Tuesday, May 08, 2007

May Day 4

A year ago today I came home from the hospital. I mentioned that to Darling Husband this morning, and he said,"Yeah, I had to fight to keep you in there. They wanted to send you home after three days. I was freaking out; you were in such bad shape, there was no way I could take care of you. We were looking into skilled nursing facilities."

I remember little of that, other than the sourness of the sole female physician, "Dr Crabby," who was pushing to get me out ASAP. I stayed on, though, either through her being overruled by the other doctors on my case (there were at least three) or institutional inertia. I do remember a neuro-something-or-other in a nice tie, who had me stay a seventh night, for which I was very grateful. Due to my multiple concussions, he warned, I shouldn't have any alcoholic beverages for six months. Yet he had no problem with my taking opiates.

Once home, I spent most of my time on my back in bed, propped up on a big foam wedge, with a smaller one under my knees and pillows under my extended right arm. DH moved to the single bed in my office, where, except for a few days in July, he slept for the next seven months. Soon we rented a motorized La-Z-Boy so I could hang out in the living room. We thought we'd only need it for a month or two. How wrong we were.

Remember how "Dr Tommy" put a brace on my arm, and said I'd be OK in 8-12 weeks? Funny thing about that...

Shortly after I got home, my uninjured lower arm swelled up enormously and turned rainbow colors. My thumb looked like a turkey drumstick and I could barely move my bloated fingers. Naturally I was rather alarmed, so I called Dr Tommy's office. His receptionist chirped that some swelling was to be expected; beyond that she offered no help. So I called Dr S, my wonderful osteopath, who'd visited me in the hospital and even brought me a plant. (Dr S is no botanist, though, as revealed in The Importance of Horticultural Nomenclature. Swallow your drink before reading.)

Dr S told me the swelling was probably due to lymph drainage, and that I should elevate the arm and apply ice packs. I did, and whaddayaknow, the swelling went down. As did my estimation of Dr Tommy and his minions. A few days later, Dr Tommy's tech fitted me for a new brace. It was horribly uncomfortable, with a curved piece that poked into the top of my chest right under my arm. After several weeks of increasingly sleepless nights, I ripped the #$%! thing off at 4 a.m. No more Dr Tommy.

Dr S reconfigured the brace, then ordered me a new one that felt better. But my arm wasn't healing. Dr S said it needed surgery, so he sent me to Dr M, an orthopedic surgeon. No surgery necessary, said Dr M; the arm was healing fine with the brace and new sling he gave me. (Sling #1 was polyester, which made me itch.)

Meanwhile, I could do almost nothing with my right hand, as the thumb and first two fingers didn't work. I couldn't pick up anything, or even push down the space bar on my laptop. (I was typing left-handed; lucky for me I have big hands and a little keyboard.) And my arm still hurt so much I couldn't even carry my car keys. (By late July I was driving again, exclusively left-handed--quite a challenge when I had to turn on the ignition, or shift into reverse, or fasten/unfasten my seat belt, or make a hard turn.)

On a fine day in early August, I went to vote. My neighborhood polling station was at the Denver Botanic Garden, which conveniently had free admission that day. So after I performed my civic duty, I wandered around the gardens. On doctor's orders, I'd stopped wearing the sling, but had a wide Ace bandage wrapped around my upper arm and chest, which gave me a dashing flapper bustline. By the time I was halfway through the grounds, I was in agony. My arm felt like it was falling apart and I had to cradle it against my side with my left hand. I called Dr M's office right then from my cell phone and the doctor on call told me to come in the next day.

Just a few days earlier, Dr M had looked at the newest X-ray of my arm and declared the break was healing fine. Dr S looked at the exact same image and said, "There's no union" (i.e., the bone was still in pieces). When I was seen by a colleague of Dr M's next morning, he echoed Dr S and set me up for surgery six days later. I was going to have a steel plate screwed to my humerus--which Dr S had been recommending for months. I don't remember if he was angelic enough not to say, "I told you so." I think I said it for him.

To be continued.

1 comment:

Eric Riback said...

The business about trying to send you home so fast is, aside from insurance company pressure, evidence of the compartmentalization of health care. You were in the multi-trauma unit and they had made sure you weren't going to die. After that, no concern of theirs and you're on your own. It was a combination of bureaucratic intertia and Dr B (neuropsych), helped by my wining perhaps, that kept you there.