Month: August 2016
Six weeks! Six Weeks! Pah! I could do six weeks on my head. I just got
done doing almost six months off my feet waiting for and during the
aftermath of the second surgery. This will seem like a small vacation
away from work, I thought.
It was just that, during the first three weeks. Recovery was progressing
really fast during this surgery. By the third week I went to therapy to
strengthen my already wilted right leg and to regain my full range of
motion in my ankle. By the end of the fifth week I was already putting
thirty to forty percent of the weight on my leg. I had kept up with all of
the communication from work throughout the entire time off up to this
point. Having the work cell phone not taken away from me by HR, would
make it easier to transition back to work. I kept up with my
friends at work, and Jamie and I stayed in touch about every other day.
I was letting my co-workers know of my progress as I was gearing up once again to
return to the normalcy of life.
The sixth week came pretty fast. Home life was starting to get a little
better. I was using my knee scooter to help around the house and Amanda
was surprised how fast I was recovering. I was using the scooter to
balance and make meals for her lunch at work and dinner for us at home.
I was heading into my last week of therapy before I was to return to
work. The only issue I was having was a little soreness in the same
spot where the incision had been made. I did not think anything of it and
chalked it up as part of the recovery.
The final days of therapy finally arrived. I was instructed to start
the sessions doing my regular stretches, bike, and strengthening
exercises. After completing the normal warm-up, it was time to toss the
crutches! It was time to go back to 100% weight bearing! It seemed
like a long time coming and I was more than happy to oblige. I set the
crutches against the wall of the table I was working out on and
proceeded to take a lap around the therapy room. About half way through
the lap I felt it…
As sharp as ever and what seemed to be more menacing than before, the
spark of pain lit up in my ankle and surged its way through my leg. I
immediately stopped. What did I just feel? It couldn’t be, could it? The feeling had to be in my head, it didn’t really happen, I thought to myself. Panic, nervousness, and desperation
set in. I took a big swallow and took the next step.
Left foot, nothing. Right foot . . . slowly off the ground, slowly back down, nothing. Left, right . . . whew, nothing again! It was in my head. I turned the corner to head down the last straightaway back to the therapist. Left, right. Left, right . . . then a bolt blasted its way through my foot down to my toes and up around my leg.
How can it be? I could feel the
life and hope drain from my body. It was as if my own life force was
leaving my body and I was going to collapse. My therapist had seen that I had stopped moving and came to my side. We sat down and discussed that my foot could be swelling on the inside and that some of the tissue was being pinched. I should keep my eye on it and let him and my doctor know how things progress over the next day. He put the foot
brace around my ankle and pumped in ice cold water through the tubes connected to the brace to help with the swelling. I used my crutches to leave the building and used them again to climb the stairs at home. Amanda was sitting on the couch and she could see I
was almost white according to her. She asked what happened. I told her I had lightening pains going through my leg and foot again when I tried to walk. Amanda agreed with the therapist about the swelling and to take it easy the next few days.
I stayed off my foot the following day, but the day after I tried walking
again. I did not hesitate like I did at therapy. I had to know. I had
to know if it was just in my head. I struggled with this concept for
years. Was I feeling the pain as bad as I thought I was or was it just
in my head? That day I was not going to have any doubts if it was in my
head or not. I woke up and immediately walked to the bathroom with no
assistance or incident. I then proceeded down the hallway and into the
kitchen. I felt a little sore, but nothing like it was the day of the
therapy. By mid-afternoon the thought of hurting again had passed
It must have been the swelling, I concluded to myself. I saw on my
calendar, I had a doctor appointment I had to go to before returning to
work in about eight days, when I heard my favorite noise coming from
outside. That noise was and still is the mail truck going by the
house. The mail truck going by equals AMAZON ITEMS being delivered!!!
I always seem to have something on order. What do you do all day on the
chair while you’re waiting to be healed besides play games and shop
online? Happy to see yet another box being delivered into my mailbox, I
put on my shoes and headed outside. I got to the mailbox, and saw a small Amazon box inside sealed with their black taped prime logo, I took out my
newly ordered item, and started to come back down the driveway.
About four strides before the walkway that leads up to the single step to my
front door, the box dropped out of my hand and I dropped to one knee.
Feeling like I had been hit by a bolt from the heavens above, I grabbed my ankle and
my leg and just sat in the middle of the driveway, stunned. I could have
almost cried, not from the pain, I was used to feeling pain. It
hurt, but I was learning how to handle it better. It was a mixture of
helplessness, desperation, and the pure shock of the thought that
surgery three did not work. It was not the swelling, it was not the
healing, it just purely did not work. It was not the scar tissue that was causing my pain in the first place.
I hobbled back into the house, with the box in my hand. I dropped it on
the counter and slouched back into my chair. I did not even have enough
strength to open the box, I just stayed in my chair in silence. I swear
I didn’t move for hours, but I cannot remember. It was not until Amanda
woke up to go to work that I noticed I was still in the chair slouched
down in it. I forgot to make dinner, I did not make lunch, the only
thing I could do is think that it is happening again.
Amanda consoled me, but I could see the fear in her
eyes that something may be wrong. The week passed and I gave warning to
work that I sensed something was wrong and I may be delayed a bit. I was
learning how my body felt and I was also learning what that meant about
recovery and ability to do things. Amanda and I found ourselves once
again inside the doctor’s office.
Bewilderment and disbelief fell over the doctor’s face when he heard my
story, and any hope that I had about being better left that exact moment.
He could not explain why I felt like I did. He stated that
the only thing it could be at this point was the OATS surgery during my
second surgery did not take. It was the only reason that he and
his colleagues could think of even though it was highly rare for this to
happen. He had not seen signs of this during the arthroscopy, so he
decided to send me for another MRI.
I pushed work off another couple weeks as we waited for my MRI and the
follow-up visit to discuss the results. I cannot even begin to write
about the dread I felt and the disappointment that Amanda and I both
shared. It was like history was repeating itself and that we could not
escape from it.
It did not take long for the results to come back, but the doctor
wanted us to come into his office to discuss it. He still looked the
same as the last time we left him. He did not beat around the bush, and
stated that the MRI was inconclusive. After telling him the pain was
still there and not getting any better, he stated I had to prepare
myself again for a revision of the OATS therapy, since it was the only
thing that made sense. He stated he reviewed my case with all of the
orthopedists in the hospital during a patient meeting, I think he said. A
type of meeting where they discuss their patients and the issues that
they have and treatment they should try.
As he was stating this, his voice became background noise. The only
thing I could focus on was going through 12 weeks of non-weight bearing
again, the years worth of therapy, and the expense. I also concluded I
had no choice, I couldn’t be in pain the rest of my life, could I? Also,
if all of the doctors agree, it had to be the right thing to do.
I interrupted him in mid-sentence. I have no idea what he was saying, and stated, “Let’s just do this”.
He just looked at me blankly, so I stated again, “Let’s just do this. Let’s just schedule it and get it done. I went through all the pain before. I went through all of the therapy and the pills before. I know what to expect. Let’s just do it.”
He seemed relieved and stated he believes this will solve my issue, but
the only thing he wants to do is increase the non-weight bearing period
to 16 weeks to ensure the fracture he has to make will heal and to give
the donor cartilage more time to merge with mine.
I got up and thanked him. I proceeded with Amanda to the schedulers
office again to arrange everything. I called HR to tell them I would be
fired again and that I would need to stay on disability. I called my
parents to let them know the decision I made. I remember all of this
felt like I was doing it underwater – the feeling of pressure on me, the
slowness of moving through water, and the feeling of being drowned if
I would stay under too long.
By the time Amanda and I got home and settled, we were both mentally
exhausted. We tried to support each other and stated that we
already did this before and it will not be so bad. The year will go by
fast and then everything will be better this time.
However this time, this time, it felt like both of us were lying to each other and to ourselves.
Afterword:I honestly could not believe I would have to relive another year of
sheer pain. It seemed almost surreal. I just went through it, then I went through another six weeks, and now I had to do it again. My life was becoming one surgery after another with no end in sight. Looking back I have no idea if we truly did or did not believe this was going to work. It seemed like it was out of our hands. I think it was during this appointment, I knew my life was never going to be the same. Altough it was never the same, it did not mean Amanda and I couldn’t have fun. I thank all of you for the support you show me on my blog and in my life.
I once again left behind my career, friends, and co-workers to undergo another surgery to help with my pain. I had a few weeks to wait before the actual surgery date, and keeping busy was not a problem. I welcomed the break. Leading a team and meeting the goals and requirements that were set upon me was exhausting. Not only did I have to be a leader – I believed that I had to be a counselor as well. I took genuine interest in the well-being of all of my co-workers, but at times it became a heavy load to carry.
I was supposed to be away from work for ten weeks at the most. I still had my work cell phone on me, so when I got bored I could read all of the email for that day, making it easy to keep track of what was going on at the store. It would be much easier to transition back to work if I kept up with the corporate and store emails and other communication through my business phone.
The weeks went by fast. I wasn’t completely immobile, just in a lot of pain. I was able to keep up with all of the house work and prepare meals and lunches for Amanda as she went to and from work. Amanda was becoming more accustomed to the new hospital she was working for, and her first class had started towards her bachelor’s degree. Even though she had left the position she disliked the most, her stress level was not any lower. The amount of work that one class in college demanded plus working full time at a new job stressed her to her breaking point.
A few smaller arguments led up to a major one a few days before surgery. Amanda stood at the end of the couch by the kitchen with tears running down her face. I sat in my chair with my legs elevated, trying to ward off the pain that was throbbing beneath my skin. Amanda released all of her stress and worries in that argument. The stress of worrying what if the third surgery did not work, the realization of my injury possibly being permanent, the new workload she put upon herself with school, and the social anxiety of fitting in at her new job. As I look back now, I realize it was not the case, but back then I thought I was being attacked. How was it my fault that I needed another surgery? What if I were permanently injured? Not only had I warned her about the school and the workload, I told her it may be too much to handle. These thoughts were brewing in my head as she was breaking down in front of me, and the thought that it my fault she was hurting this way felt like a boulder of weight pressing on my chest. I just sat there, I said a few words in a louder tone than normal, but not at a yelling decibel. I reminded her it was her idea to switch jobs, her idea to take on school; and that it was my fault I was injured, even though it felt like that to me. In that moment of the fight I felt the dark days of the second surgery were returning. My focus should have been on supporting my wife going through all of the stress, but the pain and the forthcoming surgery had taken precedent.
During the next few days it felt like we were two ships drifting in the water in hopes a floating mine in the ocean did not go off. We did not make up completely from that argument, but as the morning of June 27, 2013 dawned our focus turned to surviving another surgery and recovery. We reminded each other it was just an arthroscopy, and it was not going to be long before things were back to normal. Unlike the first two surgeries, my nerves were calm. Instead of having the feeling of dread before the surgery, I just wanted to get it over with. I already knew what was going to happen, I knew what to expect, and I knew what I was going to have to do to recover. I already had the surgery scars from the first operation on the top of my foot that made it easier for my surgeon to see where to enter.
As we sat in the waiting room, impatience started to overcome both of us. It was two hours past the time my surgery had been scheduled for, and we had been given no explanation for the delay. Amanda knew more than I did that anything can happen in an operating room that could cause a delay, but as the third hour passed, her impatience matched mine. It was not until four and half hours after the scheduled time that the nurse entered the waiting room and called us back.
I will not re-tell the details of being in the prep room. It was exactly the same as the first two operations, as far as the paperwork and conversations that took place. The only difference was that I told the nurses where to put the IV and where the incisions were going to be. Instead of being a worried patient, I was more like a customer in line at the bank that was tapping on his watch to indicate that he wanted the transaction to move on or go faster.
No apologies were offered for the delay when the surgeon checked in with me one last time before I was sent back. My annoyance at the delay vanished along with my consciousness as the anesthesia worked through my system.
After a few hours passed and I awoke in the recovery room, I was greeted by my wife and the nurse who was taking care of me. I was told the surgeon had already visited the room and would not be coming back. I figured he was trying to catch up and that was okay. I was not as drowsy as the last surgery, and in an hour or so I was wheeled out of the recovery room in a wheel chair with a newly placed cast wrapped around my leg.
We drove home and Amanda filled me in. The surgeon had removed a big piece of scar tissue that probably had been pinching some of the nerves in my foot. She looked at me and said that in a short six weeks “You will be fine . . . .”
I want to say again that Amanda and I did go through some dark periods. Our marriage consisted of surgeries, pain, tests, and doctor appointments. Not the best honeymoon period anyone could ask for. It was not much longer after this that our commitment and true love for each other overcame these issues, but that is for another entry. The point I want to make is to tell you to stay strong and stay committed to the ones you love. It will pay a hundred fold in the long run regardless of how grim it may seem right now. I was also in the ER last night for pain. I want to personally thank everyone who helped me get the tests I needed. This will help me move forward in finding a cure to all of the pain. Amanda sincerely loves her job, last night I found out why.
Jamie and I finished our shopping and celebrated Christmas with our family and friends.
2013 started much like any other year. With the holidays winding down and volunteer events coming to an end, we were getting back to our usual work grind of planning goals and creating contests to achieve them.
I was thankful for my job. It not only gave me a sense of accomplishment, new friends, and a purpose to my life; it also helped pay off the medical bills. Both surgeries hit our out-of-pocket maximum with insurance. The first surgery cost us $4000 out-of-pocket, and I was starting to get the bills for the second surgery. The second surgery was much more involved than the first one and cost about twice as much. The total bills for the surgery reached over $162,000. Luckily with our insurance’s out-of-pocket maximum limit, our cost was once again $4000. I was covered on my wife’s insurance due to the gap of employment I had the prior years. With Amanda’s new job and my job we were able to pay off the debt pretty fast.
Spring was around the corner now. With my job in place and Amanda ’s job doing quite well, Amanda wanted to go to school to complete her bachelor’s degree. I was worried about the cost, but my thrifty wife Amanda figured out that if she would take one or two classes at a time, her work would be able to pay for almost all of it except a few thousand. She would also take classes online, so she did not have to go to school. I thought about it for a week and told her if she was going to go back to school she will have to work really hard at it. Amanda was known for starting projects of lesser importance and never finishing them (the last three years she bought plants for outside and they never seemed to make it into the ground. I laugh at this as I write it with her beside me.) Convinced she could do it and it would be beneficial to her job, she signed up for the summer semester.
Meanwhile, I was starting to get shooting pain up through my ankle that radiated into my leg. My wife Amanda stated I needed to go to the doctor, as did my work wife Jamie, so I scheduled a doctor’s appointment in May of 2013 for a checkup. I was not too concerned that my ankle hurt, but it was bad enough that I was not going to take any chances.
The appointment day came and we walked into the patient room and took our places. Myself at the table with my bare foot hanging down, and Amanda in her usual guest chair, that never looked that comfortable. The surgeon came in, and a smile came across my face. Yes this was the gentleman who cut my tendon by accident, but he was also the gentleman who was Italian, funny, personable, and spent time with me. Memories of Dr. Flash hardly entered my mind except when I saw my new surgeon and thought about how lucky I was to have a surgeon who cared.
He expressed concern after he performed a few tests on me. Even though the x-ray did not show anything, he was convinced that I had a lot of scar tissue causing the pain. He stated the surgery I had was a major surgery in my ankle and due to being non-weight bearing for so long, it was normal for a patient to have a lot of scar tissue they could not break up during physical therapy. So without hesitation we agreed to an arthroscopy – a minimally invasive procedure to remove the scar tissue in June.
We left the room and headed out to the car. I called my HR department from the driver’s seat to let them know surgery number three was scheduled, and once again I would need to fill out the paperwork. Emotionally, I honestly felt nothing. I wasn’t phased by the news. It was starting to become routine. I think the HR department was feeling the same way. The good news was the recovery period was only going to be 6 weeks, so I knew my job would be waiting for me when I would return.
As May was over and June beginning, I said my goodbyes to my team, and received a lot of get well wishes and encouragement for a quick recovery. I told them I would be back soon and to not worry. The bank would be in great shape while I was gone – Jamie was in charge. Jamie was capable of running the show inside the branch, I just gave her the support she needed, but I knew she was strong enough to do it without me.
I left the branch two weeks before surgery. The pain was getting worse, and staying on my feet was harder and harder. It was difficult to leave everyone behind, however it would have been even more difficult if I had realized that it was truly my last day…