Wednesday, October 31, 2007

MOVE IT ALONG, NOTHING TO SEE HERE

I'm closing up shop. I might post in a few weeks to report on how my leg is feeling, but if this does turn out to be the last time I post, assume that all went well from here on out. Or that I'm dead. It'll be one of those two things.

If you were reading this blog because you were a friend and/or relative of mine blessed with two equal length legs, then thanks for your readership! I hope you found my months of agony entertaining.

If you came to this blog looking for information about leg lengthening, then I hope it's been helpful to you. Of course my experience was just that: my experience. Yours could be very different. That being said, on my final post, here's my list of 10 things I think would benefit anyone about to undergo leg lengthening:

1. Pick a good time to start the process. Really plan for the time off of work/school, and make sure that it's also a good time for anyone you might be needing to help you. Which leads me to...

2. You're going to need a caregiver. Someone falling into the "parent" or "person I'm married to" category would be preferable. Someone you are just dating might be a little iffy. Definitely don't think you can depend on a roommate to help you through it. Unless you feel comfortable asking your roommate to help you shower. Maybe you do.

3. Try to get as much help and support from your doctor as you can. I say "try" because it's not always possible with some doctors. Don't be afraid to call your doctor's answering service in the middle of the night.

4. Take all the pain medication that you need, but try not to take more than that. If you get addicted, you get addicted. Wean yourself off. Unless you have a problem with substance abuse, you will be able to regulate how much you need.

5. Pin site care. Your doctor will tell you one thing, you'll read many other things on the internet, but I found that the less I messed with them, the better. Just wash them in the shower with plain water, use sterile q-tips to dry them, and cover them with sterile gauze. And get yourself a shower seat. Trying to hose them down while standing up is not smart.

6. During the lengthening period, do your stretches. Everyday, all day. I know it hurts. But if you miss even one day you will feel it and it will only make things harder.

7. When you're on crutches, pad the tops of them with towels. Your armpits will still get sore, but not as bad. Being on crutches just sucks. Get off them as soon as you can.

8. You really can walk with the fixator without doing any damage to yourself. Walk as much as possible. Especially during the consolidation phase. Your bone will ache and you'll know it's growing.

9. Once the lengthening period is over, you won't be in pain at all. So go out and live your life. Just don't do anything stupid.

10. You're going to have bad days, and really bad days, and days where you want to shoot yourself in the head. You're also going to have good days. Just try to roll with it. It'll all be worth it in the end.

WOUNDS

Bottom two pin site holes:



Top two pin site holes:



Knee screw removal site (with stitches):



Ankle screw removal site (with stitches):

Monday, October 29, 2007

FACTS, NOTHING BUT THE

First surgery date: May 30th, 2007
Time spent in the hospital: 3 days, 2 nights
Begin date of lengthening: June 4, 2007
Duration of lengthening period: 24 days
Amount lengthened: one angry inch (2.54 centimeters)
Amount of work missed: 5 weeks
Duration of consolidation period before weight transfer: 76 days
Length of Vicodin withdrawal: 7 weeks
Second surgery date: October 24, 2007
Total duration of fixation: 148 days

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I.V. BRUISE

The picture doesn't really do it justice. It's much more green and red than the picture shows.



Today I'm feeling a lot more like myself, probably because I'm taking very little Vicodin. My fever spiked this afternoon, and after last June's fever incident//911 call/ER visit/verbal ass-whooping from my doctor, I knew that post-surgery fevers were normal so I just took some Tylenol and waited it out. I haven't tried much weight bearing since the surgery, but I'm going back to work on Monday so I'll inevitably try some then.

And I'm starting to count down until I get this tight ass bandage removed from my leg. 68 hours!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

SURGERY IS COLD

Yesterday was my surgery to remove the four pins and two screws in my leg. Everything went fine, and I was home by 1pm. The worst part was how cold I was in the operating room and when I woke up. I couldn't stop shaking for an hour after the surgery. While I was waiting in the pre-op room before my surgery, I heard a little boy tell a little girl about what surgery is like. "Surgery is cold!" he said. Indeed, little boy, it is.

Here's me waiting to get all operated on:



Here's my leg ready to get de-pinned:



I'm not sure what I thought my leg would look like post-surgery, I suppose just a few bandages here and there, but I woke up and it was all wrapped up almost like a cast, and I was surprised that they didn't take it off before they sent me home. A call to my doctor confirmed that he won't be taking it off until my appointment with him next Tuesday. Which I suppose is fine. It's really tight and pretty uncomfortable, but I don't really want to see the carnage under there.

Here's a not very exciting picture of my mummy leg:



They gave me a prescription for Vicodin (hello old friend!) and at first I was reluctant to take it, but my leg hurts a significant amount. Not like the lengthening, just very sore and tender. I've been taking 1/2 a Vicodin every 4 or 5 hours, and that seems to be keeping the pain at bay. Hopefully by the end of the weekend the soreness will be much better.

And since there aren't any gory pictures of my wounds to show you, here's my bloody IV bandage:

Monday, October 22, 2007

IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

Only two days until surgery! Woohoo!

Monday, October 15, 2007

SERENDIPITOUS SYNERGY (OR SYNERGISTIC SERENDIPITY, WHICHEVER YOU PREFER)

The universe conspired today to bring together me and the man whose movie informed the name of this blog, John Cameron Mitchell . He was in the elevator at my doctor's office! Tres meta.

I had my pre-surgery tests today. Nothing fancy... blood drawn, peed in the cup, yada yada yada. I thought maybe after going through almost five months of pin site cleaning, getting blood drawn wouldn't still bother me. But nope, I'm still a big wuss!

Only nine days left!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION

The light at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly these days, as I'm only ten (10!) days away from pin removal surgery. And I'm starting now to reflect on how I spent the last four and half months, and how different it was than I thought it would be.

When I first decided to have leg lengthening surgery, the idea of months of inactivity didn't really phase me. Actually, it was somewhat the opposite. Being inordinately lazy by nature, I saw it as a free pass to spend the summer on my couch, watching TV and movies and reading books and magazines and just relaxing.

But as soon as the lengthening started, I realized that I wouldn't be doing any of those fun things. The pain led to the drugs, which led to a complete inability to focus on anything, even a TV show. Reading was out of the question. The TV was generally on, and it did help distract from the pain somewhat, but I couldn't really tell you what I watched during that time. I remember watching a lot of The Cosby Show, but that's because at least two cable channels play it pretty much all night long, and since I didn't really sleep for the four weeks of lengthening, it seemed to be on all the time.

The only other thing I could manage to do during the lengthening period was play a hand-held version of Tetris that my sister-in-law got me. I'm telling you, if you ever have to experience an extended period of pain, get yourself a Tetris game. There's something about the simplicity of the game that requires very little concentration but also at the same time keeps your mind engaged enough to distract from the pain you're experiencing.

During the lengthening period was when I got the most visitors, but since I was so drugged up, I couldn't really enjoy them or even interact with them very much. Someone told me once to spread out my visitors, and in retrospect that certainly seems like good advice, also because visitors really do tire you out, as silly as that sounds.

Toward the end of the lengthening period, my head started to clear a bit and I could focus enough to watch TV. This was probably because I was now addicted to Vicodin, so it wasn't making me as out of it as it used to. I was able to get in a couple of TV shows on DVD and a couple of movies before the lengthening period ended and the Vicodin withdrawal period began.

Even though June was technically the hardest month, because it was the lengthening month, I hope I never have to live a month like July ever again. In fact, I would take four Junes over just one July. The combination of having to go back to work after six weeks away, being on crutches, and going through Vicodin withdrawal made for some of the hardest days of my life.

Crutching around the apartment was one thing. Crutching around my office building was something else entirely. Never before did I realize how far away everything was. My arms were shot after just two days back at work. And on top of that, the Vicodin withdrawal, which I've gone into in much detail, was depleting any remaining strength I had. I went to bed every night at 7pm. Do you know how light it is outside at 7pm in the summer? July sucked.

By the end of July, though, I was almost off the Vicodin and almost off the crutches completely. I felt more like myself. I finally got my appetite back. I estimate that I lost about 15 pounds in the two months of being on pain medication and then going through withdrawal from that pain medication. Before the surgery I was a very healthy eater, but since I couldn't seem to eat anything during June and July, I started eating pretty much whatever I wanted, since I figured that if I wanted pancakes, I might as well eat them, since they might be the only thing I ate all day.

As a result, I gained back all the weight, and then some, during the month of August. I start eating better again in September, and if I can manage to not gain any more weight in the coming weeks of limited mobility after surgery, I will have gained only about five to seven pounds during this process, which is not so bad for four and half months of inactivity.

I think I was in too much pain in June and too tired in July to be depressed. That was the toughest part of August. I went six weeks without going to the doctor and seeing xrays to show me if my bone was growing as fast as it should. I had no idea if my bone was on track for a late October fixator removal, or if, because I was an adult, the process was going to take longer than even my doctor finally admitted to me it would take.

August is when my idea of what the leg lengthening process would be like came the most true. I watched a lot of TV, went through a lot of movies and even read some books. Whenever I wasn't at work, I just sat around my apartment and tried to relax. Going into the process, I thought August would be my last month, but now knowing that I had two and half more months left, at least, made August the most difficult month psychologically.

September was easier in all regards. I was usually able to get out of the house once on a weekend, even if it was just to have brunch in my neighborhood, and since I still had Fridays off from work, the three day weekends actually felt like enough time to rest up for four days of work. I even turned the TV off and starting spending most of my time planning for what I would do once the whole process was over. The list I came up with is below. I should post in a year and see how many of these things I actually wind up doing.

-take French lessons and go to Paris
-walk to and from work everyday
-do yoga
-transition to a mostly raw diet
-buy food primarily from farmer's markets
-buy a real piece of art for my apartment
-have an actual birthday party for myself
-visit our friends at their condo in Hawaii
-buy lots of cute new shoes that I don't have to worry about fitting a lift into!

Now that October is almost half over, and my surgery is coming up quickly, I'm feeling like I might actually make it out of this process alive. Though I feel physically and emotionally spent, I'm optimistic-- confident, even-- that in a just a few months, hopefully by the new year, it will all feel very much worth it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE GOOD NEWS

Well, this is a first. My doctor's appointment today could not have gone better. After staring at my xrays for way too long and driving me crazy in the process, my doctor announced that my leg was ready to be fixator-free! He pulled out a little wrench (the same one I used to do the lengthening) and took my fixator apart right there in his office!

He then re-assembled my fixator and kept it in case I do re-break my leg and he has to put it back on. I didn't think to ask him to hold it to see how much it weighed, and I'm now thinking that I'm probably not going to see it again if all goes well, but that's okay. I'm now without fixator!

Here's a picture of my leg without the fixator:



And here's a picture of my leg with Lamar for perspective:



The surgery to remove the four pins and two screws still in my leg will be on October 24th. He said the surgery takes about half an hour. Until then, he told me to be very careful with my leg. Walking is fine, but any side to side movement should be avoided. He said I might want to bring my crutches around with me for support, so I think I will do that.

I'm sure he'll give me more specific instructions after my surgery (one thing I have learned about my doctor, he does not like to look very far into the future), but it sounds like the six weeks of crutches following surgery will not be so bad, more like just having them there for support and taking it easy.

He also told me that, all in all, I did pretty well with this whole thing. Thanks jerkface!

Now I can begin the final countdown.

Days until complete fixator removal: 14

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

ACHY, BREAKY?

As I am (hopefully) nearing the conclusion of my leg lengthening journey, I'm realizing that I haven't talked much at all about certain aspects of this process, and if this blog is to help others who are about to have leg lengthening, I should talk about those aspects in a little more detail.

One aspect of the process that has been present the entire time is the bone ache. And it's occurring to me to talk about it now, because ever since my doctor transferred all of the weight from my fixator to my bone, I've been having a lot of it.

The bone ache first started when the lengthening started. And it was horrible. It was the pain that needed the drugs, that kept me from sleeping, that never went away. It's hard to describe pain, but if you're about to have leg lengthening, the kind of pain you can expect is a deep bone ache that you can't do anything about.

But I will say that towards the end of the lengthening, the pain did seem to get a little better, so perhaps the pain is front-loaded in that way. My doctor did allude to something like that, and since my lengthening was only 3.5 weeks long, I might have not experienced the decrease in pain level that a person with a much longer lengthening period would.

Once the lengthening was over, the bone ache mostly went away. I would still have it a few times a day, but the intensity of it significantly decreased, and the sensation was almost comforting in a strange way. It felt like the bone was growing.

And now that the weight is fully on my bone, I'm experiencing much more bone ache. It's not back up to the level of intensity of the lengthening, but it's much more constant than it was during the consolidation period. And it's freaking me out. I know that if I were to actually break my bone, it wouldn't just ache a little and feel sore. I just hope that more achy doesn't mean possible breaky.

My doctor's appointment is one week from today. I'm excited at the idea that this could be my last week with the fixator. If he does take it off next week, I'll still have the pins, but maybe I'll actually be able to get a pair of jeans on over them!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

TEARS OF A CLOWN

It occurs to me that I should blog, but there's not really anything interesting to say. My next doctor's appointment is two weeks from today, and the closer it gets, the more I'm realizing just how important it is to me for it to go well.

And for it go well, the xrays need to show that my leg is ready for the fixator to come off. If they do show that my leg is ready, then my doctor will take off the fixator and schedule a surgery to remove the pins and the screws in my leg. If they don't show that my leg is ready, I will hear something along the lines of "see you in a month," at which point I might need to shoot myself in the forehead.

Even though I've tried very hard to reason with myself about how my life right now isn't how it will always be-- that I will, someday, get the fixator off and be able to walk around and play outside like the normal kids-- depression has definitely set in. I've just gotten used to life like this, and life like this is depressing.

Perhaps a big reason for the sudden melancholy is the fact that my friend Rex has set a wedding date, November 10th. The wedding is in Northern California, and aside from the fact that I don't have any vacation time left, I will probably/hopefully be having surgery a week or so before that. So I can't go. This brings the grand total of weddings I have missed because of my leg to four. Well, one of those I wasn't actually invited to, but I'm counting it anyway.

So I'm trying to think of things to be happy about. Like that The Office and Ugly Betty start up again this week. Or that the Red Sox might actually beat the Yankees and win the division. Can you tell that my life revolves around my television?

Here's a picture of my adorable niece with her adorable face:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A LITTLE LESS FIXATOR, A LOT MORE TIME

Another doctor's appointment yesterday. He took off a small piece of my fixator, the piece that was used for the lengthening, so it was nice to see that bastard go. And he gave me the piece, so that bodes well for the will I get to keep my fixator question.

Here's the piece he took off:



He said that now my bone is effectively bearing all the weight and that the fixator isn't really doing anything anymore. And then he said "see you in a month." Um, what?

He wants to see how my leg does with the added stress, then take some xrays and decide if the fixator is ready to come off. He said if I was going crazy, I could come in for my next appointment in three weeks instead of four. So I scheduled it for three weeks.

Then I told him that I was going to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving, and asked him how that would impact my pin removal surgery. He said if he had his choice, he'd rather wait until after Thanksgiving. So I might be stuck with the pins for another two months! But, if all goes well in three weeks, he'll take off the fixator, then schedule the pin removal surgery for two weeks after that.

I have to admit, though, that I've gotten pretty comfortable with the fixator. I even took the subway for the first time this morning! And I'm also terrified of re-breaking my leg, so though two more months of fixation isn't my idea of a good time, I'm okay with it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NOTE TO SELF: KILL DOCTOR

After six weeks of sitting around and thinking positive bone growth thoughts, I finally had my doctor's visit today. It went pretty much as I thought it would. He did the load transfer thingy he had talked to me about before, which basically just consisted of him loosening two of the three bolts on the side of my fixator. All three were locked before. Now only the bottom one is locked.

Here's a not very exciting picture of the two bolts he loosened:



After he loosened them, he had me get up and stand in front of him. After I didn't fall down in pain, he told me to walk around the room a bit. He said if my leg re-broke from the increased weight bearing, I'd know it and "wouldn't be liking me very much right now". I don't like him at all to begin with, but that's beside the point.

He said he transferred over 50% of the load from the fixator onto my bone, which immediately made me paranoid about walking around and rebreaking my leg. But my doctor is very conservative, and I know he wouldn't have done it if he wasn't sure that my bone could take it.

He actually said that some doctors would remove my fixator at this point, but he likes to do the slow removal, taking off pieces of the fixator every week or so until only the pins remain. So I go back next week to have a piece of the fixator removed, and then perhaps also the week after to have more or all of it removed.

He said the whole fixator removal process should be about a month longer, which is great news. The not so great news is that he said I'd have to go back on crutches for up to 6 weeks after having the surgery to remove the pins. At almost every single doctor's appointment I've had, I've been trying to get this information out of him. He always blew me off. Now he drops this bomb on me.

I knew there would be some amount of time on crutches, but 6 weeks seems like an awful lot. And the bone stays weak for even longer than that, so it's going to probably be a year or so in total from surgery to where I'm doing anything super strenuous without fear of breakage.

So, looks like about two and half more months of sitting around waiting for my leg to heal. I'm seriously running out of ways to entertain myself. I've even started reading books and, like, watching the news. Help!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

PLAYING FAVORITES

You know how parents love some of their children more than their other children? That's because some children are good, whereas some are BAD BAD BAD!

Here are my good children:



Never any pus, never any pain, never any sticking of the gauze to the wound, never any problems. These are what healthy pin sites look like.

Now on to the trouble makers:



First of all, there's Screwy. He's actually a bit of a success story. After starting out in a life of crime, he's reformed himself and turned things around. He still bleeds every now and then, so the gauze sticks to him sometimes, and he produces little crusts that I have to swab off, but all in all, he's not such a bad seed anymore.

But Toppy, he's bad news. One infection apparently wasn't enough for him. He had to go and develop another one. The first one was on the bottom side of the pin. It took a long time to stop hurting like a biatch, but it eventually did, and around that time, pus showed up on the rim of the pin site. It was so crusted on that I couldn't get it off with the cotton swabs. Until now.

Here's Toppy after I got a huge wad of pus off of him:



I think that bottom of the pin site infection has finally run its course. Which is why I was very confused last week when my pin site starting hurting like a biatch again. Turns out the top of the pin site is now infected. It stings and burns, just like the other infection did, and it's already starting to form a crust.

Here we go again. Apparently pin sites closest to joints are more likely to get infected. So I guess Toppy was just born bad.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

ANTIBIOTIC PARADE

I developed a sinus infection a few weeks ago, and despite my determination to ignore it, it didn't go away. So on Monday I called my primary care physician and convinced her to prescribe me an antibiotic for it without coming in to see her. I felt a little guilty about playing up my leg situation for her, but this is my week off, and I'm not getting up off of the couch unless I absolutely have to.

She called in a prescription for Levaquin, which is vogue in sinus infection treatment these days. I swear she's prescribed it for me once before, and I didn't have any side effects then, but perhaps because I'm also taking Erthromycin for the pin site infection who will not die (which I forgot to mention to my doctor), I had crazy side effects this time.

Immediately after taking it, I felt tremendously dizzy and lightheaded. It was kind of like that very first Vicodin (oh, the memories!) After about two hours, the dizziness went away, but I was now wide awake. Like I was on speed wide awake. I tried to go to bed, but I just laid there, having bizarre thoughts, which I can't really describe other than to say that they didn't feel like thoughts I would have, but rather thoughts a crazy person would have.

So I was up until 4 in the morning, high on antibiotics. When I called my doctor the next day to get a different antibiotic, her receptionist tried to convince me that my side effects were only because I didn't eat enough food with it. But I did eat right before I took it. You have to eat a lot, she said. But it kept me up for hours and made me feel crazy! Okay, fine, she said, and finally put me on with my doctor.

My doctor apologized for the side effects. Yeah, that can happen with that drug, she said. Thanks for the warning! She prescribed me Augmentin, the name brand for Amoxicillin, which I have taken many times and have never had side effects from. I finally told her about the Erthromycin for the pin site infection, and she told me to check with my leg doctor to see if I didn't need to take both. And I checked with him, and he told me to take both.

So now I'm on a parade of antibiotics. Anything living in my body, good or bad, should be dead by the end of the week. And let's just hope that I'm not building up some sort of super immunity to antibiotics. I'm going to need them for when the bird flu comes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

THE PIN SITE WHO WOULD NOT DIE

The pin site infection lives on. It was better, but not completely better, when I lowered my antibiotic dosage. So it decided to get bad again. Now it's getting better, again, and is producing all kinds of cool yellow pus.

You know you want to enlarge this picture:

Monday, August 20, 2007

TICK TOCK

Nothing to do now but watch the clock. And watch movies. And read. And learn how to count to 100 in French. Pretty much anything to distract myself from the fact that I still have the fixator attached to my leg which, quite possibly because there's nothing else to obsess about now, I can't stop obsessing about.

During my pre-surgery internet searching, I came across a guy who had leg lengthening surgery who opted to have a rod put in his leg so that when the lengthening was over, the fixator was able to come off and the rod held his leg together while the bone healed. The guy had three months of lengthening, which I cannot even imagine, but he said that after three months of the wearing the fixator, he was ready to yank it off himself.

That's about the point I'm at, too. But I'm hoping that my next doctor's appointment on September 11 will be encouraging. I'll have been done with the lengthening for two and a half months by then. How much more time does my stupid bone need to grow?

Kelly's mom and sister came over for dinner last week. Here they are, with Kelly's mom covering her face since she doesn't want her picture on this crazy interweb thing that's all the rave with the kids these days:



And here's a picture of me, Kelly, and He Who Shall Remain Nameless (I decided my fixator doesn't deserve a cute name like Frank) at Heather's housewarming party last weekend:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

OFF THE STICKS, OFF THE SMACK

It's been over 60 hours since I have had any Vicodin, which is the longest I've gone in my quest to rid my body of the drug. The withdrawal symptoms over that time haven't been too horrible, so I think I am finally, officially off the smack!

It's really a toss-up which was worse: the lengthening pain, or the Vicodin withdrawal. The lengthening lasted about four weeks. The Vicodin withdrawal lasted a month and a half. I certainly couldn't have gotten through the lengthening without the Vicodin, but it seems like a terrible trade-off. My advice to anyone undergoing a long stint with pain is to take as little pain medication as possible, and watch out for that tolerance point. That's when you know you're in trouble.

Also, I've been off of the crutches for over a week now. The progress of this week has been rather remarkable. I started out the week off the crutches, but still walking very awkwardly and tentatively, and trying to limit my walking as much as possible. Now my walk is almost normal looking, and I find myself getting up to get things that in the past I would have either asked someone to get me or just lived without.

And after almost two weeks of increased antibiotics, my pin site infection has cleared up, and now I know that any pain I experience around my pin sites is the beginnings of an infection. It took me a week to realize that I had one because I thought the pain I was having was dry skin pain, not infection pain, and in that time the infection got worse. So hopefully, knowing what I know now, I won't get an infection this bad again.

So now my only concerns are taking care of my pin sites, walking as much as possible, building up my strength and trying to get back to my normal life. Last night was the first time in two months that I've left the apartment for a reason other than a doctor's appointment or to go to work. We went to Heather and Jessie's housewarming party, taking a cab both ways and only staying for a couple of hours, but just sitting in a chair in their backyard wiped me out.

But it felt good to do something normal again, and with the pace of my progress lately, I'm hoping for more social outings in the coming weeks. It's going to be a slow road back to a normal life, but at least now it's starting to feel like I've finally begun that journey.

Oh, and one of my new co-workers told me last week that Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer of Weezer, had leg lengthening surgery! Here's a picture of the freak like me:



And here's what his Wikipedia page has to say about it:

Cuomo was born with his left leg 44 mm (1 3/4 in) shorter than his right leg. After the success of The Blue Album, Cuomo underwent a procedure to correct the condition. This involved the surgical breaking of the bone in his leg, followed by several months of wearing a steel brace which required self-administered "stretching" of the leg 4 times daily; Cuomo likened the ordeal to "crucifying (his) leg". An x-ray of the leg is part of the album art for "The Good Life" single, and the experience inspired him to write the song. Cuomo can be seen wearing the brace on an episode of The Late Show with David Letterman, which can be found on their DVD "Video Capture Device".

Monday, August 6, 2007

FRANKIE SAYS RELAX

I suppose "Frank" is the winner of the name that fixator contest. Personally I'd rather call it "that thing that's getting removed at the end of August like my doctor originally promised me," but that's no longer factually accurate.

Of course I can see on the xrays that my bones are nowhere near healed, and of course I can understand that it's going to take two more months, at least, for them to be ready to stand on their own.

But what I can't understand is why my doctor didn't know that before we started this whole thing. The only other option is that he did and he just straight out lied to me. Like he lied to me about how much the lengthening was going to hurt. Hm, I'm starting to see a pattern here...

Since there's not much that I can do about it at this point, I'm just trying to relax and plan out what I want to do with myself for the next two months plus.

We rented Shortbus on Saturday, and the chick at the video store asked Kelly if she knew what it was, then told her it really belonged in the adult section.



Which it probably does. It's front-loaded with sex acts, perhaps solely to shock and jar, and because you aren't yet emotionally invested in the characters, it is indeed shocking and jarring, but as the film goes on and you start to become more emotionally invested in the characters, the sex acts somehow seem less shocking and more just part of the narrative. It's not as good as Hedwig but I think it's worth a viewing for fans of Hedwig. Or fans of porn.

After trying to rent Weeds from the same video store, and having it already be checked out, and then being left with nothing to watch except the horrible War of the Worlds on HBO (really, there's not one redeeming thing about that movie), I finally decided to get Netflix.

Weeds is apparently shipping to me today. I've added Battlestar Galatica and a few random movies to my queue, but I need suggestions, and lots of them, for two more months of viewing.

Help, please.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

STILL LIFE WITH FIXATOR

I went into my doctor's appointment today with very low expectations. I was only hoping to get some sense of when I'd get my fixator off. And get some sense of it I did.

My next doctor's appointment isn't until September 11th. So that's 42 more days of life with fixator before my doctor and I are even going to discuss taking it off.

It's a bit of a shock, since I really thought it'd be off by the end of August, or early September at the latest. Now it's looking like the end of September will be the earliest surgery date, because there are still a few steps in between my September 11th visit and getting the fixator removed.

The next step is transferring some of the weight bearing from the fixator to my bone. My doctor might do this on the September 11th visit, or he might still think it's too soon. Once the weight is transferred, we wait... I don't know how long.

Then when my doctor thinks my bone is ready, he'll take the fixator off, but leave the pins in. This is in case I re-break my leg right away. If I'm not broken after a couple of weeks, he'll take the pins out.

So realistically, I'm looking at mid-October before I'm appliance-free. Since it's going to be living on my leg for another two and half months, I think it's time I named my fixator. Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

SMACK REPORT

I'm down to one and a half Vicodin a day. At this rate, the weaning process will be over in one week, with next Sunday being my last day on the smack.

The weaning process I chose was to go down half a pill every three days. At one point in the lengthening, I was taking eight Vicodin a day. After the horrible failure of trying to quit cold turkey, I went back up to six Vicodin a day and started my weaning process there.

The withdrawal symptoms have been ever-present, and have ranged from mild to moderate. Here are all the possible Vicodin withdrawal symptoms:

-Restlessness
-Muscle pain
-Bone pain
-Insomnia
-Diarrhea
-Vomiting
-Cold flashes
-Goose bumps
-Involuntary leg movements
-Watery eyes
-Runny nose
-Sneezing
-Loss of appetite
-Irritability
-Yawning
-Nausea
-Chills
-Sweating

Except for vomiting, I've had them all to varying degrees. The restlessness has been the constant, most prominent symptom, followed closely by the stomach issues, with the weird cold-like symptoms coming in a close third.

It's funny how the weaning process is also called "stepping down," because it really has felt like walking down a flight of stairs. Certain steps were steep, and the withdrawal symptoms were intense, like, for some reason, when I went from four pills to three and a half. At other times, I felt like I was on a plateau, with only mild withdrawal symptoms for days at a time.

Now that I'm almost off the Vicodin, my symptoms seem to be more of the irritability, insomnia and involuntary leg movement variety. One night this past week I couldn't fall asleep for the life of me, and last night I fell asleep okay, but woke up at 2:00 a.m. unable to stop moving my legs back and forth. And I've been ornery as hell, irritated by every little thing about this leg lengthening process that hadn't irritated me before.

I've read that after you're off the Vicodin completely, withdrawal symptoms last for about another week. So hopefully in two weeks, I'll be symptom free!

Friday, July 27, 2007

THE MINORS

Most of the major concerns I had going into this surgery are now behind me. The pain of the lengthening, the worry about nerve damage, and the fear that my bone wouldn't grow are all non-issues now. The only major concern that remains is that when I do get my fixator off, I don't re-break my leg immediately.

But the minor concerns are still hanging around, namely the ankle swelling and the pin site discomfort.

I can't seem to keep my ankle swelling down for any length of time. The minute I'm not elevating it, it comes back. And when I'm at work, it's impossible to keep it elevated all the time. Also the more I walk on it, the more swollen it gets. My physical therapist told me that as I walk more and more, my ankle swelling will dissipate. That hasn't been the case yet, but I'm still not walking anywhere near normally, so hopefully once I do, the ankle swelling won't be an issue.

And my pins sites, though generally healthy, are still causing problems from time to time.

Here's a picture of my top two pin sites:



If you really want to get a good look at the sites, click on the picture to enlarge it. You can see some yellow looking stuff in the corner of the one on the left, which is the top pin site. Right now my top pin site is very stingy in that area, so I've upped my antibiotics to four a day for two days to prevent an infection from developing.

I've been using Bacitracin around my top two pin sites to help with the painfully dry skin, but it doesn't seem to be helping. I tried some A&D ointment around the area, and that helped, but my skin also turned red after a few days. How something used to treat diaper rash could have given me a rash, I don't know, but I guess I can't continue to use it now.

Here are my bottom two pin sites:



They have been pretty much fine this entire time. I haven't had the dryness or stinging and itching around them that I have with my top two pin sites. I have no idea why that is, but I'll take it.

Mia and her mom, Jenny, came by for a lovely little visit the other night. Here's a picture of them and their cute haircuts:



Jenny has been through her own orthopedic surgery and recovery ordeal, so it's been great to have her experience and wise advice helping me along the way. Also she brought me flowers and apple cider from the Union Square farmer's market. Mia brought me a vintage Playboy magazine. There's not a boob to be found anywhere in it. It's full of like, articles, and stuff. Boo!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

IT'S ALIVE!

I took my first unassisted steps yesterday! I pretty much looked like Frankenstein, with my arms out in front of me for balance and my steps heavy and awkward.



But sweet Jesus it felt good. And I'm feeling pretty good in general. Every day I feel a little stronger and like I have a little bit more energy. I'm starting to feel like myself again, and am only now realizing how out of it and somewhat depressed I was this whole time.

I have my focus back, which I didn't totally realize was gone. During the lengthening, I couldn't even focus enough to watch TV. Now I'm starting to go through the stacks of DVDs I collected for my recovery.

We just finished watching The Office (American version) seasons 1&2, which were awesome. I don't think there's a bad episode in the bunch. Neither Casino Royale nor Little Children lived up to the hype for me, but I thought both were solid. And my guilty pleasure confession is that we've been watching reruns of The O.C. on SoapNet. Maybe one day soon I'll even pick up a book!

I'm starting to feel like my daily experience is now what I envisioned it would be when I signed up for this surgery. I'm tired all the time, my leg is sore, physical therapy is hard, living with the fixator is uncomfortable, but it's all managable. I'm still needing 10-11 hours of sleep a night, but I'm getting through the days okay.

My parents just booked a 7-day, western Caribbean family cruise for all of us for next April. The last family cruise we went on was two years ago, and my back pain was so bad that I couldn't do a lot of things I wanted to do. Just knowing that I'll be back pain free for this one makes this whole thing already seem worthwhile.

Oh, and I got a care package from Sheila yesterday... thanks Shix!

Friday, July 20, 2007

THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING I'VE EVER OWNED

I got my hospital bill the other day, from the Hospital for Joint Diseases and Orthopaedic Intitute (sic). I wonder how many reams of stationery they printed up before they noticed that typo.

My total bill comes to $35,132.75. Through the miracle of health insurance, my portion is only $250.00.

Here's the breakdown of the charges:

Two days in a semi-private room: $4,820.00
Pharmacy: $113.75
Medical Supplies: $958.00
Other Supplies: $900.00
X-Rays: $258.00
Operating Room Services: $7,500.00
Anesthesia: $795.00
Physical Therapy: $109.00
Drugs: $32.00
Recovery Room: $1,050.00

That comes to $16,535.75. So the remaining $18,597? That's the price of my fixator!

I had toyed with the idea of asking my doctor if I can keep the fixator after he takes it off. Knowing how expensive it is, I can't imagine I'll be allowed to now. Though on the other hand, I did buy it. Well, my insurance company bought it. So technically, it's mine. Maybe I will be able to keep the most expensive thing I've ever owned.

Maybe I can trade it in for a car.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

SEVEN WEEK ITCH

Today is seven weeks since my surgery. Seven weeks of wearing the fixator. Seven weeks of being on crutches. Seven weeks of hair growth on my right leg.

I'm feeling a distinct seven week itch. I alternate between feeling like it'd be okay that I have the fixator if only I could walk, and feeling like it'd be okay if I couldn't walk if only I didn't have the fixator. Essentially, I'm sick of having the fixator and I'm sick of not being able to walk.

There's some promising progress on the walking front, though. Yesterday in physical therapy I rocked some serious one crutch walking, and for the first time felt like someday it will be possible to walk unaided again.

But I bummed myself out by looking at my xrays, which show such huge gaps in my bones that I'm starting to realize that this fixator ain't coming off anytime soon. My doctor says that he's in "no rush" to take it off, and I agree with him, in principle. I certainly don't want it taken off before my bone is completely healed. Re-breaking my leg would be beyond horrible.

At my next doctor's appointment in two weeks, my doctor is going to transfer some of the weight off of my fixator and onto my bone. Right now the fixator is bearing all of the weight while the bone consolidates.

Once the bone is completely healed, my doctor said he'll take off the fixator, but leave the pins in my leg. In the sweet Jesus don't let this happen case that I re-break my leg, he can just slip the fixator back on over the pins.

If after one or two weeks of having only the pins in my leg and no breakage, he'll remove the pins. So I'm looking at the end of the summer at the earliest before I'm free of all the metal. About another seven weeks. Which puts me at the mid-way point of this whole process. That's a somewhat depressing thought. At least the worst is behind me!

Vicodin addiction update: I'm down to 3.5 pills a day, and I'm really starting to feel the effects of the weaning process. The last few nights I've been incredibly restless and it's been very hard to sleep. I'm sneezing a lot and generally feel like I have a cold. But once I take a Vicodin, the sneezing goes away almost immediately. I don't even feel anything when I take a Vicodin, I just feel normal again. That's some messed up shit.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

TRYING TO LOSE A CRUTCH OR TWO

As anyone who has ever been on crutches knows, being on crutches sucks. Just from crutching around my office for three days last week, I exhausted my arms so much that I could barely lift them the following few days. But I'm hoping that now that the initial soreness has decreased, it won't get this bad again.

So now the goal is to get off of the crutches. I've made it down to one crutch... for a few steps at a time, that is. But it's progess! I was having some pretty bad knee pain during physical therapy, but after talking to my doctor about it, and getting the "it's nothing" speech, I've been pushing through it and it seems to be okay.

And the more I weight bear, the more aches and pains I have in my leg, which strangely enough makes me feel better about my knee pain. All my muscles, and soft tissues, etc., have all stretched an inch in only three weeks, so it makes sense that they would feel tight and painful as I try to put weight on them.

I have my next doctor's appointment on July 31st, and I want to walk into it, without crutches. I admit that this is mostly because I know my doctor will yell at me if I walk in with crutches, but hey, I'll take the extra motivation wherever I can find it.

Finally, here's an xray of my leg:



You can see the break in the tibia and the break in the fibula, each an inch wide, and the new bone that's already starting to grow in. You can also see the two screws, one at my ankle and one at my knee, and the four pins that go practically entirely through my tibia. It still grosses me out to see that. Eesh.

Here's an xray of both my legs as I'm standing up:



This is the xray he used to measure my leg lengths and determine that the lengthening is over. You can really see in this xray that my right knee is now higher than my left knee. You can't tell at all, though, by just looking at me. It's really only 1/2 an inch higher than the left and isn't noticable at all, so I was suprised to see how much it showed up in the xray.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

BAD BLOGGER

I've been horrible about blogging. Part of it is not my fault, since we're still without internet at home. Or rather, we sometimes have internet, and then only certain pages will open. They are finally supposed to fix it on Saturday, after almost a month. Die a slow death, Time Warner Cable.

I've also been beyond exhausted, since this week is my first week back to work. Even though I've been crutching around the apartment for over a month, the amount of crutching I've had to do at work, which is only to get to and from the bathroom, has destroyed my arms. My left arm feels like it's going to fall off. It hasn't been this sore since that one (and only) boxing class I took years ago.

But I did have a doctor's appointment yesterday, and my lengthening is officially done! My legs are even!

Check it out:



Now I just have to wear the fixator until my new bone grows and consolidates. I go back to the doctor in three weeks for another set of xrays, and hopefully about three weeks after that, I'll be fixator free!

For some reason, the nurse gave us my xrays from this recent doctor's visit, so I'm going to try to take pictures of them and post them, hopefully on Saturday when our FUCKING INTERNET IS FIXED!

Not much is going on otherwise. Still weaning myself off of the Vicodin like the addict that I am. We had a mouse in the apartment this morning. Kelly tried to trap it and kill it, while I sat helplessly on the couch and watched, but she only managed to stun it with a broom before it scurried behind a bookcase. We duck-taped it back there until our super could come over and kill it proper.

Here's a picture of Lamar playing on my fixator:

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

BACK ON THE SMACK

Tomorrow I am finally, after five and half weeks, and two weeks later than I had planned, going back to work. I was supposed to go back to work on Monday. And I was completely ready to. My leg lengthening was done. My physical therapy was going great, and my leg didn't hurt at all. And because it didn't hurt at all, I stopped taking the Vicodin.

Here's another bit of information to add to the list of information I sure wish my doctor had bothered to tell me: stopping Vicodin cold turkey is about the worst thing that you can do to your body.

First it started out like flu symptoms. Stomach ache, coughing, sneezing, fever, chills and sweats. I thought I had somehow managed to get sick just as I was supposed to go back to work. Then my stomach got much, much worse.

At some point over the weekend, as I was hovering near death in the bathroom, it occurred to me that maybe instead of the stomach flu, I was going through Vicodin withdrawal.

I emailed my doctor (still on vacation, mind you) about my withdrawal. He wrote back that I should have stepped down my dosage instead of quitting cold turkey. Hey, thanks for the information!

By then, I was so deep into my withdrawal that I thought it couldn't get any worse. So I figured, with all I had already been through, that I might as well not take any more Vicodin and just tough it out.

And then it got worse. I don't want to get too graphic, but it was like fire coming out of me. Because of the time difference, I couldn't call my doctor. So we called Kelly's brother-in-law's father, who is an ER doctor. He told me to take a Vicodin. So I did.

Then we called Markus, soon to be MD, PhD, and he helped us figure out if I could take some Immodium, since the pharmacist at Duane Reade suggested to Kelly that in combination with my antibiotic it could be potentially fatal. Oh, let's not be dramatic or anything, Duane Reade pharmacist.

Markus busted out his pharmacology textbook and assured us that I would not, in fact, die if I took some Immodium. So take some I did, and in about an hour and a half of taking that and the Vicodin, I started to feel a little better. I took a couple more Vicodin overnight, and by the morning I felt like life might be worth living again.

So, I'm officially addicted to Vicodin. I now have myself on a step down program (aided in part by advice Kelly found on a Vicodin addicts online forum) which has me decreasing my dosage by half a pill every three days until I'm off of it. Which will be around the end of July.

I could really care less what my doctor thinks of this plan. No way am I going through these symptoms again. Don't do drugs, kids. Those movies like The Basketball Diaries and Trainspotting ain't lying.

Oh, and Heather came by on Friday night for a visit, which turned out to be right before all this madness started to happen. Here she is pointing to the beautiful handmade "Happy End of Lengthening" card she made me:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

UM, WHAT?

Yesterday my doctor’s secretary called me. She said that my doctor told her to instruct me to uncrank my fixator for the next two days. Instead of lengthening four turns of ninety degrees a day like I’ve been doing, I’m to turn the crank ninety degrees, four times a day, but in the other direction. Um, what?

Apparently, this might help with my pin site issues. Aside from my one pin site which may or may not be infected, both my top and bottom pin sites are starting to get very irritated. My doctor warned me that some of the pin sites, particularly the top and bottom ones, might need to be cut open a little bit more, because the lengthening might cause tearing in them once they heal up.

I think that must be what’s happening. I don’t think I’ll need to have any of them cut open, since I’m so close to being done with the lengthening, but it’s very aggravating to have to stop the lengthening now, because I only had two days of it left. Now I’m not only not lengthening, but I’m setting myself back two days with the uncranking.

I’m loathe to uncrank, because every crank was hard fought to achieve. But my pin sites are bothering me enough that I’m willing to try anything to make them feel better. And I’m probably technically done with the lengthening anyway, since my doctor was having me over-lengthen a bit so he could compress when he’s back from vacation.

My pin sites and the skin around them are also horribly dry. I’m dying to put some kind of cream on them, but my doctor says absolutely not. I’ve read of various pin site care methods on the internet, and most of them say that using an antibiotic cream is fine and helps with the dryness, but my doctor says a dry pin site is a good pin site. He also says for me to stop reading the internet and listen only to him. Ugh, fine.

My doctor wants me to email him tomorrow and let him know how the uncranking affected my pin sites. I’m not sure if he’ll then tell me to start lengthening again, but I’m trying to have a whatever attitude about it. I really wanted to be done with the lengthening by the time I went back to work on Monday, but if I have to lengthen for a few days while at work, it won’t be that much of an issue.

And Shannon, if you’re reading this, thanks for the cute get well card! I got it yesterday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CUT OFF FROM CIVILIZATION

We’ve been without internet access in the apartment since last Friday. The problem turns out to be a frayed wire buried in the ground at the back of our apartment complex, and apparently it’s a job so complicated that even Time Warner Cable needs to contract it out. It won’t be fixed until July 5th. Thank baby Jesus that the TV cable still works.

Not much to report on the leg front, except for one of my pin sites appears to be infected. It’s red around the rim of it, swollen, painful and very, very itchy. Like I want to tear off my skin itchy.

I upped my antibiotics from two a day to four a day, then emailed my doctor, who is in Israel, or Italy, or some other country beginning with an I that I would know if I was paying attention when he told me, and he wrote back within the day and told me to continue with the increased antibiotics for 48 more hours and apply increased pressure to the site.

When I showered and cleaned my pin sites yesterday, the infected site looked a little better, so hopefully the increased antibiotics are doing the trick. They are certainly doing a number on other parts of my body.

Kelly went back to work this week (which is how this is getting posted, thanks Kelly!), so I’ve been on my own in the apartment during the days, which has been okay. It’s hard to get up and get things for myself, like food from the fridge, because I have to somehow hold whatever it is in my hand and still use both of my crutches. But I’m managing, and it’s good practice for me before I go back to work.

I have two more physical therapy sessions before I head back to work next Monday, and I’m really hoping I can do a good amount of weight bearing during them. I’m getting very eager to start walking again.

And I only have three more days of lengthening left. Woohoo! I’m even starting to count down the number of cranks. Only eleven more!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

DOES THIS FIXATOR MAKE MY ANKLE LOOK FAT?

The last few days have been mostly uneventful. I only have seven days of lengthening left, and I'm counting them down practically by the minute. The pain is pretty much the same, but I'm trying to cut down on the Vicodin a little, since I'll only have two days after I finish the lengthening before I have to go back to work, and I don't want to go to work on a lot of Vicodin, but I also don't want to drop down off of it too fast.

My biggest concern right now is my ankle swelling. It's been fairly swollen this whole time, but the swelling significantly increased last weekend, and it's taken me several days of keeping it elevated above my heart to get the swelling to go down to a managable level. But it's still swollen, and painfully so.

The last few physical therapy sessions I've been up on my crutches putting some weight on my leg and trying to take a step through, though I haven't managed to do that yet. I'm really itching to be able to walk on it.

But the ankle swelling is annoying me, and I'm worried that when I go back to work, I'm not going to be able to elevate it as much, and it's going to swell up even more. My physical therapist says that when I am able to walk on it, the swelling will go down, so walking is the ultimate goal.

For now, though, it's elevation, and some manual displacement of the swelling, courtesy of Kelly:



And this morning, Kelly's dad and his wife, Bobbie stopped by while they were in town for business:



Days of lengthening left: 7

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

SURGERY WHILE AWAKE

Another doctor's appointment today, another set of xrays. The xrays showed so much more space in between my tibia and fibula breaks than last time, and in those spaces you can see new bone starting to form. It looks like cloudy white specs. My doctor estimates that I've already lengthened between 1.6 cm and 1.8 cm, so he wants me to lengthen for ten more days, and then I'll be done with the lengthening. Hooray!

He also saw that my tibia was starting to drift over toward my fibula, so he had to correct that using the fixator. He put the wrench in one of the holes on top of the fixator and cranked it, and it felt like my knee was being moved over to the side inside my leg. He referred to this as "surgery while awake."

Yeah. It hurt. And my leg has been very painful ever since. Excellent. Apparently I may need little adjustments like this from time to time. It's pretty crazy that he can basically move around all the bones in my lower leg using the fixator. I thought the lengthening was the extent of the fixator's powers.

My doctor is going out of town for two weeks, so I'm on my own for a while. My next appointment with him isn't until July 10th, when he told me that I have to take an xray standing up, with my leg completely straight and my foot on the floor. So I have a lot of range of motion to accomplish before then.

Paige and Beth came over tonight for a visit. They didn't want their pictures taken, not wanting them to be posted on the blog. Too bad!





Thanks for coming to visit, guys.