Today marks 19 months since I underwent ankle fusion surgery, a procedure that is supposed to bring 8-20 years of relief for most people.
I am not most people.
My FULF* is an overachiever, proven by the 6-month post-surgery X-ray where additional traumatic arthritis was already visible. The surgeon was very surprised to see it. That was 13 months ago.
I wasn’t expecting a miracle. I had decided that if I had a 50% reduction in pain I would be happy, and I did get that 50%. Score! Unfortunately, the pain level has been creeping back up. The doctor told me to not wait as long to come in for help because it had been so bad last time. But at what point to I go in again? When I can no longer sleep at night because of pain? That’s what I did two years ago, because there is the rest of the family to think about, especially my husband (a.k.a., my live-in nurse) and any travel plans. The surgery itself takes significant recovery time — last time was around 11 weeks non-weightbearing, after which I used crutches and slowly added percentages of weight on that foot. There was a lot of time spent lying in bed with my foot in the air, trying to keep swelling down to allow the incision to heal. The scarring isn’t pretty and more surgery means even more scarring.
*FULF is a term coined by a blog friend who also has struggled with a “flubbed up left foot.” It’s more than just my left ankle and the traumatic arthritis brought on by the trimalleolar fracture of November 2015, although the ankle and resulting surgeries is the worst of it all. FULF encompasses everything that has been dealt with over the past 10+ years and I’m grateful to Barb for the easy moniker.
I’m not really sure how one writes about travel during a pandemic. For the most part, we are homebodies. Owning a camping trailer has enabled us to get out of the house and yet still have a home of our own during the summer; it’s the ultimate social distancing vehicle, complete with its own toilet. (Hallelujah!)
June was when the travel ban was finally lifted for Oregon State Parks. This happened in the middle of our long-ago planned trip to the beach, so our reservations were shortened from four nights to only two nights. Originally there were going to be other extended family members camping in adjacent sites, but in the end only SuperDad’s parents kept their reservations. Their campsite was across the road from ours. We took our oldest grandson on this trip and he had a great time despite the rain and wind on the beach (which was sparsely populated to our delight.) If you want a warm beach experience, don’t go camping in early June on the northern half of the Oregon Coast!
Since we nearly cancelled out on taking the 4-year-old camping on the coast (heavy rain was expected on the first day, iffy weather the rest of the time), we had quickly made make-up trip plans for the following week, which we kept since it was such a different trip. This time we had sunshine and warm weather in a full hook-up KOA site along the Snake River. Oma and Opa took turns keeping Little Foot occupied on land and water, and his family came out and joined us on the final afternoon/evening for little brother’s 2nd birthday celebration. (Now is probably a good time to explain that we have chosen this family as our “bubble” of 5 other people.)
We began July without reservations at a National Forest campground (no hookups) in the Idaho Panhandle. While I did a little ferrying of my mountain biking husband to his chosen trails (and picking him up from the trails he didn’t mean to take that left him 15 miles further down the scenic highway), I got in plenty of book reading while he played. We liked it so much we returned with a reservation 9 days later for another 3-night stint. (Three nights is just about perfect for camping without any way to plug in: my CPAP battery stays happy as long as I don’t try to use the vapor feature.) We plan to go again before the end of September since it is only an hour away and tends to be wonderfully quiet.
I spent the first part of August trying to find a place for our trailer that would be near where extended family was staying . Thanks to a friend from church and her connections, we were able to do so (I’ve never handed over $50/night so happily) despite everyone else in the region also trying to camp at the lake. We’d heard that RV sales had really picked up this year as so many people were trying to vacation during a pandemic. It’s all true: the campgrounds are full and the RV lots are looking sparse. I love our extended family and I need some personal space, especially when I’m one of the few who thinks we should wear face masks when playing card games at the indoor table. For three nights we ate suppers outside, spread out in the cabin yard in our folding chairs; in the afternoons we met at the local day-use swimming beach.
This was the trip where I learned that it is really difficult to attend Zoom meetings while camping. (Oops!) Later in August, some of those same family members rented a vacation home in NE Oregon while we had a site at Wallowa Lake State Park. We joined them for the tram ride up the mountain, suppers outside, and masked card games around the table inside. After 3 nights, they went home and we had 2 additional nights at our cozy campsite where the bucks entertained us during supper and cribbage tournaments.
The skies were beautifully clear (except for that first full day when we took the tram to the top of the mountain) and we could see Jupiter and Saturn each night through an opening in the tree canopy. By the time we got home again, it was September.
We stayed home for the big windstorm that whipped up fires across the region on Labor Day, but after assessing the situation, we decided to head out again and take our oldest grandson camping before it was actually fall weather. We chose a place close to where his great-grandmother had grown up. Little Foot enjoyed boating on the reservoir with Opa and roasting marshmallows for S’mores after dark. I thoroughly enjoyed staring up at the Milky Way each night. Oh, to escape completely from light pollution! This is one of the joys of camping.
We got home from that trip last Thursday, did minimal unpacking and then turned around and took a trip sans-trailer the next day. According to what was on the calendar, it was a 2-night trip; according to what I learned when we arrived 5 hours later, it was a 4-night trip. It’s probably a good thing I tend to over-pack! It’s also a good thing that I have people I can call on to check in on our cat (who was NOT happy with us about our long, unplanned absence). A few things about this particular trip:
We shared a house with some extended family members but had our own room. I hung out in there to read and rest instead of in the living room.
The smoke followed us inland and turned all but the first day into non-scenic drives (Guess who thought she could get pictures with the camera “tomorrow”?)
Wearing masks while sharing meals indoors isn’t really possible, and wildfire smoke makes it unhealthy to eat outdoors
I was uncomfortable with not wearing a mask around extended family who were previously not part of our “bubble.”
It’s been six full months since the pandemic shut everything down for us here. I’m weary of the continued battle over whether or not masks help (spoiler alert: they do). So now we are home for a bit and I am pretty much quarantining myself after having more exposure to maskless people and many others who were wearing their masks incorrectly than I ever intended to have during a pandemic. So many noses! I was wearing my own mask around them, so I should be relatively safe. As for our relatives with whom we spent time, they continue to be healthy and we are the young ones in the bunch. However, I definitely do not wish to be the one who exposes anyone else, known or unknown, to this virus. Seeing maskless people in Montana was unnerving for me. I’ve been able to control my environment for much of the past 6 months and being at the mercy of others, where I have to rely upon their own responses to this pandemic when I don’t think they are being as careful as I try to be, makes me uncomfortable.
I’m not perfect, and I realize that there are people who are much more careful than I am. By traveling at all, I am at greater risk than staying in my own house. However, by traveling with a trailer, I am bringing along nearly everything we need and limiting our exposure to others outside our household. Luckily, we can continue camping for a while — at least until the temperatures drop significantly.
Three years ago on this date, we had a rather eventful day — one that included photographs and a chauffeured ride to an airport, followed by a ride in a special plane. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
It wasn’t fun. SuperDad suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage that morning, tearing open a vein in his brain while doing CrossFit maneuvers. That earned him a trip to the ER, an ambulance ride to the airfield and a Life Flight ride in a small plane to a Seattle hospital. I recognize my privilege in being able to go with him. This photo was taken from my seat in the back of the plane; two medical personnel attended him during the flight. I prayed and prepared messages to send out when I could reconnect with data.
He’s never quite reached the level of fitness and endurance that he had prior to this event — a difficult comeback after spending 10 days in the hospital, especially when 8 of them were in the ICU, although age may have something to do with that. We are so lucky that he was able to completely recover, that the bleeding he had was from a vein instead of a blood clot in an artery, and that he didn’t suffer a stroke. We are also lucky to have excellent insurance because this was an event that could have ruined our finances.
It hardly seems possible… yet at the same time, it feels like he’s been an adult for a long time already. The Scout is 21 years old today.
He was born in the pre-dawn hours of July 23rd, weighing in at a whopping nine-and-a-half pounds. The staff in the delivery room passed him around and guessed before weighing him, and they all guessed too low. *I* wasn’t surprised since I’d just spent 15 minutes pushing that baby OUT of my body!
HAPPY 21st BIRTHDAY to my baby boy, the SnakeMaster, the Adventurer, the Eagle Scout!
The cat is curled up in my lap right now. She’s 17 years old and we recently discovered she is deaf. This might explain why, after years of being petrified of the vacuum, she now enjoys being vacuumed. The Barefooter is mowing the lawn — second mowing of the year — and the buzz of the electric machine is distinguishable to my ears but not by much. Like most people my age who blasted music through her earbuds at a younger juncture of life, I’ve got a bit of hearing loss, but the thrumming tinnitus has been non-stop for 3 weeks and counting. I’d developed a bad headache on Easter Sunday and while the pain abated after a week or so, I’m still “hearing underwater.” After my almost sleepless night of listening to the imaginary hum of airplanes and slow-moving locomotives, I’m envious of the cat’s ability to sleep when she is tired. (The inability to sleep was last night; now I can barely hold my eyes open!)
The annual Lilac Festival would normally be happening over these next few weeks; yesterday should have been the 12-km Bloomsday run. But nothing is normal during a pandemic. Bloomsday has been rescheduled from May 3rd to September 20th, but I don’t believe it will be possible for nearly 50,000 people to gather and run or walk, or even half that many. No one is willing to acknowledge how very much life has changed and will remain different for the foreseeable time.
Since becoming fully ambulatory, I’ve been back to aqua fitness classes at the YMCA. I can’t manage some of the moves because my left ankle is permanently at a 90-degree angle; things like squatting, standing on tiptoes, pointing toes, and jumping just don’t happen but I do what I can. And since walking is an exercise I enjoy, I’ve also been glad to have a modified shoe with a rocker-bottom that simulates the bending my ankle cannot accomplish. My neighbor saw me walking today and was surprised to see that I wasn’t limping. I guess the shoe works!
At aqua fitness yesterday, a few of us asked the instructor about additional ways to strengthen our cores. She then modeled several and we tried them out. Apparently I was too enthusiastic with one of them because by the time I had showered and dressed after the class ended, my back was sending pain messages — the kind of pain messages that increased from the parking lot to my own garage. Thankfully, I had a current Rx for a muscle relaxer (ankle fusion and leg spasms are a fun mix); a single pill plus two glasses of water and an ice pack later, I was no longer quite so bad off — at least as long as the medication was still working. Bedtime routine included additional fluids (not just water), 1000mg of Tylenol and a Benedryl to help me fall asleep.
Today was a rest day, but I can carefully bend over to put on socks and shoes so I took a walk through the neighborhood. Tomorrow I plan to gingerly return to the pool, taking care to not strain or pull that back muscle again. Yeowch!
I think I know what maneuver did me the disservice of pulling a muscle, so I’ll be avoiding that one.
The writing bug appeared to have moved out and left me to my own devices — and apparently my own devices involve ignoring my blog. Sorry about that (she says in a Canadian accent).
So let’s see: when I last visited with you, The Scout was still hiking– he’s home now. I don’t want to reveal too much for those who will be getting the Christmas letter (you know, the one that hasn’t been written yet), but he hiked about 1,500 miles before deciding he “was good with that” and came home via Greyhound. His 3+ year headache had gone away! Wonderful! Unfortunately, it returned in early November along with the return of decreased brain function the following week. As I type this out, he’s having a difficult day. So we’re back to square one, making appointments with neurology.
Humorous-Juniorous joined the Air Force and spent summer and autumn at Officer Training School. It was such a good course, he did it twice. (He’s very lucky.) We flew down to the southland twice as well: the first time to hit up most of the Civil Rights memorials and museums, and the second time for graduation. SuperDad commissioned him as a brand-new 2d Lt. just last week. Since then, H-J has been spending time on airplanes, getting a flight physical, and reporting to his new duty station. He should be home for Christmas.
The Barefooter has been working for the US Forest Service but that temporary job will soon run out of hours. He likes it well enough — he’s getting paid to walk through the woods (with a vest filled with paint cartridges and measuring equipment in order to mark trees for thinning) — and his schedule has been 2 weeks of steady, daily work in a distant location followed by a week at home. He’s been sent to a variety of places: South Dakota, Colorado, Oregon, and Arkansas.
It’s been six months + 2 weeks since my ankle fusion. The procedure worked very well and seems to have cut my pain by about 50% which is the best outcome I had been able to expect, so I’m pleased with it. Unfortunately, I’m already developing arthritis in the first two foot joints downrange from the fused ankle joint. This is to be expected over time (8-20 years) but I might be an overachiever who is going for the “under a decade” mark before those joints also need fusing. Still… I’ve been able to withstand doing more each day that I could during the past year. My goal is to spend 1.5 to 2 hours in the therapy (exercise) pool, three times each week. That time is more beneficial and enjoyable than sitting for hours on airplanes.
Five days from right now is Christmas Eve, filled with family and church, candles and choir, excited children and tired adults. Hopefully we’ll get the traditional family picture taken while we’re dressed up and looking spiffy. I might have already written the Christmas letter and sent it out early if we’d managed to get that picture taken after my dad’s memorial service in May (but who am I kidding? — I still wouldn’t have those envelopes addressed). Per usual, I am not ready for Christmas. Also per usual, Christmas is coming whether I am ready or not!
May your holidays be sweet and filled with love, and may your time management skills fly high above my own!
It’s been nine weeks since ankle fusion surgery. Unlike my searching at this point after the original ankle repair surgery, I have been unable to find any blog posts from others about this fun experience. I did find some trusted medical sites that gave much of the same information I already knew along with some research that tells me that in approximately 20 years time, I will likely be suffering from severe arthritis in my foot because the pressure relieved by fusing the ankle will be transferred to other places. Oh, joy. And also? Oh, well! I put this surgery off for as long as I could, and here I am — basically in less pain now than I was prior to surgery, despite not being able to walk. I’m hopeful, in a desperate sort of way, that this really-and-truly works. I needit to work.
Little Foot and Chomper
Our oldest son and his little family came to visit on Tuesday night. The mama and daddy went to see Les Miserables while Oma and Opa babysat. We are so blessed to have them less than 80 miles away, and we had a terrific time with the kiddos (and their parents on Wednesday morning). The Engineer‘s company had purchased the tickets nearly a year ago, so they had really good seats.
The Barefooter has been working 15 days on, 6 days off for the US Forest Service as a timber cruiser (not barefoot). We only see him when he comes home for his time off and Colorado has been keeping him busy, so I don’t have a photo to share. He was home for the week of his next-in-line brother’s last week here, which was nice for both of them.
Humorous-Juniorous began his USAF career last week and is currently in Alabama for Officer Training School (OTS). He has been able to send us a few e-mail messages to let us know things are going well.
The Scout, who is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, southbound (PCT, SoBo) has completed the Washington State section and is well into Oregon by now. He called us last Friday from Cascade Locks and met up with extended family near Timberline Lodge. Hooray for safety, family, food, shower, and clean clothes!
Basically, our family has become a far-flung entity while I’ve been stuck at home. I know the latter is only temporary and the former is perfectly normal. And yet… Facebook memories keep popping of from 10 years ago when we all lived together. They were so cute and young and living at home then! But birdies grow up and fly away from the nest, don’t they?
While I’ve been sidelined with ankle repairs, SuperDad has been taking care of everything around the house and still occasionally getting out to do fun things. This past weekend was a big outdoors festival, so he hopped on his bike and put in a good 15 miles or more getting out there (and back) to check it out. Luckily, he took some pictures and videos to share with me.
The riders are not small children, but older teens and young adults who are hoping to turn professional (or in some cases already are well on their way to becoming pros). SuperDad enjoyed watching but decided to not spend money or riding some of the demo bikes. He still does a bit of mountain biking — nothing this crazy, but enough to take the bike along when we travel with the trailer.
SuperDad took multiple short video clips and I had planned to share some with you, especially one that made me grin because it had one of the riders audibly exclaiming “Ouch!” upon landing, but Vimeo is no longer a free service. Technology can be frustrating. You’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that the jump was over six feet in height and the riders were at least 20 feet in the air with each jump.
You can try to see if this link works — please let me know!