Monday, November 28, 2011

SUCCESS!!

I just got back from the fracture clinic for my 6 week post-op appointment and a follow-up xray, and YAY!!!! Everything is good, my range of motion is good, my xray looked good and I'm officially out of the zimmer splint and I'm allowed to start bearing weight slowly!

As you can see from the image on the right, the healing is coming along very well, and aside from a little scare on the weekend with the main incision, everything is looking great.  The swelling is still there but it goes down a little bit every day.  From my what PT says, it won't fully go down for about a year so I'm not too worried about that.

Sort of a neat thing I learned at the post-op was that I don't actually have regular surgical screws in my knee.  I have 4 flat staples in my tibia, 3 in my femur, and one screw in my femur.  The cool thing - they're absorbable plastic!  That's right; eventually my body will just absorb the material and I won't have anything in there anymore!  I just think that is one of the coolest things ever - how awesome is modern medicine :)

So that's my awesome news for the day - more updates as I begin to bear weight and work toward getting off these crutches!

***UPDATE***

Well I had my very first physio appointment after getting the good news that I am now working toward full ROM and weight-bearing.  I have a couple new stretches to help improve my ROM, which are pretty uncomfortable but I can handle it pretty well without lasting pain afterward which is pretty cool.  I have several new exercises that I have to do including the stationary bike, leg press and calf raises.

The leg press was the easiest since it mostly uses my quads and because I have such strong legs this one didn't give me much trouble.  The calf raises were trickier since you have to straighten your legs to do it and my leg can't quite go straight yet.  I'm unable to do a full rotation on the stationary bike, so for now I'm working the muscle as well as doing some good ROM stretches that will eventually allow me to do full rotations.

I also have to start 'miming' walking on my crutches.  This means that instead of just letting my leg 'dangle', I have to actually extend, press down with my heel, and follow through like I would as if I were walking on it normally.  Because of my inability to completely straighten my leg yet this is still hard to do, so for now I'm just working on the muscle and putting more and more weight on it as I can handle it.

I'm also very happy to report that I've gone from 85° flexion (bending your knee in) on my own to 90°, and from -11° extension (extending your knee out, starting at 90°) to about -30° since last Tuesday.  Essentially this means that the muscles and tendons allowing me to lift my own leg are getting stronger MUCH faster than me or my PT anticipated so I'm hoping that now that I'm weight-bearing, I will also be able to get off the crutches quickly and get back to my life!

Next up - gym membership!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Great News!

Well despite the fact that I am absolutely exhausted and I caved and took one of two remaining Percocet that I had saved for days like today, I am psyched to share my progress!  Today at physio I finally reached 90 degree range of motion without assistance (95 degrees with assistance! But shhh don't tell the surgeon; he asked that I not go beyond 90).  In the image to the right you can see how it's measured (that's not me, but we do my physio and measurements and flexibility tests the same way).

As some of you remember from last Thursday, the PT also started me on attempts to start using my hamstring to begin working at lifting my leg with a roll behind my knee.  As you can see from the image to the left, it looks pretty simple.  Actually it's remarkable difficult as my patella (the meaty area just below your knee cap) is still very sore from the main incision, and attempting to flex that tendon and allowing my hamstring (the muscle along the back of your thigh) to tighten and flex is incredible hard still.  Well happily today, after 5 days of trying, I actually lifted my leg!!  Granted, I only lifted it about half an inch off the table, and my whole body was shaking from the effort, but I did it!  It was sort of funny having the other people there for their therapies cheering me on as they watched my progress.  When I finally managed to lift it and hold it up, I got a round of applause... it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life I have to say.  Those people know damned well how hard that was for me... so it was very cool getting that kind of support from them :)

I've also been working very hard at being able to flatten my leg to the table.  As you can see in the image to the right, this again looks pretty easy.  Remember, though, that the new tendon I have (thanks Hamstring, you're a pal) is like a brand new rubber band.  It's very inflexible and very tight.  So what ends up happening is it pulls my leg up into an arch and I have to work to stretch it enough that my leg will lay flat.  I also still have a lot of swelling, so that causes quite a bit of discomfort yet.  Well this week I've managed to flatten it from having what my PT measures 'two whole fingers' to 'just one finger!' (underneath my knee as I flatten it).  This is great progress, and I'm sure with working at it I'll have it comfortably stretched where it belongs in a few more weeks.

So that's about it so far!  I have my 6 week post-op appointment with the surgeon this coming Monday where I find out if I'm allowed to set fire to stop wearing the iron maiden zimmer splint, and I find out if the meniscus healed okay and the graft is doing well (via an xray I'm SUPER excited to see! pics to come I'm sure), and if I can start slowing bearing weight on my knee again.  After that the PT suspects I'll be on the crutches for another 4-6 weeks but just for support while I regain the use of my leg and learn to walk normally again.

After all is said and done, it will be a total of about 6 months of rebuilding all the muscle around my knee and in my leg before it's safe to use again for anything more than just walking.  But once I'm off the crutches I'll be able to exercise from home or from a gym (looks like a gym membership is in my future - anyone want to take the opportunity of me HAVING to go to whip into shape with me? hee hee)

Anyhoo, I'm sure I'll update after my post-op on Monday if not sooner.  CHEERS!

Monday, November 21, 2011

MRI Images

This time last year I was strapped into an MRI getting some imaging done to see what was up with my knee.  Well now I know what was up with it... but here's a (somewhat graphic?) video of what the MRI looked like from one angle.

Some people found this disturbing so consider yourself warned lol

video

Sunday, November 20, 2011

5 weeks post-op

Tomorrow marks 5 weeks since the surgery.  Last week I went back to work full time, and also started the 'hard work' at physiotherapy.  Physio has begun getting harder on me only because my PT has decided I'm ready to start trying to use my hamstring to lift my leg.  It's amazing how difficult it is trying to regain the use of my muscles, and how painful it is.

Aside from the spasms and the muscle pain, I'm happy that the bruising is all gone.  I still have a fair bit of swelling, but the incisions are almost completely healed over and I'm working on the scarring with some Bio-Oil.

I'm finally able to use the stairs somewhat normally, and I've figured out a way to reduce the impact on my shoulders while I use the crutches, so that pain is slowly dissipating as well.  Now if only I could figure out a way to stop my palms from bruising from the crutches...   I have a feeling that'll stick around until I'm off of them completely though.

I have to give a shout-out to a good friend of mine, Joscelyn and the constant-reader Alex for obliging to go out for dinner with Eric and I on Friday night, so that I could get out of the house and start acting like a normal person again (haha).  It was very nice to get out of the house, even if people look at you weird when you're on crutches (don't worry, concerned citizen, it's not Ebola).

Thanks for stopping by!  I'll update more soon!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

3 Weeks Post-Op

Well I just arrived home after my second day back at work and my 4th physio appointment, just three weeks after surgery.  I'm pretty exhausted but that's to be expected.  I haven't fallen down the stairs, spilled coffee on myself, peed my pants, or lost a crutch while battling a printer.  Okay that last one might not be entirely true...

But in all seriousness, it's great to be back into the swing of things and to have a change of scenery.  Even if the change is pretty tiring since I can't have my much-loved 3pm nap and I have to navigate the stairs at home every day now instead of twice a week.  On that front though I'm happy to report that I've built up enough muscle strength in my arms, shoulders and back that I'm able to use one crutch and the handrail to get up the stairs relatively easy.  I'm pretty psyched with being able to use the stairs somewhat normally again :)

Physio was actually GREAT today!  This 'Little Warrior' is officially at 85 degree range of motion (just for some perspective - I'm where I'm supposed to be at 6 weeks at just 3!!), my muscle strength is greatly improved, I'm almost able to lay my leg flat (this has become my new goal now that my range of motion is greatly improved), and I'm doing more reps of the weights on the pulleys with my leg.

Next week I'll be able to increase the weight and I'm going to reach for 90 degrees and a flatter leg!

My swelling is down a lot, the bruising is almost all gone, and all but the main incision are completely healed over and the scarring is looking very healthy.  I'll have to get someone to pick me up some Bio-Oil so I can start working on the ones that are healed over.

I'll check back in soon :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pity Party

I've decided to allow myself an entire post to feel sorry for myself.  So if you have not a single ounce of empathy or just don't care, please don't stick around to judge me for my pity party - I couldn't put up the streamers and balloons because I've been too busy whining about my situation.

While I am recovering about as quickly as I expected, and things are definitely improving every day, there are several things that make this recovery very difficult to live with.  Come with me, I'll give you a tour of ACL post-op recovery fun!

My palms are turning purple from the bruises forming as a result of the crutches. I have pools of broken blood vessels on the back of my right leg, under my right ankle and behind my right knee from inactivity. The skin that is regrowing nerve endings around the surgical sites are constantly pins and needles without me touching it and when I do touch it it feels like a red-hot poker is burning me.

I am constantly reminded of just how incapable I am of even some of the most mundane activities right now; showering, going to the washroom, making coffee, standing, sleeping, sitting, dressing myself, putting shoes on, making food, getting a glass of water, feeding the animals... the list goes on and on.

And just as an added bonus, nobody wants to hear any of this.  People know I had surgery, but nobody wants to hear just how shitty this really is for me right now.  I'm certainly not blaming anyone for wanting to avoid such an uncomfortable topic, because really, what can anybody do?  Not much.  Nod sympathetically and tell me they wish me the best.  But really what they're thinking is Oh crap, she's going to tell me something nasty about her recovery and I'm going to have to pretend like I understand... maybe if I just sit here grimacing I won't have to tell her I have no idea what she's going through.

Ahh but that's okay, friends.  Soon I'll be up and mobile and being my usual spastic self and you won't have to worry about me talking about how my incisions are healing all gross or how I have to scoot up to my apartment on my bum on the stairs (that pulley system off the balcony is looking better and better).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What is ACL Surgery?

***WARNING***  The medical images below may be disturbing for some viewers.  Proceed at your own discretion.



 


Several people have asked me what exactly I had done on my knee.  So instead of explaining the whole surgery to people, I thought I'd just explain the surgery here and link people to this post when they ask (with the aforementioned warning that it is a surgical procedure and that those who are squeamish should proceed with discretion).


First off, let's go over what makes up the knee, as far as ligaments go.  The knee is stabilized by a pair of cruciate ligaments. The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is critically important because it prevents the tibia (the larger bone in your calf) from being pushed too far forward relative to the femur (your thigh bone). It is often torn during twisting or bending of the knee (in my case, a nasty 4-wheeler incident about 6 years ago).

The PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) is the second of the two. Injury to this ligament is uncommon but can occur as a direct result of forced trauma to the ligament. This ligament prevents your calf from slipping behind your thigh (ICK). (wikipedia)

In ACL reconstructive surgery what the surgeon does is replace a torn ACL with a tissue graft replacement (in my case, a graft of my hamstring was used - see below).
















Without showing you gross surgery pictures, I'll show you a medical illustration of what ACL reconstructive surgery is (see below)




























(don't worry... I was asleep for this whole thing lol)











And here are those sites on my knee.  As you can see, Arthroscopic surgery is very non-invasive, leaves minimal scarring, and actually allows healing to move forward much quicker than the older, more invasive methods of knee surgery (which I'm continually thankful for).


In addition to the ACL reconstruction, I also had to undergo a Medial Meniscus Repair. 
The menisci of the knee joint are two pads of cartilaginous tissue which serve to disperse friction in the knee joint between the lower leg (tibia) and the thigh (femur). They are shaped concave on the top and flat on the bottom, articulating with the tibia.
The menisci act to disperse the weight of the body and reduce friction during movement. Since the condyles of the femur and tibia meet at one point (which changes during flexion and extension), the menisci spread the load of the body's weight.  (wikipedia)
As you can see in the image to the left, the Medial Meniscus is the piece on the inside edge of the knee.  It's likely I tore mine during the several years after the initial ACL tear, after each time my knee gave out (all you college friends can now appreciate why I swore so much when I landed on the other side of that fence... lol).

The repair isn't always possible if the tear is bad enough or if the tissue just isn't in the right position to repair it.  Fortunately mine was able to be repaired.  UNfortunately, because I had this repair done as well as the ACL reconstruction, my healing time is much longer, the swelling is worse, and it is why I can't bear weight on my knee quite yet and also why I have to remain in the splint and on the crutches for so long.

So that's the surgery I had on October 24th, for all those curious minds out there :)

17 days post-op

Well here I am, 17 days after surgery and things are looking pretty good.  Tuesday was my first physiotherapy appointment with actual muscle strengthening exercises and some serious stretching (interpret that as gross gross gross).

Today will be my second appointment and I'm hoping tomorrow I don't hurt as much as I did yesterday.

Thankfully, at my last appointment I found out that in the 6 days between my assessment appointment and my first real physio appointment I doubled my flexibility from about a 35 degree range of motion to a little over 70 degrees.  Unfortunately though not all the news was good news; as a result of the swelling in my knee that remains, my quad is almost completely unusable.  It's a weird feeling trying as hard as you can to flex a muscle that simply does not work right now.

The swelling does go down further every day though, so I'm hoping that I remain on track and by the time I get to my 6 week post-op appointment with the surgeon I'll be cleared to bear weight on my leg again.  Here's how far it has come already (see left).  As you can tell, the bruising is almost completely gone, the incisions are healing very nicely, the swelling in my calf, ankle and foot have reduced considerably (a little still remains though).  There is still quite a bit of swelling around my knee, and the physiotherapist says that swelling won't completely disappear for about a year post-op.

All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with how things are coming along, and I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to work on Monday.  I just hope I get used to the stairs and my bad shoulder cooperates eventually so it's not so tiring lol...

Speaking of which... I should really get someone to record just how I'm maneuvering up the three flights of stairs... to a soundtrack like Eye of the Tiger or something (hahaha).  It'd probably make for some pretty entertaining post-op YouTube content :)

Thanks for staying tuned... I'll update later today or tomorrow once I see how today's appointment goes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Knee Update

I'm happy to report that a large portion of the swelling in my knee has gone down, and the pain gets more manageable every day.  It is still quite achy and it's tricky finding a comfortable position to sit in while I'm in a chair since I can't quite reach a 90 degree bend in the joint yet.  My surgeon wants me at 90 degrees by November 28th, and I'm probably at about 75-80 or so if I were to guess (a vast improvement even over last week where I was at about 60-65).

One thing I'm not overly happy about is the condition of the large incision on my patella.  The suture tape finally came off and I was anything but happy to see how it's healing.  From what I can tell it looks like the incision was taped too tight and now it is healing in a pretty horrific 'puckered' fashion.  I'll embed a picture so you can see what I'm talking about, but be warned, it is pretty gross.

I don't know if this is common with suture tape, but I'm hoping the puckering goes away or at least reduces in the next few weeks, as it is pretty ghastly to say the least.

Other than that minor aesthetic setback, everything is going pretty great all things considered.  My strength is returning, my flexibility is on track, and today is the first full day without any percocet at all.  I have two left to save for the first couple physio appointments (this week Tuesday and Thursday) just in case I come home and feel like chewing my leg off from the pain (lol).

More updates as they happen!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Physiotherapy Round 1

Well, once again my trepidations were unfounded and yet another aspect of this recovery wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  I had my physiotherapy assessment today, and in general it looks like things are going pretty well.  My physiotherapist did some measurements and did some flexibility and strength tests to see where I'm at a week and a half out of surgery and from what she saw apparently I'm a 'warrior' haha. 

I have pretty significant swelling, so definitely lots more icing (and possibly some heating as well to get the blood moving better to reduce the swelling), but I haven't lost any muscle mass in my leg so that's AWESOME.  She said that's pretty rare but for how much muscle I have in my legs she wasn't that surprised. 

My flexibility is decent but she wants that improved so I have some exercises to improve that, as well as improving the muscle use in my quad.  She explained that if you don't work on flexibility right away, by the time the 4 week mark hits and your scar tissue starts developing, it gets a LOT harder to get to the point that is optimal for range of motion (in my case I have to reach 90 degrees by week 6).

She also told me some updates that the surgeon and his nurses failed to tell me like I AM allowed to shower as long as it's safe, and I'm also allowed to get my suture tape wet because it'll come off when it's ready anyway.  I was super pumped that she showed me the proper way to adjust my zimmer splint too because the nurses completely failed to point that out after the surgery AND at the post-op (thanks for all the awesome patient care, hospital staff!).  She was kind enough to show me how to go up stairs with crutches too, so that was cool of her (despite making me hobble on my crutches pretty far to get to stairs to show me this lol).  Unfortunately, I was unable to actually do that with my bad shoulder on the same side as my injured knee so I still have to do the old 'butt scoot' up the stairs (haha).

I'm happy that I have some revised exercises (apparently the ones the hospital hands out are something close to 20 years old and the physiotherapists recommend NOT following those - how on par is that with the hospital service thus far lol).  My arms are getting a lot stronger so the crutches aren't nearly as bad as they were when I first came home.  Pretty happy with how well I'm recovering as well, all things considered.

So yes, here I am, less than two weeks out of surgery and feeling pretty good.  I still have another 4 weeks in the splint and on the crutches, but by doing the exercises and regaining my muscle and flexibility, soon I'll be walking on my own, going up and down stairs, driving, showering... oh man the things I took for granted before this surgery lol...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Post-op Guilt

I'm experiencing a range of emotions I was not only unprepared for, but I also certainly never expected while I've been at home recovering from surgery.  Of course if you are anything like me, and you are a relatively proud person, admitting you need help with something is hard enough on its own but actually asking someone for help can be a true test of your humility.

With that being said, I've started to develop a pang of guilt for being in the position I am currently in.  Let me elaborate.

I'm at home all day, every day, with nothing to do but sit in bed and 'recover'.  With a fair bit of discomfort I am able to sort of 'hop' around with the crutches to do things like go to the bathroom, go to the kitchen to get a new ice pack, etc.  Because I have to use both hands to use the crutches, carrying things around the apartment either doesn't work or I have to be pretty creative about it.  I'm also unable to put any weight at all on my recovering leg, so even if I put the crutches down, I am still only on one leg.  Now, this might not sound very bad to you, but I assure you that after a full week of doing this you find areas of your body are aching that you might have never expected.  My shoulders, the palms of my hands, and my wrists ache from using the crutches, my left hamstring and butt are VERY sore from being the sole leg I'm able to use, my right hip hurts from having to hold my right leg straight all the time, my back hurts from sitting in bed for hours and hours every day... the list goes on right now.

I'm restricted to eating what is left in the bedroom for me (currently I have a box of Quaker granola bars) and the water in the pitcher that is pretty much always room temperature.  If I get to the kitchen I can only stand for so long trying to get something to eat before I start to get dizzy from the pain of standing up, so I've been restricted to cold pizza on the two occasions I managed to get in there and get something to eat.

I can't shower yet because I am on one leg, and I can't have a bath yet because my incisions aren't completely healed yet, so I've only been allowed sponge baths.  You can imagine how inconvenient and tedious this process is.  I'm also only able to wash my hair in the sink, and with one sore leg and one leg I have to keep straight at all times, and having to use the small sink in the bathroom that my head barely fits in, this also gets to be very difficult.

So yeah... sitting at home recovering is nothing short of miserable.  I'm here alone all day every day with very little to entertain me, I'm pretty much always hungry and sore, and I'm hesitant to try to do too much at the risk of falling and not being able to get up, tweaking my knee in some weird way by accident and causing further injury, or just wearing myself out more than I already am by using my crutches too much.

And despite all this, I feel guilty.  I feel guilty that I can't clean my apartment despite the growing mess.  I feel guilty that I can't feed myself, I can't walk the dog, I can't do any laundry, I can't work, can't drive, can't go to the bank, can't do groceries...

Despite the many offers to help and the handful of people who have generously helped when and where they can, I still feel guilty that I can't just do these things myself.  I feel like I'm inconveniencing people when I ask for help, especially my husband.  Maybe some people don't find asking for help as difficult as I do, and if that's the case, then I envy those people.  But for me, asking for help is difficult because I hate to put people out; I hate to inconvenience people and I really hate to hear 'no' because often I take it personally and I know I shouldn't.

Even admitting these things out loud is difficult for me, because I have no idea how it will be taken, let alone if anyone will even care or at the very least even read this.  I suppose I'm just hoping that at least one person gets what I'm saying here, and then maybe I won't feel like such a freak for feeling guilty because I had surgery and I need other people to help me while I can't help myself.  And who knows... maybe one day I'll be able to get over asking for help and I won't feel like I'm admitting defeat by asking... and maybe people around me will finally realize just how hard it is for me to even ask.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is Education a 'Bubble' that will burst soon?

We've all been hearing the news from the United States about how college and university education is becoming so expensive that if students aren't walking out with a piece of paper and a mountain of debt, they're dropping out with a slightly smaller 'hill' of debt.  Students make up a large percentage of people fed up and holding up pizza box protest signs at the Occupy events around the world.


So what does all this mean for Education in North America, and specifically for the United States?

On the one hand you've got people who chose to forfeit furthering their education, and took a gamble on being able to find a place that will hire someone without a piece of paper, hoping that they'll be able to compete in the workforce by skill and hard work alone, and attempt to work their way up the salary ladder from a lower pay grade than someone with an education, and have little to no debt.

Then on the other hand you've got people who did choose to go to post-secondary, spend time, money, and effort investing in their future, racked up a very often substantial debt. The debt is SO much of a problem, that it's actually predicted by some that post-secondary education is now something so unattainable in the United States, that education alone will start to decrease. I heard some stats from the States recently that said non-traditional, part-time students are now the norm (at a staggering 75% of students). Considering those same students are also commuters, often with families and jobs on top of school, it's no wonder that in places like Texas, for every 100 students enrolled in a public college, 79 started at a community college, and only 2 of them graduated on time. That sounds drastic but get this, after 4 years only 7 of them graduated on time. Of the 21 of those 100 who enrolled in a 4 year program, only 5 graduated on time. After 8 years, only 13 actually earned a degree. Only 25.6% of people enrolled part-time earn a bachelor's degree after EIGHT YEARS.

The bitch of it truly is, the government keeps plowing money into things like student loan organizations so that more people can theoretically go to college. But the more money the government throws into 'education', the more other companies start raising prices on things like text books, dorm rooms, public transit, etc. This makes going to college full time in the United States damned near impossible if you're paying your own way (and sometimes even if you have help from family).

Here's another fun trend going on in the United States right now: there are actually people who are considered 'professional students' who are only in college because they're 'waiting out' the recession. Only to hear from media and whatever other sources that the recession is now over (which it isn't) so they finally leave college looking for those promised jobs that you definitely get from going to college (which you don't), and sure that they'll be better off than people who never bothered to go to college (which they won't be). And these are actually people with workforce degrees; architects, engineers, teachers, etc.

So what does all this mean? Is college worth it anymore? DOES college actually guarantee you're going to get a job anymore? And even if you do get a job, what are the chances you'll be able to plow through all your debt to actually live your life and reap the benefits of your education?





Interesting link for further reading on this subject:
The Staggering Growth of Student Loans
 


And more links on Education in general:
Do Schools Kill Creativity?
Changing Education Paradigms

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Goodbye Oxycontin

I haven't posted in a few days as things got a little sketchy.  I started my stretching and muscle-rebuilding exercises here at home two days ago, and I gotta say it's SLOOOW going.  I don't know who these people are that I see in youtube videos but clearly they are either holographs or mutants, because 5 inches off the floor and (even with proper breathing techniques and complete structure support for my other leg) I was ready to pass out from the pain.  I did manage to finish the ones I was supposed to do, but I have some SERIOUS doubts about being able to bend my leg to 90 degrees by my post-op on Monday.  I have a feeling that the recommendation is for those who haven't had meniscus repair because I was having flashes of memory (or maybe just wishful thinking) that the nurses did tell me COMPLETE bed rest till the post-op and then the surgeon would update me on what I had to do next.

So other than the exercise bit (which I definitely paid for later), yesterday was my last day on the Oxycontin.  I took my last dose at 10am and bit the proverbial bullet as I went through my usual invalid routine for the day, waiting for that last dose to wear off.  After I did my exercises yesterday afternoon, once the 2pm meds took effect, I laid down and passed out fell asleep until my 6pm dose was due.  Unfortunately for them, my inlaws came by to say hello about 15 minutes after I took my 6pm dose and I was... shall we say a little less than social.  I was tired, sore, and that two hour period from the hour before to the hour after I take my scheduled doses, I am not a peach to be around.  So of course I tried to keep my sh*t together till they left... and boy was I glad I did...

As soon as the front door closed, I pretty much lost all control.

There is something profound that happens to a person when they are tested over long periods of time.  When their pain threshold is tested, their patience, their humility, their independence, their attention span... everyone has their limits and at times the only thing you can do is reach that breaking point and accept that you just need to get it over with and BREAK.

I have a pretty high pain threshold, and there's a lot I can take.  But stack on top of that the effects of medications that make you feel like you have no control of your body at all, an injury that demands you remain in one position and one position ONLY for whoknowshowlong, a digestive system that is completely shot because of the poison meds you need to take, chronic exhaustion from never really getting restful sleep for several days in a row, and the growing sensation of itching and odd new pains cropping up in, around and near all the places they worked on your injury, and the muscle spasms that happen increasingly as your muscles begin to repair themselves and as the graft screwed into your bone begins to heal... if sitting here bawling my eyes out until I almost vomited is the worst that happens when I reach that point, I'll take it.  Gladly.

Sometimes you just have to let yourself break.



So fast forward to Zero Hour.
10pm on October 28
When the pain resets, and I really get to feel what the Oxycontin has been hiding from me. 

Usually my pain starts to rear it's horrible head about an hour or so before my next round is due.  So at about nine-ish last night I made sure to distract myself with lots of thing on the laptop so I wouldn't notice quite so much.  It actually worked pretty well, despite the usual dull ache that never seems to really completely go away.  Then around 10:20 I started feeling different areas of my body clearing up from the Oxycontin leaving my system.  I won't run a list of all of them, but believe me I was VERY surprised how much was in pain and I never knew it.  Thankfully, I am still on the Percocet, and that I also take at 10pm, so what I was feeling was through that as well.  Most of what I was feeling was aches and pains from areas related to being bed-bound; from laying around so much, from hoisting myself up with my arms, from walking on one leg with crutches, etc.

I'm happy to say that I've now missed two doses of the Oxycontin and I think it's safe to say it's finally completely out of my system.  I'm pretty achy today, in a LOT of places I wasn't yesterday but at least I don't have to feel that cloudy feeling or worry about becoming addicted and having to suffer the pain of withdrawal.

In other news, earlier today I thought I'd be brave and check out my incision sites.  Well I'll save you the suspense, I got one look at some bloody gauze and felt the gauze sticking to one of the staples and totally lost my nerve.  I put the surgical sock back up on my leg and then put the brace back on and huddled back in the corner of the bed where I belong.  I can watch all the medical shows I want but seeing that kind of thing on myself is a whole different story.  Guess I'm just a big baby like everybody else after all haha ;)


Anyway, so that's what's been up the last couple days.  I go for my 1 week post-op on Monday where the surgeon is supposed to tell me about physio, and the rest of the hard stuff that I can expect for the next several months.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Only Getting Better

I'm happy to report that a mere two days after surgery and I'm beginning to be more mobile.  The pain has reduced (from an average of 7-8ish on the day of the surgery to about an average of 4-5ish today).  I've gotten a pretty good method down for using my crutches so they don't hurt my hands as much.  I'm actually getting hungry for the first time since before surgery, and with the increased mobility that's pretty good timing since I can (with a little effort) get to the kitchen and nibble a bit.  I'm also able to lift my leg with my arms easier now, so I don't necessarily need someone to help me in and out of bed and such anymore.

I think a lot of the improvements have actually been getting my timing right for things.  Such as since I know I take my meds on the 2, 6, and 10 (2am, 6am, 10am, 2pm, 6pm, 10pm) and I know that for the first hour the Percocet makes me quite nauseous if I move around too much, I can figure out how much I can eat and drink, at what times of the day, and I know when it's easiest on my stomach and on the pain in my knee when I move around based on those times.  It's all about those little details I suppose.

Ahh and speaking of which... Oxycontin makes my brain pretty fuzzy and makes it hard to focus on one thing or even keep my eyes open.  So it's a safe bet that for a couple hours after I take my two doses of that each day it's best I just sleep.  Thankfully sleeping seems to be working wonders for the healing as well, which is great.

Probably something people won't want to hear about is what I'm actually able to feel.  There is one spot just below my knee cap on my left, where I can feel one of the staples occasionally... it's incredibly unpleasant but I guess it could be worse :P  There are some specific areas where I'm starting to feel what I can only imagine are 'healing pains' so I pretty much just keep reminding myself 'it's only going to get better from here'.  And of course all the itchiness that accompanies the usual healing.  It's just too bad you can't scratch inside your bones haha.


In any case, I'm very thankful for all the phone calls, texts, emails, flowers, and such.  Even if I am all drugged up and don't make a very good conversationalist most of the time, know that I absolutely appreciate each of you who has expressed your well wishes :)  Love you guys tons!!

Two Days after the Worst Day of my Life

I almost wish the title of this was hyperbole or even mildly exaggerated.  Unfortunately of all the things I've seen, the horrific news delivered like a blow to my stomach, even the news of death couldn't compare to the blinding pain on that first day after surgery.

A couple things I've learned that I wouldn't have even thought about:

  • Using crutches regularly will bruise your armpits and the palms of your hands quickly
  • Using crutches with only one good leg will actually work your lower abs, your obliques and of course your glutes (your bum) on the good side.
  • Having to allow your bad leg to 'dangle lifelessly' so you aren't trying to flex the muscles will eventually wear on your groin muscle on that leg.
  • Percocet can make you simultaneously itchy, nauseous and tired
  • Percocet and Oxycontin taken together will require you to also take stool softeners (hurray!)
  • Having multiple ice packs on rotation in the freezer makes a BIG difference. (I have four)
  • Having somebody around, even if they're not doing anything specific is much more relaxing than being laid up and alone.
  • Having something to do while you're laying around all day is key.  (I have my laptop, my blackberry, and several movies I can access through our wireless home network)
  • If you feel like you need to sleep, just sleep.  Nothing NEEDS to get done, so just sleep as much as your body wants you to
  • Don't overdo anything... the last thing I want is to blow a staple and have to go in and have them refasten me up (shudder)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Day After Yesterday

This time yesterday I was looking up from my place on the table into the kind but intense eyes of the nice older lady about to put me to sleep.  It would be two hours later that I'd wake up in the recovery, drowsy, disoriented, and just overall feeling like I got hit by a Mack truck.  In fact, I'd just had an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Hamstring reconstruction and a medial meniscus repair on my right knee.

A nurse popped a pill in my mouth and held up a disposable plastic cup with a bendy straw and said, "Drink."  Pill #1 was Oxycontin.  About an hour passed and they finally wheeled me back into my 'room' (just a curtained-off area with a bed, chair and one of those clever rolling tables for your gimpy convenience). They paged Eric and between my anesthetic and oxycontin hazes I think I vaguely recall him showing up, trying to smile at me but he's a man and I could practically smell the worry mingled with relief dripping off him.

Some time over the next several house, the local anesthetic began to wear off.  It was also about this time that those busy bee nurses decided they needed to see me navigate around on my crutches.  Sure! And for my next trick I'll pull a rainbow out of my ear and marry a water buffalo!

Well it was about this time as well that one of the students working asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being no pain, 10 being the worst pain you'd ever felt in your life).  Well wasn't I pleased as punch that she asked because I was in fact teetering on the edge between a 7 and 8 and about to chew my own leg off bear-trap style.  So the student ran off to find me some of my other new best friend, Percocet, and I began staring hatefully at the crutches leaning against the side of the bed.  Thankfully, they gave me about 30 minutes for the Percocet to start taking the edge off and then the two nurses descended on me, ushering me off the bed and onto the crutches.  Well imagine my surprise when I realize that for me to get off the bed, these women were going to have pick up my stapled, screwed, bruised, and sutured leg and hold it for me while I got up.  I can't even begin to explain the excruciating pain that spread through my leg as the one nurse tried to help me to the edge of the bed.  All I can say is I started to hyperventilate and tears were pouring down my cheeks as profanities vomited from my throat...  They set my leg back down and the student nurse tactfully handed me a box of tissues to help me compose myself.

Now, just take a moment, if you will, to consider that I had had about 3 hours of sleep from the night before, hadn't eaten anything since 7:30 the day before, had just had serious, extensive and incredibly painful surgery, and I was medicated to the gills with pain meds and on top of that these women wanted me to do WHAT.

Well eventually I managed to stop crying long enough to do what they wanted, and I even managed a couple very pathetic looking hops with my good leg while my bad leg just sort of hung there.  Once I had that finished to the nurses' satisfaction I was able to start dressing and making plans to head home.

I'll spare you the details of how awkward and painful that whole ordeal was, but suffice it to say that we got to the apartment  building with little incident.

I will share a somewhat funny quip about how the only reason I'm even in the apartment at all is due to my brilliant plan of navigating the 3 flights of stairs to the top.  Crutches weren't gonna work... using Eric as a brace wasn't gonna work... so eventually I sat down on the step, bad leg completely supported, sticking straight out in Eric's hands, and I scooted up all those damned stairs.  I really REALLY hope none of my neighbors saw how pathetically humbled I was scooting up the stairs on my bum... but even that wasn't as bad as when I got inside and realized I had to pee.  Let me tell ya... there is really nothing as humbling as having someone hold your leg for you while you pee... (lol).

So now it's the day after surgery.  I can move around on the crutches a bit better but I still can't hold the weight of my leg, so whenever I need to get up or go to the bathroom or even shift in bed, I need someone here to hold my leg while I maneuver around.  I've got three total ice packs on rotation on my knee, I've got my laptop, my blackberry, water, gatorade, coffee, tissue and a bowl just in case the Percocet betrays me again like it did at 2am this morning.

All in all, this is the worst experience of my life and I am very anxious to get past all this.  Thanks to everyone for all the well-wishes and words of encouragement.  I'll keep everyone updated as often as my meds allow me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My first quilt!

So today I finished my first quilt for some friends of mine who are having a baby soon.  It is a rag quilt, because I figured it'd be a nice intro to quilting where I didn't have to attempt hand-stitching, haha.  It's my first attempt ever - so be kind!

ruler, self-healing mat, rotary cutter, and some spring-scissors

polyester quilt batting


Here are the squares I cut of the fabrics I chose.  I picked a nice, soft flannelette in 5 different patterns.

I sewed the squares, with squares of batting sandwiched in between.  Then I sewed the squares together into strips.

strips of the squares

strips sewn together

back of the rag quilt


Here's the quilt all sewn together, from the back!  If you look closely you can see that I snipped the edges of the seams about every inch or so.  All of the seams you saw sewn 'upward' were similarly snipped.  You'll see why in the next picture!


And the finished product!  As you can see, once the quilt is then washed and dried (cleaning the lint trap a LOT), the seams curl around and get all soft and cute and stuff (everybody awwww!)

Can't wait for the baby shower next weekend to present it to the parents-to-be!