Month: June 2016
I received a phone call five minutes ago. On my phone it says that the call was received at 7:55 p.m. on 6/28/2016. On the other line was a nice lady asking if Doug was home. I told her that it was me that was speaking and asked how I could help her. Before the conversation continued, she told me that I was the happiest person she has talked to all day. I thanked her and she let me know she was from the blood bank and wanted to make sure I knew that my wait period was over and that I was able to donate blood again. I told her that I could, and then mentioned the last time I was there they needed to make sure I could donate due to all of my medication for my legs and hormones. As the conversation continued I gave her my blog information and she asked me how I stay so positive. I laughed on the phone and told her that I had no idea, than I told her that was not true.
I began to tell her that my experiences at my previous job help me keep a positive attitude. I told her how I volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House multiple times. I told her how seeing the families there and what they are going through had to be a lot harder than anything that I have been through the last eight years. I then proceeded to tell her how I volunteered to raise food for the Caring Cupboard, a food bank located in my area. I told her knowing that there is a need for food in the area tells me that those individuals were going through a harder time than me. I told her that putting their issues into perspective with my own makes me feel that I truly have nothing to complain about. It is those experiences that help keep my attitude in check. Since I started this blog, I have begun following others who have chronic pain. Pain that certainly rivals mine. I feel that I cannot complain or let my pain bring me down, certainly when they are going through a harder time.
Of course, there will be days where I will complain about my pain, well almost every day, but I will not let it overcome my over all well-being. For instance, I had my appointment with my pain manager yesterday and he stated that I may never get rid of this pain. He said that even if they find a definite reason for it, the pain may be imprinted onto my brain. He stated dealing with pain for eight years could cause that. He also stated besides the leg pain, I will always have bad ankle joints. I had another doctor tell me the same thing. I may also need to increase my meds again. Amanda also just brought home her mom who will be living with us for the next few months. She was just discharged from the hospital after eight days due inflammation of an organ. It is not hard to find misery. It is not hard to concentrate on the things that make a day bad. I could list a ton of more things that have gone wrong. For example, I could tell you how the water pipe to the ice maker leaked into the floor and flooded the ceiling downstairs or how the hospital screwed up more bills that caused them to overcharge me. I could have, and I might just have, but I won’t go into detail of everything it took to make them right or to clean up the mess.
I guess what I am trying to say is that it could be worse, at least for myself. I might not be able to walk short distances, run, bowl, or do many other things anymore, but I know that it could be worse. My advice would be to try to concentrate on the things that are not making it worse. Friends, family, the support of loved ones. Take time out of your day and enjoy the little things, regardless if you are in pain, having work issues, or family issues. Even the busiest person can take ten minutes out of each day and make it just for them. Oh and just one more thing….Smile and find something to laugh about.
The freedom that was inherited by purchasing the knee scooter was short-lived. Three short weeks of trying to help Amanda around the house came to an end when I received a phone call from the hospital. The hospital had found a match to the cartilage I was waiting for and wanted to perform the surgery in two weeks.
It was not the only phone call I received during that week. When twelve weeks had passed, I found myself waiting by the phone for the inevitable call from my company. I was not surprised that it only took two days past the mandatory twelve week wait period of the Family Medical Leave Act for my company to call. As the phone rang, their name appeared on the caller ID. I already knew what was going to be said, but I still found myself hesitating to pick it up. I took a deep breath and swallowed to calm my nerves, and answered the phone with a smile of understanding. The conversation only lasted three to five minutes, but it only took one to let me know that my position would be vacated. I spent the other two telling them I understood, and thanking them for wishing me luck. As I hung up the phone, I took a minute on my bed to gather myself. I knew deep down that when I was ready to go back, they will accept me. But being told you just lost your position due to an injury still stung quite a bit.
Working in customer service, taught me how to put a smile on my face and in my voice even when you are having a bad day. Amanda was already under enough pressure from work, school, and her new home responsibilities, that I knew I had to keep a light atmosphere in the house. I was not the only one suffering from my pain. I pulled myself off the bed, opened my door, and looked at Amanda and stated in a loud, robust, joyful voice, “Firing down, surgery to go!”
March 26, 2011 came very quickly. The night before my operation, I found myself lying in bed having trouble falling asleep. I was already hungry and I knew I could not eat for another twelve hours. I was not as nervous about the surgery that was waiting for me as I was for the first, but one thought did keep me up. I was told that I had to spend the night in the hospital after the surgery for recovery. It was something that I had never done before, and I was determined that it would not come to that. I kept replaying the last surgery in my head; until the serenity of sleep overcame me.
The next morning around 7 am, we headed out the door, into the car, and made our way to the hospital. We met Mom and Dad in the waiting room, and began filling out the type of papers that we did for the first surgery. Dad kept things light by occupying my thoughts with Penn State Football and making fun of some home situations. I knew Amanda would be kept busy in the waiting room answering my mother’s questions. “How long will it be? Do you think he will be okay? How long is the recovery?” etc.. My parents are very good-hearted, but my mom can fire off questions faster than bullets flying out of a machine gun.
It only took a half hour until I got called back, Amanda was the only one to come back with me. I was not nervous at all. The first surgery had prepared me for everything this time around. It seemed like twelve people came and talked to me. They had to verify why I was there, who I was, what part they were working on, put the IV into my arm, and I had to sign all of the release papers. I saw the surgeon coming towards me, and I quickly turned to Amanda and stated I am not staying here over night. Before she could respond, the surgeon was next to me. He spent ten minutes going over the procedure with us, what to expect, and the recovery time. He stated that I would have to remain with them overnight, or at least that is what he thought I was going to do, and that I would have to be off my feet for around 12 weeks, with absolutely no activity, besides going to the bathroom. I dreaded to think of sitting in my chair another 12 weeks and I knew Amanda was not looking forward to it, but I pushed it aside and prepared myself once again for surgery.
They let my parents come back for a few minutes before taking me back, and in those few minutes my mom managed about ten questions. I am sure half of them were exactly the same except worded a little differently. This time around it was my mom that was more nervous than anyone. Another few minutes passed when a nurse came by and asked everyone to leave. She asked me if I was ready and I said yes let’s just get this over with. I asked her if they would be so kind not to ask me to count down before the anesthesiologist put me under. I let her know that I just wanted to go out without knowing when it was coming. I was wheeled into the operating room which looked much like the same one I was in before. They asked me a few questions, but before I could answer them the silence and darkness of night came over me.
“Doug, Doug, can you hear me?”
I could barely open my eyes, everything was blurry in front of me. It was like trying to focus on someone while you were underwater and they were on top of it. Words just echoed in my head with the loud buzzing sound coming from the left and in front of me.
“Doug? Hey, can you hear me?”
I think it was Amanda, I am not sure, I just shook my head. The only vision I could see was a white coat in front of me with no arms or legs sticking out of it.
“Doug, it’s Dr. ***. There was a minor problem after the surgery, when I was pulling the knife out I cut your tendon and we had to go back in and sew it up to fix it. Recovery may be a bit longer. Other than that everything was fine.”
I have no idea if I managed a word, or a grumble, but in my thoughts I felt that if it was fixed, it was fixed. I laid back down and went to sleep.
I opened my eyes again. This time I was in a very small recovery room. Amanda was sitting in a chair behind me and my parents were sitting in two chairs to the right of me. I looked up and saw that it was 3 pm. I don’t know how I remember these details so clearly. but I do. After getting a few sentences out of my mouth, my parents stated that they were going to leave so I could rest. My head felt like mush from the effects of the anesthesia. I laid my head back down and slept for another hour.
4 and 5 p.m. passed and by 6 p.m. I was finally coming to my senses. The nurses came in to check on me and I told them I was fine, that the only thing that really hurt was trying to go to the bathroom. It felt like fire was coming out of me when I tried to pee. The nurse said she thought they had a hard time getting the catheter out and I could be feeling pain from that. She said she would order a pill to make it feel better. Just great, I thought. First I have surgery on my ankle, then my tendon is cut, I remembered that, and now I can’t pee without it blazing like a torch.
After prescribing Pyridium to help calm the fire brewing inside my bladder, I told them I want to go home. The nurses did not recommend it and stated that the doctor would have to approve. I told them to get the doctor and tell him that I want to go home. Amanda was waking up from her nap in her chair; I couldn’t imagine how long of a day it must have been for her. Amanda asked if I was sure I wanted to go home. I told her I want to go home and I want to go home now.
It took until 7 p.m., but the doctor finally came up to my room. After asking how I was doing he reluctantly agreed to let me go home. Though I was extremely tired, I was thrilled. The nurses and Amanda helped me get situated by taking out my IV, going over discharge instructions and getting my clothes back on. Unlike last time, a wheelchair was waiting for me.
Amanda went on ahead to bring the car to the front of the hospital. A nurse helped me get into the wheelchair and we proceeded to the elevator. On the way down, my head felt like it was spinning and my stomach was turning. I told the nurse to stop for a second. We were only about 50 feet from the door and I saw the car waiting for me outside. I recall the nurse asking me, “Didn’t they test you before leaving the room?” I answered, “No.” She responded: “They’re supposed to do an anesthesia test before letting you leave, Should we go back?” I told her it’s too late now. She pushed me up to the car, and like a drunk person trying to get through the door, I fell into the front seat and positioned myself accordingly. Amanda helped with the seat belt and the nurse shut the door. Hearing the door shut, I thought it is over. Surgery 2 is done and this is all done.
After going through other surgeries after this, I have no idea what type of anesthesia they used for this one. It was so strong, much stronger than I ever had again. It really knocked me out. I cannot believe they let me go home – as you will see in the next entry……
I have been working very hard over the last four years, trying to bring my body back to health. Due to my ankle joints and the pain in my legs, I cannot perform any cardio exercises except riding or using a reciprocal bike with zero resistance. I have come a long way since the day I first started.
On my blog right now, I have touched a little bit on how much weight I started to gain. At one point I gained over 20 pounds and weighed 230 pounds. I would lose some of it as I recovered, but as another surgery turned the corner, I would find myself gaining 15 to 20 more pounds. My cholesterol, blood pressure, and overall well-being were in jeopardy.
I learned exercises from my physical therapists that I can do on the floor, and my wife stated she would help with my diet. I loved snacking on chips and other salty or fattening products and I knew I would have to change that. I remembered one time in a meeting at my corporate office my district manager, the same one from the blog, stated that he snacks on dry cereal, and that pretzels are good. My wife agreed to the idea and we stocked up and still do on hard pretzels and cereals that are easy to eat dry that I can snack on. I started to do push-ups and pull-ups. It was not easy. I was able to do a few push-ups maybe four, and as far as pull-ups, I could do zero. I bought a brand new push-up bar and I could not use it. I was not strong enough. I found an idea online. Get a stepper, and while doing a pull-up, you jump up and hold yourself as long as you can before letting go. Eventually that will make you strong enough to do pull-ups.
As stated, I started three years ago. It took more than three months of hanging there and letting go, before I could perform my first pull-up. I went from three push-ups to three sets of ten. The progress was slow, but I vowed I will not gain all that weight again. Everything I did was, floor-based or hanging-based, nothing where I had to put pressure on my legs. The physical therapists suggested pool therapy and I tried it once. I was uncomfortable doing it in front of people. So, I decided to stick with what I knew and what I could do at home.
As the years went by I added a weighted vest for push-ups. I have maxed out now at 60 lbs doing 3 sets of 12, and I can do around 40-45 pull-ups. I still do leg lifts on the floor for my legs and have recently purchased a workout machine for leg strengthening exercises to regain strength in my legs without needing to stand on them.
I am telling you this for two reasons. Reason 1: Find a motivational factor or reason to change your life if you are living an unhealthy lifestyle. I may not be living the best one, but it is much better. I found that will power came later. Seeing my strength grow motivated me and kicked in my will power to keep going. I found my motivational factor and ask you to find your own. Reason 2: Becoming more fit while still being disabled did have a downside that I never expected.
I now want to discuss reason 2. I ask the disabled to share if this has happened to you. And I ask the non-disabled not to judge a book by its cover.
About 8 months ago, I sat in a disabled space outside of a Staples. I always purchase products online and pick up at the front counter so I do not have to crutch around the store. Retrieving my item and climbing back into my car I put my handicap placard aside and looked at my item. Amanda says I am like a kid. No matter what I buy I like to open it in the car and look at it. So, I am looking at my product and with no warning I hear BAM! BAM! BAM! on my window. A police officer was standing outside. I rolled down the window and asked: What was the matter? He stated: “Where is your tag?” I said, “Oh yeah, I just took it down, I was looking at my product and was about to leave. Here is my tag.” He then stated: “Is this your mom’s or grandma’s? This is not yours.” I said: “Yes it is. Here is my card that goes with it.” After showing him my card I opened up the door and said, “See my legs, see my hand controls?” My legs were wrapped up in braces. The embarrassed officer apologized and then stated, quoting his exact words, “Oh! From the window you didn’t look disabled. I was just making sure someone was not using the space illegally.” A little baffled at the comment, I told him not to worry about it and went home and told Amanda my story.
Since then I have had people tell me that I look good, look healthy, and looked well, to the point some said I did not look like I was in pain. Since the statements come from friends, I take them as compliments. I guess after dealing with pain for 8 years I am getting good at hiding it. I am happy I look good, but is this fooling people into thinking I am healthier than what I feel? Will people think I am exaggerating the issue since I look good? These thoughts might seem silly to a person who never went through this, but trust me, if you go through this, these thoughts will come to you. It is not as easy as take the compliment and forget about it. Encouragement from friends can feel like a veiled accusation. Even though I know it is not.
Two days ago Amanda wanted to meet her brother at Knoebels amusement park. If you have read my blog you know I do not mention the names of my friends, doctors, or places of work. I do not mention their names because I do not know if they would want their names out in the public and I respect the hospitals and doctors who have tried to help me and that does include Flash. I just never want to see him again. Today though I will say Knoebels. Why? Because they happened to make me mad on the wrong day. Going through test after test and being told that some of them are abnormal, but they cannot tell me what is wrong had taken it’s toll on me that day. I would love to have proof and the ability to say here is the exact reason why I feel the way I do, but I do not have it. So for now, people just have my word and some abnormal test results to show that I have pain in both legs. I have plenty of proof for the pain in my ankle joints.
Amanda and I arrived at Knoebels, a pay-per-ride amusement park in a smaller community. The place is paved, with lots of shade, and it is a nice quiet park compared to Hersheypark, Great Flags, or Disney. While we were waiting for her brother to arrive I decided that we might as well go to the customer service booth to obtain a wrist band that lets me go through the exits for easier access to the rides. Yes, it enables line-jumping, yes I can get on the ride faster, but if you want to go through the pain and failed surgeries and the expenses that I have to get one, I say go for it!
Arriving at the counter in my awesome three-wheel red and silver-trimmed, seven mile per hour, two thousand dollar mobile scooter, with both legs wrapped in braces and a cane sitting by my handle bars, I asked the attendant for a wrist band. Without saying hello or how are you doing, he leaned over the counter to look at my legs and said (exact words) “We do not give bands to people who just had surgery. We only give them to the permanently disabled.” Normally I’m faster than Amanda, but not today. Amanda fired back, “He has had six of them so far and they all failed, he is disabled.” The gentleman responded, “Well he doesn’t look disabled. I will get him his band.” Recalling the battery of tests I had experienced questioning the pain I feel, the unproductive appointments with doctors guessing at what is going on, and having gone through all I had gone through . . . I felt a volcanic eruption building inside me. How I remained in control is still beyond me. “Exactly what is a disabled person supposed to look like? I am in a scooter, feet wrapped up, and have a cane.” He avoided the question and handed me my wrist band. Years ago in high school I learned from anger management classes I was forced to take, that when you are mad it is best to keep your mouth shut. I kept my mouth shut, my counselor would have been proud, and took my wrist band and went on my way. Literally two feet down from the stand was an elderly security guard. He stated that he loved my scooter and that he really needed one as his legs were going bad. His approval cheered me up. I do get a lot of compliments about my awesome scooter. He then asked me about my legs, I told him I don’t know and then screamed “According to that jackass over there I do not look disabled.” I just had to vent. Even a little teapot has to release steam at some point. Having finished our conversation, Amanda wanted to go on a ride.
Amanda is really good at trying to distract me when I get mad, but I was pissed. At first I said no to the ride, but seeing her disappointment I told her okay. So, I scootered over to the ride and its exit and asked the employee if we can go on. She said yes, just right around the corner there are stairs you go up and then I can get on the ride. I assumed that I had to walk it with my cane. As I entered the narrow exit gate and bypassed her chair, umbrella, cooler, and snacks, we reached the corner. I looked at Amanda and said I am going to be hurting. To a normal person I guess the stairs were around a corner, but to a slow person on a cane I might as well have signed up for a triathlon. I was determined to go on the ride for Amanda’s sake, so we slowly walked down and began climbing the stairs. While the pain was already settling in, the gentleman at the top asked us, “Why didn’t you take the elevator?” I told him because the person at the front did not mention it. My wife was now getting angry. The gentleman then assured us to use the elevator when we get off the ride.
I made it back to my scooter after the ride and I told Amanda in a very loud voice, “Well no wonder she didn’t tell us to take the scooter back there. She has all of her stuff in the way.” Her items should be placed outside the exit so people in wheel chairs have room to get through. By this point I was ready to go home, I had enough. We eventually met up with Amanda’s brother and went on a ride, but at the first sight of rain, I took the opportunity to leave and go home.
After arriving home, I wrote a letter to Knoebels asking them: What is a disabled person supposed to look like? If I do not look like one on a scooter, with my ankles wrapped and cane in hand, exactly what does one look like? I wrote about the cop situation and asked them between the cop and themselves am I supposed to be crawling, looking beat up? Should I be disheveled and lose the light of life? Am I not supposed to be happy and smile? And most of all am I not supposed to look healthy? I then asked them what does it matter if someone had a surgery. How do they not qualify for a band? I had surgery, I had to be off my feet for 12 weeks 3 different times!!! I certainly could not have waited in lines! Would the person who had surgery have to turn around and go home?
I am still waiting for the owners to call me, but I have received a phone call from one of their managers. I told the manager I will not stop until I get a hold of the owners to talk to them about their policies and offer them sensitivity training. The manager apologized for everything and stated she will check all the exits of the rides. She stated she is disabled and that it is hard to tell that she is. I told her if that is the case then I would expect her employees to be more sensitive about the situation. Once the phone call was over, I did not feel satisfied with her answers. I will be following up with them.
This lesson I want to stress, is do not judge people by their appearance. If you see a person not using a turn signal, do not think they are lazy for not using one or that they are just being rude. Maybe they have hand controls and with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the brake and gas lever, maybe we could not safely get to it. If you see a person using a handicap space and they walk out of it, instead of damning them for using a space they do not deserve, maybe they are battling the pain inside while trying to keep a smile on their faces. Disabilities come in all shapes, sometimes a person may have a little pain one day and then be in a lot of pain the next day. There is not one face to disability there are many faces and mine is one of them.
And so it began, waiting for approximately three months for a perfect donor match, while trying to be non-weight bearing as much as possible….
The first thing I needed to do once we arrived home was to call work. I called the Human Resources department, and after a little deliberation, we both agreed that I could not work without the risk of causing more damage to my leg, along with being unable to perform my job duties while on pain medication. I thanked them for understanding and taking the responsibility for notifying my store. Before hanging up they told me that they will send the same forms as before, so that I knew what to expect and what needed to be filled out. I felt that I was becoming a pro at those forms.
It was not the forms themselves that had me nervous. It was not wondering if the doctor would fill them out in time that had me stressed. It was the knowledge of what those forms truly meant. I knew from last time what the forms meant. The FMLA forms represented paperwork from the government that protected my job for 12 weeks. I was off of work about 8 weeks during my first surgery. This time I had to wait three months just to find a donor before surgery could be performed. When I hung up the phone, the smile of being thankful withdrew from my face, and somberness set in. I knew in reality that I was just fired.
I worked hard for the position that I had, and it seemed surreal to realize I just lost it. I kept in the back of my mind that I knew they would accept me back. My company was more like a family than a corporation.
Feeling better about the situation, I walked out of the bedroom and into the living room. Throbbing was already forming in my ankle and I felt it creeping up through my leg. Looking at the clock I saw that I had three more hours before I could take my next pain pill. I eased into my chair and thought that I better take it easy.
The recliner became my throne, and everything I needed to keep me entertained throughout the day was finding it’s place around it. To my left on the arm of the couch was my Kindle, and on it was a new series that I was going to begin to read called: “The Legend of Drizzit.” Beside it lay the remote controls for my TV and audio receiver, along with a small word search book with a pencil on top. To my right, on the window sill, sat my drink, a bottle of pills, cell phone, and game controllers. I thought I was set to make it through the three long months of waiting.
Amanda was doing the best she could. She found herself in a marriage that hit a rock during the first week. I can only imagine that she did not think marriage was going to start out with two surgeries and a husband who could barely walk, and didn’t have a job. She worked long hours at the hospital and found all new responsibilities at home. She had to make most of the food in the house, pick up most of the cleaning and laundry, and on top of that, learn how to use the riding mower. As the weeks, went by I could see the exhaustion on her face. Her marriage had turned into 12 hours of taking care of patients at the hospital, and another 12 hours of taking care of one at home. Though it weighed down on her, she tried to be as supportive as possible.
At the time, my pain kept me from doing almost everything. It was getting to the point that just placing my foot on the floor would send sparks throughout my whole leg, and the throbbing kept getting worse. Even sitting in a chair with my foot elevated did not help at all. The only thing that helped was taking my pills. The drawback of taking the pills, was being dizzy and tired throughout most of the day. I found myself sleeping in my chair more than being awake. I swear the cushions on the chair were starting to engulf me and make me one of their own. The only way I had to get around was with a pair of crutches. It was the only thing the doctors recommended. The doctors did not help much when it came to adjusting to this state of life. All they did was schedule the surgery, give pills and crutches, and tell me to have a nice day. There was no one that I could turn to for help, to vent to, or go to for suggestions. In turn, I did the best I could. I tried to put dishes away, get the laundry from downstairs, clean, and cook food. But trying to keep my balance on one foot while using my hands for other things did not work. After weeks of trying to make a difference around the home, I just found myself right back in the chair day after day after day.
The first eight weeks passed and the pain kept increasing, I did less and less each day. So I sat and watched Amanda come home, make food, clean, and take care of me. I started to feel worthless. I became a burden instead of a supporting husband, and it started to take a toll on my attitude and our marriage. I couldn’t do anything, and worst of all, we both noticed I was starting to gain a lot of weight. In eight weeks I gained over 15 pounds and weighed 227. There I was – slumped in a chair, feeling hopeless, in pain, and over-weight. It was becoming a dark time in my life and in our household.
By the tenth week I knew we could not go on like this. I still had around two weeks to go before surgery and then twelve weeks of non-weight bearing after that. It was not going to work. I became bored with my games and was reading through my books at too fast a pace. I felt dizzy and tired and miserable. The crutches rested against the wall in the corner by my chair. I tried using them to do chores around the house, but fell twice. In the end, I hurt myself more than I helped out. It was amazing what ten weeks can do to a person’s mind. No one prepared me that I was going feel like this. Like last time, most of the visiting ended in the first few weeks and except for my parents, I was left alone most of the day. My best friend and a few others came by when they could and we talked often. They were my saving grace outside of the home.
Amanda looked like she was just going through the motions of life. The stress affected her attitude at work and at home. She started feeling depressed over the whole situation. She knew that this initial ten weeks was only the beginning.
It did not help her that I was falling into depression; I knew things had to change. I couldn’t let Amanda carry us in everything that we did. I knew a lot of damage was done to our morale and attitudes, but I needed to find something that would help. I completely understood why Amanda was feeling the way she was towards everything. I knew that I had to be a stronger husband than I had been and that she needed as much care as I was being given. At the time, I did not understand that a caregiver can go through as much stress as the person who is hurt.
I decided that I needed to search the Internet for a product that would change the way I lived at home. I realize that ten weeks was a long time, and maybe I should have done so sooner. But I thought that if there were something to make life easier in the house, the doctors would have told me about it. I still held doctors in the highest esteem, besides Flash, and if there were something to help me around the home besides crutches it would have been suggested. So instead of searching for a product the doctors did not mention to me, I just sat and sat and sat in the chair and did nothing around the home for ten weeks. I gained so much weight. I tried to do chores with the crutches, but the pain of having my leg hanging down, and my falling over from being dizzy from the medication made it impossible. I felt worthless as I sat there watching my wife work for twelve hours and then come home to take care of me. However, half an hour later, the product that would change everything was on the screen in front of me. I was embarrassed and frustrated, that I did not get it sooner. Why didn’t they suggest this? Why didn’t my original physical therapists suggest this? It is such a simple product, that they had to know about it. I went through ten weeks of feeling helpless and leaving Amanda do everything at home. However, appearing like a beacon of light and for only $149.00 I had the answer. That answer was a knee scooter bought from and delivered by Amazon.com.
The knee scooter was delivered to my home in two days. It changed everything. I no longer needed crutches to balance. I just placed my right leg on the chair and used my left leg to push myself around the home. The bench on the scooter kept my foot elevated, which helped keep some of the pain down, and the frame was small enough to make turns easily. Though I was a little off balance at first, I was once again able to do things around the home. I was able to do things a little at a time. I was able to clean, cook small meals, put things away. I was finally able to get off my chair and reclaim my life in my home again! It was a blessing that I found it. I only wished someone had told me about it sooner. I now had my scooter to help Amanda around the house. Regaining some freedom, and turning around my attitude, I noticed that surgery was only a few weeks away….
This was only the second surgery. I was still new at having pain and knowing what I could accomplish while being in pain. I did not know about products that were offered to people who were in pain or who had a bad leg. I also did not know how much of a toll this was putting on Amanda. You could say that I was self-centered. I was in pain and I was the one who needed care, period. It was a hard time for us, and we got through it with a few close calls. It really saddened me writing this, knowing how much was put on her. She already had been through so much and there was still a long way to go.
We are in an amazing place now because we grew together and we did not let chronic pain get us down, but it was not an easy trip getting here. We both had to grow and realize what stresses and emotions this situation put us through. It took years to get our relationship here, but we pulled through, and I could not be happier to have the wife I have today.
I wrote this one day in December before my fourth surgery. I wanted to share it with everyone and thank everyone for following me and reading my posts:
Twas the night before surgery
and all through the house
Noone was stirring not even my spouse
Fasting this night I thought in my head
Eighteen hours until ill be fed
Trying to rest I layed in the bed
the thoughts of pain stirred in my head
Amanda said dont worry as she sat next to me
you need to get sleep its already three
A moment later there arose such a clatter
I woke up so fast to see what was the matter
Buzzing and beeping, I heard the alarm ringing
my head felt heavy, my ears were stinging
I looked out the window it all looked so cold
“You need to get up!” or so I was told
Tired and groggy , I zipped up my pants
How early is this surgery, I started to rant
We stumbled to the car, wiping our eyes
The stars were still out in the night sky!
Orion! Big Dipper!
Jupiter and Venus!
Taurus and Cygnus!
We started the car, miles and miles to go
How I was so glad to see no snow.
We hit the highway going past eighty four
Amanda’s foot was hitting the floor
The car took off as fast as a sleigh
That travels the world in just one day
In two hours or more the car came to a silence
We are here I exclaimed in a defiance
“Come on lets go!” Amanda persist
“Your chair is waiting don’t resist”
I unbuckled my belt with a sigh and a groan
I sat in the chair with a cry and a moan
Faster and Faster the wheels they went
Soon I thought we would be off the cement.
Inside the building we sat and sat
Then I heard my name and that was that
I kissed Amanda and forced a little smile
She said, “Don’t worry it will just be awhile.”
As the tubes were attached and the nerve shots were given
My thoughts were with her… then all was forgiven
Everything went black and I was out like a light
I hope this time everything goes right
Three months… three months had to pass before my next doctor appointment at the new facility. I questioned in my mind if I was going to even make it the next three months. Every step felt as if a needle was poking through my foot – which caused a lightening pain going up through my leg around my knee. I did the best I could to keep as much weight off of it as possible and to support the ankle to keep it from moving. The only thing I could do was to continue working until my appointment.
The company I worked for truly supported their employees, but they were also very strict with medical situations. I could not use crutches or a cane at work without having doctor’s permission. As I was between doctors and very reluctant to go back to Mr. All You Need Is Therapy, I wrapped my ankle with support tape, covered it with my dress pants, and continued on throughout my days.
Two months had gone by without much change for the better or the worse when I was brought into a meeting in the conference room. To my delight the meeting with my managers went very well. They praised me on the things I did very well and how much I had accomplished as a Teller Service manager. With so many compliments being given, I was trying not to look too excited at the prospect of another promotion.
I thought to myself that this could be it, I could have the chance at finally becoming a store/branch manager. It was a position I truly wanted to exceed at. I admired my manager. He made the position seem very important and prestigious by how well he conducted himself. Customers would come in asking for his help and no matter the situation he was always able to handle it in stride. He was also very humorous and at times did get excited over some situations, but overall he made it seem like it was fun. Another manager from a different branch was his close friend, and would call at least once a day to our branch. To confirm my admiration for the position, his friend acted exactly the same as he did. I grew to respect both of them deeply and the reason I wanted the position so badly, was so I could be like them.
As the meeting was coming to a completion, the proposition for a promotion was put on the table. My heart sank a little at the offer given. The offer was for an Assistant Manager position at another location. The only thought at the time was the feeling of sorrow of having to leave my team after all of those years, and having to overcome another obstacle to get to the position I wanted to have. I found myself very reluctant to leave the team I had grown up with. Sensing this, my manager made a phone call to bring in the big gun, our district manager.
I could spend a year writing about our district manager. I could fill pages, upon pages, upon pages, of stories about him. This was truly one of the first times I had an opportunity to meet my district manger and to sit down with him. In the first ten minutes of meeting with him, I could sense his excitement and his passion. I have never met anyone that could paint a picture with words like he could. I believe he could have gotten anyone to follow him for any reason. Presidents and congressmen should take lessons on speech from him. He was and still is truly inspirational. The idea of leaving my work family behind was tough, but the opportunity that the new position offered was too great to say no to.
My new job position at the new location began in November. It wasn’t exactly the same as my old family, but a few weeks into it I was beginning to fit in. The staff at the office knew that I had another appointment coming up next month and they also knew I was not doing so well. I unofficially started using a cane to help get by at work, and at home I mostly sat in my chair. It was the first time that I had to consider my health before activities. I had to pull back on a lot of holiday/Christmas activities, and those around me knew how much I loved Christmas and all of the festivities that come with it. I pushed past the disappointment of needing to live a conservative life, because I knew it was only temporary and it was only this one year. I will go full force the next year!
Three months finally passed, and the day finally arrived. It was time to go and see who my new doctor was. I was confident that my pain was going to be taken care. After reciving my old medical records from Flash’s office, the facility scheduled an MRI a week prior to the appointment. The doctor ordering this test proved to me he meant business and did not want to take my situation lightly.
As we arrived at his office located in a building just outside of the main hospital, I was feeling excited. Throughout the car ride there I kept telling Amanda that he was going to prove that Flash was an idiot and had no clue what he was talking about, telling me all I need is physical therapy without even touching my foot or calling for an x-ray. Just who did he think he was! It was time to get justification for my anger towards his neglect.
I sat on the doctor’s table, feet swaying back and forth anxiously, while Amanda found herself in the guest chair again ready to doze off from working so long during her prior shift. The first person to arrive was a medical student to evaluate me. I sensed he was new to his position as he looked a little more nervous than I looked anxious. We went over my history and he did the basic examination of my ankle. However, he stated he was going to let the doctor go over my MRI results. He said that the doctor would be with me in a few minutes and he saw himself out the door.
Amanda pulled her coat up to her neck to keep the chill of the office away, as the doorknob once again turned. The door opened and there he was, a gentleman a few years older than I and about the same age as my previous doctor. He came fully into the room, a plus already, and greeted us with a handshake and a smile. He sat down next to me and asked me to tell my story. About ten minutes passed while I was telling my story, and at no time did he look like he was bolting for the door. My loyalty in as little as ten minutes was a hundred fold over my last doctor. This doctor truly listened to every word I said. I was so relieved and thankful.
When I was finished and all of the preliminary inspection of my leg was done, he moved over to the computer to bring up my MRI. He explained in great detail everything he saw in the MRI. He pointed out everything on the screen that concerned him, and stated that he had talked with his two other colleagues about the result. It was at this point in the appointment that the student doctor came back in, joined by one of his colleagues.
With the two doctors in the room and the soon-to-be doctor, they both told me that I had no other choice but to undergo surgery. You would think this would upset me, but I felt vindicated. I knew I was in worse shape than just needing physical therapy. I knew my pain would not be alleviated by stretches or extra strengthening exercises or motion. I knew it, but what I didn’t know was what happened next. ….
My doctor along with his colleagues, stated I needed an Osteoarticular Transfer System (OATS) surgery. Telling me that was like telling me I needed horseshoes for my car. It made no sense all. I just looked at him blankly with no true emotion. I figured another six weeks and I will be free. Seeing that I had no idea what he was talking about, he continued to explain that an OATS procedure is a procedure where they would normally take cartilage from a different area of the patient and replace the damaged cartilage in the location that needed it. However, since my ankle was severely damaged, he could not use cartilage from my body and would need to use cadaver cartilage. Due to the amount needed, using cartilage from my body would pose too much of a risk of damaging a good joint. He then stated he would use the MRI I had to determine the size of the donation needed. Due to this, surgery would have to wait until a proper donor was found. In the meantime I had to be non-weight bearing until surgery. He did not want to take the risk of creating any more damage. He then proceeded to ask if I had any questions.
The news hit me like a rock. My comprehension of this new situation slowly pieced itself together in my mind. I found myself at a loss for words but was able to ask, “So, my other doctor said I needed physical therapy, and you’re stating I need a surgery with a cadaver piece and I cannot weight bear until I have surgery, which could be months from now. How can I have two opinions so far apart?” He was cautious to remain professional and not say anything about the prior doctor, but the three people in the room all agreed this was the only choice. “So, what does this mean, what is the recovery like from this?”
I asked looking for a silver lining. “The recovery period is 12-16 weeks of non-weight bearing, then about 6 weeks of physical therapy – and by a year’s time you should be able to go back to doing the things you normally did.” I didn’t hear that last part, I was stuck on 12-16 weeks non-weight bearing. Six weeks had been hard enough. This was doubled. Amanda was fully awake in her chair in complete silence, absorbing everything that was being said. “What does this mean for work?” I managed to get out as I looked down at my ankle, wondering how it could be so bad. However, I already knew what it meant. It meant that I won’t have a job. I learned FMLA only lasts at best 12 weeks, I also knew that my new job would be gone by the time I was all healed. It was hard to process right there at that time, how everything I worked for was gone, but my insides and my gut felt it. I thought I was going to be nauseous.
I surprisingly pulled myself together quickly and told the doctor without further hesitation we were going to do this, I was determined to face the challenge head on, and by god, I didn’t have to go back to Dr. Flash ever again. I thanked him and his colleagues for all of their time. They had spent more than an hour and a half with me, explaining everything from procedure to recovery. I felt confident this was my next step. After putting my shoes back on, I hopped off the table, gave my information to the surgery scheduler and proceeded outside.
From that point I never had doubts about what I had to do. And what was the best part of it all, you ask? The doctor was a true Italian, and before I left he said, “We Paesans will stick together through this.”
This was a longer entry. I needed to make sure my friends at work know how much they meant to me and how much that position meant to me as well. My manager, my district manager, and my manager’s friend became true role models not only in my work life, but my personal life as well. Those three individuals mean a lot to me. They were professional at what they did, but they knew how to joke around and have fun while they did it. Two of the best quotes during a hard day were: “On the road to success, I got lost on the road to nowhere.” And advice about being successful? “I don’t want to be successful. I just want to get lost in halls of corporate America.” Of course these quotes were said in jest, but they always make me laugh. So, I want to say thank you to them and the rest of my team, and thank you to the doctor who truly listened to me for the first time. Also a special thanks to Ms. S B.