Friday, March 28, 2008

Broken Legs and Wounded Wings

Five weeks ago, I broke my right leg, just above the ankle, while attempting to reposition myself in bed. My legs, which are usually crossed right over left -- Indian style -- when I do this. While up on my knees in that position, my right shoulder gave out and I collapsed, face down, on the bed. (Apparently I seriously injured some muscles in my right shoulder late the night before, but because I have no feeling in that area, I didn't know it.)

Unable to get up on my own, my HipHubby managed to help get me back onto my knees, but in the process my legs uncrossed themselves and then re-crossed in the opposite direction. This put her left leg directly over her right ankle, and when she came back down, we heard the bones go ~SNAP~ ~crack~. What a sickening noise, one I never hope to hear again. Both bones (tibia and fibula) are fractured.

I opted to forego letting them operate on my ankle, even though it means the break won’t align properly when it‘s healed, but that‘s okay. I don't really use that leg anyway -- it's not my load-bearing leg so even a misalignment won't be debilitating. Fortunately, no shoulder surgery was needed, either. When you have no legs to rely upon, your arms do double duty -- I have no idea how I would have survived it they had to take one of my arms out of commission for weeks so it could heal from surgery.

The ortho surgeon seems quite annoyed that I wouldn’t let him operate, even after I told him (in no uncertain terms) that my last experience with surgery on that leg was not that good because of the nerve damage to that leg. It‘s so hypersensitive to pain that pain control was almost impossible in the past, and given that this new guy is already “scared“ of the amounts of meds I take to function every day, I have serious doubts that he will give me what I need to be comfortable. Add to that all of my lung problems (general anesthesia is hard on me).

The ER experience was a nightmare thanks to a BITCH of a doctor, who decided that because I was in a wheelchair, I should not be treated as a person and, in fact, should be treated with great suspicion, if at all.

Yes, folks, Because of my wheelchair and my meds for my chronic pain, I was tagged DRUG SEEKER when I went to the ER. I was assured by the triage nurse that they would give me pain meds before I got xrays. But when she went to tell the doctor about me, the doctor’s response was, "Well what does she want from us?" The doc denied me any drugs, saying she needed to see the films first. Well the xrays were hell, and the tech stopped taking them because I was in such agony from her trying to get my foot in position that I was sobbing and close to screaming.

That crying jag prompted the doc to finally give me some Toradol. By the time I had that shot, I was already in less pain and I was able to stop crying simply because no one was manipulating my broken leg anymore Of course, this b-word doc too the fact that I was able to stop crying as proof I was a drug seeker, saying to my nurse, "Well I was right -- look at how fast she stopped crying when I know that there's no way the drug worked that fast." We yelled back at her that I was able to stop crying because I wasn't moving and the fact that I was in pain was finally validated. Finally, we confronted her about her labeling me a drug seeker, and she said, "Well when I see people like you come in here, I get suspicious." Um, which people likie me would that be? The ones with a history of extensive spinal cord surgery? Wheelchair users? People with broken legs?

Doctor Drug Seeker went on to try to wash her hands of me by calling the ortho doc, and so I had to sit there in pain until just before the ortho guy came, even though she knew I'd fractured both bones in my right leg (just above the ankle) and, they thought, my right clavicle. (Thank goodness that turned out to be a wrong diagnosis.) Finally, just before the ortho gut arrived, she relented and FINALLY gave me some Demerol. I am writing a lot of letters, and enlisting the help of the patient advocate to try to get her fired.

As of today, I’ve been in a cast for four weeks -- make that two casts, as the first one was put on sloppily and was causing a pressure sore so it needed to be removed. My ortho guy, who has no clue about what people in wheelchairs are like, tried to get out of replacing it by cutting it into two pieces (top and bottom), then holding it together with an ace bandage. (He thought this would hold because of course, I didn’t move at all -- when I really bang the heck out of that leg because I can no longer control where it goes.) When I finally convinced him of this (he thought I was a whiner and told me he’d never had so many problems with a cast in decades of practice), he finally decided to recast me, and took his time doing it so it fit right.

Yesterday, I went for x-rays to see how I’m healing. Before revealing the big news, I’ve got to take a second to salute the guy who took the x-rays for his creativity in getting my casted, muscle-spasm maimed leg into the proper places to shoot an x-ray. He not only was undaunted by the limitations, he got both shots of his first try, thanks to the bible of x-ray technicians, a book called, “Radiological Positioning.” (No, he didn’t look up my problems with getting my leg to bend just so in the book -- he used the book to prop my leg up just so. It was incredibly clever and funny as heck)

The news was TERRIFIC. Not only am I healing well, I am healing as well as someone who can walk, an outright miracle since legs usually need to bear weight in order to heal and absorb calcium. Yet even though I cannot use my leg, even in its usual minimal capacity thanks to the cast I’m wearing, the fractures are knitting and developing callous, visible on the x-ray as a sort of fluffy shadow. My ortho doctor is amazed at the progress, probably even more so after seeing that I also have osteoporosis and can barely move the leg, let alone put the stress on it needed to draw the calcium to the injured areas.

My shoulder has improved, but I still have mobility problem. I have a great deal of difficulty lifting it into certain positions, like those needed to take shirts on and off or to wash my hair. Once my leg is better, I’ll nag the ortho about ordering PT for me so I don’t lose any strength or range of motion -- this is critical since my other arm is already impaired in that same way from the trapezius muscle flap.

It’s been a rough road and a real learning experience to discover just how much work one of my remaining limbs does for me.

With this level of progress, I’m set to get my cast off one month from today, on my 45th birthday. I can’t imagine a better present to get than that.


WhiteAngel said...

Wow - I'm sorry you you are going though this, but you are one amazing woman, how do you keep your spirit's up the way you do?..glad that you are mending well...I love the way you express yourself...hang in there..WA

WhiteAngel said...

opps - almost forgot - "Happy Brithday" are you doing anything spicial?

Jonderson said...

Dayum! You have some really craptacular physicianing going on down there! Don't forget to write letters to your insurance company, stressing words like "negligence", "failure to provide due care", "discrimination" and "malpractise". Doctors can not afford to practise if they can't get an insurance company to do business with them.

I am very happy to hear that you are healing well though!