Sunday, 20 February 2011

Life on the couch

Today marks my third consecutive week of life on the couch since my accident at Port Arthur.   Problem is, I think I'm in worse condition now than I was at the beginning.

Starting at the beginning, I went and saw an after-hours doctor out in New Town on the Sunday morning immediately after the accident, where after a 4 minute consultation, costing $81, the doctor proclaimed that I'd damaged my knee (who'd have guessed), and should just rest it and it would come right.  Somewhat reassured by this advice I went home and began my life on the couch determined to give my leg every chance to recover quickly.

Two days later, I went and saw my normal doctor.  My leg wasn't feeling much better, in fact on that day it was starting to feel worse with an aching in my calf, especially when I was sitting up.  My doctor figured that given I'd walked out I probably hadn't broken anything so no need to get an X Ray, and that the ache in my calf was probably from a fluid leak in my knee.  He told me I should just continue to rest and he sent me home with a certificate for the remainder of the week, with the promise that if things didn't get better we could consider getting an MRI next week.

That afternoon my leg went from slightly painful to near agony, and I found I had to keep it elevated constantly.  Each time I stood up it was like someone put a clamp around my calf and squeezed and my leg would turn a deep purply red.  Eventually I found that by putting a pressure bandage around my calf, the pain eased up when I stood, so I lived the next few days with my leg up on the couch and a bandage around my calf.  That was week one on the couch.

I had tried to get another appointment with my doctor when the pain got worse in my leg, but the first time he could see me was the following Tuesday.  I limped into the doctors surgery and explained what had happened only to be told to not worry, things would get better, and continue to rest.  Fortunately I had been talking to a guy at work, Martin Blake, who had a knee injury and who had told me to insist on getting an MRI, and that's what I did.  In fact my doctor agreed to let me get an MRI and an ultrasound scan of my calf muscle, and he told me he'd call me if anything of interest came out of them.

I managed to book myself in for these tests the next day, and that's when things got interesting.  Firstly I had my MRI, and whilst the MRI man wouldn't tell me what he saw, he did insist I get an immediate X-Ray on my knee, and wanted to get me in the next day for my ultrasound which was interesting seeing when I spoke to them the day before I had been told they couldn't get me in for about three weeks and had therefore already made alternative arrangements at another ultrasound clinic.  He also told me to go back and see my doctor ASAP.


I went out to get the Ultrasound later that same afternoon, and it was exquisite agony as the nurse ran the scanner over certain sections of my calf.  It was also bad news:  I had a blood clot in my right calf, and again the doctor at the surgery urged me to get in and see my doctor the next day.

Somewhat worried at this stage, I rang my doctor to make an appointment.  I explained the situation, but was told that the soonest my doctor could see me was the following Wednesday, in fact the soonest any doctor could see me was the following Tuesday (5 days away). I made the appointment, figuring that if they weren't worried, then I shouldn't be worried.

I put up a cheeky posting on Facebook, about my Deep Vein Thrombosis  and I got a flood of  responses from friends telling me to get my butt into hospital.  Instead, I called up my doctors surgery midday the next day when I knew they would have my medical reports and explained my situation again.  This time I got a completely different response and was told to get down to the surgery that afternoon to see Dr Graham.

It was probably the most depressing visit I have ever had with a doctor.  We waded through 4 pages of damage that I had done to my knee and calf.  As well as the DVT in my calf, I had also fractured my knee, and I had various other soft tissue damage.  My doctor was both very surprised and very apologetic.  So much so, that he actually came into work the next day and worked out a recovery program for me, organised a meeting with a specialist that afternoon and got me started on my medicines despite it being his day off.

The problem was they needed to brace my knee, but they couldn't brace my knee because that would restrict the blood flow which was a no-no for the clot.  After my Doctor talked to a few experts the next morning, I was put onto a course of Clexane injections (self adminstered) and Warfarin tablets for my blood clot and sent off to see a orthopedic specialists that afternoon.   

The orthopedic surgeon showed me through lots of MRI scans, and tried to explain to me what he was seeing, but I have to be honest and say I didn't really understand it other than the take home message which was that he needed to do scope surgery to tidy up some things in my knee, but he couldn't do that until the blood clot treatment was completed so he sent me home and told me to do some icing and exercises and come back in a week with more scans.

So that was the end of week two.  I was back on the couch with a doctors certificate covering me for yet another week, but with my sick leave rapidly running out.

Week 3 had a few highlights, not many of them good.

Stephan came around with his dog on Sunday, and poor little Penny dog innocently tapped my leg with her paw to get my attention when I was in the kitchen.  It felt like a hammer slamming into the side of my knee and I spent five minutes writhing in agony saying something rhyming with duck over and over again.

A couple of nights later I woke up with what sounded like someone yelling in my ear, I reflexively flipped around in bed and in the process my knee twisted sharply and I launched back into my exposition of all things that rhyme with duck.  A small detached part of me was thinking how amazing it is that I could construct entire sentences with such meaning whilst using just one word as verb, noun and adjective.

Another day after that I woke up and rolled over in bed and felt something slide down my back, I sat up and looked in my bed to see a white tail spider wandering towards me. 

I should have said that the previous week I had been sitting on the toilet when I'd absent mindingly grabbed some loo paper.  As I pulled it out a great huntsman spider, which had been hiding behind the back of the loo paper roll, flicked out onto my lap.  No matter who you are, trust me, you have an automatic reaction when a spider flicks out onto your lap when sitting on the loo, and normally that would be OK, but when you have a busted knee launching yourself off the toilet is not good.  It wasn't fun at the time, but it was a funny story to tell afterwards.

Anyway, with all of this happening, I think I can be forgiven for thinking that I had pissed someone or something off somewhere and a bit of negative karma was coming back my way.

Just to cement this point, I woke up on Friday with a sore left knee, I assumed this was from all the extra effort it was under from getting around and especially getting up off the couch, bed and toilet.  I went to bed on Friday night hopeful that it would be better the next day, but I was barely able to get out of bed the next morning, and was too scared to get back in it when I finally did.  I clambered down the stairs, and perched myself on the couch.  It was 6am and I just sat there in the dark listening to the rain come down on the roof.

A couple of hours later I needed to go to the toilet, and after levering myself off the couch I made my way to the steps and it was then that I realised I couldn't get back up them.  To cut a long story short, I ended up having to get mum to come up and take me down to Emergency at the Hobart Private Hospital.  Except I then realised that I couldn't get down the steps at the front of my house either.  We called an ambulance, but they called back after 2 hours to say that due to a high call out rate it would be quite a long time before they could send someone to me, so after a bit of a think I strapped a plank of wood to my leg to keep it straight an we managed to get down the front steps, into the car, and down to the private.

I could only shuffle backwards at this point on my crutches, and six hours and nearly $500 later I stumbled back out of the hospital thoroughly sick of doctors.  They'd take an X Ray and then kicked me out the door saying nothing was broken (Again, I already knew that).  It was only as I slowly shuffled my way back out the door backwards that the doctor and nurses suddenly realised that they were sending a patient out the door who could barely walk and who lived in a split level house after they had done barely anything.  I think the doctor got a case of the guilts and belatedly offered to admit me, however I was so fed up with them that I just left.

So now I'm down at mum's on a different couch.  I've hurt my left shoulder trying to get off the couch, but we've now figured out a seat belt harness system so people can help me off the couch and we'll see how we go from here.

Not exactly living the dream.

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