DISCOMBOBULATED, DISLOCATED & DISCONTENT
I woke up in my room. I was groggy from the combination of anesthetic and morphine. My left leg was slightly elevated on two pillows. A new fourteen-inch incision ran along the outer part of my leg, from mid-buttock down to just above my knee. A small collection bag connected to a drainage tube that protruded from the top of my incision lay beside me on the bed. A catheter tube had been inserted into my bladder in the OR and its drainage bag hung on the bed rail. An IV administered saline, antibiotics, and morphine should I feel the need to hit a button. The RN assigned to my room checked in on me every hour. I slept.
The following morning, Dr. Chang stopped by my room to tell me how the surgery went. Dr. Chang had chosen orthopedics as his specialty and was studying under Dr. Gross.
The surgery was deemed a success. An acetabular shelf had been created using my femoral head, screws and a liner held the allografted bone in place, and a femoral head and pin with openings resembling a cheese grater had been inserted into my left leg. This new cheese-grater type of pin would allow the bone to grow through the holes, hopefully avoiding the loosening that was seen with cemented femoral pins. Dr. Chang informed me that I would be allowed to get up out of bed on the third day, but I wasn’t to put any weight on that leg for six weeks.
Shortly after, my RN arrived in the room, filled a basin with warm water, gave me a washcloth, a towel, and my toothbrush, and paste, and closed the curtains around my bed so that I could have a sponge bath and clean my teeth. I was reminded to keep the bandages dry but encouraged to wash as much as myself as I could. She would be back in a few minutes.
Several minutes later, she returned, collected the washcloth and towel, emptied the basin, and opened the curtains. Breakfast would be arriving soon.
To my left was a Greek woman who didn’t speak English. She was in her eighties and was in for a hip replacement. Her surgery was scheduled for later in the day.
Across from her was a Chinese woman who also couldn’t speak English. Because there wasn’t a Chinese interpreter at this hospital, a family member had to be with her around the clock. She appeared to be quite ill and in a lot of pain, so I was glad she always had a family member with her.
In the fourth bed, directly across from me was a nice woman named Lisa who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was having various tests run to determine if her cancer had spread.
Mom and Dad arrived at the hospital shortly after noon. They had walked from the hotel, which was quite the hike for Mom, and I could see that she was struggling a bit. I told her to sit in the chair beside the bed. There was only one chair, so Dad would have to stand.
Mom asked how I was feeling. I told her that the pain was manageable, but I definitely knew work had been done! Dad asked if I had spoken with the surgeon yet. I told him about Dr. Chang’s visit and relayed the information I had been given. We had a short visit and then they headed back to the hotel. I slept most of the day.
Every few hours the nurses would come in to turn me. The turns were scheduled at the same time as the pain meds because turning caused a great deal of pain. A large fluffy pillow was placed between my legs to keep my legs from crossing over. I was told to grab hold of the railings on the bed and pull myself over. Two nurses would use the drop sheet under me to help me turn onto my side. In about four hours, they would return to help me lay on my back again.
Every surgeon has a different opinion of which side a person should lay on post-op. Dr. Gross’s opinion was to lay on the side that had been worked on. He felt that by laying on the operated side, nothing would move. Other surgeons did the opposite because they felt laying on the operated side was too risky. It was always interesting to me that the surgeons who did the most complex surgeries had opposing opinions of those who did the routine surgeries.
Every morning, a lab tech came in to draw two vials of blood. One was for a CBC count (complete blood count) and the other was to monitor clotting. It is standard protocol to be put on blood thinners after every hip surgery because excess clotting is a risk due to limited mobility. Until this hospital, no one ever had a problem finding a vein to draw blood from, but the techs here certainly did. At first, I was patient with them, but after a few days of being poked multiple times every morning my patience waned.
The following day was the day I was to get out of bed and sit in a chair. I wouldn’t be given a wheelchair quite yet, but I could sit in a chair to wash up and eat.
At eight the following morning, two nurses came in to get me up. They pushed my bed closer to the wall so that I could lead with my operated leg. I brought up my right knee so that I could push into the bed with my right foot to help me move. The nurse to my left helped me slide my left leg over the side of the bed first. My right followed and I was sitting on the side of the bed. I sat for a moment to get my bearings, then the nurses helped me stand and pivot to the chair. Once sat, I was given everything I needed for my morning wash.
Blood loss alone makes you weak and a bit woozy, so the nurse assigned to my room had planned to complete her morning duties while I was in the chair. She would be handy in case I felt faint.
Because I was doing ok sitting, I asked if I could have my breakfast while I was in the chair. Breakfast in bed is great when you’re not imprisoned in one, but after all the years of being in traction for weeks on end in the prior surgeries, I was happy to get up to eat.
After breakfast, I went back to bed. Sitting puts pressure on the hip and while it’s good for circulation, it increases the pain.
The physiotherapist assigned to me came in to start isometric exercises. After reviewing quad and foot flexion exercises, she told me she would be back in the afternoon with a stand-up walker to see if I could take a few steps.
Shortly after she left, Dad arrived alone. I asked where Mom was, and he told me that Mom needed to rest after the long walk yesterday. I told him that I had sat in the chair for a wash and breakfast and that they were going to get me up with a walker later in the day. Dad was stunned that they would be getting me using a walker so soon after surgery, but I told him that was how they did things now.
He asked if I had spoken with Dr. Gross yet. I told him that I hadn’t. I explained that Dr. Chang stopped by every morning for rounds and that I didn’t know if or when I would see Dr. Gross.
He spent the next half-hour complaining about Toronto. The hotel was awful, Yonge Street was not what it was cracked up to be and there were a lot of homeless people around. I asked him if he had anything good to say and he said no. The tension between us was palpable. He informed me that they would be returning to Regina now that I seemed fine and would call me when they were back. Thankfully he arranged for a TV for me and then left. Mom wasn’t able to come to the hospital to see me before they left as it was too far for her to walk after her stroke.
That afternoon, I got up with a stand-up walker. I had never seen one before and was intrigued.
A nurse and the physiotherapist helped me out of bed and supported me as I stood. I placed my forearms on the pads, grabbed onto the handles, and started to hop. The physiotherapist stayed behind me to ensure I didn’t fall backward.
I was able to bend my left knee enough to keep the weight off my left leg and the extra stability of this walker made me feel safe. I hopped across the room to the doorway and then back to the bed. That was my outing for the day, and I was happy to have a rest afterward! I didn’t get up again for supper.
That evening I tried calling home. I hadn’t spoken to Rob since I left and Dad, of course, had mentioned that he hadn’t talked to him either. By now, I knew that my parents knew that Rob was an alcoholic. We never discussed it and I knew Dad was not happy about it. The phone rang and rang. I left a message.
The following morning the nurses came in to get me out of bed for my wash and breakfast. I was sitting in the chair when I felt something move. I told the nurse something wasn’t right. She thought maybe if I shifted in the chair I would be more comfortable. As soon as I tried to stand, I felt excruciating pain. A howl left my lips and I immediately sat back down.
The nurse pressed the call button on my bed and asked for help. Soon after another nurse came in and they slid the chair beside the bed. They helped me get in bed, but the pain was intense.
The resident on the floor ordered X-rays. A radiology tech arrived in the room shortly after, and with the help of the nurses, slid me over to the gurney. Every movement caused considerable pain. I was doing my best to breathe through everything, but I was terrified. If my hip was dislocated would I have to have more surgery?? How would they control the bleeding considering I’m taking thinners?
Susan was at the nurses’ station as they wheeled me by. She wanted me to take morphine but I refused because I needed a clear head to be able to understand what was going on. I told her I could take it until we knew more. She said that she would be there when I got back to the room.
I was wheeled into radiology where they moved me onto the hard table. I was doing everything I could to control my fear, and my breathing and to slow my heart rate down. I had no control over my leg, so I told them they’d have to take the X-ray straight on. Thankfully they were quick with the X-ray. I was moved back onto the gurney and taken back to my room. Once in the room, I was slid back onto the bed.
I agreed to take some Tylenol 3 as codeine didn’t affect my thinking but would dull the pain. I told everyone to stay away from the bed as the slightest bump hurt.
A couple of hours later, the resident doctor showed up in my room with two nurses. He said that the x-rays confirmed my hip had dislocated and we needed to get back to radiology where we would meet Dr. Gross and he would put it back in.
They raised the bed to the gurney level, but one of the nurses was very pregnant and I didn’t want her to hurt herself pulling me onto the gurney. I said they had to get someone else to help pull me over, but she assured me that she would be ok. I wasn’t convinced so I pushed myself onto the gurney. “Boy, you sure are stubborn!” they exclaimed in unison.
The resident asked me if I wanted morphine but again, I refused. I told him I needed a clear head and morphine totally knocked me out. He said he understood and told me that he had a syringe in his pocket so all I had to do was let him know if the pain became too much and he’d administer the injection.
We arrived at radiology and met Dr. Gross and Susan. He assured me that everything would be ok and told me that he was going to grab hold of my left leg and force the femoral head back into the socket by swinging my leg. He said it was going to hurt so Susan was going to lay on top of me to hold me down. She was wearing a lead vest because the entire operation was going to be done under the X-ray to ensure the joint was back in its proper place.
Dr. Gross put one hand on the side of my left shin and the other on my foot. He asked me if I was ready and I said I was. He told me to take a deep breath, and forcefully swung my leg until we all heard a ‘clunk’. Immediately, the pain was gone.
“It worked!” I said. “The pain is gone!”
Both Susan and Dr. Gross remarked on my pain tolerance. Apparently, I was the first to refuse morphine during a dislocation.
The resident doctor wheeled me back to my room, the whole time saying how he couldn’t believe that I didn’t take the morphine. He said that he couldn’t imagine how much that must have hurt, but he was glad that the pain was gone now.
The bad news was that I wouldn’t be allowed out of bed for ten days. There was a lot of debate as to the how and why of the dislocation, but no one knew for sure. It was all speculation.
That night I was able to reach Rob by phone. I told him what happened and that I’d be staying in Toronto for longer than originally thought. He told me he’d been hanging out with some friends of ours but I knew he was more likely hanging out in the bar every night. I told him I would check in now and then and hung up. Next, I called my dad and told him what happened. He was furious. He said he knew they had got me out of bed too early and was concerned that the surgery had failed, but I told him Dr. Gross said that everything was ok. I hung up feeling exhausted.
The following day, a book arrived in the mail for me from one of Mom’s friends. Mom was so concerned about me being all the way in Toronto by myself, she had asked all of her friends to send me cards to let me know people were praying for me and thinking about me.
The book was entitled Peace, Love & Healing by Dr. Berine S Siegel. I started reading the book, but after a few chapters I realized that maybe Lisa, the lady across from me might benefit more.
We had had several short discussions about her health and her concerns over the past few days and I knew she was struggling. The tests she had been having revealed her cancer had spread. I told her what I had read so far and suggested she take the book. I wrote my name and address on the inside cover and told her that she could return it to me when she was done with it.
Lisa was overcome with emotion and thanked me profusely. She was leaving the following morning to go home but assured me that she would see that I got the book back.
I did get the book back the following year at Christmas. Lisa’s daughter-in-law mailed the book with a note telling me that Lisa had passed that spring. As it turned out, my mom passed away only a few months later in July 1994.
The elderly Greek lady next to me couldn’t speak English. I could see, and hear, her frustration in trying to communicate with the nurses as they were trying to help her turn, wash and get up out of bed. It was crazy to me that anyone would live in Canada and not learn how to speak English!
Her family came to visit every day and would always ask me to explain what had gone on. I told her daughter that she was struggling with the nurses and asked how I could help. She asked if I’d be willing to learn a bit of Greek, and because languages come relatively easy to me, I quickly agreed. All I needed to know was how to ask how she was and then learn a few words of responses so that I could relay that to the nurses. I spent the next half-hour learning a bit of Greek. A few days later, she was released to a convalescence home. In appreciation, her daughter brought me a gift basket. I still have the coffee cup that was contained within.
By the next day I had new roommates. New roommates bring new adventures.
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