Thursday, June 29, 2006

Six Weeks and One Day: Take Two

This time last week I made a post where I claimed it had been 6 weeks and 1 day since my accident. Turns out I miscalculated. I jumped the gun by a week. TODAY is really 6 weeks and 1 day since my trimalleolar fracture. For real!

This week I'm in better spirits - probably because I am counting down to the day the cast comes off. Six days and 17 hours from now. I am really anxious to have an x-ray done and see what kind of progress my bone healing is making. Over the last week or so, I have noticed that I am using the toe of my bad foot to balance myself. Consequently, the underside of my cast has a crack in it. I must also be putting my foot down more, because the bottom of the cast is dirty and I can barely read the writing that Kayla put on the cast there.

Have I mentioned yet that I am getting ugly brown calluses along the outer edge of the heel of my palms from using the crutches? I have been trying to rub Burt's Bees Hand Salve into the rough, cracked skin at night before going to sleep. My right hand is pretty bad. Reminds me of my days on the playground in elementary school and the rough spots that would develop on my hands from playing on the "monkey bars." I may end up having to use a pumice stone on my right palm to get back down to smooth skin. The "Toe Paste" that I've been dealing with has also helped form a deep groove on the bottom of my foot. I am sure that will require some serious pumice work once my foot is free of the cast as well. I look forward to the first time I can take a bath and put my bum foot in the water. Ahhhh...

The other weird thing I've noticed lately are bruises cropping up on the insides of my upper arms and my thighs. I am wondering if it's because of the 2 aspirin I take every day to prevent blood clots while I'm so sedentary. I don't recall bumping into anything - but I have 3 bruises on the inside of my right thigh - not circular bruises, more like streaks. There is also a dark, round bruise under my right arm about 3 inches from my armpit. It's about the size of an M&M. The kind with chocolate inside - without the peanuts. :0)

The good news - I'm 100 pages shy of finishing my 7th book since the accident. I read 2 Jodi Picoult novels the first week (actually finished one I had already started and then read another one entirely), followed by 3 Chuck Palahniuk books, then a Lisa Scottoline mystery (thanks, Denise!), and am now rounding the corner on finishing up another Jodi Picoult story. This is the most "pleasure reading" I have done in years! Fortunately, I still have a healthy stack of books waiting for my attention. If I could handle the heat we've been dealing with here in Seattle, I could get a good base tan while I do my reading. What an interesting "farmer's tan" my cast would create!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My Colorful Cast of Characters

I finally uploaded some pictures off the digital camera - including this snapshot of my very colorful, artistic, love-covered cast.

On a Clear Day... can see forever! It is an absolutely beautiful day here in Seattle today. The high temps of the past few days have finally cooled down to a more manageable 75 degrees. There isn't a cloud in the sky today, with a gentle breeze blowing. My friend Jane picked me up and took me out to lunch. We ate at a nice restaurant on a lake. Great food, great views, and even greater company! THANKS JANE!

We also stopped by our friend Carolyn's to see her newly painted bathroom. Very nice! It's inspiring, really. There is so much I would like to be doing around the house. I told my daughter that as soon as I can be up on my feet a little, we will paint her bedroom. We are also in the process of getting bids to have a concrete patio poured out back - and possibly a parking pad - and to have the house painted. I would also like to get someone to do some yard work, particularly out back.

I've got 8 more days in my cast! I did find a nifty product called Xerosox that I wish I had known about 3 weeks ago. It is a "sleeve" of sorts that fits over the cast and then you attach a vacuum apparatus that sucks the air out and provides you with a waterproof seal. This would have allowed me to go swimming, sit in a hot tub, take a bath, etc. I couldn't justify spending the $40 with only a week left in it, though. Oh well!

Today is definitely a two-thumbs-up day. I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Visuals

Here are some pictures taken 8 days after my surgery:

This one is of my postop splint. Check out the beautiful pedicure! I had that done the night before the accident and even now, almost 6 weeks later, it looks amazing. Kudos to InStyle Nails in Woodinville, WA!!

This one is the inside incision where 2 screws were placed. It's pretty bruised up.

This is the outer incision where 8 screws and a long metal plate were put. I think I counted 35 stitches between the 2 incisions.

These are the x-rays 8 days postop. Check out all that metal. Groovy! If you look carefully, you can see my poor shattered fibula behind that long metal bar.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

First off, I can't add. I miscalculated the dates in my last post - saying I was 6 weeks and 1 day out from my accident when I was really 5 weeks and 1 day out. Jeesh! And I've even been exercising my brain with crossword puzzles almost daily!! I have 10 days until my doctor's appointment and potential cast removal. And yes, I added the dates up twice to make sure I had it right this time. Ten days. Of course, today we are experiencing record-high temperatures in Seattle. They are expecting the low 90s today. Other than the downstairs basement, I am in the coolest room in the house, in front of an oscillating fan, and I can still feel the sweat collecting inside my cast. Ick. I may take a cool bath just to get some relief. And the dull aching continues. I hope to God it means my bones are healing.

Saturday night we took our nephew Al to Jazz Alley with some friends of ours to see Larry Carlton. Larry has been a session player and played with some amazing acts like Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell and Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers. The show was wonderful! As I told one of our friends though, I can understand why Ted Bundy used a fake arm fracture to lure his victims. The attention and sympathy I get for this broken ankle is amazing. It is both beautiful and loving as well as humiliating and annoying for an independent girl like myself. While waiting in line before the show, one of the valet men brought me a chair to sit on. Nothing like standing out like a sore thumb in a crowd when you're the only one sitting at crotch level! But it was very sweet of him - and I'm sure it saved me from the ritual of breaking into a sweat after being on my feet for too long. I truly did appreciate it. I don't mean to belittle the efforts of the very generous people around me. A few minutes before the doors opened we were told to go to the back door to the "handicapped entrance" so that I didn't have to deal with 2 levels of stairs. What a life-saver! We were able to walk right in and the hostess immediately set up a table for us and the rest of our party - right in front of the stage. As I hobbled over to the table she said, "You poor thing. How much longer are you going to be in that thing?" She was very sweet, and I really did appreciate her being so accommodating. After the show, Larry Carlton and his band lingered around and signed autographs. We sent Al (along with our friend's son Matthew) with our CD and his and a pen to collect the autographs. What a great surprise it was to see Larry Carlton following the boys back to our table so he could sign my cast! He said, "I don't get this opportunity every day!"

Being crippled certainly has its privileges. I've got an autograph on my cast to prove it - and I had the pleasure of watching the show without the risk of falling down 2 flights of stairs. But as much as I appreciate the generosity and kindness of everyone I encounter, I would trade it all for the ability to take my new car for a drive on my own. Or the chance to go swimming with my daughter. Or the ability to take my dogs for a walk around the neighborhood. The truth is, I'm used to being my own woman. I hate having to ask someone to fill my water glass, or get me something to eat. I hate watching my husband do all the work around here. I hate feeling like all I am doing is TAKING and not giving at all. Always RECEIVING. I hate watching my legs get flabby, knowing that I have a battle ahead of me to tone them up that is even greater than it was before the accident. I just want my normal life back. I won't complain about having to cook or clean. I won't complain about running kids all over town.

Ten more days until my next milestone.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Six Weeks and One Day

That's how much time has passed since the accident on May 17th that resulted in a trimalleolar fracture of my right ankle. The first time I saw the doctor, he told me to expect surgery followed by 4 weeks in a cast and then 4 to 6 weeks in a walking boot. That leads me to believe that I am half way through this process. So - at the half-way point, it's important to ask the question - is my glass half empty, or half full?

Today, I'm leaning towards the half empty attitude. Only half way through the process! No guarantees that it won't take even longer to return to normal... I can't imagine another 6 weeks of relying on others for everything! WAAA WAAA WAAA

The good news is that my cast should come off in exactly 2 weeks. I do look forward to that milestone and perhaps once I've made it that far, my attitude will improve. Either my swelling has gone way down or I'm losing inches of muscle mass from my right calf muscle - but my cast is getting sloppier and sloppier each day. I am convinced that I could wiggle my foot out of the cast if I set my mind to it. I've seen boys haircuts with shorter hair than the hair growing on my leg right now. And the bottom of my foot is dry and crusty. Earlier this week I slathered what I could reach in Vaseline. Now I'm "peeling" off some bizarre mixture of Vaseline and dried skin. My son called it Toe Paste. When I stretch my legs out in my sleep, my right leg quivers.

I've had a resurgence of discomfort in my foot - over the ankle bones and across the top of the foot. I'm determined to stay away from my Vicodin so I continue to keep my foot elevated as much as possible, which leaves me feeling completely useless as a contributor to my family. My husband's shoulder has been bothering him and I know he doesn't feel well, yet I know if I were to try and get up to help tidy up the house or prepare a meal I would pay the price physically and he would be upset with me for pushing myself. So I lie here with my trusty laptop, tapping out my frustrations in this blog.

To add to things, my best friend of 33 years moved to Detroit this morning. We hugged and cried like babies last night. I reminded her that we never say "good-bye," we only say "see you soon." We have lived in separate parts of the country off and on for our entire adult lives, but it doesn't make it any easier.

Six weeks and one day with my mood hovering dangerously close to self pity and depression. But the sun came out today, my friend Dee Dee is going to take me shopping in my wheelchair tomorrow, and if I can get a good nights' sleep tonight - tomorrow should most certainly look brighter than today.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Three is a Magic Number

warning: this post may continue elements of "too much information" for some. Read on at your own risk!

Have you heard the old saying "good things come in threes?" How about "third time's a charm?" "Three strikes and you're out?" Whenever I hear about a famous person dying, I always wait for the other 2 that quickly follow. And they always do! When someone I know suffers a bout of bad luck, I wait anxiously for the third thing to happen, knowing that the end is in sight. I really believe there is something to be said about the magic of the number 3.

Anyway - today I added my third reason to lock myself away and feel sorry for myself. As if the imprisonment of the broken ankle and a sudden bout of bad allergies (sneezing, coughing, rough voice, feeling crummy) keeping me up at night wasn't "aunt flo" came to visit. My "monthly cycle." Menstruation. My stupid period. Last month it was a week early (probably due to the trauma of my accident), and this time it's one day late. I was hoping it would just take a vacation for a while.

Ever since I was 14 years old, I have been plagued with awful menstrual cramps. The kind that have you doubled over in bed with a heating pad and a bottle of ibuprofen. I knew I was in for it this morning when the cramping started to make my legs go numb. My immediate reaction is to reach for the ibuprofen - but I remembered my orthopedic surgeon telling me NOT to take ibuprofen because it slows bone healing. ARGH! I've tried aspirin and non-aspirin products and nothing works for me like ibuprofen. I've been determined to NOT take any more Vicodin unless absolutely necessary because I am so fearful of addiction. But when you can't feel your legs because the cramps are making them numb...well, desperate times call for desperate measures. Fortunately, one Vicodin seems to have done the job. At least for now anyway.

The bright side is this is the third irritation. Things can only get better from here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

Friday my friend Pat and I had plans to attend a Medical Informatics Conference at Bellevue Community College. I checked the map of the campus before agreeing to attend, thinking we wouldn't have room for a wheelchair in Pat's Toyota Corolla, but the map showed a parking lot that we could use right next to the building where the conference was being held. Perfect! I've gotten a lot better using my crutches and it looked completely doable.

Because it takes me so long to shower and get ready - and because I always end up in a pool of sweat from the exertion anyway - I took a shower the night before and set my clothes out for the next morning. I was able to get up and ready in about 30 minutes, not too shabby, and I was only mildly overheated when Pat arrived to pick me up. I wanted to bring a notebook to take notes at the conference so I packed that with a bottle of water in a small backpack to take along. The extra weight of the backpack almost had me tumbling down the stairs on my way out!

We made it to campus, found great parking, and, as expected, it was a short hobble to the meeting room. We took seats in the front row and Pat found an extra chair so I could put my foot up. She even brought me coffee and a pastry. (Such a great friend!)

Everything was going really well. The speakers were amazing, the facility there is beautiful, and I was so happy to be out of the house with my good friend and doing something that exercised my brain a little. Everything changed when they announced lunch was going to be in the campus cafeteria. A quick scan of the campus map showed that it was quite a long distance from the meeting hall. Uh-oh. There is a lot of construction going on at BCC right now, so the road that normally goes around the outer perimeter - the road that would have taken us right up to the cafeteria - was shut down. The only option was to hoof it. I had been on a "glass-is-half-full" roll for days and summoned all of my positive power as we headed out. I had to stop at least a half-dozen times along the journey. Sometimes to catch my breath. Sometimes to give my arms or "my good leg" a rest. Some of the staff offered to help - they called Security to find a wheelchair but were told there weren't any available. We were the last one's to make it to the cafeteria and I was absolutely drowning in sweat. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a very nice lunch (which Pat graciously carried for me).

The trek back took even longer - even more rest stops. I was exhausted and not at all sure I was going to make it back. At one point I joked about just dropping to the ground and ROLLING my way back to the meeting room. Just as we rounded the corner and the building - our destination - was in sight, a torrential downpour of rain appeared out of nowhere. Pat and I scurried under a tree where we managed to protect ourselves from the bulk of the deluge. Random raindrops would pelt us as the wind shifted, but mostly we just huddled under the tree giggling until it passed over. Then we hobbled back into the building where I was once again completely covered in sweat. We enjoyed the rest of the conference and headed for home.

On the drive home we got stuck in some horrible traffic. I was losing my last shreds of energy rapidly. I couldn't wait to get home and lie down. By 4:30 that afternoon I was tucked into my covers and slept for a solid hour before I had to get up to greet dinner guests. But the rest of the night I fought off the urge to sleep.

Have you ever been so tired that you CAN'T sleep? I can remember my kids being so overtired that they just cried and cried rather than go to sleep. That's how I felt all night Friday - and the bulk of Saturday too. Saturday night I broke down and took a Valium to help me sleep better, but Sunday I still didn't feel well-rested. In fact, today I am having a hard time doing much of anything. And while my foot hasn't really "hurt" much lately, today I can honestly stay the aching has returned. I'm doing my best to not take the Vicodin though. So I'm staying in the supine position as much as possible today - with my foot back on the usual stack of 3 or 4 pillows.

It's the last day of school for my kids. I have always had fresh baked cookies ready for them when they get home - our own little traditional way of kicking off the summer. But not this time. No cookies. No anything for that matter, since I'm essentially a prisoner to the pillows today. And something tells me that if I don't get a really good nights' sleep soon, the depression of week 3 will rear its ugly head again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Patients Using Blogs to Track Recovery

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle today states that more and more patients are using blogs as a way of keeping their friends and loved ones informed about their health and to share treatment experiences with other patients. If you want to read the entire article, click here.

This is certainly my case! I only wish I had known about blogs back in 1997 (if they even existed then) when my husband was going through kidney failure and a subsequent kidney/pancreas transplant. I used to send out regular emails to a list of friends and family members to keep them in the loop.

I appreciate you - my friends - who are checking in one me via this blog every day. It's nice to know you're out there thinking about me. :0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

To Speak Up, or Not To Speak Up...

I spent my morning on conference calls, and then my best friend of 33 years picked me up and took me to see a movie - "The Break Up." (Great movie, by the way!) We caught the early matinee, got there in plenty of time for me to hobble into the theater on my crutches while my pal carried 2 large sodas and a bag of popcorn. We were the first people there so we picked the row with a metal railing in front of it - perfect for putting my leg up to rest. I only had to go up 2 small steps and then slide sideways a little bit. The seats were a little left of the center of the theater but it was fine. Soon enough we were joined by a small spattering of other movie fans, spread out all around the theater.

A few minutes after the movie started a group of 3 older women and 3 or 4 kids came into the theater. They had literally hundreds of seats to choose from, but there must have been a stinkin' neon light flashing "pick me, pick me" because they took the seats directly behind my friend and I. No Way, I thought. They were chatting with each other. I took a deep breath and hoped they would settle in quickly. Next came the crackling of whatever snack bags they were trying to open up. Crackle, crackle. Crackle, crackle. That little voice inside my head was getting pretty worked up. Throughout the movie they would talk to each other. Not whisper - TALK. All 6 or 7 of them, chatting with each other. At one point in the movie, the characters were singing a song together and, I kid you not, the group behind us chimed in singing right along with them! That little voice in my head kept saying, There are hundreds of other seats in here...

While I shot a few evil glares over my shoulder a few times, I never did say anything to these people. If I hadn't been handicapped, I would have moved myself away from them. In hindsight, I probably should have done that, though it's tough maneuvering through those thin aisles with crutches. I really should have just asked THEM to move. I'm such a PLEASER!

Last week another friend of mine told me a story about how she got out of her car to yell at someone who was being inconsiderate in the school parking lot. I hailed her a hero for being so brave. (If you want to read her post about this you can visit her blog entitled "School Drop-off Rant" here.) I'm not sure I have it in me to be so bold, but I'd sure like to learn how!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness...

...but that is so much easier said than done when you're dealing with a broken ankle! First, I'm not allowed to get my cast wet, so it has to be wrapped in a plastic garbage bag and then sealed shut with special plastic water-proof tape. To take a shower, I have to back myself into the shower with my crutches, hop over the lip of the shower stall, and then back myself into a folding chair that I have set up inside the shower. I then lean forward and set my crutches up outside the shower door. Once I'm done, I drag a towel inside the stall with me, towel off as best I can sitting down, then reach outside of the stall and put the towel over the top of the toilet seat. I have to use the crutches to help me hop back over the lip of the shower stall and then back myself on to the towel on the toilet seat to finish drying off. To get dressed, I pull my undies and pants up as far as I can sitting down, putting them on over my big bulky cast first, and then I have to push off the toilet to a stand so that I can pull them up the rest of the way - standing on the good leg. To brush my teeth or blow dry my hair, I rest my right knee on the corner of the sink for balance while standing on my "good leg." By the time I have maneuvered myself through this little ritual, I am usually drenched in sweat and exhausted. The simple things we take for granted.

Tonight I desperately wanted to soak in a warm bath and read a book. To do that, I had to lay my crutch across the top of the bathtub so that I had a support for my leg. Once again, I wrapped the right leg in a garbage bag, sealed with the special plastic water-proof tape. I sat on the edge of the tub and lowered my good leg down into the tub, then lifted my bad leg from the side and set it on the crutch. It's actually moderately comfortable - better than you might think. But after a while, you start to cramp up. Getting out of the tub is a little trickier because I can't reach to pull the plug on the drain with my leg elevated, so I am trying to maneuver myself around with the tub still full of water and slippery. Sometimes - like tonight - I can pull myself up and sit on the edge of the tub to dry off. Other times - like last week - I have to call for my husband to help me. I feel like a toddler. A helpless toddler. Again - the simple little things we take for granted.

The slightest little effort takes so much energy. I scanned the Internet for statistics on how many calories my healing must be requiring. I didn't find anything. I would be surprised if I haven't lost some weight in the past 4 weeks since I have very little appetite, it's difficult for me to get up and fix myself a snack if I'm hungry, and every bit of movement requires so much effort. I do feel a whole lot weaker than I did before the accident. I also find that I don't sleep as well at night - probably because I do so much lying around during the day. Sometimes it's hard to get comfortable in bed at night. Sometimes my foot throbs and I get that antsy feeling because I can't get comfortable. If I go for a few days without good sleep, I will break down and take a Valium (which they gave me right after surgery). That often helps, but I certainly don't want to become dependent on them to sleep.

I guess antsy is a good way to describe how I feel about everything right now. My mind is clear enough now that I am off my medications that I WANT to be doing more - but my body still won't allow it. I'm looking forward to the next milestone - cast removal on July 6th. That's the light at the end of the tunnel right now.

In the meantime, at least I'm clean!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

What a Difference a Day Makes!

The fog has lifted and I am feeling much more positive about life in general. Yesterday I attended a graduation party for my neighbor's daughter. Most of our friends were there and it was really great to just get out of the house and enjoy the company of some good friends. Earlier in the morning my wonderful neighbor brought me a wheelchair that he bought at a garage sale that morning. He actually bought 2 of them and then built the best one using parts from each. When his wife delivered it she said he told her, "We need to get her out of that house!" So sweet. There is nothing like the love of good friends to lighten your mood.

Today we met friends for coffee and then took our daughter and her friend to see the new Pixar movie "Cars." I highly recommend it. Typical of other Pixar movies, it is a movie that kids will love for the animation and characters, but parents will relate to because of the inside jokes. Very uplifting theme about the value of friends and working together.

So, all in all, the weekend started with a downer mood but will end on an up beat. The leg is thumping from all of the activity, but I intend to spend the rest of my evening with it elevated on my stack of pillows, reading a good book.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Struggling at week 3

I remember when my husband underwent major surgery (a kidney/pancreas transplant in 1997), the nurses told me that day 3 was usually the worst postop. There must be something about the number 3. I am 3 WEEKS post injury and I am struggling mentally. Three-plus weeks ago I suffered a trimalleolar fracture of my ankle while trying to board a plane out of Seattle. I was on my way to Washington DC on business, but my husband was going to meet me in DC 5 days later so we could embark on a 2-week vacation to London and Scotland together. We had tickets to see Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall. Who would have thought that a simple slip on the jetway would cause so much trouble.

The first week, I was dealing with the pain of the injury. I was also bombarded with love from friends and families - flowers, balloons, teddy bears, and cards. I underwent surgery 5 days after the injury and that kept things interesting for a while. But now, 2+ weeks later, the lack of exercise and lack of fresh air is starting to get to me. I have ventured out of the house a couple of times - a 3-hour trip to lunch and Target last weekend, a brief trip to the pharmacy and out to lunch earlier this week. But I find that the excursions, while uplifting mentally, completely drain me of my energy. I can usually count on a day in bed recovering after an outing of any duration.

For the past few days I have found it more and more difficult to be productive. I am teaching an online class this quarter and have been able to continue working. The first 2 weeks I would wake up and attack my work with enthusiasm, grateful for something to occupy my mind. But this week has been entirely different. I am spending more and more time staring at the TV - or checking email without responding. I don't want to answer the phone when it rings. Getting up and hobbling to the living room with my crutches is more work than I want to deal with. This feels like familiar shades of depression starting to take its toll. I am hoping that by writing this all down, I will begin to turn things around.

Tomorrow is a graduation party for my neighbor's daughter. A lot of our friends will be there, and I am really looking forward to feeling like a normal person. It will be so nice to visit with friends outside of my own 4 walls! Perhaps writing this down tonight and spending the afternoon with friends tomorrow will make a big difference in my attitude.