Me and My Trimalleolar: The Screw, Some Scars, and a Busted Uvula

Last week Scott made a claim that I was unlucky.  Not just because of my breaking this ankle in three places, or because I got vertigo right about the time I was learning to walk and four weeks later it remains in my ear labyrinth, or even because my chair fell through a gopher hole.  Nope, it was because of that darn flesh eating bacteria on my uvula.

Let me backtrack here for a second…

It’s been about a month since I last checked in.  This is clearly a sign that busyness has begun to creep back into my life.  I’m undecided about whether or not that is a good thing.   Since my last post, I gained a few degrees of dorsiflexion bringing me to 10 degrees past neutral.  This would’ve been very good news at the time, but I was certain it was the result of my breaking the syndemososis screw (on or about October 1) when Starsky (crutch #1) got caught on my stairs and I fell forward landing heavily on my foot with a loud crack.  I was certain loud crack = broken screw. This made the experience of my encounter with a gopher on October 9 easier to digest.  I figure, my screw is broken anyway, so what the hay.  Bring it on gopher.

And a Gopher Knocked me off my Chair

My book launch on October 9 at Natural Bridges was a loads of fun.  I was able to stand in front of the audience and even move around (a bit).  I felt almost like my old self!  Granted, I was in my signature hiking boots and crutches within arm’s reach, yet that mattered not. My Mom, visiting from PA, hung out with me and my hubby all day.  She’s my biggest marketer and a good pusher.  I was sitting at my Well Earth Well Me! table minding my own business and enjoying the sun, the sunny people, and the Monarchs.  I knew Natural Bridges had an infestation of gophers, because there are clumps of dirt and gopher holes throughout the property.  What I did not know is that one of those busy beavers, uh gophers, was working just beneath my chair.  I leaned forward to get a book off the table, and the left, front leg of my chair fell into the hole knocking me forward onto my left ankle.  My Mom, grabbed me, and I grabbed the table.   Turns out even sitting is not a safe act for me.  My PT told me, “Since you’re not safe sitting, standing, or walking, you might as well ignore all thoughts of worry and do whatever.”

A No-Gimp Kind of Gal

I was burned out on fretting about that darn syndesmosis screw and whether or not it was broken.  I was so tired of the whole worrying about my screw thing that I resigned myself to living with the broken screw in my ankle for the rest of my life.  It was what it was.  I could handle a life with a broken screw in my ankle.   Done.

It was just about that time when my ‘f-it’ mentality propelled me into walking regularly around my house without any crutches.  By October 11, one day before my second surgery, I could walk without a limp.  And how great that felt!  I was even able to ignore the very tight, cement-like sensation that wrapped around my ankle.  I was walking without a limp for goodness sakes!

Flesh-eating Bacteria and Other Uvular Issues

On October 12 at 9:45’ish I had my second surgery.  Needless to say, I was totally freaked out because the surgeon insisted that I go back under general anesthesia, and that (the Versed and his being left unattended in San Francisco) is what killed Michael on July 29.  Dr. Z, the anesthesiologist, called me the night before to prep me and answer questions.   Why is it that anesthesiologists seem so nice? Is that a pre-req for the work?

I had my last sip of water at 3:30 am.  I arrived at the hospital hungry and anxious to get through the day and was then admitted by a light-hearted guy named Larry.  We bantered for a few minutes and he sent me to a room to change.  I had my very own hospital room.  Mom and Scott hung out with me until they wheeled me away.  It’s almost surreal, this experience.  They wheeled me to a hallway near the OR.  I lay there freezing beneath a hospital blanket that was about as thick as Osama bin Laden’s Guidebook to Kind Deeds.  I lay there trying to watch the whirling activity around me. Several doctors came up to me to look at my name label which was stuck on the chrome arm of my bed.  Nope. Wrong patient.  Eventually my surgeon came to write her initials on my left leg.  That reminded me of the time when my Dad was going into surgery and the Dr. began writing on his chest.  He asked the Dr., “What are you writing there anyway?”  His doc replied, “This Side Up.”  It must add comfort to have a doctor who has appropriate wit.

Dr. Z, my anesthesiologist came by to talk with me.  He assured me that I will not be left unattended after I get the Versed or any time.  I made him tell me twice.  And out went the lights.  I awoke again, jabbering away to the OR Recovery nurse, Rich.  Scott again magically appeared, and I was so happy to see him and to learn that yes! my screw remained in one piece.  Hooray!  And the surgeon saved it for me.  I plan to turn it into some art.  I laughed with Rich and Scott.  At the time (in my confused, drugged-up mind), I was very clever and witty.  In reality, I was slurring my words and no one could understand me.  I’m certain I heard Rich tell Scott that I was adorable or maybe it was deplorable.  They got me dressed, and Rich insisted on wheeling me out to the car and gave me the most amazing post-surgery hug.  I felt enveloped by his warmth or maybe it was the warmth of the post-op meds.  In either case, I felt warm.  The OS spoke with Scott after the surgery and told him, “I am very pleased with how well she has healed.”  Mom and Scott got me home and set-up on the couch, gave me a blueberry-Vega smoothie and then Scott departed for Southern CA to visit his Mom who is having some health challenges.  We planned it that way knowing my Mom would be around to care for me.

All day my throat was very sore despite the pain meds.  Thursday morning (next day) I awoke with a sore throat like no other I had ever experienced.  It hurt to drink warm water.  It hurt to breathe. It was a very sharp pain. It felt like a spiked golfball was stuck in there.  I made the massive mistake of looking at it.  I say, ‘mistake’, because I am still unable to remove the image from my mind.  My throat was clearly in distress, but the thing that freaked me out was my uvula (that hangy thing at the back of one’s throat).  It was grayish-white and oozing with pus. Clearly, one’s uvula is not supposed to be this color or that gross.  I was certain that I had gotten the flesh-eating bacteria at the hospital.  I called the anesthesiologist because I figure this was his department since he’s the one that put the intubation tube down my throat less than 24 hours earlier.  He was off work yet willing to see me back at the hospital. Only, I had no car.  Scott took our car on his trip, and I felt no need to rent one since I was unable to drive and my Mom wasn’t interested in driving in unfamiliar territory.

Now what?  I called our wonderful neighbors Lisa and Buck.  They responded in less than 10 minutes and carted me over to the hospital.  I was taken back to the recovery room, vitals checked, flashlight found, and throat inspected.  I was relieved to learn that no, I did not have the flesh-eating bacteria, but yes, my throat got badly injured with the intubation mask.  Dr. Z apologized profusely and never really explained how it happened.  Was the tube put down there incorrectly?  Too quickly?  Removed incorrectly?  What?  He did say that my uvula hangs rather low.  I was told there is nothing they could do unless my situation worsened and was then sent home with instructions to eat ice chips and soft foods non-spicy.  The bitter irony is that my foot did not hurt one iota!  Sure, I had some discomfort but no pain.  Whereas my throat…OY.  I took pain meds for three days so that I could eat and then waited out the remaining three days of pain until it was bearable enough to eat spicy food.  That was my marker of healing. I had spicy foods last night.  I am now healed.

So, no, I don’t agree that I’m unlucky.  I don’t think luck has anything to do with it, and I fear the notion of relying on luck or the lack of luck, because I then have no power over the outcome of my situation.  I am healing very well and will be walking with a skip in my step come Thanksgiving and dancing by Christmas.  Okay, maybe just dancing from the hips up, but dancing vertically not in my chair like people in old folks homes!

I just cannot wait to take this foot out for a real test drive! But for now, Starsky and Crutch help me through my days.  Admittedly, I’m SO TIRED of crutches and trying to tote things around, and now I’m back to two chairs and a plastic bag in the shower.  But thank goodness for crutches otherwise I would be stuck in a wheelchair.  Congrats to Mary Conrey on winning the Name My Crutches contest and thanks to everyone who submitted ideas – they were brilliant!

Wanna See some Scars? 

In the order of pretty darn good to not-so-great.  They are much more interesting in person…

Tibia

9 week scar check Tibia

9 week scar check Tibia

8 week scar check Tibia

8 week scar check Tibia

Scar-pe Diem au hair

7 week scar check – Tibia (ignore the hairy legs – I am unwilling to put a razor close to that scar!)

5 weeks post-op

5 weeks post-op Tibia

Left side_3 weeks

3 weeks post-op Tibia

Fibula

9 week scar check - Fibula

9 week scar check – Fibula

8 week scar check - Fibula

8 week scar check – Fibula

7 week scar check - Fibula

7 week scar check – Fibula

6 week scar check Fibula

6 week scar check – Fibula

5 week scar check - fibula Trimalleolar fracture

5 weeks Fibula

5 week scar check trimalleolar fracture

5 week scar check: Fibula close-up and personal

5 weeks post-op Trimalleolar fracture

5 weeks post-op – Fibula

3 week post-op Trimalleolar fracture

3 week post-op

Right side one week post-op

1 week post-op Fibula

1 week post-ORIF Trimalleolar fracture

1 week post-op

To see all the  posts in the trimalleolar series, click away!  Things DO get better!

Post #1 Me and My Trimalleolar:  A Life-Changing Tripulation
Post #2 Me and My Trimalleolar:  Transcending the Funk
Post #3 Me and My Trimalleolar:  Tiny Bubbles of Progress
Post #4 Me and My Trimalleolar:  A Healing Ankle
Post #5 Me and My Trimalleolar:  Talus All About It
Post #6 Me and My Trimalleolar:  A Week of Firsts
Post #7 Me and My Trimalleolar:  Cast of Characters
Post #8 Me and My Trimalleolar:  9 1/2 weeks…
This is Post #9 Me and My Trimalleolar:  The Screw, Some Scars, and a Busted Uvula
Post #10  Me and M Trimalleolar:  Walk a Mile in My Screws
Post #11 Me and My Trimalleolar:  11 Months and Moving Right Along
Post #12:  Me and My Trimalleolar Go to Mexico…with my husband and our pooch

8 Comments:

  1. Well I just posted an entire comment and apparantly it errored! Uggh!! Glad to hear you are coming along well. Was your surgery to remove the screws? Mine are supposedly in for life. Not real thrilled with that. You certainly have had your fair share of trials with this whole ordeal no doubt. I am doing pretty good, walking with a slight limp and a decent amount of swelling at night but not too bad. I feel like life is slowly returning to normal. My 12 yr old said to me last night “I finally feel like I have my mom back.” I cooked a huge dinner, did some laundry and dusting. My mom has done most of that for the past several months. Thank God for moms!I have been realeased from my OS as he says my bones are completely healed, I just need to gain strength. My archilles is quite weak still. I am off crutches completely and it feels wonderful!
    Anyways, thought I would stop by and say hi. Are your books for sale? I am an avid reader. Let me know. Great to read your post and see your coming along. Take care.
    Karen

  2. Hi Karen! It’s great to hear from you! My surgery was for removing just one screw -the syndesmosis. I am planning, however, to get the other screws removed next year. I think anyone can if you don’t want to keep them in.

    It looks like you’re doing fabulously well. You’re walking! Hooray! Your bones are completely healed! I know that feeling of the return to normal life. Never before have I been so happy to do laundry and clean the house. It’s sweet to get acknowledgment from your 12 year old too. And yes, thank God for Moms and all caregivers. My husband has been so wonderful on this journey.

    Yes! My books are for sale, yet they’re for little ones 4-8 years old. Thank you for asking though.

    I have another post coming soon. I’m going to share some photos of my x-rays and those wild screws in my bones. My ROM still needs some help, yet I am now walking on uneven surfaces for up to a mile. This feat does not come without pain and swelling. One day at a time, right?

    I’m delighted to see that you’ve recovered so well! You did it! And now it’s day-by-day improvements until one day this will all be a distant memory and a valuable lesson in appreciation for our functioning feet!

    Please stay in touch when you get a moment. I think about you and wish you much wellness.

    Cheers to you!

  3. Pingback: Me and My Trimalleolar: A Life-Changing Tripulation Travels and Tripulations

  4. On this Thanksgiving Day, 2014, I want to thank YOU, Kenda. Since my bimaleolar fracture of the left foot/ severe sprain of the right July 2013, it’s been one unfortunate streak of horrible life changing events… lost my home, moved twice, financial troubles, husband lost his mom, and then I lost my own mother this summer, who I lived with and took care of. All this while I battle for my life with pulmonary fibrosis and cerebral vasculitis from Lupus. I felt no better time to tell you how thankful I am for you sharing your story with such care for detail and even humor discussing and reliving your own traumatic experience. Before this happened to me, I had not the foggiest freakin’ notion of how my world would forever be changed by this split second of an accident. I had been rushing around on that summer night right before sunset with my husband-to-
    be… trying to get flowers planted in our yard in anticipation of out of state houseguests…. coming for our wedding. It was earlier that day that I had also picked up my pretty pink satin wedding shoes and dress after it’s final fitting….. had plans to marry the love of my life for 23 yrs on a northshore beach in Orient Long Island…. however no less than an hour later, there I was lying on the bottom of the stairs in shock at the sight of my dislocated foot Kenda, if I had not come across your story in desperation late one night, I don’t believe I could have gotten through this. Since you and I both had our accidents the same month (exactly a year apart), it was easy for me to follow your time line exactly (we are the same age as well) and be both prepared and relieved. It was an escape from the pain and immobilization to know “someone” was there reaching out from around the world with a caring heart and a brilliant talent for expressing it all…. I give thanks to you for being that angel of mercy and hope during a hopeless time in this stranger’s life. It’s been unbelievably difficult for me to talk about these days, although the ankle itself ” healed” unexpectedly well due to a wonderful surgeon…. now because of my autoimmune disease complications, my body is attacking itself in rebound of the stress and hardware implants. I will forever be grateful that you lifted me up and out of that despair one day at a time…. enabling me to hold your hand throughout that frightening journey…. and to continue to go on to this day. You made me laugh through the tears and pain. My doctor seriously questioned whether I’d walk again because I have muscle and joint issues going on as well requiring long term steroid use. The light at the end was finally wedding the man I was meant to be with…. walking on that beach this past July….. white sneakers with a veil never looked so good! Love, peace, and many blessings….

    • Dear, wonderful, Wendy,

      I do believe this is the most profound and heartfelt message I’ve ever received. Some folks reach out to me privately, sharing their vulnerable selves, but you, dear, Wendy, put yourself right out there. And in a most stunningly beautiful way. I’m reading, mouth agape all the while beaming at your touching words and interminable spirit. In the face of horrific hardship, you rose up (and continue to rise up) with the strength and courage of a true champion of life. Might I add, you have gained official status at the top of my list of kick-ass women. I’m probably totally stepping out of bounds here, but a dear friend of mine has a fabulous blog about how she is living fully and healthily despite having Lupus. Here is the link should you want to indulge in her light: http://nutrifyforlife.com

      On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful to have crossed your path, and albeit virtually, our bond is real.

      Sending tons of love, peace, health and wedding bliss to you and yours.

  5. Pingback: Me and My Trimalleolar: A Healing Ankle - Travels and Tripulations

  6. Dear Kendra,

    First and foremost, thank you for your blog. Your honesty is validating. I would like to tell you a little about myself. I am a mom the three kiddos-ages 11, and 9 year old twins. After being a stay at home mom for 10 years, my family faced financial insecurity as my husband lost his job. He soon found a new job, but it was clear, and I was ready to get a career started again. After working with children with Autism, I decided to go back to school to become a special education teacher. I am currently in an accelerated master’s program which is composed of student teaching during the day and classes at college at night.

    On August 19, my family left for a camping trip. We arrived at the campground late and tired, ready to join our family friends. It was our newly rescued dogs first camping trip and my last break before beginning a very intense school year. It was dark, late and we were all so tired. Around 11:30, just after we got the camper and cars parked, I dove into our van to begin unloading so I could get my kids to sleep. Carrying my first load, I tripped on a tree stump and went crashing to the ground.

    The worst pain imaginable hit me–as I know you so clearly understand. So here it is, late, dark, at a campground 45 miles of unpaved, curvy roads to the nearest hospital–and we had our three children, and dog as well as our friends’ four young children to console. I felt like I was going to throw up and pass out as the four adults tried to figure out what to do next. We couldn’t get our snugly parked van out of the parking space, so my friend needed to unhitch the pickup truck from the trailer so my husband could take me to the hospital. There was no way to elevate my leg and I could feel the bones moving. After an agonizing ride to the hospital I waited in a wheel chair with no leg extensions holding my throbbing, bruised, swollen and deformed looking leg. I was taken back to the ER treatment room where my husband,at my request, asked the nurse for pain meds. We were told, that we had a long wait to see a doctor and they could not give me anything for the pain until I saw one. “Hopefully it’s just a sprain”, the nurse said as I laid on the bed in previously unimaginable pain. I arrived at the hospital somewhere around 1 am. Although I had x rays taken with a portable x ray machine I did not see a doctor until around 4:00 AM. I was told that I was being transferred from a PA to a doctor and a trauma team. My ankle was also badly dislocated and I had a trimalleolar fracture. Next steps were sedation, reduction and then I could either have surgery there or travel home to have surgery.

    Fast forward. I had surgery two weeks ago and go in for my post surgical checkup in the morning. I am surprised at the amount of pain I am continuing to have, especially at night. I began my college courses using video conferencing, but need to go back to student teaching on Monday. I cannot say it any other way, but I am scared. My typical high energy and stamina seems to have evaporated with my fall. My body does this weird hot cold thing with constant night sweats. I get winded and wheeze when I get dressed in the morning and try to shower. I feel dizzy if I sit up too long. I have a knee scooter and it tipped one day with my full body falling on my injured leg. I’m so scared! This is my shot at having a career, doing what I love, and keeping my family financially secure, not to mention the student loans that I have already taken out. I have hope, I’m doing my homework, but I am so scared. Scared of the pain, of keeping up with 22 first graders and my college classes, my three children, dog and three cats. Thank you again for your blog, it is so validating! My pain and fears are real and there are others who understand how debilitating this is. I will persevere.

    Amy

    • Dear Amy,

      Wow. I read and re-read your comment. My mouth is still gaping. Of course you’re scared! That was a nutty, intense experience! I cannot even imagine how difficult that must have been to ride in a car on a bumpy,curvy road for 45 minutes. If that, alone, doesn’t make you stronger, nothing will IMO. But I see your crisis doesn’t stop there. You started your masters classes only 2 weeks after surgery AND you have to be IN A CLASSROOM with 22 children? Holy crap. Is that all day, five days a week? I have no doubt that will be difficult.

      It seems from what you wrote that your body is feverishly working on healing. The pain is totally normal, and I think you will start to notice that it diminishes each week. I recall by week three it was less than the week before and so on. But you really should be elevating that leg as much possible, IMO. And resting it so it can heal. Is there any way at all that you can postpone the classroom part of your program, even another couple-three weeks? I’m sure your OS could write a letter and maybe the school could get creative and find ways for you to make up those hours. I would totally work that system if possible, so that you can, at least, get through the toughest part of this journey, which I believe is right now.

      The good news is that you started out with high energy, because that will recover. I, too, am a typical high-energy person and the fact that my energy plummeted really depressed me. But now I understand, because I think all that extra energy was going toward healing. This is a very serious injury. Some will not understand that, but it is. Basically every bone that connects your leg to your book broke. Your foot that carries 50% of your body weight. It’s a very important part of your physiology!

      I want to acknowledge the fear you have. I appreciate your owning that, because I think when a person owns strong feelings, they dissipate so much more readily. And it’s important that those feelings have a place to go, because I don’t want them holding up your healing energy in any way. Keeping owning them as they come up. Right now, things probably seem very difficult and dark to you. It’s still relatively new and the pain is still strong. As the days progress, it will get better. You will start to feel better. You will definitely persevere.

      Please let us know how you’re doing and if you’re able to make any kind of adaptation to your schedule.

      Cheers to you and your healing!

      Kenda

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