The post that got away…

On Monday, December 21, I was busily writing and thinking when I was interrupted to do something or other. It possibly was related to mystery of the missing blanket, or perhaps it was because the resident teen needed to attend to his online Spanish classwork. Regardless of the reason, I was separated from my electronic appendage and this post was left unpublished.
Fast forward to the following Monday, when it was snowing (again) and yet again, my plans to blog were thwarted — this time by the opportunity to hold a sweet baby.  Nine days have passed but this entry carries the transition from constant bedrest to life beyond my four walls — and a really sweet photo of a certain grandson (taken by his mother) — so I’m posting it now.  It’s old news but still a part of the journey to healing. Plus baby picture!
So here it is, dated 21 December 2015:


It has snowed much of today and the sky is pink tonight, with city lights bouncing off the clouds. When I was a child, a pink sky at night meant fresh snow.
The Northern Lights were visible over the weekend but I missed them; in fact, I didn’t even know about them until I saw the pictures on facebook the next day. I might live in a cave.

I had several outings over the weekend: the teenager’s band concert on Thursday evening, a Christmas party at a friend’s home (where I had to hop up the front steps, one at a time, on my “good foot”) and my first trip back to church.  By Sunday noon, I was exhausted and back on a 5-hour schedule of pain medications, with my foot elevated for swelling.
I guess you can say it has been two steps forward, one step back, but that step backward is really very frustrating.

I either hop on one foot behind a walker, which is what I do at home (safer for me than crutches, at least in my mind) or I transport with a wheelchair (how I get around away from home). The orthopaedic wheelchairs are too wide for some doorways thanks to those very helpful raised leg attachments. We got into the church yesterday but then I had to hold onto the railing and wall, and hop one-footed down a wheelchair ramp into the sanctuary because an inner doorway was too narrow. (It’s wide enough for a regular wheelchair). I am easily exhausted by such activity. With my boot off for some stretching exercises in the afternoon, I noticed that my left calve muscle is flaccid. That’s going to be a long recovery. *sigh*

Tomorrow we are getting a break in the weather, so that is when the Engineer, the Author, and Little Foot will be traveling to stay with us for a week and a half. In getting their room ready, I had H-J get out the port-a-crib to wipe it down with disinfectant and set it up.  Unfortunately, that is when we discovered that it had all of the accessories for a port-a-crib (changing station/ bassinet, canopy, etc.) but not the actual port-a-crib! This is totally my own mistake; my SIL had found/picked up these supplies for us and I mistakenly thought it included everything, despite her telling me what was really there. A quick text message let them know, and they are bringing the Moses basket this time. We do have (and by we, I mean my husband and his helpers) the changing table/ dresser set up, and the infant swing is ready if needed.  The Barefooter stripped the guest bed, washed and dried the sheets, and remade the bed for me, but it doesn’t look quite right.  So tomorrow I’ll settle into the wheelchair and roll in to “assist” his efforts in prepping the room. This will involve finding where the missing blankets have gone to and replacing them.

I am now in a “walking boot” but it will be at least 3 weeks before any weight from my foot is put on the ground. The boot is simply there to protect my foot/ankle and to attempt to keep my foot in neutral position. (it’s not there yet at all, and I’m battling plantarflexion).  I no longer panic when released from the boot for exercises — and by exercises, I mean extremely gentle stretching toward dorsiflexion plus some pitiful “alphabet” rotations — but I certainly feel much safer when my entire foot and lower leg are ensconced in the boot.

I’m hoping that holding my grandson will take my mind off of my pain. It’s certainly worth a try!

Christmas photo!, cropped for xmas letter


Relating to Pain

Five things I’m discovering about myself and pain:

  1. I used to think I was a pain wimp, but the truth is that I have been living with a certain amount of foot pain for more than a decade, and I now find myself living steadily in zone 4  with regular peak between 6 and 8. I ought to have designed my own pain chart prior to yesterday as it would have been quite useful over the past 5 weeks.
  2. Sometimes my motto of “better living through chemicals” has problems, such as when I am no longer allowed to take a certain needed medication, or when one medication reduces the effects of another and/or has side effects of its own that make daily living more challenging.
  3. I’m getting used to blurry vision (and occasionally double vision), but it has become apparent that one of the side effects of Dilaudid is an amazing ability to burst into tears at just about anything — especially annoyances and frustrations. There are quite a few annoyances and frustrations in my life right now.
  4. There is a hazy no-man’s-land between the need for pain medication and the desire to not take narcotics for the relief of pain. While I have spent much of the past 10 years on significant amounts of anti-inflammatories (e.g., 800-2,400 mg per day of Ibuprofen — usually closer to the minimum but occasionally the maximum), I have rarely worried or reconsidered the ramifications of ingesting all of those chemicals. Yes, I know they can truly mess with your digestive system, especially at those high levels of doctor-approved dosage, but the pain relief has been worth it for my toe, feet, and knees. However, as I find myself in need for much stronger pain medications that include narcotics with nasty side effects, I struggle to find the place where I can live with the pain. (See number 3, above, and also consider nausea, possible addiction, and the sad scenario where the longer you take them, the more you need to get relief from pain at the same exact time when you should start weaning off the damn things which truly is a twisted bit of cruelty here.)  My surgeon has already broached the subject of beginning to wean off the Dilaudid, although he was purposefully hazy on the details of when and how, or what might take its place. Not being allowed to take my usual anti-inflammatory drugs (Who knew that Ibuprofen interferes with bone growth? Not me!) leaves me in two types of pain: stiff, aching knees from osteoarthritis and stabby waves of pain emanating from my left ankle. And that is while I’m still taking the Dilaudid!
  5. Despite all of the above — or possibly because of all of the above — I find myself constantly apologizing to my husband for having to take care of me. One friend shared this wisdom: that we are raised from birth to become independent and not need the assistance of others to perform basic, daily tasks. The situation in which I find myself now causes me to rely upon others — particularly my life partner — for such basic needs as food, cleanliness (assistance in and out of shower, clean clothes provided), transportation (I cannot drive now and need assistance just to get in and out of a wheelchair). I cannot safely reach to open and close the window coverings, or cook, or insert a DVD into the machine to watch a movie (although that one might be because of our particular set-up here). Also beyond my capabilities are things like watering houseplants and making a pot of coffee; heck, I can’t carry a cup of coffee! It is painful to recognize that I am really quite helpless at this point in time. So I’m here juggling all sorts of feelings (gratitude, sorrow, frustration, loneliness, thankfulness, helplessness) along with physical pain, all while trying to keep a cheerful countenance so that my family does not keep their distance in fear of being yelled at or chastised. So far, so good.

My Personal Pain Scale


One of the things I hate about visiting the doctor is having to answer the question, “On a scale of 1-10, what is your pain level right now?”
If I am in pain, I’m trying to not think about how bad it is — I’m trying to ignore it so that it doesn’t feel worse!  The little smiley faces do nothing for me.  There are only two charts I have ever appreciated and neither of them are in use at any clinic or hospital I have visited: one was created by Allie Brosch of Hyperbole and a Half, and the other I found somewhere on the internet and downloaded for my own use:


With apologies to whomever created this chart — I can’t find the source now or I would give you full credit. 

However, since I don’t think the medical staff will, as a whole, embrace Allie Brosch’s chart and since I don’t have a great fear of bees, I find it necessary to create my own pain scale. This is much closer to what the doctor or nurse will observe when looking at and questioning me:

  1. I might need a band-aid.
  2. It’s annoying but I can live with it.
  3. It’s annoying and I’d like you to fix it.
  4. Please give me pain medication.
  5. Pain meds now, please!
  6. I am trying really hard to not cry or bite off your head. If I am not doing those two things right now, it’s only being accomplished by sheer will of pride.
  7. I’m not playing nice anymore. Take care of me! Can’t you see my ugly cry face?
  8. I can’t stop crying. Just fix me. Don’t ask me to make decisions.
  9. My needs are the only ones in the world.
  10. My pain level is equivalent to the very worst of labor and/or possibly death. I have experience with the former and I hope this isn’t the latter… or maybe it is and it’s all your fault!

This week’s adventures

  1. I stayed home from church again on Sunday (week number 4, if anyone is counting — and I am) because I am still on bed rest for my ankle. The stranded turtle position is getting really old, ankle above heart, etc., etc.
  2. On Sunday evening, my oldest son called me to say there were admitted to the hospital. I knew it was too soon for us to leave, so I asked him to call back with an update in a few hours. Then we went to sleep. He called again at 2am, and SuperDad and I got up and loaded ourselves into the car, arriving at the hospital around 4am.
  3. Our grandson was born at 11:10am on Monday. I am so in love with this little person!  So far, he has many qualities in common with his daddy (being an easy baby is one of them) and I adore watching his parents fall head over heals in love with him and again with each other. It’s truly awesome.
    Fifteen hours after leaving home, SD and I returned and I promptly went back to my obedient position, with my left ankle propped up higher than my nose (and heart). I also promptly fell asleep, because after 3.5 weeks of pain and rest, I don’t have my usual stamina.

    DSCN7060  grandparents websized

    Little Foot and his smitten grandparents

  4. On Tuesday morning, my orthopaedic surgeon gave me a thorough chewing-out over my choices made on Monday. He was able to remove most of my stitches, but there was still some swelling on my ankle and a few inches of the incision had not yet closed. Despite his lecture (which was his job, and which did make me cry) I would make the same choices all over again. It was my heart’s desire to be there for the labor and birth of my first grandchild, and with the blessing of the baby’s parents, I was there at the hospital.  You only become a grandparent for the first time once.
  5. So I’m still here, still in stranded turtle position 2 weeks post-surgery. I’m thoroughly bored. My brain feels like it is atrophying thanks to the pain medication. I’ve tried to go longer between doses, and we have lengthened the schedule a little bit, but eventually I give in — because who wants to live in constant level 5+ pain? (The pain starts as something that feels like pressure against both sides of my ankle which I can live with, eventually squeezing all around. But then I get grouchy and tearful. It’s quite the fun cycle.)

BONUS:  I’ve updated the Cast of Characters, up there on the top bar below the header picture. A few names have changed to reflect current trends and occupations.

Surgery side-effects

My foot came to Thanksgiving dinner,4x6 websized

After the dishes were cleared from our Thanksgiving dinner.

My oldest son and his lovely wife visited for Thanksgiving, daring to be overnight with us, 80 miles away from their birthing hospital. My DIL is rather talented and drew this face on the bottom of my cast:

TWINS artwork on cast by DIL, teen minus glasses as model

Twins!  The teenager might have been the artist’s inspiration.

Pain is mostly under control here. I had a “wound check” today and then a new cast put on my ankle. Started having an anxiety attack, complete with racing heart, nausea, dizziness, and shallow, rapid breathing (a new, not-fun experience for me!) as the post-surgery cast was being removed. It turns out part of the problem was that it was time for my next dosage of pain meds, so I was having pain & anxiety at the same time. Oh, joy.* But we got through that.
The incisions are healing nicely — better than I thought they would look! Big, fat, “beefy” puckers but no nasty drainage. I’ve got one on each side of my left ankle, each approximately 5 inches long. I had SuperDad take a picture of one side, so if you want to see it, just ask. It just looks like a normal fresh scar, post surgery. No dead/dying skin, which the surgeon had been concerned about, so that’s good news.
My dh has been a most excellent caregiver. He sets a timer/alarm on his phone for my medication and uses it 24-hours a day. Since I’m now down to every 3 hours (was every 2 hours over the holiday weekend) we are both getting better sleep at night — until that alarm goes off!
One side effect of being on what is basically mandatory bed-rest is that my backside gets a little sore. I noticed my right hip area becoming numb on Sunday night so I’ve been working on keeping some feeling going to it (I must be pressing against a blood vessel or something). Yesterday I moved ever so slightly and it felt like a lightning bolt shot into my right hip joint. Yikes! So while that area is battling numbness, the nerve works just fine!
I’ve also been having some fuzziness and double-vision, which is another side effect of the Dilaudid. I became fully aware of it on Monday evening when I was working on the bulletin on my laptop. The Mayo Clinic website says to tell your doctor right away… so we told him when we saw him today. Guess what? An orthopaedic surgeon knows nothing about medications and their side effects. He seemed to wonder why I was even telling him about it. That shouldn’t surprise me — I discovered 3 years ago that surgeons do one thing: CUT. And I am happy enough that he did a very good job repairing my very broken ankle. I can live with temporary fuzziness and double-vision, because the pain meds are otherwise doing their job well. Hopefully those who are getting written communication from me via blog posts, facebook, e-mail, and texts can read through my spelling and predictive text errors.
I haven’t yet been set free from the 24/7 elevation rule (ankle higher than my nose and heart). I hope that next week I will be given several hours a day off from this position.
DSCN2305  Top of cast, wine glass

Look! I have a glass of wine! My dear, sweet DIL drew a wine glass for me to carry along wherever I go, which mostly meant that I could lay on my back in bed with a glass of wine. (The face shown in the other picture is on the “bottom” of my cast/foot.)



Sadly, those fun drawings are now gone, since my ankle was re-cast today. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted, and the people who saw me being pushed in a wheelchair into/through the clinic building got a smile out of it.

Grandbaby #1 has his due date today, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to make an appearance yet. For this, I am glad — I am not in a position to ride 90 minutes to the hospital, and yet the zombie apocalypse couldn’t keep me away. The good camera has a charged battery and is ready to go when we get the call.
After the trauma of my morning (I confess to downplaying the experience in an earlier * paragraph) I was very glad to be back in stranded turtle position on my bed again this afternoon. Apparently, the entire injury/surgery/recovery process is taking a lot out of me. I didn’t even discover that I had my underwear on inside-out until a few minutes ago (although I did wonder why it felt strange). Being here in my little nest feels safe — no one touching my foot or ankle or jostling me around — even if the nerves in my hip continue to shriek whenever they are pinched.
Have you ever had an anxiety attack, or had a loved one who struggled with anxiety?