Posts Tagged “external fixator”

I think I’ll forever associate the summer of 2007 with my right knee. I managed to break it on May 25th, at Greg Lull’s bachelor party on Lake Mead. I was waterskiing behind a Yamaha VX110 WaveRunner, and managed to twist my right ski to the right while moving at speed. I say “at speed” because it felt like I was flying, but really I was probably moving somewhere between five and ten miles per hour- not super fast. I’ve been snow skiing for almost 25 years, and my automatic response to what I felt was too much speed was to turn and use an edge to stop, which, in case you’re wondering, is not the way to stop on water skis. I now hear that “letting go” is more effective.

What fun! This is the beast we were using to tow the skis, too.

Anyway, I turned my ski to the right with weight on it and fell forward, buckling my knee to the inside. I didn’t hear a crack or a pop or anything like that, so I didn’t have any immediate feedback that it was broken, but oh my gosh, it hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt. I screamed. I screamed a monosyllabic plea to Greg, who had been piloting the WaveRunner, I screamed to Meredith, who was on a jetski nearby, I screamed to anything with ears. I’ve never felt like life jackets were all that necessary for me, because I’m a very strong swimmer, but the PFD I was wearing really helped me because I could hold my leg with my two arms and just float there. I tell you, it made a real believer in life jackets out of me.

Something is definitely wrong, here…

I floated there for some number of minutes while Greg went and got the boat from the cove where we had “parked.” Brad and someone else each grabbed one of my arms and lifted me straight out of the water and set me on deck on my butt, where I crab-walked, dragging my limp leg across the deck to a bench, where I struggled to find a comfortable position in which to assess my leg for damages. I tried to flex all the muscles in my knee and ankle to make sure I could still do so, and I had bent my knee in the water, so I didn’t feel like anything was actually broken, but the pain told me something was definitely very wrong. Because we didn’t have any on board, Greg and Nat sped off via jetski to the marina to buy a variety of pain relievers for me. While they were gone, I decided there was no way I could finish out the day with the pain increasing the way it was. They returned, and I took a dose each of aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen and drank a Smirnoff Ice while we returned to the dock.

You can see Meredith in Nat’s car in the background, waiting for me.

Look at the comparative sizes of my knees, already.

Nat was nice enough to lend his car to Meredith, who drove me to “Advanced Urgent Care” at Eastern and St. Rose. I put that in quotes because I didn’t see anything during my 2.5 hour wait or 20 minute visit that would qualify them for any of those three words. After the physician’s assistant (they didn’t have an MD on site) grabbed my thigh and shin and moved them in various opposing directions to my extreme delight, he said I needed an MRI and sent me San Martin, the new St. Rose Dominican Hospital campus that often has little or no ER wait because it’s so new. So with the assistance of one of their wheelchairs, I got back in the car with Meredith, and packed off to Warm Springs and Decatur.

What apparently no one knew at the time was that San Martin doesn’t do emergency MRIs, except in cases of spinal compression. What they did do however, was x-ray my leg with a neat portable x-ray machine and tell me for the first time that not only was my leg broken, but that it would take surgery to fix. Fuck.

You can’t really see much of the break here, but look closely at the angle of the upper right of my tibia, and you can get a sense of what’s going on.

Here I am in the ER, waiting for my room assignment.

Next thing I knew, I had a plastic bracelet with my name on it, and was being wheeled up to a numbered room, where they told me to try to get some sleep because my surgery was the next morning. Immediately after I fell asleep, the nurse came back and told me I was going for a CT scan which had been rescheduled to that night because my surgery had been rescheduled for earlier in the morning. Meredith and I met my surgeon the next morning, who seemed very cool, and tried to put me at ease by describing the surgery she was about to perform. They wheeled me into the OR, and I woke up in the recovery room. Actually, “woke up” is too strong- it was really more like I spent the next 24 hours zig-zagging drunkenly across a blurred line between waking and nonexistence. I didn’t dream, time seemed to just fall away from me while I wasn’t paying attention.

My new appliance. I’d rather have a new dishwasher. Cheaper, too.

Meredith stayed the night with me again (as she did all four nights I was there), and I adjusted over the next few days to the sight of my new external fixator and figured out how to live around it. I had lessons on how to use crutches on stairs, figured out how to pee in a bottle while sitting upright in bed, and became very acquainted with the little button in my right hand that released a dose of morphine into my IV. I had (and still have) to constantly keep ice on it because of the swelling, and couldn’t sleep very well because of the pain (can’t hit that morphine button once you actually fall asleep). Incidentally, if you have to be hospitalized, I highly recommend San Martin, as they have in-room TV (although no Comedy Central) and internet terminals. I had visitors every day I was there- Isaac came on Saturday, Greg & Nat came on Sunday, as did Isaac (again) & my mom and Marc & Lesley. Jenny & Kyria left a box of goodies for me on Sunday night, and Kyria returned the next day with Mike to actually visit. My mom was also there again on Monday and Tuesday. I was discharged on Tuesday afternoon with a prescription for home health visits from an RN, and an appointment to see my surgeon/Dr. again the following Monday.

Even as nice as San Martin is, having to stay in a hospital still sucks. The green box on the IV stand is my morphine lock box.

That’s basically where I still am now, but my staples and sutures have been removed as of Monday, and there’s vague verbage from my Dr. about possibly scheduling the surgery to remove the fixator after my next series of x-rays. If they don’t go well, however, she may want to put a plate on the tibia to further stabilize the wedge that broke off, so I’m still caught in a waiting game. I really hope I don’t need that plate.

I can’t move my knee (obviously) or rotate my hip because the external fixator goes through my quads into my femur. I can’t put any weight on my leg, but I can still move my ankle, at least. I get around the house on crutches, but if I spend more than a few minutes vertical, my leg and foot balloon up like a gallon of mercury in a surgical glove. I have to keep my leg elevated, and there’s a constant cycle of ice packs from the freezer to my leg, but Meredith tells me it looks like the swelling is slowly going down. Every day, Meredith removes my bandages, cleans the incision and pin sites, and replaces the bandages. She’s been absolutely awesome, basically living at my house and helping me retain some semblance of normalcy (if that’s even possible) while driving me to doctor’s appointments, x-rays, and everything else to maintain the household.

Meredith and I stopped by my work last week to let them know I was still alive, and Sara took this picture.

Meredith thinks I look like a cancer patient here.

Marvin sent me this as a get well gift. He teaches violin to Julia Sweeney’s daughter.

I have Percocet, Skelaxin, and Keflex to keep me company while she’s at work. I can just barely replace my own ice if she’s not around, but eating anything more complex than a Clif Bar or can of Slim Fast without help is basically imposssible, because I can’t actually carry anything. I’m glad I have a Wii though, let me tell you, and NetFlix seems pretty cool so far too, but I feel like I’m really being unproductive. I can’t wait to get back to work, but I can’t get any firm information out of my doctor until after my visit on Monday. Wish me luck (just don’t tell me to break a leg)!

Signing off,
David

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