Friday, February 2, 2007

The Left Foot, Redux

Prior to my wife’s accident, she had scheduled elective surgery to correct an arthritic condition in the big toe of her left foot that had caused the joint to slowly seize up. This made it painful for her to walk, and impossible to wear dressy shoes. Once she broke her ankle, the surgery was postponed.

On Friday, the doctor told her that she could now put weight on the injured foot, making it possible for her to hobble around, drive a car, and enjoy the freedom of mobility that she had been craving since mid-December. He also gave her permission to have the toe surgery, if she wanted.

This put her on the horns of a dilemma. The foot surgery would leave her immobilized for another month or so. But we’re currently planning a trip to Panama in mid-March. If she waits to have the surgery, she’ll be in a wheelchair for the trip. If she waits until after the trip, she’ll have to go back through the whole disability paperwork hassle again. So she decided to have the surgery this week, and endure another month of pain and immobility.

Yesterday we got up at 4:30 in the morning to go to the orthopedic surgery center. We hung out in the waiting room with several other people, all women, who were in various stages of misery. One was suffering from a migraine so severe, she was near tears.

My wife was called in, and I went in to see her once she had been prepped for surgery. She was on an IV drip, consisting of saline solution and a sedative, which made her pleasant and relaxed. Several years ago, I had surgery to remove a benign tumor, called a lipoma. The doctor who performed the surgery removed the WRONG lipoma, and I had to go back into surgery to have the correct one removed. This doctor was more cautious. The nurse had written “YES” on her left ankle and “NO” on her right, so there wouldn’t be any nasty lawsuits.

Just before they took her in, they gave her an injection consisting of two drugs: Fentanyl and Versed. Fentanyl is a pain-killer. Versed is an interesting drug that makes you sleepy but doesn’t cause you to lose consciousness. Somehow, it blocks the process by which you form short-term memory. So you’re in and out of a sleep state during the surgery, feeling no pain, but unable to remember anything that happened moments before. When they bring you out of surgery, it’s like it never happened. As the drug wears off, you experience odd memory blackouts for a while.

The surgery was over in 15 minutes. She lay on the gurney looking drowsy as the doctor explained to me that he had to “break the joint” and put in a couple of titanium screws. He also said that in about 10 years, she’ll need to have the joint replaced. Although my wife was awake on the gurney nearby during this discussion, a couple of minutes later, she asked me if they had to put in any screws. I told her yes, they did, and she responded “Damn, I was hoping they wouldn’t have to do that.” She sat up in the gurney and got dressed. Then she asked me, “Did they have to put in any screws?” It went on like that for a couple of hours.

Old Screw Foot

While we were waiting to be discharged, they wheeled the migraine lady in from surgery. She was blissfully drugged up to the point where the migraine was no longer a factor in her life.

The nurse put my wife in a wheelchair, and took us out to the car. We drove home and she slept until noon, when she was awakened by the pain. Fortunately, she has lots of Hydrocodone to handle that problem, but it’s going to be a long February.

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