Uhm…wow. Everything tumbles into my head like a firehose; the problem isn’t finding something to write about. It’s figuring out which stuff to write about first.
So…let’s start with V-day: The Leg is finally Finally FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY!!!! healing. All the pain, expense, time, and (let’s face it) terror have finally paid off and I’m getting OUT of this wheelchair.
I guess this means that we did, indeed, Save Elmo. How’s that for good news? Victory Day indeed.
Here’s the odd thing: It’s just been so long–nearly 16 months–that I have a hard time believing it. You’d think I’d be breaking out the champagne and doing a wild happydance, a la Maksim Sedakov:
Instead, I don’t really feel much of anything. Every so often I start crying for no good reason. It seems I’m having a hard time believing that I finally reached the beginning of the end.
When I left Dr. Dan, my surgeon in Walnut Creek, he was “happy with your progress so far.” At only a month post-op, nobody expected much bone growth and there was no way to tell if his surgeries actually worked.
On Friday night, Sept. 16, 2016, I fractured my left femur just above Elmo, my replacement knee. I lived in a wheelchair, facing hip-high amputation of my left leg, for about two years while I fought health care bureaucracy, cost-conscious HMOs, and myself to figure out a way to walk again. (Spoiler alert: Elmo won!)
I documented my adventures in remobilization in this blog. They’re awfully self-indulgent, occasionally icky, and probably only of interest to me, but on the off-chance that they help someone else with a catastrophic injury, I’m keeping them together here. If you don’t want to read them, that’s OK; I still love you. If you do, you might want to start from the beginning, on the archive page that lists all posts.
The proof of success, he said, would come at EIGHT weeks, the second week in January.
…which was this last Wednesday. I usually go crazy with anxiety the three days or so before monthly x-rays, but this time was extra-jittery: If the bone didn’t grow, we were out of options. When I took Lyft to my new trauma surgeon, Doc Rich here in Portland, I was literally shaking.
But the doc came in with a mile-wide grin on his face, followed by two smiling orthopedic residents and a hand-clapping assistant.
“This looks just about perfect,” he said, gesturing to The Leg’s latest x-ray, “Your surgeon did a great job. Just LOOK at that alignment. Perfection! Thank god you’re persistent; it paid off.”
“Great,” I said with a shade of trepidation, “But is the bone actually GROWING?”
He took a closer look, while I held my breath, and pointed at the bonehole. “It is exactly–EXACTLY–where I would expect a healing break to be, two months post-op. So yes, the bone is really, really growing.”
“In fact,” he said, “If you’ll give me your surgeon’s email address, I’ll send these films to him right now. This is going to make his day. His week.”
Right then, I went numb. I tried to smile, but all I could really manage was a thank you.
“It’s still a long, hard road ahead,” warned Doc Rich, “The healing bone is really fragile. You need to put weight on it, because load-bearing straight down on the fracture will force the bone to strengthen, grow dense. HOWEVER…be careful NOT to bend the knee when you do–do not do anything that might cause the new bone to bend. I know you need to increase flexion in that knee, but for now just concentrate on making a strong, healthy bone.”
Gotcha, Doc. Ease back on the bending and stretching, start walking straight-legged.
I have a new healthclub membership which sports a terrific onsite physical therapy group, salt-water walking pools and all sorts of rehabilitative exercise equipment. Doc Rich wrote out careful instructions for them, I met with them the next day, and I love my new therapist. We start poolwork on Tuesday.
I guess my life is going to get back to normal, slowly but surely. I can now drive, I’m allowed to put as much as 75 pounds of weight-bearing on The Leg which makes all kinds of things easier, and they want me OUT of the wheelchair and practicing walking more and more. It’ll be at least six months before the bone heals fully, and possibly a year before I’m walking without a cane.
Oddly, all that is a bit scary. What do I do with the rest of my life, without the protective fortress of Tyrone Spiffy the Wheelchair?
Live, that’s what. I dug out my “when I’m walking again I’m gonna…” list, started at the top, and propose to work my way down.
First up? I got my eyes tattooed.
When I was a teenager, it seemed that my eyebrows were the only reliable spot for hairgrowth; my best friend used to merrily call me Unibrow. I was so embarrassed I plucked my brows half to death. They’ve been sparse ever since; if I use makeup, I pencil them back in.
Life in a wheelchair has taught me efficiencies I never thought I’d need; saving five minutes of brow-penciling and eyelining because those things were permanently tattooed on seemed like a great idea. I did some research, talked to a few cosmeticians, and wound up with Curt.
Curt works at the top of a tall staircase I wouldn’t have been able to mount before Wednesday. Getting across the parking lot (many speedbumps) and up those stairs was a problem…but I did it. And he was wonderfully sweet and competent at this tattooing stuff…but it still hurt.
Three hours later, I can definitively state that tattooing your eyes is damn painful and gives you a close resemblance to a red-eyed raccoon. I’m told the swollen and OMG-she-dipped-her-head-in-india-ink areas will fade in a couple of days and I’ll love the result.
Right now, though, I’m staring at the screen through half-lidded, heavily kohled eyes and wondering what the hell I was thinking.
Possibly I need to rethink the bucket list. Or at least cross off that skydiving excursion.