Thursday, October 25, 2007

Definitely on the mend

Postop day 3 and I'm feeling pretty good. I am able to walk in the boot relatively comfortably. It's clunky, but much less painful than 2 days ago. I'm having less aching at rest as well. I woke up this morning feeling really encouraged. I even went out to the kitchen and made myself a latte. Being upright for 15 minutes did bring on some throbbing, but it subsided once I put my foot back up. Definite improvement!

I took a bath last night too - which was a little slice of heaven. I put a crutch across the top of the tub and rested my bum leg on that. Getting in and out of the tub was a challenge, but it was definitely worth the effort. It was so rejuvenating.

Yesterday the hardware arrived in the mail. Someone in the surgical center was kind enough to sterilize it and seal it in an envelope for me. It's amazing to see it - it looks much smaller than what I imagined! I thought the metal plate was at least 8 to 10 inches long, but it's actually only 4 or 5 inches in length. Here's a picture!

I haven't had any Percocet since yesterday. I am pretty sure I'm done with that. I was hoping to make it through the day today without needing a nap, but I am starting to doubt it. I'm not going to push it - I want to heal properly and improve my chances of having a great recovery.

So far, so good.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Round Two: Exactly 17 months later

Today marks exactly 17 months since the surgery for my trimalleolar fracture of the right ankle. And today I again went "under the knife" to have the hardware removed from my ankle. I woke up with my typical stiffness and was anxious to have the procedure done. I believe it all went well - I was sedated through the surgery itself. I had a hard time waking up from anesthesia, and for some reason I struggled with a bad cough and low oxygen saturation rates for the first hour or two postop. They ended up putting me back on O2 by nasal cannula while I was in the recovery ward.

The surprising part for me was the pain. I didn't expect to be completely pain-free immediately after surgery, but I think I was surprised at just how much pain I did have. Dr. Chi told me he was going to give me an "ankle block" and that it probably wouldn't completely cover the pain - but I rated it as 7 out of 10 - with spikes into the 8 or 9 range. Two Percocets and a Vistaril helped take the edge off, but the pain has yet to completely subside. I have been taking 2 Percocets every 3 to 4 hours all day. I tried to take only 1 this last time around, and it's really as if I didn't take any at all. Lots of dull aching just lying still - with stabs of pain if I move it. And it's even worse if I have to get up and use the bathroom. Just the few minutes of being up sends the blood throbbing down into it. Ouchers.

I also haven't been able to fully feel my toes since coming out of anesthesia. I loosened the boot some to see if that would help. At least the numbness isn't moving like it did with my original surgery. I had lost feeling all the way up to my knee cap that time.

Bless my wonderful neighbor for fixing dinner for my family and me. That was very much appreciated. I believe hubby is staying home with me tomorrow, just to make sure I'm on the mend. I intend to spend the entire week in bed with my foot elevated - and work from my laptop. Though today I can't really focus much. The 2 Percocets at the same time leave me nodding in and out of sleep.

I'm really hoping tomorrow is a better day!! If there are a lot of typos in this entry - blame it on the medications.

Sweet dreams ~

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Relief in Sight?

After months of aching and stiffness in my right ankle, I finally went back to my orthopedic surgeon. He did followup x-rays and said I had good alignment and nothing obviously troublesome showing up. We discussed the pros and cons of taking the hardware out from my trimalleolar fracture of 17 months ago. He told me there was no guarantee that removing the metal would improve my situation and that it could put me at risk for a future break. But he also admitted that he is a spine specialist. :) He referred me to an ankle specialist for a second opinion.

I saw Dr. Chi this past Monday. He said at least three times during the review of my x-rays, "That's a bad break!" Tell me about it.

Dr. Chi has recommended that I proceed with hardware removal, arthroscopic debridement, and posteromedial capsulotomy, and I'm scheduled for outpatient surgery on October 22nd. He told me that the likelihood of breaking it again is small - and that he feels the odds are in my favor for improvement with this procedure. He did caution me that I could have long-term arthritis issues, which is in line with what Dr. Price has previously said.

This morning I happened to read an article about arthritis and the effects on working ( Since I work at home, I don't foresee a problem with arthritis impacting my ability to earn a living. I do, however, already struggle with driving, exercising, and just getting around. Some days, the stiffness is so bad that I have to go down the stairs sideways. Sometimes the swelling is so severe that I can't wear certain shoes. Driving long distances in my stick-shift car can aggravate my ankle too. More often than not, I wake up stiff and hobble around for the first 30 minutes or so of the morning. An ongoing issue is the lack of strength and stability I feel in the ankle, particularly when walking on uneven surfaces. And I still have flashbacks when I walk down a sloped surface - almost like post-traumatic stress disorder.

So I look forward to the procedure on the 22nd. Dr. Chi told me to expect heavy bleeding for the first several days. I will be on bed rest with my foot elevated during that phase - and then will be in a walking boot for 2 to 6 weeks. Unlike the original injury, I will be able to walk on it immediately. No crutches!! That's good news. Though I'm not sure I will be able to drive the stick-shift car with the boot on. :(

Nonetheless, it's a temporary set back that I hope will result in a better situation in the long run.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Grandpa's Legacy of Love

Eight days ago I got the call from my mom. My 85-year-old grandpa - her Daddy - had lost his nearly 3-year battle with lung and metastatic brain cancer.

My grandfather was a generous, loving, funny, humble man. He served in WWII with the United States Army. Growing up he told his grandchildren that he was a cook, and a drill sergeant, and a sniper in the army. To this day I don't know if any or all of these are true. He WAS an amazing cook. He made liver and onions palatable. He introduced me to little silver fish called smelt and shrimp cocktail. He made the best green beens and ham hocks and red potatoes. He would also line up my brother, sister, and me and recite a military cadence that I remember to this day.

Left. Left. Left, right, left. I left my wife and my 48 kids back in the states without any hamburgers left. Left. Left, right, left.

This is a picture of my grandpa and some of his army buddies. Grandpa is the handsome young devil kneeling down on the far right.

Grandpa was a real joker. He would show up for Easter Sunday with a frown and proceed to explain to us in his saddest tone about how the easter bunny jumped out in front of his car and he couldn't avoid hitting him. He gave us the same story on Christmas Eve - claiming to have run over Santa and his reindeer on his way over to our house.

These were some of the special stories that were shared by the pastor who presided over grandpa's funeral last Saturday. We had a small gathering of close family and friends at the grave site. Simple and intimate - just the way grandpa would have wanted it. When Pastor Dan related the story about the easter bunny and Santa, heads were bobbing up and down in silent agreement all around me.

Pastor Dan said if he had to choose one word to describe my grandfather it would be love. Grandpa was definitely loved, and he knew how to love in return. Before cancer took away his stamina, he would ride his Schwinn bike around his 55-and-over trailer park, with his Scottish Terrier Duffy in a basket on the front, stopping to visit with his neighbors. Within hours of his passing, a note was posted near the mailboxes in his park and people started stopping by his house to pay their respects.

This is what Pastor Dan referred to as leaving a legacy of love. His parting words for us as the funeral came to a close were a challenge of sorts. He encouraged each of us to create our own legacy - a legacy of love.

It didn't occur to me until a few days later that I had heard a similar message the night before the funeral from the famous Motown musician, Stevie Wonder. Kirk and I had tickets to see Stevie at the Ste. Michelle Winery near our home. We bought them weeks ago. Long before we knew grandpa would be gone. At the end of the amazing 2-hour show, Stevie also chose his parting words to be about love. He is touring only 11 cities this summer - but all in honor of his mother, whom he obviously loved with every ounce of his being. He talked about her regularly throughout his show. He shared stories about his mother and how she expressed love. He shared stories about his relationship with his own children and how much he loves them. And as he prepared to leave the stage, he reminded everyone in attendance that everything is possible through love.

Today has been a long day. The first day of school for my junior high girl, my high school girl, and one of my college boys. I made sure to give each of them some of my time today. I wanted to hear all about their first-day experiences. I wanted to start building my legacy of love.

Grandpa, you may be gone but you will never be forgotten. I love you.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I was in Chicago earlier this week for an educator's conference and flew back home on a United flight. United Airlines primarily flies in and out of the North Satellite at Seatac Airport. It had been a long day, and a long flight, and I was tired and ready to get home when the plane pulled up to the gate at 8 pm last night. I gathered my things and found my way off the plane, chatting with my son on the cell phone to make arrangements to be picked up. As I hung up the phone and walked toward the escalators leading to the underground train and, eventually, baggage claim, I had an odd sensation come over me. Right in front of me was gate N10. I recognized it immediately as the gate where my accident happened just 14 months earlier.

I was literally stopped in my tracks. I have traveled dozens of times since that fateful trip last May, but I had never been this close to the scene of the accident. And, frankly, I was surprised at my own reaction all these months later. While I continue to deal with physical repercussions - the aching and stiffness in my ankle and the throbbing pain that wakes me on rainy nights - I had truly believed that the emotional trauma was over.

I have to travel again in another 12 days. I'm grateful that I am not flying United - which means chances are pretty good that I won't be flying out of the North Satellite. I obviously need a little more time to heal.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Three Strikes - you're back to the drawing board

I attended the Pacific Northwest Writer's conference in Seattle this weekend. I went for my first time about 8 years ago and found the experience to be very inspirational and exhilirating. This year I decided to register primarily because my good friend Pat had entered their writing contest and was a top-ten finalist. I wanted to be there to support her at the banquet in the event that she took home the blue ribbon.

While I have primarily been writing technical articles for work, I do continue to dabble in what I have come to refer to as "pleasure writing" from time to time. I have taken 2 writing courses in the past year, and I continue to devote some brain time to writing ideas and outlines. However, I did not go to the conference this year with a completed project in hand - and I really had no intention of meeting with agents or editors. But when my registration packet arrived with 2 appointment cards, one for an agent and one for an editor, it was hard to not take that as a "sign" and attend those appointments.

My first appointment was with an agent. She was a very nice woman who I would have been happy to have represent me - if I had a completed project. I opted to "pitch" the idea of my transplant memoir to her. I had circulated this idea at this same conference 8 years ago - talking to 3 agents at that meeting. None were intensely interested, but one did give me a referral to a friend of hers that she thought might be. I probably should have pursued it then. This year's agent told me that the idea was not marketable as a book because it didn't have enough "mass appeal." She suggested I condense it into a magazine article and try to sell that. Perhaps it was the fact that I accidentally mentioned that I have been working on this book for nearly 10 years now that turned her off? Ugh. Strike one.

My appointment with an editor wasn't much better. I sat at a round table with 5 other anxious authors, all taking turns pitching their story to this very nice agent who represented a publishing house in New York. It didn't seem to matter much that she was primarily looking for projects in the romance genre. We all carried on with our polished pitches as if we could somehow convince her that she couldn't leave town without our project (assuming we HAD one) in her briefcase.

Two people before my turn, a woman pitched her idea of a memoir centered around her grandfather who was a homesteader in Oregon. The editor suggested she try to sell the project to a local - more regional - publishing house. She went on to say that memoirs only work in the mass market if they are written by someone famous. Ugh.

When it was my turn, I launched into my pitch with a little bit of reservation based on what she had told the woman writing the homesteader memoir. Nonetheless, she heard me out and then smiled and said, "Have you seen an agent yet?" I shook my head yes. "I'll bet she told you to consider turning this into a magazine article..." WHAM. Once again, she reiterated that there is no mass market for this project. I wanted to argue - but it seemed futile at that point. Perhaps it was finally time to bury this idea. After all, I had lost my momentum somewhere around 8 years ago. Perhaps it was after that last writer's conference where the idea was met with lukewarm reception?? Strike two.

The very next session I attended at the conference was about women as influential writers. In the course of the presentation someone asked a question about copyright laws and quoting song lyrics. The other big project I have been working on for the last 2 years is my "Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Rock Music" book. This is a project I was truly excited about. I had nearly 100 one-line song lyrics saved on my laptop (the one that broke down last summer and I haven't had time to resurrect). Come to find out that you cannot quote song lyrics without first obtaining permission from ASCAP and the publisher of the song. The speaker said one small clip of lyrics in a book she represented once cost $300 just to obtain the rights to reprint the lyrics. I have nearly 100 clips saved! Suddenly this quaint, hip project has gotten very expensive. I asked if I could create a character that often quoted song lyrics as a form of communication (an idea I had for a protagonist in a mystery novel). The speaker said that water is simply too dangerous to tread in and quoting lyrics should be avoided if at all possible. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Strike're...broken?

For a moment I felt completely defeated and hopeless. I had put a tremendous amount of time into the transplant book - even though it wasn't anywhere near complete. And I was so excited and fond of the song lyric book. It was like falling in love with a puppy and then being told I can't take it home. I was ready to throw in the towel and admit defeat. I even said to Pat, in a temporary moment of extreme self-pity, "Maybe this is a sign that I'm not meant to be a writer?"

Fortunately, I came to my senses. I have decided that while I didn't leave this years' conference feeling exhilirated and inspired - I did leave feeling more focused and deliberate about my work. So what if I don't have a primary project needling at my brain at the moment - at least I know where NOT to put my energy. That has to count for something.

Oh - and Pat didn't take home a blue ribbon. For now, she has to be happy with being a top-ten finalist in a contest that netted nearly 1000 applicants across 12 categories. In my opinion, that's pretty damned impressive. At least she had a completed project!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Early Bird Catches the...OUCH!

I've been wide awake since about 5:30 am. This is unusual for me. It's not that I am well rested either. My eyes feel like they are lined with sand. But I flipped and flopped for about 45 minutes, and then finally got up to face the day. I figured I might actually get something done while the house is still quiet.

I did toy with the idea of going to the gym - but once I got out of bed and realized how stiff my ankle is today, I changed my mind. It's been nearly 11 months since the accident and I'm still hobbling. It's very frustrating.

I am fed up with my weight. I may have only gained 5 pounds over the last 11 months, but I really can't afford to gain much more. I am trying to be more active - but it seems to come at a cost. For example, I'll take a walk - a nice, steady pace. And then pay the price with a swollen, aching ankle for 2 days.

Last night the girls wanted to go swimming at the YMCA. I figured it would be a gentle form of exercise that would be good for my ankle - so I strapped on my suit (more like squeezed into it!) and off we went. It felt great to get in the water. I have to say, it's the one place where I don't feel fat! I swam laps - gentle, slow, easy laps. I also sat in the hot tub for a while. Very nice. I came home feeling really good. I slept solid (until 5:30 am!). I felt hopeful that I had finally found a form of exercise that might work. Until I got out of bed...

Maybe it's just sore because I haven't been swimming in a while. Maybe it's just sore because I need to stretch it more. Maybe it's just sore because I'm still healing.

Or maybe this is the way it will be for the rest of my life. What a depressing thought.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Waiting for the Swarming Locusts

It has been an insane few weeks for anyone living in Western Washington! Surely there are believers out there who are convinced that the Armageddon is upon us. In early November we were treated to record flooding. Only weeks later, a snow storm hit - followed closely by a deep freeze that blanketed the region in black ice. Then a major wind storm knocked out power to over 1 million homes - leaving some people without power for over a week. Yesterday we broke a temperature record (56 degrees) as well as record rainfall.

If the weather wasn't bad enough, we have had a host of home improvement problems crop up. Two weeks before the wind storm we discovered a leak from the water line going into our new refrigerator. Our son woke us up at 1 am to let us know there was water dripping from the ceiling in the downstairs family room. Hubby ripped out a large portion of the ceiling to diagnose the problem - and a plumber came out and replaced the cracked tubing running through the attic with copper pipe in the floor between the 2 stories of the house. That was an $800 repair job, not including the repair to the ceiling (which still needs to be fixed). We also noticed that the Pergo flooring in the dining room suffered some buckling from the leak.

The night of the wind storm, we discovered a leak in the roof when water was dripping from the dining room light fixture. Hubby was busy dismantling the light fixture when the same water savvy son came up to tell him that the laundry room and bathroom downstairs were flooded. Thinking it was a water pipe that may have broken during the deep freeze, hubby turned off the water main. But the water kept coming. On our way out the sliding glass door downstairs, we discovered that the carpet in the family room was completely saturated. We were in the midst of torrential rain fall at a rate of nearly 2 inches every hour - and it turns out that the rain water was pouring in from beneath the sliding glass door and then seeping down the edge of the house into the bathroom and laundry room. We dug a "moat" around our concrete patio out back to help pull the water away from the house and were in the process of sucking up the water out of the carpet with a wet vac when we lost power. We had used up all of our dry towels on the laundry room floor so I pulled out some flannel sheets and tried to mop up as much of the water as I could. Then the carpet sat wet for the 4+ days that we were without power. The first chance we got, we rented a commerical carpet blower and dried it out - but a moldy smell lingered.

We had a friend come over and help us seal off the gap below the sliding glass door. We also called Empire Today (you know the tune - 800-588-2300 Empire - TODAY!) and ordered new carpet for the family room. While we were at it, we decided to have the Pergo upstairs pulled up and replaced with hardwoods - along with the kitchen and stairs. The carpet installers arrived a few days later and began pulling up the old carpet. We then discovered that the leak from the night of the wind storm was not fixed. The floor was saturated again. ARGH! We had to send the carpet installers away while we diagnosed and repaired the leak. We're pretty sure the damage was coming from a faulty downspout that was literally pouring rain water directly onto the edge of the foundation. We extended the downspouts, put in some drains, and were satisfied enough with the repair job to have the carpet installers back out the next day to finish the job. (The carpet looks awesome, by the way!)

The next day the hardwood installers showed up and pulled up all of the Pergo, kitchen linoleum, and carpet off the stairs. Surprise, surprise. The leak from the refrigerator left a huge patch of damp plywood floor beneath the Pergo and linoleum. The hardwood guys couldn't finish the job until that dried out - so out came the fans. In the meantime, the entire contents of our dining room and kitchen were stacked in the living room, and there were boxes upon boxes of hardwood stacked in our narrow hallway leading to the bedrooms. We could barely move around on the top floor of the house. It took 2 days to get the wood dried out and get Empire to send out another crew to finish the job. (Thank you, Moses, for a job well done!)

Everything is done now and it all looks great. It started raining again yesterday. I have been running downstairs every few hours to check the downspout and make sure the new carpet is safe. So far, so good.

In a way, it seemed like a fitting way to end an otherwise horrific year. In 2006, I was in a car accident that left my BMW a total loss; I suffered a trimalleolar fracture of my right ankle and spent all summer in a cast and/or walking boot; my grandfather's lung cancer has moved from his left lung to his brain to his right lung and now back to his brain; my sister has completely self-destructed - starting with a DUI accident, then jail time, losing her job, a felony charge, more jail time, and now a problem with meth.

I'm ready for a new year - new beginnings. Either that, or the swarm of locusts that will signal the end of it all.