Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Old Car on the Bridge #9. An arm, a leg, communicatons snafus and a bug in Kelowna

I have almost fond memories of that ambulance drive, believe it or not. Of course I was still in shock. But I just went totally passive and allowed people to do to me what needed doing. Everyone was so kind and professional. I felt safe and cared-for. That was basically the mode in which I survived the weeks to follow. I have zero pain tolerance, but there was little pain or discomfort till much later.

After the ambulance bubble I was hoisted onto a gurney in an operating room, given a weird drug that was not-quite-total anesthesia, and plastic surgeon Dr. Brian Miller did a masterful job stitching my arm and hand together. I vaguely overheard them talking about picking out pieces of wood and glass. When I came to in a post-surgical ward my right arm and hand were encased in serious bandages and immobilized with a splint. He had managed it without skin grafts. There was no pain beyond an all-over sense of being bruised and banged up. My right leg had been in a removable Zimmer splint all along.

There were some nice people in the 4 bed ward, all recovering from some kind of surgery. Hearing the moans as patients tried to mobilize with fresh incisions did not make me look forward to the near future, but one thing at the time. A nurse had managed to get me a book, and I had a cell phone. 

The Cell phone. Now there is a story. 
We each have one and hardly ever use the dratted things. They are mainly just in case, and when we are traveling. For years I paid the lowest possible pay-as-you-go amount, $10 per month. It added up till I had over $300 in credit. Would you believe I burnt through that in 2 days? 

The only times in the entire period when I lost it and dissolved into a blubbering mass of self pity was when connectivity was lost or threatened.
First the battery ran dry. My ward neighbor allowed me to use her charger, that fit mine. But then she needed it herself, and she was moving out anyway, now what? The son who came to take her home kindly offered to run to the mall and buy me one. I handed him my debit card, pin and all. There is a time to trust people and anyone who thinks they can get rich using my line of credit will be sadly disappointed. 

Charger taken care of, the next challenge was credit. At some point I ran out, more panic. I managed to get to a pay phone and contact Nienke, who took care of it. She came up with a plan that allowed me to text without limits inside Canada for $15 a month. Deal. Meanwhile I had learned to text with my left hand only, just like a real inhabitant of the century of the fruitbat. 

Since we are on the topic of communications: while all this is going on my poor husband had NO telephone, NO internet, and was NOT allowed to drive. Our landline had broken down a few weeks earlier, repair was not possible till the 16th. Meanwhile the router for the internet broke down and his 6 year old phone did not allow texting. We tried later and no one could make it work. Talk about a perfect storm. 

We ended up communicating by me texting Nienke, who would email our stalwart friend Beverley, who would talk in person to Chris. In theory I could have called Chris on his cell, but between my paranoia about running out of credit and his deafness, not. Meanwhile he had to deal with things on the home front, like ICBC asking questions about my condition to which no one knew the answer. All I had to do was lie around and be looked after.  If I was halfway nice to people and cracked a joke now and then they thought I was wonderful. I honestly think Chris had the harder time of it.

On Saturday the knee got CAT scanned, revealing a tibial plateau fracture. The next day I was moved to the orthopedic post-op room in anticipation of  surgery. Two beds were open, I asked for the window seat. Done. Good thing too, I was in there for more than a week while others came and went. 

Memorable neighbours: a young man with a shattered pelvis after a motorcycle accident that was caused by an 18 year old driver not paying attention for a moment. His girlfriend came to see him in a wheelchair. Her right leg had just been amputated below the knee. They were housed together in re-hab while their home was re-fitted for the rest of their lives.
They were such troopers.  A retired nurse who had been a political figure and was a fount of knowledge on dealing with the system. A feisty lady who had been looking forward to a big family reunion for her 80th birthday on July 21st, my birthday as well. She had tripped over someone's dog and broke her shoulder. I was glad to see her get out in time for the party, though she was a bit miffed about having to stick to tea and painkillers while  her guests drank wine in her honour. 

On Monday there was a surprise: A volunteer with a cart full of books. I shamelessly helped myself to a big pile, and felt much reassured about getting through the weeks with my sanity intact. The young woman was wearing a hijab, to which I admit having a prejudice. This young lady did much to help me overcome some bigotry. She was studying bio-chemistry and was clearly nobody's oppressed victim.

My knee was operated on Tuesday. As I was wheeled back to the ward a surprise awaited: Visitors! My dear friend Linda's son lives in Kelowna. This is the woman from "Linda does the laundry". We go waaayyyyy back in each others lives. Months may go by without us seeing each other, but the connection is always there, like having an extra sister. Keelan came bearing flowers, pro-biotics and V8 juice, to complement the pathetic hospital food.

And a friend who is more Bev's friend than mine had driven all the way from her home in Vernon to be there in Kelowna and gave me some energy healing. I felt pretty special. They were lavish with the pain killers. Since I hardly ever take any I can get pleasantly high on a mere Tylenol 3.
I suffered no pain at all.
The next days are a bit of a blur. Hooked up to an IV, needing a bedpan every hour, reading, just getting through the days. The room faced West and got stifling hot by late afternoon. 

But before long I was unhooked and more mobile, splints and all. I started having some use of my right hand. I could get onto the commode next to the bed by myself. If someone wheeled me into the bathroom, commode and all, I could wash my hair under the tap at the sink. Saturday brought another visitor: an acquaintance who heard about the predicament from Bev, and offered to take over a care package. She had to go to Kelowna anyway.
I had made a list for Bev through the text-email channel, but she surprised me by including FOOD. A wonderful clam shell full of salad greens from my own greenhouse. She even included dressing. There were some strawberries and red currants as well. After more than a week of atrocious, bone dead hospital food it was ambrosia. I literally squealed with joy.

Under normal circumstances I would have been discharged from the orthopedic ward a mere 3 days or so post-op. Things were not normal. My home is a trailer with a steep set of 7 steps. It needed to be made accessible. Because both the right arm and the right leg were a mess crutches were not an option. By the time all was ready with a wheelchair accessible ramp,  the doctors decided to just keep me in the Okanagan, partly because sitting in a car for 2x3 hours might cause blood clots. So I continued to occupy the bed by the window while others came and went.

At some point my dear fellow grandmother Pat dropped by. She and her husband Ernie were in Kelowna hospital for one of his many 'routine emergencies'. Pat has been keeping Ernie alive with home kidney dialysis for 7 years now. The doctors had given him 2. In Ernie's place, with all the pain and suffering he goes through, I would have given up years ago. But he loves his wife and grandchildren too much to give up. Those 2 are true heroes, teachers of love. We are so lucky to have them as grandparents for our one and only.

In between looking after Ernie Pat treated me to some outings in the wheelchair. It was so nice to get out of that room. And now that I know what I didn't know then, I wonder how many surfaces I infected on my merry rounds. Sure I washed my hands, but just, you know, regular.

Which brings us to The Bug.

Meanwhile, the dear little old lady in the bed kitty cornered from me had a hard time of it. She suffered debilitating, flooding, uncontrollable diarrhea. Nurses tending to her wore extra gowns and gloves but I did not think too much about it. When my own bowels became a bit loose I blamed the stool softeners in combination with the beany vegan diet I had asked for. At some point I did mention it to the nurse. Samples were promptly taken. 

By Tuesday I was transferred to the hospital in Vernon, where I was put in isolation because of  Clostridium Difficile,  Cdif to its friends.

End of this chapter.

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