Well, I made it out of the hospital Tuesday afternoon just before the winter storm got really nasty. I apologize for not getting an update out last night, but I sure needed some rest. I also apologize for the length of this post, but you know me… I have an issue being terse. I actually have a second (and shorter) post planned, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for it. I have a different take with that one, and I hope you will come back to read the post. Tonight, I’ll walk through the main details of the weekend, the physical aspects if you will, before I forget them. Tomorrow, I’ll shift focus to the spiritual aspects which, though I may want to at times, I don’t imagine I can forget.
So Friday evening, I started feeling a bit of a “crash” coming on. I usually encounter one or two of those every week, where the pain simply ramps up to levels that bring my activity nearly to a halt. Usually this will occur the day after I “juice up” on Advil for company, for a road trip, or for a long day working from home. Friday, it simply happened. However, instead of stopping everything at 8pm and getting some sleep, which means I’ll have a long night tossing and turning in bed, I dove back into updating online notes for the Gospel of John study on the Trekkers Bible Study site I’ve been working on over the past several months. Though in hind sight this might not have been a good idea, I felt the need to finish the task before getting to bed… I felt something wasn’t right that night, and I had to get it done.
Fast forward to about 1:30am. I had a significantly difficult time making the trek upstairs to get in bed. My ankle has kept me working from home for at least the past two months, so it was already a hard enough trip. That night it was approaching an unsafe idea to attempt. If you take a glance up to that pain scale you may have seen before in a hospital, I’d say I was around a 4-5 just walking level with my cane, and hit 6-7 when on the stairs. By the way, I found a far more fun pain scale online made with Lego guys, but it was copyrighted. You may want to pull it up in another window for reference to keep this post “lighter” :). In fact, its faces and descriptions actually represent the pain numbers better than the one above.
Anyway, after finally making it up and just before getting into bed, I downed some pain medication I had brought up just in case it wasn’t a “normal” crash. I got situated in bed, and the pain hit hard after the pressure of walking was over. I quickly hit 8-9 pain levels, which is definitely beyond a normal crash. I knew something was wrong, and cried myself to sleep, praying to God to have mercy on me and take it away. Although, in a moment like that, I was still reminded by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray that God’s will be done, regardless how I feel. Needless to say, that was not an easy prayer to make while I was in the middle of extreme pain and shedding tears into my pillow as quietly as possible. The rest of the night was not much better.
Saturday morning was J’s big family birthday party. I knew how excited she was, so I was hopeful the pain pills had done their trick. However, when I went to place my right foot on the ground, it was an instant crisis as soon as it touched the ground. I haven’t felt pain that intense in a very long time. I hit 10 on the pain scale just from the touch. No way could I attempt putting more weight on it. After T finished trying to comfort me after screaming out in pain, she started calling friends to stay home for the day, and we whittled it down to neighbors and immediate family. Poor birthday girl… J held up really well, though. I did not, however, writhing for most of the day, even with some more pain pills in my system.
I never left bed. I found that I could only be laying on my left side to get some amount of comfort (actually down to a 6, which was a blessing). Every attempt to roll to the other side hit 8-9 levels again. I gave up and stayed on my left side, wondering how I would have done with Ezekiel’s task of doing that 390 straight days (even if it were only for part of the day). This may be TMI, but I can only say dealing with any bladder issue was not a fun experience throughout the day. Every time I had to attempt that operation brought back 8-9 pain levels, along with much crying and praying by T and me.
Fast forward to the night and things didn’t get any better. I now only had relief to about a 7 when on my left side, and any move to the right side shot right to 10. Things were bad, and every move woke me back up from my light sleep. About midnight Saturday I had a painful bladder issue that couldn’t be left alone. An hour later, with 8-9 levels the entire time from the ankle, that job was finally complete. It took me almost having to stand on the leg to solve it. This meant I was mostly off the bed, which was not a good thing. When I went to get back into bed, I was a goner. I hit a 10 every time I lifted my right leg. There was nothing I could do. I just had to sit there, leg dangling over the side, and take the 8-9 until God gave me the strength for another attempt. Another half hour later, praying and crying away with T praying on her knees, I finally got my leg almost up on the bed. But, I couldn’t get any further, and ultimately had to drop it back down again.
This turned out to be a bad idea, as I was hit with the worst pain I have ever felt. I’ve been through a total knee replacement, and even though the physical terrorists (I mean therapists) can easily bring you to the top of the pain scale, there was no comparison here. I couldn’t imagine worst pain. I was wailing. I was uncontrollable. I couldn’t see out of my eyes the tears flowed out so fast. The kids ran in and fell on their knees, helping to comfort T as she kept crying and praying. I don’t know how long I cried out to God for mercy, but eventually I wore out. I have much more to say about that experience in tomorrow’s post, so I’ll move on.
I finally received the strength from God to get my leg back into bed. It was simply torture the entire way, and the relief of getting established on my left side was not much, but it was there. T came over to hold my hand until it finally subsided to the level 8 pain I slept with the entire night, if you could call it sleep. This is the point we knew we had to get to the hospital in the morning.
All I can do at this point in the story is be thankful T’s dad decided they couldn’t get me to the van. T called 911 after her parents made it down around noon on Sunday, and I attempted to get clean clothes on for the ride and a quick “nap.” Thank God ambulances come with big, burly men. They were several inches shorter than me (who isn’t?), so I gave them a workout on our way out the bedroom to the stretcher, and even more so on the way out to the ambulance. At least they could keep me on my left side during the torturous ride in to the hospital. Don’t those things have shocks?!
We got to the emergency room, and relief showed up pretty quickly. Some strong narcotics from the IV, and I was back down to 6 pain territory. I still couldn’t move to the other side, and every poke and prod on my ankle brought all the pain back. I endured X-ray’s of the ankle and an ultrasound that went way too far up my leg, if you ask me. Thank God that He gave us all a sense of humor with these things, which was finally coming back as we chatted with my parents, who met us there.
X-ray’s showed no fractures, which was good, and the ultrasound showed no blood clots, which was also good. The problem was, the pain wasn’t changing any more, and we had no answers. It simply made no sense, especially when the ankle looked no worse than its normal deformed, swollen shape. I have some thoughts on that ready for tomorrow’s post.
At this point, the ER doctor was ready to release us to go home with some pain meds. We weren’t ready to go, so convinced him to admit us so I could get a take from my regular orthopedic surgeon in the area the next day. After all, the drugs wouldn’t be any stronger, and I still couldn’t get on my other side. How in the world could we even get me back in the house, let alone the van outside?
They finally got me up to the orthopedic floor, which was familiar from my previous knee surgery. It almost felt like home. It was mid evening, and still a painful deal, as if the pain medication didn’t want to work hard. I couldn’t roll over all evening, and finally everyone left for home by about 9pm. The kids, by the way, stayed with the McIntosh’s from their school who have become wonderful friends. It was very hard for T and I to see each other go, but there were things that simply had to be taken care of that night at home.
The surgeon on call finally met with me about 10pm, and we talked through some of the options I had. There were really only two options at that point for relief outside of pain medication. The first, which he thought wasn’t a good plan, was ankle replacement. Many of us know how my knee replacement went, with my body growing bone and tissue around it, fusing the joint back up within a year. Option two was to simply fuse the joint by “cleaning” it out so a pin or more could be inserted to lock everything in place. He mentioned calling in the foot and ankle specialist from his group the next day before we made any rash decisions.
Later as I lay there after a stretch of prayer, trying to get to sleep, still lamenting that I was on my left side, something changed. The pain levels simply dropped a couple notches. I suddenly knew it was time to try rolling over. By God’s grace, and the prayers of hundreds of you out there throughout the day, I was easily able to make it. In fact, I could finally relax, basking in my new position on my right side. I can’t explain the peace I finally felt. Maybe more on that tomorrow.
By Monday morning, the pain hadn’t come back any worse. I was hovering at about a 4, regardless of how I laid there. It was still an 8 or 9 to the touch, but my ankle was finally at a point I could get rest, even if the hospital staff tried their best to interrupt it. Physical therapy that morning was able to get me hopping about on one leg using a walker, but that was just plain dangerous and we all knew it. T and I knew something dramatic still had to change.
I met with the foot and ankle specialist later that day, and he felt the same as the on-call surgeon. Fusing my ankle was the way to go, though we could try out a fancy brace before going too much further. When the lady came later to take a 3-D scan of my leg and ankle for the brace, the engineer in me was in awe. That was one of the cooler things I’ve ever seen. Turns out it’s going to be a medieval, leather strap-on that goes half-way up my calf… can’t wait. ;)
I should mention though, that between the visit from the specialist and my brace scan, I had another fun time with physical therapy. However, this time I was allowed to attempt putting pressure on my ankle. As it turns out, my pain had suddenly dropped another two levels at one point early afternoon. I should also mention that they had actually stopped the automatic pain medication earlier at 4am, which I only just found out. God and your prayers were at work. I was at a 2 laying down, and only a 6 while putting 25% weight on the ankle. I can’t explain how much better we all started feeling after that.
Our good friend Russ (which I suppose is funny to say, since he reminds us we don’t all know each other that well yet… it just feels so natural for me to say) stopped by early in the afternoon and got to witness the 3-D scanning. He’s an engineer as well, so might have been as in awe as I was. Anyway, we had a great time chatting, and T and I were beginning to feel some relief, though things were still a long way from us going home. I am still driven to great humility as I recall how Russ told us everyone at our Bible study prayed for us on Sunday morning. There are so many people in the study, and within their families, who need prayer, and it completely overwhelms me to think they spent focused time for us. I am so grateful for all their prayers for God’s mercy, grace, healing and will to present themselves. I can only pray that I have much time left to return the favor.
The next session late Monday afternoon with physical therapy had me trying stairs for the first time, which was essential to tackle before returning home. If I couldn’t make stairs, we had two choices before going home: surgery, or look for a new house. (Ok, maybe a friend’s house or a hotel would have worked for a while, but we were still being a bit dramatic.) I went for stair number one, and it wasn’t long before I realized I’d be in a pain level 10 situation if I threw all my weight into climbing. This, of course, was only an issue because my left leg can’t climb stairs since the knee is locked at a 20-degree angle. I had to use my bad ankle for the climb. Obviously, not a great situation.
Anyway, as we returned from PT to my room, we met Ken in the hallway and had a wonderful time chatting with him. We even got to talk some with Marsha over the phone. We may have missed Bible study that weekend, but we felt a touch of “home” as they lifted us up. Just thinking about possibly returning to class next Sunday still brings me to tears. I suppose that sounds funny, but my time there means that much to me.
We were soon overwhelmed with guests, as Glenn, Greg, Jason, Jake, Dave, Gerri and Vince showed up from work over the next couple hours. The roads were getting very slick Monday night, so I’m just going to say they were all crazy for coming out, and yet I wouldn’t have felt as great if they never made it. We had a great time reliving some old work moments, and I think at least a few of us realized we all need to do that more often than the times I’m in the hospital ;). We’re too serious of a group at work sometimes.
After Ken and soon the rest, had left, we spent a good amount of time revealing more of the serious details of the weekend to Gerri and Vince. This was the first time I met Gerri’s husband, and I can’t wait to talk to him more. It’s funny how quickly believers can become friends sometimes, isn’t it? Anyway, as they left, Vince led Gerri, T and me in a great prayer for healing and other things, and though I didn’t feel anything happen, I will tell you that by the time they left the room, I had no pain in my ankle. I felt such a sense of peace again. If it wasn’t so late at night, I considered calling PT to rush me down the hallway to try the stairs again.
T went home to be with the kids shortly after, and I was left alone to thankful prayer for the weekend God put together, and for all those who played their part. I can’t name all those who prayed for me. I can’t name all those who talked with T on the phone over any of those days, but know that we are grateful you played your part. We will never be able to pay you back, but we will give it a shot. While I’m at it, thanks Moms and Dads for all of the support you provided to help out T.
To make the rest of the story short, Tuesday I was still resting with zero pain and virtually no pain medication. I was able to make stairs early that morning with absolutely no problem. Pain never climbed above a 4 on the stairs, which is what I have lived with for quite some time. There is still an ankle fusion on the horizon, whether God allows my ankle to do it naturally, or He lets us know it’s time to do it medically. While man has no complete cure for me, here’s to the new brace on its way giving me some pain relief in the mean time.
Of course, God can still heal me completely through His means, though we don’t know if it’s His will. We can only pray our will aligns with His.Share on Facebook