Month: February 2017

The End  – The Story Final Chapter

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Six weeks of sitting on my chair was a breeze.  More of a breeze for me than the cushions that I sat on. The cushions supported me for sixteen weeks straight for three times, and for six weeks two times. The cushions once again had to hold me up for another six. The wear was starting to show.  The recliner’s footrest was starting to fall and I had to put a high container underneath it to prop up the foot support.  The chair was looking more worn out than I was feeling. However, I did not want to get a new chair yet. The chair saw me go through the hardest time of my life. The hopes of becoming better just to melt back into its cushions. It became an extension of me, and I truly believe if I sat on it long enough its fabric would have started to grow on my arms.

However this time was another short period.  It was not a sixteen week sit out or a twelve, it was just another six. To me that was nothing.  I did it before. I did it before as I anticipated regaining my freedom. Being able to walk again, being able to hold a job again, and most of all helping my wife more than she had helped me, which would take a lifetime to do. However this time, there was no excitement, no anticipation,  and no true hope that those things were ever come to fruition. I knew…I knew…knowledge can sometimes be worse than ignorance. I knew the allograft surgery, surgery five, only had a sixty percent chance to work and I felt that the doctor felt this one was like catching lightening in a bottle. I succumbed to my chair’s cushion and rested my feet on the extension that was just as broken as I was. It was as if the chair foreshadowed the outcome at the end of six weeks.

As the weeks went by, Amanda went through an all too familiar routine.  Taking over all the household duties, cooking, taking trash out, mowing or snow blowing whatever the weather called for, shopping, and most of all taking care of me. I felt and feel bad that a newlywed wife went from a new bride to a caretaker within our first week of marriage and it lasted over eight years, our entire marriage.

The final week came and Amanda and I got into our car, to head to what became our final appointment with Dr. Ficke. The car ride was silent.  Amanda concentrating on the road and I staring out the window realizing what could have been if the doctors had only been right just once in the last eight years. I watched trees pass on the left side, and cars pass on the right. I just wanted to get there and get this appointment over with. I had the feeling nothing was fixed by the final surgery. I moved my ankle a bit inside the cast and could feel the pinching and pain going up my leg already. However, I kept that to myself.  I did not want to take the hope away from Amanda and my parents. But for me, the hope was already gone.

As the final trees passed and buildings came into view, I saw the familiar prison, the same  graffiti and street signs. We were here and it was time to find out the final truth.  It was the final truth because the doctor already stated any other procedures would harm me more than help me.

In a few minutes we were back in the cast room.  Two people came in to cut away the cast and to wash my leg, remove all the dry skin and cast leftovers before the doctor came in. As soon as it was off I moved my ankle in the shape of alphabet letters the best I could like in therapy, just to see what it felt like. It was hard to move with the swelling.  But I got my answer, and Amanda did too, as she read the wincing on my face.  She frowned immediately.

It took just fifteen minutes for the doctor to come in.  Before touching my foot, he told Amanda and me that the new cartilage was a lot rougher than the original cartilage.  That increased the chance of its wearing away. He moved my ankle around a bit and then looked at me. I didn’t even have to tell him, he knew.  He studied my face and said “It didn’t work did it?” I sighed and said I didn’t think it did.

He stated he was sorry and he suggested it might get better with time, but I would have to take care of it the rest of my life. He stood by his prior decision not to perform anymore surgeries until I became much older. My instructions were to do the best I could to regain my strength and keep the pain to a minimum. I was instructed to continue seeing my pain manager and let him know the results so he could better help me.

Before he left the suffocating room that felt heavier than ten tons of weight: he wished me luck, apologized, and stated he did the best he could in recreating the bone and cartilage. He truly hoped taking away the scar tissue would help, but it did not. He then stated, that I would not have to come back again unless I felt the need to.

We said our goodbyes and thank yous and headed back to the car to go home.  Home, where my broken chair waited to engulf my broken body.  My dream of getting back to normal was gone, replaced by the concession that my new reality was a life filled with limitations.

I am not quite sure how Amanda felt. I was too involved in my own feelings to be able to determine hers, but she seemed to do a good job keeping any type of disappointment off her face. I think inside she felt it, but she knew how I felt and did not want me to see it on her.

The two hour drive home was hard, I almost wanted to cry.  I had pain, I was going to have to live with it at the age of 37.   It seemed I was going to have to take pain medicine that made me dizzy and tired the rest of my life.  I was truly depressed.

We walked in the door silently, and I melted back into my chair and turned on the TV.  It was time to get used to my new life.

Afterword:

 It took me a long time to start this entry.  I had trouble figuring out how I was going to begin telling this part of my life. We are a year out until  present time. I did not know if I was going to sum up everything in one last blog entry or if I should keep going. Each time I was going to start I became confused about how it should continue. What happened in the year or so after the 6th surgery is completely different from what happened before it: The way I feel, the way decided on how to do things, and the way I attacked my health care.  I decided to continue my blog by ending the first story and beginning to tell a second one. There will not be many parts to it.  My first story covered an eight year span. The second part will cover about a two year span. However, what happened in those two years, I really felt merited a story of it’s own. If this  were a book, it would have become Volume 2 of this drama. 

Thank you all for following along.  It is not over, there is much more to go. Do not become too depressed, because as I write this, I finally have hope once again! 

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The pain I felt was not over, but neither was I trying to find a cure.

The 6th and Final Surgery?  – The Story Part 32

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The sounds of the blood pressure machine and heart monitor were all too familiar. I found myself once again lying on a hospital bed listening to the surrounding noises. I waited with Amanda for each doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist, and other hospital staff members to come in and ask the same questions they did the past 5 times. I sat there and signed the same forms as they passed them to me one by one. I honestly just wanted this done with. It has become routine for me. It was so routine that we told my parents to stay home and not stress themselves out making the trip to and from Johns Hopkins.  The nervousness of the first two surgeries were completely gone.  The unkown of what was going to happen and how I was going to feel was no more.  It was just another doctor\s visit.  It was surgery this time instead of getting my blood levels checked.

After the forms were signed, Dr. Ficke came in and went over the procedure. He was going to go back into my ankle and remove any scar tissue that formed, while checking how the previous surgery was healing. Dr. Ficke is one of my favorite surgeons. He never lied, he never gave false hope, and he always spoke the honest truth. He stated he was not sure if this was going to help and if scar tissue was found it still may not be the issue causing the pain. However, he was willing to try this procedure to make me feel better.

In a previous appointment we had discussed other options. Options such as amputation, that could cause heart issues and phantom pains, that could result in staying on my pain medication. We discussed fusion as another last resort. I would lose all movement in my ankle, and at my age of 38 at the time, there would be a good chance the fusion would break. Also walking would put stress on my hips and back that could lead to replacement surgery. I agreed that I did not want these options and hoped with him that an arthroscopy would remove any anomalies that were causing the pain in my leg and ankle. The last thing we discussed and agreed upon was that the anomalies on my pituitary gland may be causing the hormone issues in my blood, but it had nothing to do with the pain.

He left us in the waiting area, and two staff member came in to excuse Amanda and to wheel me back to the operating room.  There was no signing of my version of the Hoz song, but  I did asked them not to tell me when they were going to put me out and to please use whatever they had for the last surgery to wake me up right away. I remember laughing when the  anesthesiologist said, “Of course we will use the same thing, it’s an outpatient procedure. We want you awake, so you can go home.”

I told her she needs to call Penn State and let them know what they use, because their philosophy was to knock you out into tomorrow morning. With that final statement, off I went again for what I thought was the last time….

Three hours went by like three minutes. As promised, I woke up without a groggy feeling and noticed to my right Amanda already sitting in a chair beside me. I asked, “Did he stop by?” She said, “Yes, but he will be back.  He found a very large piece of scar tissue and a very small piece beside it.” Lifting my hand to my head to help shake the cobwebs, I stated, “Well, at least it wasn’t for nothing.”

The nurse was going through the discharge report and stated the pain pills should be taken at maximum the prescribed dosage, but I can get off of them as soon as I felt that I could. A few more minutes passed by and then my surgeon came in.  He stated the same thing  Amanda did, and asked how I felt. I told him I was okay and was ready to go home. He agreed and said he will let his staff know and they will remove the IV and let me sign the discharge report. I thanked him for everything he had done and added that I would see him in a few weeks to remove the cast and stitches at the follow up visit.

The drive home took us over two hours. We talked about everything except the surgery. Amanda made sure she drove slowly and carefully to avoid bumping my leg around in our car. We discussed everything that we had been going through.Finding out about the anomalies,  the on-off again pain I felt in my left ankle that was being pushed off, the constant deterioration of the cartilage and bone in my right ankle, how the EMG fit into the whole spectrum of things, and most importantly, what was the plan for the next six weeks of recovery?

As the conversation passed from topic to topic we arrived home, I crawled up the stairs, turned the corner and crawled back into my chair. As Ipassed out within it’s cushiony grasp, The last thing I heardAmanda on the phone with my parents letting them know everything was fine.

Afterword

Thank you for going on my adventure the last few months. This surgery was on 12-16-2015. We are a little more than a year out to real time. What happens in the next year is more than what had happened in the last seven to eight years. I ask that you keep following me.  What I wanted to stress in the entry is how something so foreign like surgery so many years ago, has become routine. If you are reading this heading and you are facing your first surgery and feel scared, know that it is normal. It is how I was, but like riding a bike, you get used to it the more you do it. By the time I hit number six it truly was like riding a bike. It became more of an inconvenience knowing how long it was going to take to recover than a concern about going through the actual procedure. I was consoled by the knowledge that I was being treated by one of the best surgeons. 

The next few entries will go from my procedures to the aftermath of having the procedures. Dealing with the bills, insurance, and trying to get my freedom back. I believe a lot of people can benefit from reading the future entries. I will also share how I appealed decisions of coverage and learned how to question the insurance company regarding payments. It is a whole new trip from what was written before. So, keep your buckles latched. The journey has just begun.

 

 

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I always enjoyed the fact that they let you pick your color.
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Amanda eating breakfast the day of surgery.