for the day.

But - back to yesterday.  Michael came home about the time I got redressed  - whew, I didn't want him walking in on that scene and thinking I was a complete idiot.  I'm quite sure he wouldn't have approved of any of this - from the exuberant bathing to the mad dash down the hill on the scooter.  By the time he got home I was feeling chipper again - and very cute.

'Wow, you look...normal," he stated as he stood in the doorway with his arms full of bounty.  He had been to Lowe's so he was also in a fine mood. 

"I feel fantastic," I announced.  "What did you buy?"

"A jack!  And some..." and then he rattled off a list of manly items that I couldn't possibly repeat, since I have no idea what he was talking about..."and I got a great deal on all of it - you wanna come see?"  So off we went to the garage.

Oh, the day was mighty fine.  Autumn leaves were swirling in the breeze, the sky was a brilliant shade of azure, and I was sitting there in semi-skinny jeans, watching my adorable husband revel in his new man toys.  I decided I wanted him to take me out to eat.
Michael looked delighted.  "Let's go!"  I decided on crutches as my modus operandum and off we went - into the real world. 

And get this - we got to use my handicapped placard and park RIGHT BY THE DOOR.  It was the coolest thing ever.

In the restaurant, everyone treated me extra special because of my crutches.  People held doors open for me, let us get seated first, acted like they really wanted to hear what had happened to me.  I saw a man hobbling about on a walker, and I smiled benevolently at him and said, "I know how you feel."

He looked at me and said with a snarl, "Really?  Did you break your hip a year ago, and go through three months in the hospital, a year of rehab, and come to grips with the reality that you will spend the rest of your life in excruciating pain?"

Startled, I replied, "Well, no...but I tore my Achilles tendon and had to have day surgery..."

He looked at me for a moment in silence and then swung his walker around and stomped off.  His wife patted me on the shoulder and looked over at Michael with eyes filled with compassion.  "I hope your wife recovers quickly."

Well.  I guess I'm not REALLY one of the cool disabled people after all.  I'm obviously a novice.

Suddenly, I felt tired.  And my ankle started throbbing.  And I realized that the meal I had just consumed had probably added three pounds to me - reducing my weight loss to a mere pittance.

When we got home, I broke down and took a pain pill, which immediately hurled me back into that foggy, sickly state, and which also caused the usual 3 am Vicodin wake up call.  I woke up with my heel burning and throbbing, and I realized something profound:

I am not yet recovered.

Melanie - take it easy.  There's a reason why you took two weeks off from work.  You need to rest and let your body heal itself., I will take it easy.  I will find that healthy middle ground somewhere between sitting on the sofa in a daze, wearing a t-shirt with a ramen noodle dried to my breastesses, and hurling myself down the driveway like a NASCAR racer, dressed like I'm going to the club.

My reality is this - I'm healing, but I ain't there yet.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

18. Caregivers, caregivers, lend me your ears

Not that my two aren't perfectly fine. But listen up:

I am a lucky girl.  For starters, my caregiver is not only FREE, he's also GENEROUS.  He also happens to be my husband, who, for whatever reasons, apparently loves me enough to have a pretty good attitude about all this recent chaos in our lives.  His tenderness toward me was manifested in these words he spoke to my doctor as we met just prior to my surgery:

"Doctor Langford, the woman laying here is the light of my world.  I cannot imagine life without her, or even life without her precious and adorable foot - in perfect working order.  If you harm her in any way, I will hunt you down like a werewolf hunting down dinner in the streets of London under a full moon.  I have spoken."

Actually, what he said was,

"Doc, if I thought it would get her to shut up about her damn foot, I would let you cut on ME.  Have at it and I sure hope it works, so we can both have some relief."

Yes, Michael is sensitive that way.  But to give credit where credit is due, he DID take time off from work just to sit around and look at me - to prepare my meals, stock my little cooler each day, watch helplessly as I struggle to get around, reassure me that he loves me as I sit around like Jabba the can't be any fun for him, and he's a man who does enjoy his fun.

We've made it through a week now, and we've managed to remain civil towards each other.  But - let's be honest - it hasn't been all peaches and cream all week either.  Personally, I am glad for two living areas in our house, because this allows us to get away from each other for awhile each day.  And every once in awhile, he jumps up from the recliner (apparently without any external stimulation) with a semi crazed look in his eyes and announces loudly, "I'M GOING TO THE STORE DO YOU NEED ANYTHING GREAT OK BYE!" and darts out of the house.  He comes back a little while later with cool things like ice cream, solar powered porch lights, cameras...I think he just has to go somewhere and wander around in the land of the living for awhile before clambering back down into our little wolf spider nest.

Meanwhile, my world has gotten very, very small.  Things I never paid much attention to suddenly loom into great importance.  For instance, I noticed a piece of paper on the floor - the corner of a sweetener packet.  Now - how did that get there?  I certainly didn't do it, now did I?  No - he obviously did that.  Just left a piece of paper on the floor.  Like a caveman.  Men are pigs. 

By the time he got back from the store, this piece of paper over in the corner had morphed into a Rand McNalley roadmap of Texas.  Michael wandered into the den, carrying the latest bounty like Captain Bligh carrying a breadplant before the King of England, only to be met with my eyes gleaming like rapiers.

"What?" he said, looking warily across the room.

I looked at him with a pained expression, and said softly with exxagerated politeness, "When you get a moment - at your convenience of course - and not like I'm trying to tell you what to do - but - when you can find the time, I wonder if you would mind..."

He looked at me with narrowing eyes.

"...If you wouldn't mind, taking a moment to..."

"Yes?" he growled, eyes glinting like a wolf's.


To which he replied, also in a faux courteous voice, "Don't even go there. Before you is the man who has cooked every meal, washed every dish, helped you take a shower, mopped, swept and vaccuumed the entire house, washed all your panties in the delicate cycle, and bought you an expensive camera.  I will leave that piece of paper on the floor until I get good and ready to pick it up, and you can just sit there and look at it - perhaps for days."

I guess my advice to caretakers would be simply this - keep up the good work.  And keep going to the store.

17. The Party Pooper

What - were you expecting a post about poop?  I can't imagine why you would think that I would ever bring up such a subject.  Southern ladies do not discuss poop.

No, I am going to quit my shenanigans for a moment, because though I do like finding the humor in most situations (which unfortunately has some negative consequences at times - like the time I was sitting on the front row at my grandfather's funeral and suddenly began to notice the odd inflection that the pastor put at the end of every phrase, and then began to wonder if anyone else was noticing it, and made the colossal mistake of shifting my eyes to the right the next time he did it, catching the mischievous eye of my son, at which point we both were overcome with a totally uncontrollable urge to fall screaming with laughter into the aisle, and I had to resort to silently reciting the Lord's Prayer over and over again frantically, while I felt my son's shoulder against mine twitching and shaking, and my cousin thought we were crying so she passed a box of tissues down to us, with disasterous results...but I digress...)

...No, anyway, some things aren't all that funny.  Sometimes the truth is painful.  And since this blog is technically supposed to actually be HELPFUL at times, unfortunately this means that at times I am going to be honest about this experience.  So here goes:

Last night some girlfriends came over, and brought a couple of bottles of wine.  I know, I know, you're not supposed to mix Vicodin with alcohol, yada yada yada, so I didn't take any Vicodin after about noon yesterday because I sort of figured they wouldn't show up empty handed.  We just don't do that where I come from, and I know these girls were raised right. 

Well, a good time was had by all, and the end result was several empty bottles of wine and some hilarious episodes involving the knee scooter and my dogs.

They need to make themselves useful some sort of way.

Come to think of it, these might not have been quite so funny if it wasn't for the wine, but who cares, right?  It was fun, and I needed to improve my social skills after nearly a week of Gollumness.

After they left, I was sitting there like a bump on a log and I got to thinking, "Damn, my leg hurts."  And then I remembered reading something on the prescription information sheet (yes, YES, I read those, OK?) about three or more alcoholic beverages and liver damage and I realized that I had just made a pretty poor trade. 

I had no choice but to dutifully arrange my 47 pillows, turn on HGTV (healthy, tanned people walking around on two legs in lovely homes  - apparently oblivious to the FACT that they could injure their Achilles tendons AT ANY MOMENT - harhahahrhahrhahHARHARHAHRHharhahrhahrhar!) and settle down for the evening sans Vicodin.  "It will be OK, " I told myself.  "It's been nearly a week - surely this can't turn into more than a dull ache."  Off I went into House Hunters International Sleepyland. 

I have no idea what time this next event happened.  All I know is that I was sound asleep one minute, and several hours later sitting straight up grasping the cast in both hands, hair sticking straight up on my head, howling, "Augh! Ohh!  Yagh! Yipes! Shit! Hell! Damn!..."  You get the drift.  And my husband was standing over me wide eyed going, "What!  What is it?  What's wrong?"

Well, you know what - I'm sorry, but I think it's pretty obvious WHAT IS WRONG.  MY LEG HURTS.  Unfortunately, it's also pretty obvious to me that there's not a damn thing that can be done about it.

Call me paranoid, but I figure that about now the last thing I need is liver trouble to cap off the rest of this fiasco.  I'm a pretty strong gal - I think I can tolerate some short term pain to keep Ye Olde Liver intact. So I took my punishment in a stoic manner (if you want to call whining, rubbing my cast, and giving my husband minute by minute updates on the level of pain on a scale of 1-10 "stoic").   

But I just want to pass this pearl of wisdom along to anyone who finds themselves in my position - who may be wondering if they should forego the pain meds for a nice "normal" evening including a couple of glasses of wine.

The answer is simple.


16. Dilemmas of a Southern lady

First of all, lest anyone think that I am a crass, unladylike person, I want to post, as evidence that I AM a lady, a photo, taken today with my new camera (thank you, Michael - you excellent caretaker, you!):

These are my feet.  Notice the pedicure (fresh and unchipped) as well as the generally excellent shape of the feet (if you disregard the whole ankle thing, which I do admit rather undermines my assertion that I take great care of my hooves!).  Yes, in spite of all my recent traumas, my priorities are still intact.

Every good Southern gal who spends nine months out of each year decked out in adorable sandals (all of us) will tell you that regardless of circumstances - surgery, divorce, identity theft, you name it - the measure of a woman's character is manifested in the condition of her toenails.  If you see one of us with jacked up toenails, you know that our life is spiraling out of control, and that we are probably not in full control of our faculties.  Or we're a horrible, irresponsible skank.  One or the other.

So - I am about to talk about things often considered unladylike - but when you start to think to yourself, "Honestly, what sort of woman discusses these things in public?" - remember that these toenails testify that I am indeed a lady.

What I want to talk about today is...constipation.  See, no one warned me about this possible complication of my achilles tendon drama and subsequent surgery.  Had I known the possible severity of this matter, I may have seriously considered hobbling around for the rest of my life in return for, errrr, "regularity."

Couple of causes:

1.  Surgery and anesthesia - these often cause constipation.  How I overlooked that pertinent information in the weeks and weeks that I read every website online regarding this surgery, I will never know.

2.  Vicodin (and some other common pain relievers).  Hey - these innocent looking little orbs slow down everything - and I do mean EVERYTHING.

3.  Inactivity - if you do nothing, you DO nothing.  Hmmm, let's see - I went from working full time, volunteer work, art projects (very physical, since most of my projects are murals and require ladders), globe trotting (my kids and grandkids are scattered all over the globe), walking large and undisciplined dogs, attending concerts (the type that involve lots of jumping up and down and dancing in the aisle) - to sitting on a sofa for days and days and days.  It was sort of like this:

4.  Weird food - and no food.  Surgery and then enforced immobility creates a ripple effect throughout your life.  One of these ripples for me is that my diet has changed tremendously in the past week.  When I say "tremendously," I do not mean that the changes have been tremendous, as in "great."  All I mean is that the changes have been SWEEPING.  I didn't realize till now just how much my intestinal fortitude depended, apparently, on eating a Subway salad nearly every day.  That ain't happenin' - in fact, not much eating at all has been happenin'.  I guess that anesthesia, and then other meds, must be serious appetite depressants.  Oh, that and the fact that I am probably burning a total of 300 calories a day right now.

When one relies on others to bring food to the sofa, there's really no telling what may show up at one's fingertips.  Personally, I hate asking other people to do anything for me, so usually when Michael has said, "Honey, are you hungry for anything?" I've either said, "No, not really," (which we all know REALLY means, "Yes, quite,") or "Well, what's easy?"  To which he's replied:

"Ummm, how 'bout some olives?"
"Well, there are some apples in here."
"I guess I could get  you some more cottage cheese, but I don't see how you eat that crap."

OK, I'm exxagerating.  He's actually COOKED dinner nearly every evening (and done a fine job of it), and even when he simply brings me a sliced apple and cheese, he arranges the slices artistically (which never ceases to amaze me).  But regardless of all his efforts, there's really nothing quite like standing at the refrigerator while holding a bag of Doritos, idly munching while perusing the cornucopia of American abundance - and then acting accordingly and with great abandon.

The end result has been that for the past week, I've eaten a lot less, and what I HAVE eaten is not what I usually eat.  And there you have it - the perfect intestinal plugger upper.

I first began to realize there could be a problem about three days ago, as I slowly emerged from my fog of pain and meds.  No problem - just eat prunes, right?  Apparently not.  And now I had added a handful of prunes to whatever else was accumulating.  So the next day, I ate apples and drank lots of water  - and now I had to get up twice as often (on crutches) and hobble to the bathroom - only to experience more frustration as only one act of a two act play transpired. 

So today - I stood at my pantry door with my leg propped up on my new toy, the knee walker, and with great trepidation, I reached with trembling fingers for my favorite METHOD OF MASS DESTRUCTION - Super Dieters' Tea.

This substance is of such awesome properties that if you drop a penny in a cup of it, and let it sit for a week, the penny will dissolve.  OK, I haven't tested that, but if anything could dissolve a penny, this stuff could.

Here was my dilemma:  What is worse - epic constipation, or being suddenly hit with the exact opposite problem, and having to get to a toilet on either crutches or a knee walker?  Hmmm, these are my only two alternatives?  Life sucks.  But I couldn't take it any longer - I felt like a stuffed sausage.

I made a cup of this elixer of the ungodly, and drank it down before I could change my mind. 

Within three minutes (and this is no lie), I felt a familiar sensation - one that is usually so predictable, and mildly comforting, and one that I usually take for granted - and off I scooted to the bathroom, where I experienced a, shall we say, cathartic moment.  Well, several moments.
Without going into detail, I'll just say this - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Then I realized, with growing horror, that I had just downed a stout cup of the most horrifyingly effective laxative known to man - and that regardless of this morning's events, this stuff was going to - GOING TO - work on me within the next 8 hours or so.

So - now I'm sitting on the sofa again, feeling like this:

Don't worry - when the inevitable occurs, I won't burden you with the details.

I'm much too much of a Southern lady to do a thing like that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

15. Imagine a choir of angels singing Handel's "Halleluia Chorus!"

Well, in the past 24 hours my life has improved DRAMATICALLY!  "This could be your life."

First of all, last night I realized, after some sniffing around, that I had put off the inevitable for as long as possible - that is, if I wanted to be able to even stand to be in the same room as myself, let alone have anyone else come near me. 

I simply HAD to overcome my fear and trepidation about some form of showering or bathing beyond baby wipes.  So I grabbed  my crutches and dragged myself into the den of horrors - the master bath.

I had already decided that nothing and nobody could get me back into that shower, so that left the bathtub - my glorious, deep, shining Jacuzzi tub, with the soft little spa pillow at the back of it, the tall, cascading faucet, and the jets of hot water that massage the lucky bather from head to toe...I love that bathtub.  But it did look like a logistical challenge.  Armed with crutches, an orthopedic shower stool, and lots of non skid bathroom rugs, I got to work.

My husband kept coming up to the closed door and hollering, "Are you OK in there?  Do you need any help in there?  Don't get yourself in a bind!" but I was determined to maintain my personal dignity (in other words, not let him see me butt nekkid in unflattering light in various ungraceful and degrading positions) and do this myself.  Besides that, after four days of sitting in a funk in an ever widening circle of human filth, I wanted to soak my bones in a jacuzzi tub, damn it!  I ran a luxurious, steaming bathtub full of clear, sparkling water and smiled down on it like Oedipus himself.

So here's how you do the deed - or rather, how I did it.  Don't you DARE even attempt this without talking to your doctor, and don't you DARE sue me when you fall and bust your ass. 

I scooted the shower stool to the side of the bathtub.  There I disrobed, throwing my stinky clothes as far from me as possible.  Then I scooted over onto the side of the tub, and swung my good leg into it.  I was now straddling the tub, with my casted leg resting on the stool.  I anchored  myself firmly with a hand on either side of the bathtub, and I lowered myself into the water (I'm tall, with long legs, but I could see how this could really be a challenge for a shorter person).  Hey, this wasn't so bad.  Once I got seated, I was able to prop my bum leg up in front of me by the faucet.  I turned those jets on, baby, and leaned back in ecstacy on my little pillow - it was FANTASTIC!  I shaved my legs (well, leg and a half), scrubbed, shampooed, conditioned, exfoliated, soaked - the full bath extravaganza!

Then I had to get out.  That part wasn't nearly as fun, but at least I felt regenerated.  I moved my bum leg back over to the side and rested it back on the stool, and then pushed up with both arms.  It helps that I have a little ledge built at about bathwater level.  Anyway, after some huffing and puffing, and a few choice words, I managed to get out of the tub and onto the stool.  Honestly, I was pretty winded after this. 

I recommend that if you insist on taking your life into your own hands in this manner, do a test run, fully clothed, with your caregiver by your side.  A shorter, weaker person, or someone with a different sort of bathtub, might have more trouble with this than I did.

It ain't easy, and it's probably not going to happen every single day for the next week or so - but it was worth the trouble!

OK - next good thing that happened to me was this:  I GOT OUT OF THE HOUSE.  OK, it was only to go to the doctor, but it felt great to feel the cool fall breeze on my face, and to talk to other living people.  NO lie, I was very tired when we got back home, but I'll definitely get back out again in a day or two, just because it made me feel more like a part of the human race and less like Gollum.

This is how I felt after four days of sitting in  my own filth on the sofa

 Alright, so we got out and went to the doctor's office, so he could check on whether or not my foot was going to fall off.  Apparently numbness is not as normal as I thought it would seem to be.  So...THEY TOOK OFF MY BANDAGES AND I GOT TO SEE MY FOOT.  Hey, it was not as grody as I thought it might be!  First of all, the only swelling seemed to be around (and this is a surprise) MY ANKLE.  There was some bruising as well, but nothing grotesque.  The really cool thing though, was the incision.  It wasn't held together with stitches, or staples, but GLUE. 

OK, I admit - it looked pretty gross, but not as awful as some pictures I've seen.  The glue/incision is blackish (blood maybe?).   It's about five inches long, straight up the Achilles tendon from about one inch above my heel up the back of my leg.  If my husband's scar (elbow, same doc) is any indication, this one should heal to a tiny white line that's hardly noticeable.  Just the unwrapping and moving about stirred up a little bit of bleeding, but even so, I think (and the doctor thinks) things look quite excellent.

He said that the numbness on the top of my foot is probably due to the tourniquet that they used during surgery.  He said that it's very tight during surgery, and that can sometimes cause temporary nerve distress.   This does feel like a nerve sort of thing.  He also said my original bandages were a bit tight.  So he wrapped things back up a bit looser, and I feel much better, even though the same area is still numb.  Doc said it may stay numb for a couple of weeks.

I go back in one week, and he said that if things continue at the same pace of healing, we will try DAS BOOT.  Damn it, I hate that thing - I've spent months in it already so far this year.  After I got home, I tried (not very hard though) to rest a TINY amount of weight on my foot.  NO CAN DO.  The pain is SIGNIFICANT.  I absolutely cannot imagine putting this foot down on the ground one week from today, the same time, I want to be aggressive about my physical therapy.  Michael keeps dangling the idea of a bike riding vacation to the Barton Creek/Lady Bird Johnson Lake in Austin in the spring, like a trainer dangling raw fish at Shamu - which I think is sort of cute.  He's trying to encourage me!  That's why I like him.  He's not ready for me to be an invalid wife - and I'm not ready for that role either.  I want back in the saddle!

Anyway - I saved the best thing for last.  Drumroll, please - for the best thing that's happened to me in MONTHS...
I got a Free Spirit Knee Walker!  I rented mine, because we expect my recovery time requiring crutches to be a month at the most, and we could rent it for $35 a week.  If you need to buy one, they are about $400.   But if you need crutches for 2-3 months, I'd say it's a good investment.  VERY comfortable.

Here's my Amazon review on the product:

"This device has given me a huge boost emotionally as well as practically. First of all, it's easy to navigate, and I haven't had any problems with balance or the ability to move it easily. It's compact, and rolls very smoothly and feels stable. The knee cushion is especially comfortable. The little bag in front is handy and holds even a tall cup pretty well (it's been very constraining not to even be able to get from the kitchen to the sofa with a drink - you'll still need a cap on that drink though). It's narrow enough to go through smaller doorways easily, but wide enough to make me feel stable as I use it. I used it to run into Walmart for just a couple of things, and it was a breeze to use, though of course I couldn't carry much up to the checkout. The brakes work well, and you can lock them and even sit down on the little seat if you need to give your knee a break. One note - though this device requires a lot less strength to use than crutches, you will still have to use your "good leg" pretty extensively. Also, the scooter is not super-light - if you are weak, you may not be able to easily get it into a vehicle by yourself. I personally didn't have a real hard time leaning on the car to get to the back door and pull the scooter out, but it was a little tricky. If you have any issues with balance, you may still want to use your crutches while you're getting the scooter out of the vehicle. Also, you will have to plan your trips to use EITHER the scooter or the crutches, because you sure can't carry crutches while scooting on this thing, and it definitely will not work if you have to go up any steps. Overall, though, this little device is a real life-improver in my opinion. It's given me a level of independence that I didn't have before, and lessened both my frustration, as well as my husband's!

One note - I called all over town trying to find one of these in stock somewhere, and local medical suppliers (and even my doctor) acted like they had never seen one, like this was some sort of novel, weird idea. One supplier did tell me he had stocked one at one time, but that he felt like it was dangerous, so he didn't re order it when it sold. After using this product, I don't know what he's talking about. I'll tell you what's dangerous - CRUTCHES. I struggle MUCH more with balance and the fear of falling on crutches than I do using this product. I love it."

So, that's all the good news that's been happening in my life in the past 24 hours.  Actually there was more (like - Michael bought me a really cool camera to replace the one I broke two weeks ago at the George Strait concert) - but this is the good stuff that's relevant to this blog anyway.  Come to think of it, the camera is pretty relevant, because I'll soon upload some pics, but this will have to do for now.

More later.  Peace out!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

14. Apparently it's not normal for my foot to feel like this:

When the hospital called to check up on me, they asked me specifically how my foot and leg felt, and I described the numbness to them.  They seemed pretty interested in this (a lot more interested than any of my friends and family by the way!) and told me to call my doctor and ask him if this was normal.

And I guess it's not, because they want me to come in so they can check things out. 

"Oh my GOODNESS - this means I'll have to actually take a SHOWER!!!"
 Maybe I'd just rather develop gangrene.

13. I guess it doesn't really matter what time I sleep, wake up, eat...

This was me at 3 am this morning:

I feel like I'm living in one of those test labs where there's no natural light and no clocks.  You know, where you just wake up and sleep and eat whenever the urge comes over you.  OR - more fitting in my case  - you do NOT do these things whenever you do NOT feel like doing them.

I'm not sure if I've done much sleeping at all since the surgery.  I think what I've done is more along the lines of "wallow in a pain-infused haze on a sofa full of mismatched pillows."  Kind of like a nightmare version of a windowless opium den, except without anything that actually feels good - plus a big heavy cast and two crutches from the pit of hell.

Hey, I'm being too morose though, because there is a bright spot in my life - agave nectar.  I'm sure it's just as fattening and bad for me as Karo syrup, but it certainly SOUNDS healthier, now doesn't it?  I've discovered that it's pretty dang good squirted on cottage cheese with granolo sprinkled over it.  Goes pretty easy on a stomach that is suddenly delicate and easily "put off."

When Michael fixed this for me, I thought his gag reflex was going to get the better of him.  As he added each ingredient, he bellowed his outrage:

"This is NOT FOOD.  Why are you eating this?"

And then,  "My gosh, I can't BELIEVE you are going to put this IN YOUR MOUTH."

And finally, "This stinks.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?"

My answer is simply this:

I ain't right right now.

By the way, is it just me, or are the HANDS on that creature in the picture really, really freaky?

Monday, October 18, 2010

12. Don't mess with Sasquatch

Bored.  Bored bored bored.  Foot looks funny.  Why are my toes so red?  Why does my heel burn?  Hey, the top of my foot is numb.  Is that normal?  I wonder if I can move my ankle at all.  Hmmm...Wonder if I can feel anything through these bandages.  Where is my incision - right here?  No, right here?  Augh, the bottom of my foot itches - need to scratch it.  What can I stick down in this splint...

This is called MESSIN' WITH SASQUATCH and I don't recommend waking the sleeping monster.  I did this during an hour of drug-induced optimism, and I'm paying for it.  STEP AWAY FROM THE FOOT.   These first few days, just behave and leave it alone!  Unless something truly alarming starts happening - pain and numbness and burning and numbness are, well, pretty normal from what I can tell, so just deal with it!  No point in exploring, unwrapping things, poking around - just let it heal.

Meanwhile, sometimes it really does feel like a troupe of wicked little fairies has rigged up a system to randomly tug on those stitches and nerves, sometimes with a vengeance!

11. Day 3 post op - Pillows, pillows everywhere, and not a drop of sleep

In order to achieve a modicum of comfort, you need this many pillows:

Oh, I'm sorry - my bad.  You need THIS many pillows:

What - did I say you need 12 pillows to get comfortable?  Well, I was wrong - you need THIS many:

Alrighty, then, I'm tired of this.  Time to get normal.  Time to sleep in my usual position without having to arrange 47 pillows around me.  Time to truly experience a day outside a meds induced fog.  Time to leap up, grab the car keys, jump in the car, open the sunroof, turn up Steve Miller's "Space Cowboy" and sing at the top of my lungs about the pompatus of love, on the way to the farmer's market to pick out the perfect pumpkin for my favorite holiday...Wait a minute, what's that throbbing?  Why does my foot feel like it weighs about 38 pounds and is a burning cinder?  Why do my toes feel like this:

Why am I laying on the sofa in the den instead of my bed?  And why am I awake at 3 am???

I'm dying of curiosity - what's going on under that splint and layers of gauze and bandage?  My foot is so hot and stiff - I'd love to just tear into this like it was Christmas morning and I was seven years old.  How long is the incision?  Is it straight or curved?  Is it healing correctly?  Inquiring minds want to know!

My foot wants AAAAIIIRRRR....and movement. 

I hate to tell anyone who's reading this the truth - but in case you haven't figured this out, after the first day, this bidness hurts like hell.  I've been reading a lot of similar blogs, and apparently this level of pain is perfectly normal.  I hate to be a big baby about it, but  I wonder if the doc can prescribe something stronger than extra strength Vicodin? 

One blog I read said something so true about pain relievers - it's not that they actually decrease a lot of the pain, it's that they simply make you not care as much that you are IN pain.  That's about right.

OK, gotta get my mind off this.  Here's what I did yesterday to do so - I researched digital cameras online, bought a multi-regional DVD player so I could order British comedies that haven't been released on US formatted DVDs yet, and almost ordered some boots online (hope spring eternal).  Someone pry my debit card out of my hand!  I'll go broke like this.

At least the Saints won yesterday against Tampa Bay - so the day wasn't a complete loss.

I haven't braved the shower/bath thing again but it's inevitable today - my mother raised me to believe that if you don't take a bath at LEAST every other day, you will go straight to hell.  I'm already headed that way anyway because obviously I haven't made up my bed in days - and that's an unpardonable sin in my book.

10. R-I-C-E treatment - an absolute must

And I don't mean steamed or fried.

RICE stands for four steps of very effective treatment for achilles tendon injuries, either before or after surgery:

1. Rest - self explanatory.  Get off that foot!

2.  Ice - apply an ice pack - 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off.  Be sure to put a towel between the ice pack and your leg.

3.  Compression - with either an Ace bandage, splint, Air Cast or combination of these (ask your doctor).

4.  Elevation - above your shoulder level in the bed.  This not only reduces swelling significantly, it's a great pain reliever.

9. Taking care of the caregiver

The thing about caregivers is that when we're this "stove up," we need them.  So...we must behave ourselves.  Yes, we're the injured one, and yes, we're the one in pain, but this is hard on our caregiver as well.

When they ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Here's my favorite caregiver - my husband Michael.  I want us to stay as happy as we are in this picture!

One thing I've noticed over the past couple of days is that our birth orders are in full force.  What I mean is that all those little idiosyncracies of our relationship seem to be magnified - especially the fact that our roles are reversed in a way.  I am the oldest among my siblings, and he's the youngest.  Even though in our marriage, he's older than me, and definitely protective and a good provider, we still interact normally in a way that reflects our birth order of oldest/youngest.  I usually "baby" on him a bit, and I'm normally VERY independent.  So now, with this forced dependency and general weakness on my part, our roles are reversed and it's stressful.

So - I'm learning a few pointers:

Keep in mind that our pain is upsetting to those who love us.  It's scary.  They don't know how to gauge it.  They want to help but they need our direction and our feedback. 

Try not to run their legs off.  Try to be thoughtful when it comes to asking them to bring you things or do things for you.  Tell them how much you appreciate all they're doing for you.  And then tell them again.  DON'T WHINE.

Try to smile.  Don't look like THIS:

Try instead to look like THIS:

By "this" I mean - brush your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face, keep yourself neat and clean, and try to SMILE.  Life's not so awful - you've had surgery, which is nearly certainly going to be extremely SUCCESSFUL, and you're going to be able to walk and run and play again one of these days.  It's going to be OK!  Don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself and getting all unkempt and nasty.  If you spill something down the front of your T-shirt, CHANGE THE SHIRT!  You'll feel better, and your family will certainly like you better.

That being said, don't hesitate to forcefully ask for help if your caregiver's not "getting it."  Don't rely on sending subliminal messages, or lay there fuming because they're intuitively meeting your needs - TELL them (politely) what you need.

And whatever you do - RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO GET UP AND DO IT YOURSELF.  You know your doctor told you to stay off that foot!  Lay back down!

8. Uh Oh, here comes the pain!

Well, I guess it was too good to be true.  Apparently, one's ankle cannot be sawed on with sharp instruments, pried open, manipulated, and then stitched back with sharp needles without eventually protesting LOUDLY.  Pain has moved in and refuses to leave the building. 

My heel is burning like it's on fire, and my toes are numb and red.  I wonder if this is normal?  I can't get comfortable, and I'm wondering if I'm in danger of overdosing on Vicodin!

I guess if I can coherently write this, I'm probably not in much danger...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

7. Crutches - tools of Satan

Crutches - can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.  They're a necessary evil, and they can be your key to mobility, or your doorway into the pit of hell, aka your floor with your face planted in it.

I suggest that when your doctor schedules you for surgery, you ask him/her to go ahead and issue you a set of crutches, to practice with BEFORE you come home woozy from drugs and in pain.

I got the lightweight metal ones that fit under your arm pits.  Nothing fancy.  If someone else has tried other styles that work better, post the info. 

Anyway, crutches are adjustable, and you should adjust them so that the armrest is about six inches below your armpit when you place your hand on the handle, allowing your arm to be slightly bent. 

Do not get in the habit of leaning into the crutches on your armpits.  You will regret that quickly!  Start immediately training yourself to stand with your arms straight, resting your weight on the HANDLES rather than the armrest.  Don't worry - the handrests will hold your weight.  The doctor will fit you with crutches that are built for your height and weight.  They feel lightweight but they're very strong.

I think women are at a disadvantage when it comes to walking with crutches, because generally speaking, we have more lower body strength and less upper body strength.  With one leg completely out of commission, and basically dead weight, the burden falls on our one good leg and our arms and shoulders.  This means that our healthy leg and foot will tire very quickly. 

Don't plan on getting out and about much with these things at first or you're likely to realize quickly you're in over your head.

When you prop your crutches next to your chair, try propping them up on the armrests rather than the ends - they won't tip over easily that way. 

When you get ready to sit down, transfer both crutches to the side your cast is on.  Reach out behind you and steady yourself on the chair with your other hand.  Be CERTAIN that the chair is stable before lowering yourself.

When you start to get up, hold both crutches by the handrests on your cast side with one hand, and the chair with the other hand.  Don't rush ANYTHING. 

Trust me when I say that you cannot put any weight on that foot at first, not even a tiny bit to balance yourself.  GO SLOWLY.

When you swing yourself forward to start walking, take it easy.  You're not in a marathon!  Don't swing out beyond the ends of the crutches.  Place your good foot squarely between the two crutches instead of in front of them.  You may move a little slower, but you'll be more balanced.

By the way, don't try the "hop on one foot" thing - anywhere.  It's too easy to forget, and put that gimpy foot down to steady yourself.  Don't risk a more serious injury just because you're tired of grabbing those crutches.

Embrace the suck!

6. New depths of humiliation!

Last night my life reached a new low - I tried to take a shower for the first time since donning THE CAST.  It was an epic fail! 

You know, I clean up pretty good, but even in the best of circumstances, not many 48 year olds look all that great nekkid.  Add a cast covered in a trash bag, a pink shower cap, crutches, and loss of muscle tone due to a year of inhibited activity, and...well, do you have a mental image yet?  NOT PRETTY.  And everything jiggles when you're jumping around on one foot.

Here's what I looked like:
  Oh, wait, wrong picture.  HERE'S what I looked like:

Why are there so many mirrors in bathrooms?

To add insult to injury, I felt so wobbly from the Vicodin, that I was scared to try this alone.  I figured that Vicodin, water, tile, and crutches wasn't too great a combination of elements, so I had to call for reinforcements, in the form of my longsuffering husband.

Let me tell you something - I didn't too much care for the odd mixture of expressions on his face.  Pity, anxiety, impatience and mirth morphed his normally attractive features into something strange and unfamiliar!

 Somehow, I think our entire relationship shifted and will never be quite the same...

Anyway, I stood there at the shower door, and realized that I had a dilemma.  Our shower has a little ledge you have to step over to get inside - most showers do, unless you're lucky and have one of the newer types, or one that is handicap-accessible. do I hop over that step - on one foot?  I mean...I was already humiliated to be standing there looking so, well, ridiculous, and then...I couldn't even get in there!  Michael and I just stood there looking down at that step, and thinking, while the water ran.  Finally I said, "Well, we can move the shower stool over and I can back into it and sit down, and hang my monkey leg outside the door." 

This SORT OF worked - but take note - be SURE that the non skid rug you have by the shower door is pushed all the way to the door.  Otherwise it will be very easy to slip on the tile. 

As soon as I got my hiney onto the stool, I looked up at my husband and said, "Thank you and will you please get out of here?"  With a very relieved expression, he darted from the room.

As I sat on that stool with the water pounding down on me and my bum leg sticking out the open shower door, trying to figure out how to clean my under yonder (thanks, Grandmother, for that terminology!) while sitting down, I realized - I haven't felt this dejected since I knocked my front teeth out in a dunebuggy wreck 30 years ago!

I also came to the conclusion that I refuse to try this shower thing again!  I think I can rig something up with that stool in the bathtub.  Any suggestions, anyone?

I managed to shave my one leg and pretty much clean myself up in about five minutes, and then I was ready to get the hell out of Dodge.  I hollered for my husband again, and he came back in and handed me a towel, with that same odd, pained expression somewhere between pity and hilarity.  "Wow, that was fast," he said.  "Are you sure you want to get out so soon?"

I looked up at him from my hunched position on that wet stool, with that stupid pink plastic cap on my head and my leg stuck out in front of me, and growled, "Do I look like a person who is having one bit of fun?  Help me get the hell out of here - and don't look at me."

He couldn't get out of there fast enough! 

On a better note - the neat little stool I bought to sit on at the bathroom counter was a good investment.  And actually, I did feel better after cleaning up, brushing my teeth, and putting on my new uniform - yoga pants and a T-shirt. time, I'll try the bathtub.  What an ordeal!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

5. SURGERY and the hospital - good times, good times...

OK, I'm writing all this the day after my surgery, so please excuse any typos or weirdness - Vicodin is a powerful drug!

<em>'All doped up': Michael Jackson dangles his son Prince Michael II over a hotel balcony in Berlin in 2002.</em>

This is a picture of my team of doctors in the operating room:

Well, that's how I remember it, anyway.  But I'm skipping ahead.

My husband Michael was pretty smart - he quickly realized that we should take the car rather than his big truck, because it would be a lot easier for me to get into after surgery - and he was right about that.

So off we went - armed with our Kindles (which neither of us had time to even crack open by the way).  My husband made a mistake in judgment that your companion may want to avoid - he didn't eat before we left the house, and ended up not getting to eat anything till about 2 pm.  Between checking in, talking to both doctors, and prepping for the surgery, they kept us moving at a pretty quick pace.

Don't be alarmed if they have a little trouble "finding a vein" for the IV.  Remember, you are dehydrated at this point.  This makes your veins harder to find and tap into.  They had to try a few times with me, but they used Lidocain at the insertion points so it was not too painful at all.

If you tense up, you will bruise and be sore, so relax.  Don't look!

They'll hook you up to monitors for your blood pressure, heart rate, temp, etc. 

The nurse will ask you a lot of questions.  Be very thorough and honest in your answers.  Better too much information than too little.  Don't minimize anything - they really need to know detailed answers to these questions, especially regarding any allergies, surgeries, reactions and/or complications to anesthesia, etc.

The surgeon and anesthesiologist will come in to talk with you.  Don't be embarrassed to take out that list of questions you wrote up - they owe it to you to give you the time to answer any concerns you may have. 

I did something that my surgeon thought was hilarious - but he also said it's a good idea.  I took a Sharpie pen and wrote on the sole of my "good" right foot (upside down, I might add!), "Right foot, wrong foot!"  Then I wrote on the left sole (the messed up foot), "Left foot, right foot!"  He cracked up when he saw that, and whipped out his phone to take a picture!  But seriously - it's not a bad idea to mark the correct foot, and make a note on the other one as well.  Wouldn't it suck to have BOTH of them cut into?  People do make mistakes!

After all the questions, and laughter, they gave me a happy pill, which totally relaxed me.  I chose to have general anesthesia, but you can also have a block or epidural if for some reason general anesthesia's not the best choice for you.  Personally, I didn't want to be awake during the surgery. 

I remember cruising down the long hall to the operating room, and cracking some (I'm sure very lame) jokes about Six Flags rides, and I remember them saying, "OK, Melanie, let's move you over to this table" and they scooted me over, and then they said, "OK, ready?  This is going to be very quick."

And BAM - instant and total oblivion - not sleep, not gradually melting away - but sudden, total nothing.  I remember one instant of  "Oh, ___, here we go!" and that was it.

An hour and a half later, which seemed like, oh, one second, I heard a faraway voice saying, "You've had an operation, Melanie.  Time to wake up and go to recovery!"  (I think I must have said something like, "What's going on?" or probably something more stupid sounding than that!)  I woke up on my side, because they laid me on my side for the operation.  I am quite certain I was drooling on myself!

As soon as I realized where I was (in about five seconds of drowsy confusion), I suddenly started talking and asking questions, and someone said, "Wow, she sure did come alive quickly!"  I felt alert and pretty coherent within just a minute or two.

I felt discomfort, like a tight, burning sensation, in my heel and up the back of my leg, but it was not at all unbearable.  They immediately asked me if I was feeling any pain, and when I said yes, they asked me to grade it (on a scale of 1-10 it was about a 4), and they immediately gave me something in my IV which worked in about two minutes.

I forgot to mention this earlier, but they had given me something for possible nausea before the surgery.  I didn't feel nauseous at first, but all of a sudden I got a wave of it.  They immediately gave me some sort of pill which worked quickly, so I never did actually throw up, and the nausea went away.  One weird note though - you would think I would be starving, since by then I hadn't eaten in 15 hours, but I had absolutely no appetite -then, that night, or even now (the next day). 

The doctor came in and talked with me and told me that everything had gone great.  He said when he got in there, the damaged tissue was easy to clean out, and that the tendon looked very healthy, except for the tear, which was easy for him to sew up due to the healthy stability of the rest of the tendon and tissues.  He didn't have to do a lot of debridement either.  He said that my recovery time ought to be really great.

I could pretty much comprehend what he was saying, but it was sort of like when you're a teenager and you come home drunk, but your mom catches you in the hallway - you're trying to act sober and talk straight, but it takes a lot of concentration - and it's probably pretty obvious you're not really coherent.

If I had not had an earlier negative reaction to morphine, they would have given me that, but instead they gave me Demerol during my recovery room stay, which worked well enough.  The pain abated from about a 4 to a 2 on that pain scale, but I could definitely tell that someone had been doing something to my ankle.

I had another reaction to whatever - the surgery, or pain meds, or something - my teeth started chattering, and my hands started shaking, even though I didn't feel cold.  It was really pretty funny, because my chin was wobbling like CRAZY - but after a couple of minutes of this, it was tiring.  The nurse took my temperature and it was 96, even though like I said, I didn't FEEL cold.  She got me some warmed blankets and put one around my head and shoulders and one across my lap.  Immediately the chattering and shaking quit.  So if this fairly common shaking starts with you - ask for those warmed blankets right away.  Heck, even if you're NOT shaking, ask for the blankets - they feel great!

After the chattering drama was resolved, they moved me from recovery to a regular room.  I was feeling pretty chipper and alert.  My husband helped me get my regular clothes back on, and the physical therapist came in with (TA DA!) THE CRUTCHES.

I'll cover those in the next post -they deserve one all their own. 

By then I was feeling more alert, but also more tired, if that makes sense.  I was ready to go home.

Michael went to get the car and they wheeled me out to the curb.  Suggestion - try sitting in the back seat rather than the front.  If you can navigate (with some help) into the back seat and stretch your casted leg out across the seat, it feels MUCH better than letting your leg dangle over the seat.  I have found that elevation is CRITICAL to keeping the pain at bay.  Even a few minutes of lowering my leg stirs up discomfort and pain, which elevation quickly decreases.

After calling me "Miss Daisy," my husband drove to the pharmacy to pick up the extra strength Vicodin with acetaminaphen, and I fell asleep in the car.  When we pulled up at the house, I got my first real taste of the crutches.