Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Recovery from Surgery = Too Much Time on My Hands

Last Monday - October 17th I had surgery to repair the stress fracture in my left fibula that occurred while running the Canyonlands Half Marathon back in March.  Since the injury occurred I had been seeing a doctor who is part of a very large, well known orthopedic practice.  My injury presented itself as something small and insignificant to this doctor who I am sure sees many complex orthopedic problems.  It was very easy to follow his chosen path and just wait for the injury to heal on its own.  After 6 months of just taking it easy and still not seeing the injury heal, I felt it behooved me to get a second opinion.

The doctor chosen for the second opinion is not part of a huge practice.  She seems to concentrate on a small number of cases but spends a large amount of time working on each one.  Her opinion after looking at the X-rays I bought for her to see was that to heal my leg needed a lot more stability.  The only way the leg was going to get that stability was through surgery and the insertion of a metal plate.  The doctor's opinion was confirmed when she ordered a CT scan of my leg and saw further details that indicated to her the fracture would never heal without surgery.

At 2:00PM on the 17th I walked into Swedish hospital to check in for surgery.  The procedure was scheduled to start at 4:00PM and paperwork, check-in and surgical  prep were supposed to take 2 hours.  The paper work and check in flew by and took about 30 minutes to complete.  By 2:45PM I was in the pre-op area waiting to have a nerve block administered and then head back into the operating theater.  My anaesthesiologist showed up at 3:30PM and talked to me about all the fun things he was going to do to get me ready for surgery.  The first thing to be done was to put a nerve block in place on the nerve that controlled the feeling and movement in my lower left leg.  He did this through the use of an ultrasound to find the right spot to insert his needle and put lots of nerve numbing medication directly into the nerve.  In the long run this procedure was being done to reduce my overall pain levels but in doing it, there would definitely be pain associated with it.  To help with the pain of this procedure the anaesthesiologist hit me with 2 mg of Fentanyl.  That sent me sliding down the road to pain free oblivion.  Which was good as the administration of the nerve block was the most painful thing I felt all day!  All-in-all things were getting off to a good start.

The good start only lasted a little while as very quickly things began to fall behind schedule.  The operating theater was originally scheduled for my procedure at 4:00PM.  That time came and went.  And so I waited, and waited, and waited.  Finally things began to get moving around 7:00PM.  The original anaesthesiologist was long gone by that point so my case rolled over to another anaesthesiologist who also had to leave for another patient's procedure so I was handed off to yet a third!

Around 7:10PM my doctor came out and talked to me about why she was so delayed and gave us (Shelly was there with me) to ask questions.  We didn't have too many questions and I quickly signed the consent and then was wheeled back into the OR.  While on the way to the OR I was accompanied by the anaesthesiologist who gave me a dose of Versed.  By the time we got to the OR and I moved myself onto the OR table, my memory of things was beginning to slip.  The last thing I remember before heading off into utter lalaland was adjusting myself on the table.  The next thing I remember was being in the recovery room having a nurse hand me an apple juice to drink.  By this time it was 11:30PM.  My left lower leg was wrapped in a very large bandage and I really couldn't even feel my lower leg at all.

The next hour was spent just making sure I was OK and having the nurses fill us into what we needed to do to care for my wound.  We were to leave the "soft cast" and splint on until I saw the doctor in a week or so for my post surgery followup.  I took a ton of prescriptions for lots and lots of good pain relievers as my doctor speculated that I was going to be in a lot of pain because of how much work she had to do to my bone.  (The surgery had gone much longer than planned because when she got in there she found that my bone was totally and complete messed up.  The gap between the 2 segments was so large she had to take a section of bone from my tibia right below my knee cap.)

Shelly managed to get me home around 1:00AM and then she headed to a 24 hour Walgreens to pick up my medications.  As soon as she returned with them I took my 2 oxycodone pills and fell quickly asleep.  Not knowing how bad or not the pain was going to be I continued to take the pain pills right at the times indicated on the prescriptions.  This kept me pretty much totally and completely out of it all day Tuesday through Wednesday morning.  However I woke up on Wednesday morning with a very high fever - over 102 degrees so I decided I needed to call the doctor.  My fear with a fever was that I had a significant infection by my doctor re-assured me that an infection won't have sprung up that quickly and my fever was likely caused by taking the painkillers and as a result not breathing deeply enough - which caused the fever.  There is a specific name for this condition by with my brain in the state it was in, I simply do not remember.

That quickly made me stop taking the pain killers and within 2 - 3 hours my fever was pretty much gone and I was feeling much better.  The pain in my leg never materialized so since then I have stopped taking the pain killers.

For the last week I have pretty laid around all the time because I have to keep all weight off my left leg.  Yes - I can get around by crutches and I have used them to get around and even go out to the store, but in general it is easier to stay in one place and keep my left leg elevated.  I quickly became bored with TV and have read enough for a while.  So I have spent a ton of time sitting/reclining thinking about all the things I want to do now that my leg is finally starting to heal.  There are so many hikes and outdoorsy things I want to get up to.  Additionally, I have been thinking about restarting a lot of hobbies that I really haven't done in years and years.  The only hobbies I have really concentrated upon have been my stamp collecting and my photography.  For whatever reason my brain is just so full of things I want to do, experience and see.  I am sure I will be writing about a lot of this stuff in much great detail in the weeks and months to come.

Tomorrow is my first post-surgical check-up with my doctor.  I am hoping to get out of the splint and soft cast and maybe moving into a "boot".  I will just be so glad when I can start moving around as normal again.

I hope everyone is having a great week so far.  I hope too that those of you who are my readers from Colorado survive our first big snow storm of the season.  We are supposed to get over 8 inches of snow here in the Denver metro area!  Yikes!!

Til the next time - thanks and peace to all!

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