health, life, memoir

Released from Purgatory

The people involved in the repair and recovery of my husband’s shattered feet had left us to fend for ourselves. We no longer could tolerate the miscommunication and lack of compassion. The two of us put our heads together and decided to be more assertive, in other words, pushy … in order to get something done.

TGH2011The hospital where he eventually went for rehab (from wikicommons)

This seemed to work, because we finally received a phone call from the surgeon (Dr. O.). He was a very pleasant man who apologized for the confusion and cleared up all the conflicting reports we had received. He told us there was no reason we needed to travel 25 miles for the surgery (like his office staff insisted). Gary would have it done at the hospital where he’d been staying.

When we finally met Dr. O. face to face, the news was not good. I love my husband’s usual optimism, so to see the light go out in his eyes nearly broke me in two. I’m normally the one who needs to be reminded of the bright side, and now our roles were reversed.

The doc was a straight-shooter, and I liked that about him, because we needed to face the facts in order to fix the feet. I won’t bore you with the names of all of his many broken bones. I’ll just summarize with the technical term Dr. O. used. “His feet are dust.” He prepared us for what would be done in surgery and what was ahead for recovery.

Gary would be completely off of his feet, on his arse, for the next three to five months.

We dreaded the surgery day and looked forward to it at the same time. We had been left in limbo purgatory for 12 days and he’d finally be released to move forward on his … ahem, first step to recovery.

I waited alone during the surgery, which I was told would take 90 minutes. My stomach knotted into pretzels when 3 hours went by without a word. I watched as other family members were called and taken back to see their loved ones. When would it be my turn? Finally, after three and a half hours, I heard my name. Gary’s surgery went well. He’d be back to his room in an hour.

If we thought pre-op limbo was purgatory, the post-op pain was a special kind of hell. One of my husband’s feet was in a cast. Some of you will remember the outer device on his other foot. A metal device (fixater) was custom made … just for him … to hold together the broken foot. Spikes were screwed down to the very core of his bones.

If you are easily queasy, you might want to scroll beyond the photos.

postop

fixater1

fixater2

They gave him a button to push for medication every seven minutes. What a sight to behold, my poor husband in agony and me not able to stop his suffering.

I remained by his side all day, mostly to make sure the nurses were giving him the care I expected for him. You might think I sound like a tyrant, but I’ve had my own experiences with inept healthcare workers in this state.

I planned to leave around 8pm for home, but around 5pm, I received an urgent call from the pet sitter about our dog, Max. She said the wound from his surgery had broken open.

Read what happened next here.

Have you ever found that being more assertive helps to get things done? Have you ever had to watch someone you love in pain and feel helpless? What did you do about that feeling?

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35 thoughts on “Released from Purgatory”

  1. I’m glad Gary finally got a surgeon who would tell it to you straight, and also keep your family’s best interests at heart. With such a traumatic injury, and you without family nearby to support you, the last thing you needed was more runaround.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t feel strong at the time, and you’ll see that in the next installment. I felt completely beaten. It makes me look back now and realize that even after having our weakest moments, we’ll eventually make it through. That goes for anyone. Thanks so much for your support, Andrea.

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  2. It is of experience that it took five Doctors to diagnose a problem of my relative. And all doctors blamed previous Doctor and medication. Finally, when it was diagnosed and medicated. With better health, the continuity of medicines was a cause of anxiety. Later, thoughts on questioning the medications being continues would trigger constant questions about the prescriptions and prolonged discussions with the Dr. with appointment in person, over phone and cross checking with multiple doctors, common sense and knowledge-base including Internet. Assertiveness helps to some extent. If you believe the Dr. half the problem is solved. And when the other half troubles you, it is time to do research and analysis on diagnosis, medication and treatment.
    Wish you well.

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  3. I’m just glad everything was a success. The devise on your husband’s feet looked scary but was definitely a necessary prerequisite for healing. I hope your dog is ok? My love to your lovely family Lori, and you are a star!

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    1. Thank you, sweet Seyi. This is the raw truth of what happens as people go through these types of things. It was difficult, but I never doubted he’d recover.

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  4. Like you, I found that being assertive is the only way to be as a patient advocate. I hate being a nag, and I know the staff probably got annoyed, but I had to suck it up and stay on them to make sure my mom received the care she needed. Fortunately, my mom was a charming patient. 🙂

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    1. It’s good that your mom is a pleasant patient. My husband is too, but the people involved weren’t taking me seriously. I had to get my husband to be assertive along with me before things started to improve. I’m likely going to be advocating for my mom’s health soon, too. Thanks for sharing your experience, Joy.

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  5. Oh dear, I’m always assertive… oops… I don’t have an off switch! But in medical situations, of which I’ve dealt with few thankfully, mainly my Dad, I’ve found asking the right questions, or in my case a lot of questions and providing as much information as possible helps but mostly just being there. When Dad had a heart attack a few years back, the hospital staff were great, but busy. They were grateful to have someone there to get ice, water, a blanket etc. So I took a day off work every couple of days and drove the couple of hours to fill in what gaps I could. We won’t talk about what my stepmother wasn’t doing…
    It’s great that you were able to be there for Gary… as any caring/functional spouse or family member would be. It helps to have someone to think and speak about the details. Often when you’re incapacitated your mind doesn’t work, particularly if medicated.
    The G.O. is quite capable but usually even for doctors visits, check ups I ride shotgun because I’m better at details & explanations than he is… oh and there’s that perpetual assertiveness 🙂

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    1. I’m pretty much like you, EllaDee, don’t have an off switch on the assertiveness. My husband is the opposite. Well … you read about Ava and Alex in my novel. Yes, they were based on us. Like them, we worked on those issues. Sometimes we fall back into old habits, but we bring ourselves back eventually. Since the staff (hospital, workman’s comp, Dr’s staff, etc) wasn’t really responding to my assertiveness, once Gary pitched in with me, it started to get the ball rolling. Thanks for sharing about your own experience with your dad. Sounds like it was good you were there for him, too.

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  6. You really do have to advocate for your family members in the hospital, and that often means being assertive, so good for you. After my mom’s surgery, particularly her second one, the nurses were understaffed. My mother was told things would happen, but they never did. I finally took over myself, for example fetching towels and fresh gowns, fresh bedding, etc. I didn’t really fault the nurses. They were working their fannies off. And I was happy to help; that’s what I was there for, but it just goes to show the improvements we need in health care, and getting enough nurses is one of them.

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    1. Hi Carrie. Workman’s Comp and other healthcare workers weren’t taking me too seriously, so I had to “encourage” my husband to get assertive. He’s not the type. Once we both got on the same page with our assertiveness, they started getting into gear with his care. Yes, I definitely had to do all those things you mentioned you did for your mother. I was afraid to leave him, because he needed help getting to the bathroom. No feet on the floor. I had an experience in a different hospital here where they never came to help me go to the bathroom (I had vertigo). I’d call and call and no one ever showed (This is a much longer story than I can get into here. I should write about it for my blog some time). Thankfully, my husband is a charmer. He made it pleasant for them to help him, and they didn’t mind coming when he called. That doesn’t say much for me in my situation though, does it. Heh. Thanks for your support.

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  7. You are responsible for the outcomes of your healthcare not your doctor or hospital. Gather those resources you need to get a clear picture of the situation, understand the risks and rewards, decide on the path forward, let your caregivers know your expectations and communicate them clearly…Show your game face every day, but don’t ever forget to say thank you, and be grateful for every day you get to share.

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  8. It definitely pays to be your own advocate. It’s probably the hardest thing to do when you are in pain and need surgery, so you’re husband is very lucky he had you by his side. You were very smart to check on the nurses. They have so many patients to handle, it’s easy for a mistake to happen.

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    1. It was so difficult to balance all of this overwhelming pressure. My husband did make the proper phone calls to get the care he needed through Workman’s Comp. However, he doesn’t get assertive unless I “encourage” him to do so. Thanks so much for your support, Kourtney … back then and now.

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  9. Having a doctor who is a straight shooter is always a good thing. I’m glad you were happy with him, Lori.
    Years ago, I ruptured a disc in my back. I was flat on my back for three weeks while I waited for the top neurosurgeon in the D.C. area to return from vacation. I’ve never felt so helpless as I did during that period. I feel your husband’s pain.

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    1. Hi Jill. I was very happy with the surgeon. I’ve found VERY few good doctors where I live, and we were lucky to land this guy. He just happened to be the surgeon call. I heard horror stories about other Orthopedic surgeons in the area, and I’m so grateful we got him. He knows his stuff.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your back. I’m glad you are doing better now (I hope). Thank you for your understanding and empathy.

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  10. Lori, how do you even find a comfortable position with a contraption like that in your foot? And not being able to get out of bed on your own for 3 – 5 months sounds like pure hell. Having spent time on bed rest I know from personal experience you feel like the whole world is just passing you by. That is an awful feeling. Thank goodness for video games and books.

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    1. Heya SparkyPlants. Yes, it was horrible to get around with that contraption on his foot. After the first few weeks, he knocked it into something a couple of times. I shrieked, but he said it didn’t really hurt to knock it. Thank you for your understanding and empathy.

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  11. My thoughts and prayers go out to you both, as well as encouragement to keep that assertive attitude. My neighbor was thrown off a jet ski a couple of years ago, and her ankle was shattered. I’m happy to share with you that today, she is back to her old self and getting around perfectly fine. “One day at a time” was her mantra through it all. Take care 🙂

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    1. Hey Nurse Kelly. Yes, at the time, I didn’t know how we were going to make it through. It was all so overwhelming, especially with the added care of my dog who just had surgery. I’m glad your neighbor is fully healed. Thanks so much for the encouragement.

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  12. I had to wait 12 days for my op too. I made the mistake of falling on a bank holiday. I don’t think we have on-call surgeons on bank hols. If it was dire it would prob get shipped to Algeciras.

    When I saw the surgeon the next day, I had fracture blisters that had mutated overnight. Reading around afterwards I often wondered if I’d been operated on immediately if that would have been avoided. But it meant a long wait for surgery.

    After seeing my own blisters/scars/deadskin/blood etc, my tolerance to gore has increased amazingly. That contraption looks like some weird torture machine. A foot rack perhaps?

    I can’t imagine having to deal with post op for a husband and a dog. Total nightmare scenario. This makes my ankle look like a hop in the park.

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    1. Oh geez, so sorry about your broken ankle. And, ouch … your dog? My guy (dog) has almost bowled me over many times. I feel lucky he didn’t get me now.

      Dr. O. told us he couldn’t cut into my husband’s foot in the beginning because of the swelling. There would have been no way he could’ve sewn that stretching skin back together. We had to wait for the swelling to go down. Perhaps that’s why they made you wait? I don’t know. And, you’re right, that fixater on his foot was definitely a torture device, except this one would eventually heal him. Thanks for reading and commenting even after you tracked down Sparkyplants. Hope your ankle comes to a full recovery.

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