Thursday, September 13, 2007

Recovery - Week 1

The day of the accident (July 15th) Dr. Cohen put my knee cap back together. Prior to the surgery his outlook was that I'd be lucky to walk again. When he went into my knee he expected to find my entire patella (knee cap) in tiny fragments. Instead, what he found was that the outside of my patella needed to be removed. There however were two pieces, about 1/3 the size of my entire patella each, that remained. So he pinned and wired them together and sewed me back up.

When I woke up from the surgery there was a traction pin sticking out each side of my knee; Dr. Cohen had drilled a hole through my knee and inserted the pin during the surgery. I was also equipped with a catheter, which I have to say is pretty darn handy. It's great not having to bother with urinating, with the catheter things just drain as necessary.

Once they moved me up to my home on the fourth floor an orthotech quickly arrived and attached a traction unit to my bed. Basically I had some metal rigging at the end of my bed that contained a pulley. Cables were then attached to each of my traction pins, threaded through the pulley, and 30 pounds of weight was attached to the other end of the cable. I was required to remain on my back, in traction until my hip surgery, which was scheduled for July 23rd. The goal here being to hold my hip relatively in place, allow things to calm down a bit in my leg, and prevent any further damage.

Here are some pictures that my mother took of my traction pins and traction weight during my second weekend in the hospital:

Being in traction like this is pretty darn difficult to take, especially when it's in place for 9 days. First of all, every muscle in my left leg was stretched continuously. It would start out where my hamstring was the muscle being stretched, then my groin, quadracept, etc., etc. This continued non-stop for 9 days. Secondly, the constant pull from the weight slowly pulled me towards the end of the bed. When combined with the fact that I was continually warm and pretty much always lying in the same position; I started to develop blisters on my butt.

When the blisters developed, my surgeons specified an air bed for me. Once it arrived, the air bed made a world of difference. Why it wasn't specified right from the start was always a mystery to me.

The other obvious issue during the first week in the hospital was pain. It took a while to get things dialed in as far as pain management went. In the end I found that a steady diet of Percocet, Oxycontin, and Deloted did the trick. The biggest challenge in the hospital however, is that they won't just give you a bottle of medicine and trust you to take it each four hours. Instead you need to page your nurse each time and then hope that she responds in a timely fashion. With each nurse managing 6 to 8 fairly high maintenance patients, it wasn't always possible to get my medicine exactly when I needed it. That got to be a little tough to take.

The good news for the first week was that the Tour de France was on every morning to keep me busy. I also had an incredible line-up of folks who stopped by to visit. People from work, friends, family and members of my bike racing team all stopped by and phoned numerous times. Having as much support as I did made a big difference. So, I again want to thank everyone who visited or called. It definitely kept me motivated to concentrate on my healing as much as possible.

The other big thing that happened during my first week was that I really came to grips with the fact that this injury was not going to be overcome in a steady progression of success, on a time table, or possibly even at all. All I could do was deal with what was going on with my recovery as it happened, day by day. Some days could be going very well, only for something like a blister, pain, fever, etc. to pop up out of no where. When these sorts of set backs occurred I learned that I had to simply deal with them as best I could and hang in there.

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