…two somethings, in fact.
After waiting a week after my fall I didn’t see any decrease in the swelling on both feet or my right knee, and the pain didn’t lessen either, so I went to the hospital for xrays on 5 July. Result: a cracked metatarsal (long bone) in my left foot and a broken right patella (knee cap).
I was immediately admitted as the patella would need to be wired together. The left foot didn’t need surgery and was put into a “moon boot” that cushions and stabilises the foot, and it also serves as a walking boot.
The orthopaedic surgeon, Dr E, scheduled me for theatre on 7 July as, given my Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), he needed me to be checked out by a neurologist and a specialist physician on 6 July before he would proceed with surgery. Both specialists who had attended to me when I was in ICU three years ago were on holiday, so two new specialists saw me and gave the go-ahead.
The anaesthetist, Dr F, checked me out too and I notified him that I had signed a “Do Not Resuscitate” form. He was taken aback by this but I explained that I had already cheated death once and didn’t want to be resuscitated again only to left in a vegetative state. That wouldn’t be fair to my family. I told him that anaesthetics generally produce three side-effects in me: hypotension (low blood pressuee), hypothermia (low body temperature) and crying. I don’t know why I’ve cried after previous anaesthetics as it wasn’t due to pain. He didn’t appear surprised and just smiled and said “Oh, you’re one of those!”. He also assured me that he’d make sure that I would be safe.
When I got to theatre the Bear Patient Warmer system was waiting for me. I know of this equipment because I worked for the company that supplies it. The heat makes you feel as if you’re enveloped in a warm cloud. Lovely! Needless to say, I sailed through the op. When I woke up in post-op my brain was clear, I was warm, and had no urge to cry. The first thing I did, however, was check whether my hands and arms were still mobile. They were, but my body felt weak and my knee was very sore.
My leg was in a full-length telescoping brace, with the knee-lock set to zero degrees flexion. One hour after returning to the ward a physiotherapist arrived and I had to stand up and walk! It was difficult because my strong right knee couldn’t do any work and the weak left knee was weaker after its one week of inactivity. With the physio on one side and a nurse on the other, I eventually stood up and staggered about two metres while holding onto a walking frame.
Dr F saw me that night, said the op had been successful and I could go home the next day if I felt well enough. The brace had to stay at zero deg for two weeks, after which he would bend the knee to 30 deg for two weeks, and then to 60 deg for the last two weeks.
Getting into the car to go home was a challenge. I have long legs so sitting in the front passender seat was impossible. Not being able to walk backwards or bend my right knee meant that I had to slide forwards from the wheelchair onto the back seat – no mean feat as there isn’t anything to hold on to in order to do any self-sliding. Never have I been more grateful for a transfer board; it formed a bridge between the wheelchair and back seat. One person lifted and slid me forward on the board while another, inside the car, lifted and pulled my legs. Success! Getting out at home was much easier.
Having to keep my feet up all the time is uncomfortable. The pain medication gave me added problems so I had to give them up and tough it out through the pain as over-the-counter medicine was ineffectual. My emotional state at home during the first two weeks waxed between resignation and frustration. On days of extreme frustration, caused by the enforced immobility and increased sense of loss of independence, I felt utterly hopeless and wept, wanting my old life back.
I have, since, pulled myself together. Again. I’m halfway through recovery and will start rehab in three weeks’ time. Dr E adjusted the brace for the first time last Friday and the second adjustment will be done next Friday. I can now easily bend my knee within the 0-30 deg range and the left foot is also pain-free.
My recovery from GBS may seem to be two steps forward and one step back, but every step now has to be forwards, not backwards or sideways.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. – Buddha