Month: July 2016
One Year. It took one year from surgery to recovery. That does not count the three months of waiting. As the days and the weeks went by, the pain was subsiding. Physical therapy lasted six weeks after I got my cast off. The first three weeks were spent working on gaining back my range of motion and getting strength back into my legs. From having my leg in a cast and non-weight bearing for so long all of my muscles in my leg and ankle atrophied. It was very painful going through the lessons, but the support from my therapists made it easy to keep going. There were many sleepless nights from being sore. The remaining three weeks of therapy concentrated on being 100% weight bearing. Each week I put more and more weight on my leg and forced myself to finish each exercise they gave me. I spent days outside walking back and forth in my front yard until I finally could walk around my house with no assistance. The last day of therapy was emotional. After completing walking on the treadmill for 15 minutes, walking up and down their 8 step platform, and pushing through the remaining strength exercises, I was finally finished. I gave each of the therapists a hug, thanked them for their service, and was awarded a completion t-shirt that I still wear today.
As I walked out of their center with no pain for the first time in over a year, my mind switched immediately from accomplishment, to the next step I had to overcome. I needed to find a job. Over a year has passed and I kept in touch with a few people from my last job. I knew I would be welcomed back with open arms. However, I realized that I had just been through a lot and had accomplished my goal where some would have failed. After all this, I did not want to go back to a position I truly did not want, which was being an assistant manager. I began looking for other jobs in banking and within a few weeks was lucky to find one at a competing institution. Though the job was not a branch manager, it was a position where I could go visit businesses and set up appointments that I could attend. It was very beneficial to be able to control how much I was on my feet. I would not have been able to do that at my prior job.
After a few months at my new position in a new company, I started to have “home sickness” for my prior employer. I missed my co-workers, missed all the customers, and most of all missed the culture. I was feeling great and knew I would be able to handle being on my feet once again. As I was feeling this, my district manager I talked about in the previous posts, reached out to me to see how I was doing. After the conversation was over, a meeting was set for the next week.
The following week I met with him, and before the conversation was over, I finally reached my long term career goal. In July 2012, I was officially named a branch manager for the company. I barely could contain my excitement. I had gone through two surgeries, worked my way up the ladder at each position, and finally all of the hard work, pain, and recovery paid off. I did not accept the offer with butterfly eyes and rainbows. I knew it was going to be hard work, but I also knew the support system was there for me to succeed.
Within the month I started my job. I will not go into all of the details, but I will say it was the absolute best job I ever had. I became closer to my old boss at my original location as a CSR, I became great friends with his friend that used to call the branch, and my district manager became a life long mentor and someone I will always respect and call a friend. The benefits did not stop there. I absolutely had the greatest staff I ever worked with. I loved each of my employees and support staff and did my best to see them succeed. We came together as a family and were able to beat goals, and came close to breaking others. I think about them every single day. Most have forgotten or have lost touch with me, but a select few never left my side. I also have met customers that I felt I had a true business relationship with, and I even met one that became one of my best friends, the mysterious Ms. S.
Working there had many rewards. I grew as a professional businessman, my sales technique got better, and my relationship management skills improved greatly. However, none of those was the greatest reward I received. That honor goes to Jamie K. Jamie was the assistant manager at the time. She is a strong individual who I got along with right away. It took awhile for me to warm up to her, but I am sure now she feels the same. Jamie was an incredible co-worker, but as I learned more about her through the years she became an unbelievable person to me. Jamie is a survivor, warrior, and one of the best moms that I have ever known. I found inspiration in her that has helped me all these years later. Her personal story has given me the strength and motivation to fight and keep trying to get better.
I consider Jamie and her daughter a part of my family, and my wife feels the same. Jamie and I did our best to keep the morale up in our store and support each other on the good and bad days. We have done many things together to help our community. We held fundraising events for a food bank, we took part in acquiring presents for Christmas for families in the area, donated our time and cooked meals at the Ronald McDonald house, raised money for Muscular Dystrophy, and Bowl For Kids’ Sake, among many other things.
From 2011 to November 2012 everything was perfect. I had a great relationship with my staff, co-workers and customers. Amanda started a new job at the hospital she works for now. That was a blessing for her, to be able to find a job and a company that she has loved for years. We joined a bowling league, and I was back at my 194 average. Everything was going smoothly. All the pain, both surgeries, and recovery were officially behind us years ago. It was one of the best times that I can remember. Nothing could ruin it.
In December 2012, Jamie and I were shopping for Christmas gifts for our employees at our local Wal-mart. Christmas is my favorite time of year and I always try to make it special for everyone around me. I liked to decorate my house and workplace, and hold an annual countdown at work. I was walking behind her as we approached the entrance. I stumbled a little bit. It felt like I lost my balance. I caught up beside her and stated that I almost collapsed and my ankle hurt a little from it. She turned to me and said, “You better get that checked out.” I responded, “Nah, It will be fine.” We continued on and bought our gifts….
I cannot express how much Jamie has meant to me as a friend throughout all these years. She is the first name that I wanted to reveal besides my wife and I, so that the whole world will know how special she and her daughter are.
Thank you James for being who you are.
Before I officially start this entry, I want to say that it has been awhile since I last wrote. I am still dealing with pain that at this time is more than I ever had before. The pain and the side effects from my medication have affected my concentration to write. The difference between then and now is the journey I went through to help me deal with it. I still stay positive; Amanda and I adjust our lives and work on our relationship to continuously improve it. It was hard work, but has paid off ten-fold. I ask you to never give up working on your life to obtain happiness. No one will give it to you and it won’t fall down in your lap. Amanda and I could have separated while going through all of this. Our marriage was very new and we only knew each other for a year before that, but we chose to fight and adjust. At this time we could not be happier together. Without further ado I give you the next entry:
The prior six weeks were the worst. During the following six weeks the extreme pain from the surgery was letting up. I was able to quit my OxyContin and cut back on my Oxycodone and Percocet. My fear of being addicted to them was thankfully unrealized. I was still under strict instructions not to put my foot on the ground. The donor cartilage and bone needed time to fuse with my bone and cartilage. According to my surgeon, I could not take the risk of moving or putting pressure in that area. The cast and the boot (for extra protection) made it hard to sleep in my bed and to use my knee scooter to help around the house. I also could not use my crutches because I had a tendency to rest my legs on the floor and I could not take the chance of losing my balance. Though I was feeling better, the chair is where I remained. A prisoner within my own house.
Amanda began looking more exhausted than she ever had before. Three months prior and twelve weeks after the surgery, Amanda took full control over the realm of the house. She handled cleaning, grocery shopping, shoveling, snow blowing, among other necessary things. I began to feel Amanda resenting me for my health issues, and for putting her in this situation. My condition certainly caused hardships on her, but it was her job that made it worse. I heard over her cell phone at times how her manager treated her employees during meetings. I will never understand how a manager thinks talking down to others will make them work harder. After one of those conference calls Amanda and I knew it was time for her to find another job. Amanda updated her resume and sent out a few applications. The only thing to do was wait and hope we would hear something back from someone, anyone at this point.
The weather went from a frigid cold, to a nice spring day by the end of the twelve week non-weight bearing period. With the radio up and the windows down, Amanda and I flew down the highway towards the hospital. The smile on my face said it all. I was literally bouncing in my seat. I was finally, FINALLY getting my cast off. I think I even saw a moment of relief in Amanda’s worn-down eyes.
Sitting on the doctor’s table, I watched the nurse cut through my cast and take the layers of wrap off of my leg. As she unfolded each layer of wrap, I noticed my right leg was looking smaller and smaller. As the final layer was peeled away, a shrunken, white, dry, scaly leg was released from captivity. I was thoroughly grossed out. The dryness of the leg looked like a snake shedding its skin. I scratched at my leg and was embarrassed by how much skin fell away from it. I also noticed that I could not move my ankle.
After I was cleaned up as much as I could be on the table, the doctor came into the room and stated that I needed to begin physical therapy. It was important to regain the muscle memory in my leg as soon as possible, before scar tissue set in. The more I was able to move it the more I could break up the scar tissue. He understood that I could not move it at the time. Then he said the words I had been waiting for. He stated that after a few months of physical therapy, I would be back to normal. I would be able to get a job, and most importantly I would be able to enjoy physical activities like bowling in a league once again.
We went back home, my leg feeling light as ever. I still needed to wear a Cam Boot to protect my foot, but I was allowed to take it off while my legs were resting on the chair. I could start using crutches more, as I slowly started putting weight back on my leg. But the best of all was that I could start using my knee scooter! I was thrilled at the prospect of returning to the life I had known before my injury.
Hell night was finally behind us. I managed to crawl on the floor over to my chair the next morning. Amanda looked like a truck hit her. She had one more day off before heading back to work.
During this time Amanda worked in a home care position. She had to travel up to 50 miles a day. When her shift was over she would be more than an hour away from home. The stress of her job and coming home to take care of an incapacitated husband left her exhausted, depressed, and wanting.
During those first six weeks, I had no knowledge of this. I honestly had no knowledge of anything around me. All I knew was when Amanda came home, I was going to be fed and helped to be washed at the sink in the bathroom. Everything was a blur during this period. It is understandable why. The doctors prescribed two OxyContins a day and over ten Percocets a day. This was the first time I had ever been on pain killers and my body was not used to them. I spent the days sleeping, and drooling on my shirt. It was necessary though. There were a few times I overslept and my medication did not overlap. The pain was excruciating. The throbbing and pounding in my leg during the hour until the next pill took effect was unbearable. I thought my leg was going to burst as the swelling pushed again the cast. I couldn’t wait until the dizziness and grogginess took over. It was too much to handle anytime I missed a dose. Unfortunately, it happened all too often when Amanda was at work.
The pain was obviously from the surgery, but it was more than just replacing my cartilage that caused it. In order to get to get to the area that was needed, the doctors had to break my ankle and leg in two different places. They also had to remove bone fragments and shave down the bone as well as carve out the bad area of my cartilage When it was all over they needed to drill a plate and screws into my leg. To top it off they cut my tendon with a knife on the way out of my leg and had to reconnect that. I was not prepared nor did they prepare me for all of the pain that came afterword. I had no idea I was going to be put on so many narcotics and need them for such a long period of time.
The pills slowed me down even more than what I already was. I swear during the first six weeks the chair was starting to mold around me as I began to sink into it. Every day was the same: eat, sleep, more sleep, excruciating pain from oversleeping and missing a dose, and then eat again when Amanda came home and get washed by the sink. I watched TV during my short conscious periods. The pain did not get better during these first six weeks. My attentiveness and mobility were not the only thing to slow down. Metabolism also slowed down to a halt. I barely noticed my stomach pressing up against my shirt. I also did not notice it when my shorts were beginning to fit a little too snug. It took Amanda to notice before I realized it myself.
Amanda came home from work looking dilapidated. Another work day was over for her. Another nine wounds she had to clean, another nine reports that had to be filed, and another nine hour shift completed. Amanda looked over and saw I was barely awake and stated bluntly: “You need to start losing weight. You have gained a lot, it is not healthy. I need to start buying healthy foods.” I looked down and noticed she was right. I never looked this heavy. She helped me to the bathroom and onto the scale balancing on one foot and read I had gained over twenty pounds in the first six weeks! I reached 221 pounds – the most I ever weighed.
Confirming that I was overweight did not motivate me to lose weight. It made me more depressed. The more depressed I became, the less motivated I was to get better. I left the bathroom and slouched back into my chair and went to sleep….
This was a dark time for Amanda and me. The first surgery was not nearly as bad as this one when it came to pain. They did not prepare us on expectations after the surgery. Amanda had a very stressful job and came home to a husband who was doped on drugs or in pain from not being doped on drugs. I could not function during these first six weeks and very little for the three months prior waiting for surgery. The only thing I did not mention was Amanda and I had to go back a few weeks later to get the stitches out. We did not see the doctor that day. We just got them out and I was put right back into a cast. Although this part of the story is not positive or how to stay positive, it is an important part of the whole concept I want to accomplish with my blog. I want the reader to know that it is not easy to be the person in pain or the person taking care of that person. Maybe realizing this upfront will help someone in the future.
It has been eye opening writing all of this. I have been through more than what I realized. It makes me appreciate more where Amanda and I are at now.
I remember reaching the car and falling inside, but I do not remember the ride home. I also do not remember when we got home or how I managed to get up the stairs and onto the couch. Writing this right now, I am still baffled how I made it up the stairs without putting any weight on my leg. I must have crawled or had help. Maybe my parents came by to help me in. It is a question that I will ask, but as of now I do not know.
I found myself paralyzed from the effects of the anesthesia and the surgery hours before when I awoke in the middle of the night. I was lying on the couch with my right leg on the cushion, elevated with two pillows, and with my left leg hanging down towards the floor. Amanda was sleeping in the chair exhausted from work, waiting for surgery, and taking over almost all of the house duties. It only took two seconds to realize why I awoke in the middle of the night. I had to pee!!! Anxiously I tried to lift my body off the couch, but found that I could not manage to sit up. The urge for relief was rushing through my body and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait a minute longer. I screamed the best I could, but I barely mustered up enough air in my tired lungs to get out more than a whisper: “I HAVE TO PEE, I HAVE TO PEE!!!” Amanda didn’t move…”I HAVE TO PEE, I CAN’T GET UP!” Desperately I gained enough strength to roll my body to my left. With my torso hanging off the couch, my head dangling upside down, and my right leg remaining on the couch, I picked up my left arm and slammed it on the coffee table. “I HAVE TO PEE!” In a split second, Amanda shook off her grogginess, bolted from the chair and was behind me trying to pick me up. She moved so fast, I felt she thought she was being caught at work falling asleep while taking care of a patient. It was no use. My head was spinning, my body was not listening, and Amanda was not strong enough. Relief came whether I was ready for it or not, and I can tell you that I was not. Somehow, Amanda managed to place either a trash bad or a grocery plastic bag around me to limit the mess. I was in agony. The pain caused by my right leg dangling above me on the couch was brutal, and the fire from relieving myself was unbearable. The catheter they mishandled had injured me and I was far from recovered from it. I was sweating, panting, and curled up in enormous pain. John Madden has always stated that a football player only feels one pain at a time. If he has a hurt back he is not going to feel the pain in his knee, if he has a bad thumb he will not feel the pain if he hurts his shoulder etc… I am not sure how a football player feels pain, but I felt excruciating pain in my bladder and in my leg. The pain-dulling effects from anesthesia had expired as well as the last dose of my pain pill. Still halfway on the floor and halfway on the couch I began wailing in pain. It was an enormous amount of pain. I can honestly say it was the most pain I was ever in, including what I would experience from all of the procedures afterward. Amanda handed me my next dose of pain pill and managed to lift me back onto the couch. I felt like a new born baby. I sat there in a mess, sweating, half crying, no control over my body, in pain and barely knowing where I was.
It took about an hour for the pain pills to take effect and make me drowsy. I fell asleep on the couch and Amanda stayed on the recliner beside the couch. The rest of the night, the few hours of it that remained, passed with no further occurrences. The mixture of Oxycodone and OxyContin kept me asleep and the pain away for the remainder of the night. Amanda must have cleaned up before she rested, because when I awoke in the morning I was all cleaned up on the couch awaiting my next dose of pills….
I told this embarrassing story for three reasons. 1. It is what happened, and it was probably worse than what I was able to convey in my words. I wanted to share the experience in case it happens to others to let them know they are not alone. 2. When the doctor tells you you should stay overnight and not go home, there probably is a really good reason for it. 3. Never ever, ever leave the hospital without a plastic urinal bottle for the day after surgery.
That night will go down as the worst night we ever experienced. The amount of pain and embarrassment was excruciating. My fear of catheters is something I have not gotten over. Every surgery I ask what are they going to use and make sure they did not screw it up after I recover. It was a lot to go through, but if it was going to heal me it was worth it….
I plan on keeping my entries shorter than before. They will be quicker to read and I will still cover the main points and events I want to share.