Nine Weeks and More

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 need it to work.

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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. Air Force, Tom

 

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.   

 

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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?

Handsome 4

 

Three Years Later

As I write this, it’s been 3 years and 3 hours since The Scout fell 23 feet from a broken branch to the hard ground beneath. Miraculously, he wasn’t killed instantly and while we don’t know if he only blacked out from having the wind knocked out of him or if he was unconscious for more than that brief time, he did manage to get up and walk home with great effort.  His back held the greatest pain felt at first, but the wicked headache made itself known within 36 hours; with no other name to give it, his symptoms have been labeled as post-concussion syndrome and he lives with chronic headache untouched by medication (we tried) somewhere around a level of 4 out of 10 on the pain scale (on a good day).  He graduated from high school more than a year ago and we are grateful that we did not have to fight for appropriate accommodations — a stellar scholastic reputation prior to his injury and compassionate staff made a big difference. Since then he has worked part-time, spending the best hours he can give to his employer during the busy season and enjoying occasional good days with family and friends. But like all of us, he wanted something more; unlike many of us, The Scout has made that something more happen.

Hart's Pass

Last week he began hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. 

His first 30 miles were spent hiking north to the Canadian border — the northern terminus of the PCT — and from there he turned around and headed south. If all goes well, he plans to hike all the way to the southern terminus of the PCT at the Mexican border.

It’s been a while…

…so why not a Ten on Tuesday post?

  1. Dad died at the end of March. In April we took our already-planned trip to Tucson, which felt odd because we weren’t there to visit him anymore.  SuperDad and I, along with my younger brother and his wife, were at the assisted living facility for a small celebration of life (which was very nice) with the residents and staff.
  2. All 9 of us were here for Easter. The Barefooter and I sang with the choir (it was my last hurrah with them for a while because of travel plans when I am actually able to travel again).
  3. Little Foot stayed with us the week after Easter while his Mama and baby brother, Chomper, returned home for the week and Daddy went on a business trip.  We love having him with us and he had a great time burning through the energy reserves of every single adult in the house.  Little Foot, Oma, and Opa shared their first night of sleeping in the trailer. He loved it!
  4. The Barefooter was briefly in the news for his determination to run the annual 12km race in his usual form: barefoot. He’s run it 5 times in the past 6 years, always barefoot.
  5. I enjoyed my annual K2A weekend with two friends in an area with a lot of wineries. We’re slowing down and making it to fewer wineries in our advancing ages (ha!) but still had a great time together. Another friend joined us on Saturday which was a real treat.
  6. Dad’s memorial service was a weekend filled with family. The celebration of life was held at the church where I grew up and most of us stayed in one house together. Had everyone slept in that house, there would have been 20 of us! Those 20 people are my dad’s children, their offspring, and spouses. The weather was perfect: not too hot, not too rainy. Bonus: we all still like each other.
  7. After another 5 days at home, SuperDad and I left on our first big trek with the trailer. We spent 8 nights camping (9 days on the road).  Success! It was also quite the learning experience. Have you ever tried to back a truck and trailer? Pull-through sites are much easier than back-in sites.
    Bella and Beast, Olympic Peninsula, May 2019
  8. We returned home on Sunday, June 2nd. After helping to unload the trailer on Sunday afternoon/evening, I had a pain day on Monday — meaning I got very, very little done.
  9. Ankle fusion surgery was on June 5th. The surgery itself lasted about an hour and a half; we were home before noon. Since then I’ve been confined to lying on the top of my bed, ankle elevated, with the exception of using the bathroom (that is accomplished by holding onto a walker and hopping with my “good” foot).  On Thursday morning I have an appointment to (hopefully) remove stitches and get a new cast. My skin looks forward to 15 minutes of air time.
  10. There are a lot of changes happening for the young adults living in our house, but they deserve a post of their own. Of course, blogging about family members includes considering what is mine to tell vs. what is their own stories.

Ankle surgery, take 2

ankle fusion surgery

Twelve days ago I had ankle fusion surgery, adding to the long saga of my trimalleolar fracture back in November of 2015. When I finally took myself to a new orthopedic doctor last fall, I was told the metal in my ankle was perfectly wonderful, doing its job, and was likely only 15% of my pain. That was the good news; the bad news was that my cartilage in my ankle was basically destroyed and the pain was from bone-on-bone rubbing… scraping… grinding…

So! I’m spending the minimum 2 weeks with this view (above and below) and the rest of the summer off my foot/ankle/lower leg. Once released from constantly elevating my ankle I have a knee scooter to use, along with my trusty yard sale walker and an old wheelchair. But no walking allowed for three months! Let’s get this ankle thoroughly fused and let go of some chronic pain, shall we?

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This is my bullet journal

  1. Three years ago today was when I misstepped, broke my ankle three different ways, and propelled myself into a new trajectory of life.  So… crappy breakiversary to me!
  2. I noticed new/different pain about 7 months into my metal-infused life, so I called the clinic. My surgeon had moved; his replacement told me it was too soon to do anything about removing metal (true) and the placement of all pins, plates, and screws was still in perfect form. The proof was in the X-ray. Tramadol is not my friend, so I was left with tears of frustration and chronic pain.
  3. I saw a new orthopedic doctor a few weeks ago. It wasn’t just my imagination that the pain was getting worse! While the metal is still in perfect form (kudos to Dr. M), the cartilage above my heel is nearly useless now, and I have a large bone spur on the front of my ankle.  The new X-ray isn’t pretty so I’ll leave it to your imagination.  Since it’s too soon (according to Dr. B) to talk ankle replacement, I’ve been cast for a serious ankle brace.
  4. Dr. B told me the metal was only about 15% of my pain; the rest is being caused by the grinding of the bones together. I’m trusting that he’s right about this and that the ankle brace will bring about relief by holding things in place.
  5. I’m obviously now a woman of a certain age and at least half of my topics of conversation are about health concerns.  If you take cholesterol medication, that can raise your blood sugar readings, which might then take you from pre- or borderline diabetes into Type 2.  And if you are stressed in the clinic, your blood pressure will be elevated; if you take BP readings at home with a smaller-than-you-need cuff, you will get false high readings, and then you end up on BP medication as well. Or maybe they’re not so false because this chronic pain is pretty stressful.  It’s the middle aged version of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.
  6.  I’ve been trying out a new class at the YMCA.  They use some of the same exercises but it takes place in the lap pool instead of the therapy (warm, 4′ deep) pool. In this new-to-me class, we strap on pool jogging belts and utilize deep water. Standing on a pool noodle in 10 feet of water as if it was a skateboard is a balancing act I can barely manage. I’m getting a better (harder) workout but my ankle is pretty much DONE for the day after this class.  Leaving my job was supposed to get me to the pool more often, and that does seem to be showing success.
  7. October was my first month of being retired (or should I just say “not working”?) but I kept quite busy.  I started the month with a 4-day crafting retreat up north, then had one day at home to do laundry and pack before SuperDad and I drove off for a 2-week trip by ourselves. We visited misty geysers at Yellowstone National Park in the cold for a few days, then headed for Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park. The weather there was sunny and cold during the daytime; the skies at night were amazing with a visible Milky Way.  I had thought my tent camping days were behind me, but I was wrong. (For trailer news, check out this previous post.)
    The rest of the trip was warmer: we spent several days in Tucson to visit my dad before driving home via Las Vegas. It was really nice to not be in a big hurry to drive home before school started back up; my pain level ratchets up during long car rides despite keeping my ankle elevated, so an 11-hour drive in one day is excruciating.
  8. Las Vegas is much more enjoyable on a Thursday evening without impressionable children than it was on a Friday evening during spring break with the kids! Or perhaps The Strip has tamed down a bit?  We don’t gamble, so this was all about seeing the lights and some of the amazing scenes. Walking through the Venetian, it’s easy to forget you are indoors.  We stayed in a simple place about a 10-minute walk off The Strip so it was fairly quiet.
  9. The annual quilting retreat closed out October and brought me into November. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I had hoped, since I had to take regular breaks to elevate my foot/ankle, but I am close to being done with the quilt for Chomper. Next up: squaring (trimming) the sides and sewing on the binding. I’ll be able to finish it before Christmas.
  10. One of the things I’ve discovered about not going to work most days of the week is that I am often clueless when it comes to knowing what day it is! When I was a SAHM, I knew each day because it was my job to know it; the kids had activities and school buses to catch, and SuperDad had long hours being gone for work. With us both at home and 3 young men coming and going all the time, I lose track of days of the week — at least Monday through Friday. One thing I do know is that Thanksgiving Day here in the USA is coming up in another week. By not fighting pain brain while working, I’ve actually managed to plan the menu, contact those coming to divvy up some of the food assignments, and make a shopping list! This might not seem like a big deal but I recall last year when I had no brain power left for such things.

Birds and Burns

There’s a mama and baby turkey hanging out in our neighborhood these days, and by neighborhood I mean they mostly seem to be hanging out in our yard — front, back, peering in the windows, basically whatever they feel like doing.

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The first time I looked out the window at the mama turkey looking in at me was a bit startling but we’re getting used to seeing them daily now that it’s been about a month. Junior has grown quite a bit since I took these photos. My DIL who loves birds and majored in animal science tells me that turkeys normally have about 5 eggs to hatch, so we don’t know what happened to Junior’s siblings.

As I’ve written before — several times — we have a small wilderness park behind our home. Every year around the 4th of July I get a little tense, worrying about wildfires due to fools and fireworks. Well, this year it happened, more than a week after the holiday, and we’re lucky the fire department arrived quickly. (Personally, we’re lucky it happened on the other end of the street and the wind wasn’t blowing our direction so we didn’t even have to breathe the smoke.) The fire came close to several houses but only one is having to replace siding that melted in the heat of burning trees.

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It could have been so much worse.

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And nature is resilient.

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May all of those who are so terribly affected by the [much, MUCH WORSE] wildfires in other places be shown grace, hope, mercy, and respite from the anxious worries that now consume their thoughts and lives.

 

 

 

 

Two Years Later

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Two years ago on July 3rd, sometime around 6:00 in the evening, The Scout was climbing a tree when some branches broke. He fell twenty-three feet to the ground, landing on his back.

He was alone.

He got up and after several attempts, managed to walk home, grab an ice pack and lay down on the sofa.  He was rather stoic but clearly in pain.  The Barefooter went back to the site of the accident and retrieved his glasses for him.

The CT scans have been clear (no bleeding) and visits with neurology and physical therapy have made very little difference. He has seen an osteopath. He has a new neurologist.

Eagle Scout

The Scout graduated from high school last month, miraculously earning A’s and B’s from the few classes he could manage. We are grateful for his 504 Accommodation and the support and understanding from the school staff, teachers and counselor.  Graduation and finally earning his Eagle Scout rank have been highlights of the past year.

This young man does not give up. He does not complain. He would rather be busy and doing something rather than sitting around waiting to feel better. He persisted in looking for a part-time job and spent the last weeks of high school doing both school and work.

WEBSIZED 5x7 brick pic The Scout

This young man wrote a short story for my Mother’s Day gift this year.  With one of his first paychecks, he purchased a nice steak as a Father’s Day gift.  This is who he is. Even without these gifts, we are so grateful to have our son with us.  He’ll be turning 19 years old in a few short weeks.
We keep hoping and praying for positive change and full recovery.

 

We still cling to hope.

It’s prom season.
In fact, tonight is prom for my youngest son’s high school.
He’s not going.
He’s not into loud crowds or loud music or pop culture, but none of his brothers have been either, and two out of three of them did attend prom.  I don’t know if he would have gone had he not fallen out of that tree.

It’s also the season for announcements of which university the high school graduates are heading off to in the fall.  I’ve seen multiple pictures of my friends’ high school seniors proudly holding their acceptance letters and wearing their new college t-shirts. I get a little jealous pang but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy for them. I truly am pleased for the parents and the students.
My youngest son will graduate (thanks to his IEP and his hard work) and he plans to attend the local community college in September. We are still hoping that by the time he has two years of CC under his belt, he will be recovered enough to go on to a full university.  But there are no promises. I know it, his dad knows it, and I’m pretty sure he knows it.

We still cling to hope.

I have to keep reminding myself that we are so very lucky to have him as whole as he is, despite the constant headache and the times his brain refuses to function properly for him.
Dear God, I am grateful.
At the same time, though, I sometimes grieve for what he has lost.

DSCN5773 bleeding HEARTs

This is the air I breathe…

Smoky everything, low res pic

SuperDad told me that he has hazy vision. Despite the knowledge that his vision is still a little wonky (hopefully from the pain medications he is taking), I knew that he was talking about looking out the window this morning. We cannot see far in this smoke-filled air. My drive to work includes a vista of downtown but today there were no buildings to be seen, only gray-white nothingness obscuring the horizon.  During the day there is a yellowish diffused light, more yellow than our 9.6% sunshine during the eclipse but fairly close to the strength of light we had at the height of it.

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Looking up at the sun through smoky skies

For an hour or two after sunrise and the hour or two before sunset, the lighting hue is pinkish-orange.

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“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” reddish-pink sunrise, compliments of the fires all over the Pacific Northwest

Our air quality index last night was a horrifying 303 = Hazardous. Today it was hovering at around 245 = Very Unhealthy.  Everyone who ventures outdoors has a sore throat, and disposable masks are seen on people behind steering wheels or walking; I saw the mailman wearing one when I looked out my window at work.

And yes, I went back to work today. SuperDad continues to improve (his hamstrings are the largest source of pain now, so we’re hopeful that he is nearing the end of needing pain medication) and while my brain is not fully functional, I’ve had 5 nights at home in my own bed and am making headway on those 10 nights of hospital-induced sleep deficit.

 

 

August

Charles Dickens could sum up the month of August in one phrase, but I owe you more than that.  For now, here is a summary of our most significant events…

Dh told me to cancel all commitments for a weekend and we escaped to the cool WA coast (high of 69 degrees) in the midst of a 100 degree week here at home. Cold ocean waters numb ankle pain and there is nothing quite like sitting in a beach chair, watching the waves and letting the wind whip your mind clear of stress and worries. Sometimes I wish I lived at the beach. There are photos to share in another post.
We paused to pick blueberries on the way home, and I regret that I did not pull out the camera. The bushes were laden with ripe berries and the hardest part was stopping when our bag was full, because there were so many more berries to be picked.

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Dh again told me to cancel all commitments on August 21st but not in so many words and not for an escape to the coast. That morning during the eclipse, he suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He never hit his head, never blacked out, but sudden intense pain was not a good thing and even though he didn’t present typical stroke signs like you would see with a brain aneurysm,  he knew where he needed to go. If you ever suddenly find yourself with the worst headache of your entire life, get thee to the ER immediately! In his case, SuperDad had been exercising with a CrossFit maneuver — jumping rope with “double-unders” — and apparently tore a vein in his brain.  The brain bleed was diagnosed by CT scan at the ER, and the staff began making arrangements to transfer him to a neurological ICU; however, there were no open beds in this specialty in our area. Instead, we found ourselves on a Life Flight to Seattle and ten nights at Swedish Medical Center, with 8 of those nights in the Neuro Critical Care Unit. (Fun times. NOT.)  Honestly, I lost count of the number of CT scans, although I’m sure our insurance will be getting a detailed account for billing purposes.  Two angiograms. One MRI. Daily Doppler ultrasounds to track blood flow changes while on vasospasm watch.
When the high danger of repeated incidents passed, we were sent upstairs to a neuro floor (not ICU) for our 2 final nights of the 10-night stay. While there his medications were adjusted so he could go home (no more IV rescue meds for pain control). We were able to return home on the last day of August.

How anyone goes through such an event without incredible support from others — support in really tangible ways, like deliveries of food and clothing, toiletries and prescription medications for the caregiver (me); support in less tangible ways, such as prayer; the downright drudgery support in making sure pets at home are fed and watered, garbage and recycling cans dragged to the curb — I will never be able to understand how anyone possibly do well in recovery and healing without that support on many levels.  I didn’t even consider work, aside from letting people know what was happening; others took care of getting the job done in my absence. Family and friends ensured that we had what we needed, including the 5+ hour ride home. There was no way I was in any shape to drive, not withstanding the fact that we’d ridden in a small plane to Seattle ten days before.

At this point, the headaches have lessened as the blood has been moved away from the hemorrhage site. Thanks to efficient cerebral spinal fluid, his lower back, hips, and hamstrings are tight and painful (blood anywhere it shouldn’t be causes nerves to freak out) but this also tells us we are nearing the end of needing pain medications.  Once he’s off the pain meds, we hope the brain processing and vision issues clear up. (I had this experience while on strong pain medications a few years ago.)  His prognosis is very, very good. If you have to have blood in your brain, this was the very best option: no aneurysm, no clots, no visible damage via scans.

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In other news, our PCT hiker is now in his final section of the trail (the penultimate section for those who have the time to go all the way to the end) and I expect to be able to pick him up next weekend. We saw H-J nearly every day while in the hospital; he is content with work while waiting for his final 2 classes to be offered in the spring. School started on Thursday when The Scout began his senior year (no first day photo because he was here and his parents were in Seattle at the hospital). His head still hurts after 14 months; he’s currently undergoing a series of acupuncture treatments.
Since it is fire season, our air is tinged (and sometimes filled) with smoke and the light is filtered through the haze.  I cannot see the hills in the distance this afternoon; we are enveloped in a white cloud of smoke.
I return to work tomorrow, although I may be splitting my time between the office and home (via my laptop). I’m grateful for that flexibility.