29 July 2009

A word of caution

There is actually no way to more quickly dismiss someone who has been seriously injured than to tell them how you would manage to deal with what they're doing.

Whether it's telling me that I'm awkward on my crutches or joking that if you were me, you'd be moving all around the campus by now?

Shut the hell up.

Stop it.

Because, really, a major injury like this changes my entire world. I can't wash my damn calf. So why not just shut up and let me do what I need to do?

Today has been frustrating in a way that seems like it'll extend beyond now.

A lot went well, including 2 really good career advising sessions and an awesome conversation with an acquaintance about interviews for jobs. It wasn't a bad day, just an eye-opening one.b

26 July 2009

Recovery sucks

Well, that was surgery.

We went in at 6:30 Thursday morning to check into surgery and I was finally released at 6 pm, approximately 6 hours after they thought I would be.

For the most part, I loved my entire medical team. The nurses were great, my surgeon is amazing, and people (with the exception of a couple of raised eyebrows) didn't say a damn thing about Willow being my medical decision-maker. Sure, it shouldn't be a surprise, but it was still good to know.

The anesthesiologist left a lot to be desired - he was abrupt, dismissive, and insisted on giving me a spinal block (like an epidural some women choose when giving birth) that nobody else seemed to think I needed. It was the spinal block wearing off that kept us in the hospital for longer than we'd thought we would be.

Apparently, I am very susceptible to anesthesia, something I suppose I wouldn't really know since I've had three surgeries in my life - two were before the age of six and all before now were before 18. The spinal block didn't even work properly (a bad batch of medicine, they think), but it laid me up for nine hours. The nerve block on my leg lasted for more than 32 hours - in the end, a good thing, since I was able to get a good night's sleep and wasn't aware of some of the worst of the recovery pain from the surgery.

So now, I'm just dealing with being laid up. I am, incidentally, not a very good sick person. I hate asking for help, I hate being limited, I hate not being able to control my own life. I can't even go up the stairs to where our bedrooms are to get a pair of underwear.

I'm getting more mobile every day, though. Today, I took a shower on my own, I took out some garbage and did some laundry (it's not folded, I can't carry anywhere to fold it). These seem like small things, but they're a start.

So I'm at the cranky, feeling overlimited part of recovery. The little bit that I've done today has exhausted me, leaves me sitting on the couch, staring into space, wondering if I'd fall down if I tried to do anything else. But it'll get better. Tomorrow, I return to work in the office, thank god. That'll get me out of these 2.5 rooms, away from the futon that may be developing a permanent butt imprint.

And, maybe, at some point, I'll be able to get my own damn underwear.

22 July 2009

Surgery, Living Wills, and How Being Queer Actually Changes Things

Tomorrow, I go into surgery for my ankle - apparently, I am awesome enough at breaking things that I managed a spiral fracture in one side of my ankle and something that moved the bone away from my ankle joint in the other ankle while also tearing my ligament at the back of my foot.

So, 3 pins and a metal plate later and I will be a cyborg! So that's exciting.

I was doing the medical history thing with the nurse on the phone today to save time tomorrow - it's outpatient, so if the surgery at is 8:30, they want me there at 6:30 and I should be leaving by 11 or so. One of the (many, many) questions she asked me was: "Do you have a living will or an advance directive?"

They have to ask this with any surgery, I know. And it's not a very high risk surgery. But the question took me aback and not just for the reasons that it does for everyone.

Because, you know what? I used to have a living will. But it was made 8 years ago, in my Sociology of Death and Dying class and it doesn't much represent the things I worry about now, beyond the basic facts.

I still don't want to be kept alive on life support if I have no brain activity. If I have minimal brain activity and don't improve, pull the plug. It's pretty simple, really. I have no funeral directions beyond "please don't mourn someone who isn't me, please remember me with my flaws and all."

But other things have changed. Since 8 years ago, the person who is most likely to be responsible for my medical care if I can't make decisions is my partner. Because we are not (and cannot be) married, she has limited legal automatic right to these decisions.

So, while many heterosexually-partnered people (especially those who are not married) might have living wills, married couples need them to protect the injured/disabled person's rights. Queer couples? We need them to protect my right to have my partner make those decisions; to access medical information, status and care; and to override my parents if necessary.

Because there's a snag. My parents know that I do not want to be kept alive on life support past a very specific point. But, should everything go wrong tomorrow and I go into a coma, could my mother make that decision? I don't know.

And if it came down to Willow knowing what I want and my mother doing what she thinks best, Willow has NO legal standing unless I have a living will.

It's crazy how fast such a small medical situation (it's just a broken ankle, not a stroke, you know?) can drive home how different my life is now than when I was partnered with a man. So we'll be meeting with the living will/advance directive team tomorrow morning to set up some failsafes. They're good to have anyway - really, everyone should have one.

And I'm sure that everything will be fine. Why wouldn't it, right?

21 July 2009

New starts or: My Adventures in Broken Bones

For the last 7 years, I have journaled at LiveJournal. And, frankly, as much as I have enjoyed it, it seems like there might be a reason to start something new, to have something associate with me at 29, not me at 22.

Plus, I just googled "what to expect" and "broken ankle" as keywords and brought up no personal experiences.

So, why not start with a story?

I live with my partner, 3 dogs, a cat, and the snake (it wasn't the snake's fault). The other night, Sunday to be precise, I was going to bed late, denying that the weekend was over. I had turned off the light and went to go up our long flight of very steep stairs to our bedroom and the guest room. And ... my foot snagged.

On our 85 pound dog. (See, I told you it wasn't the snake's fault. Snake-haters).

I've probably tripped on Callie a few dozen times - I'm clumsy and she's big, so it happens.

This time, however, I heard a very distinct "snap" as I fell onto the ground. Looking down at my ankle, I remembered another time I had fallen (I've mentioned clumsy, right?) and how I thought I might have broken my ankle, but it was just a bad sprain.

Here's something I found out late Sunday night and I want to share it with you all: With this kind of break, there is no "maybe" about it. Through the haze of pain, I could actually see that the bone piece where it shouldn't have been.

Which was both gross and cool.

So my partner, Willow, drove me to the emergency room while I tried to curse QUIETLY, so as to not offend passersby. And, potentially, people 30 miles away.

I have no idea how long it takes normally to get an ankle looked at, x-rayed, set in a split , and discharged. In my case, it took just shy of 4 hours. The longest wait was between the x-ray (when the tech asked me "can you turn your foot that way?" and I hissed "no" as I tried not to pass out) and finding out what was going on, which kind of worried me.

Well, as worried as I could get while wondering why I hadn't had any painkillers yet.

They came back and, shockingly, it was broken. Apparently, the wait was surrounding not the break, but whether there was ligament damage. After putting on the splint, they decided not to operate that night, but to refer me to an orthopedic surgeon this week, so I was (FINALLY) allowed to drink water. Apparently, pain and shock make your mouth cotton-dry.

They gave me a 'script for Percocet and one for anti-nausea meds, both of which I am trying to avoid taking - vomiting and dizziness are pretty much my two least favorite things EVER.

And now, I'm discovering all of the things that I used to take for granted that, at least for the duration of this ankle thing, I no longer can;

1) Bathing: Oh yes. Before I moved to England to go to graduate school in the fall of 2004, I was a twice-a-day bather. And, although the stereotypes about Europeans being stinky is patently untrue, I will say that I ... relaxed over there. However, I still wash my hair every other day, bathe every day. That is, of course, I did these things until NOW.

How, exactly, is one supposed to bathe with a huge splint on a foot that they can't rest on the ground? I know, theoretically, the garbage bag thing should work, but do you have any idea how LONG that would take? So far, I'm subsisting on sponge baths and hoping to bribe my long-suffering girlfriend into washing my hair in the next day or so.

2) Having hair longer than 1": Speaking of the previous issue, I will be getting all of my hair cut off on Friday, after getting paid. It's just not POSSIBLE to do even the little bit of beauty work I do in the morning (wash, brush my hair; wash my face; lotion - yeah, I'm high-maintenance), so short hair it is.

3) Going to the bathroom: I am now carefully balancing staying hydrated (very important when taking any pain meds, even Advil) and how long it takes me to go to the bathroom. Seriously, the 50 foot trek from the living room futon (which is quickly becoming my home) to the bathroom has become a obstacle course. In that time, I have to dodge 3 interested dogs who want to know what's up with my foot and what those things under my arms are (crutches are AWESOME), chairs that have fallen, a cup that fell on the ground that I can't get, a pair of running shoes, and some piles of debris from my dogs destroying things. It's easier to just hold it.

4) Stairs The FEW blogs or articles I've managed to find about broken ankles say something along the lines of "stairs will be your greatest challenge!" And yes, they have that damn exclamation point and, yes, they are always obviously former athletes or masochists or something. Because stairs? Stairs suck. Going down them is easier, but still precarious, what with the whole potential for re-injury. Going up them? You're going to feel like you're pitching forth into nothingness every time and it's going to hurt muscles in your arms you didn't even know you HAD.

5) Eating: Oh man, food used to taste so good. But in the not-quite 48 hours since breaking my ankle, nothing sounds good and nothing tastes good. I'm basically eating as an excuse to take half a Percocet so I don't chop off my own leg.

So. This is probably going to be something I talk about for a while, being that it looks like I'll be swinging around on crutches and discovering entirely new muscles in my arms for the next 6 weeks, at least.

But you can be here with me!

I know, who could give up an invitation like THAT?