Monday, September 15, 2014

Part Two: Six Weeks in the Hospital

Before I get to today's post:
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Needless to say, being in the hospital for 41 days is a very boring place to be, especially because I was mostly bed bound.

We got into a schedule based on my medical needs. I was on many different teams (oncology, surgical – orthopedic and general, infectious disease and pain management) and they all made rounds at different times of the day, so that helped take up some time. I also had physical therapy, which was my favorite part of the day. I was so restless, I just wanted to get up and move. I asked every doctor, "When will I be able to walk again?" No one could answer because there wasn't any way they could know, which I found tremendously frustrating.

Besides physical therapy, the other thing that got me from day to day was my quotes. Starting on Pi Day (March 14) I made a sign that I posted on my door. Each day I had someone else choose a quote from my quote book, (from my family and friends, to nurses and doctors, to the lady who brought my lunch every day) "drew" it, and posted it on my door. Every day people would comment on my quote of the day. It was really nice to make other people smile. Eventually people started to come to my room at the end of the hallway each day just to see the new posting.

To break up the day to day monotony, my mom and I played lots and lots of travel Scrabble. For those of you who don't know, Scrabble is my mom’s game, so it was very exciting to finally beat her. We also started watching the show Glee after we saw the cast on Oprah. I'm sure we looked funny huddled around the tiny screen of the net book my dad bought me. We also spent quite some time watching Golden retriever puppies (a friend of ours dog just had a litter ) via WebCam.

Before the infection, I had already started to feel alone and disconnected. My friends from school had started to fade away and I had spent a lot of time on my own in the six weeks between radiation and the start of chemo.

Being "chained" to a hospital bed for such a long time made those feelings worse. Time seems to
stretch on and on. I always looked forward to Sundays when my best friend Megan would come to visit. Pattie also came several times and Aunt Katie came for Easter. I also looked forward to Brandon and Dad’s visits very much. I missed being at home with them and seeing them all the time. When they came and we would sit outside or play board games or watch TV. They often brought dinner, which was a great relief from the hospital food.

A contributor to the feeling of loneliness was feeling disconnected. I could only use the computer when my dad was there with his laptop, so I had very limited ways of contacting anyone. I asked my dad if he could get me a netbook, which he did. Big Red (my netbook) was life altering. It made a really big difference to be able to connect with people and was great for relieving boredom.

For the majority of my time inpatient I was on a pretty good dose of morphine, which made me say some funny things. I gave one of my doctors a report on a book (the Landry News by Andrew Clements) that I hadn't read since the third grade and had long since forgotten. Some other favorites include: "Why do I always feel like I'm on an elevator?" "Penguins can fly!" "Why is there a house in the middle of the stairs?" "Feathers!" Due to my altered mental state, my memory was pretty shoddy. I told the same jokes over and over and laughed at the same jokes Megan told me every week.

I was in and out of the operating room so much I got to see familiar faces. Most memorable was a nurse named Cheryl. She was wonderful; I had her on several operations. She would always tell me jokes as they were putting me under anesthesia. The only one I remember is this: "Why was the tomato red?" – "Because it saw the salad dressing." I thought this was absolutely hilarious. On my last operation when my calf was closed with a skin graft Cheryl gave me a blanket she had embroidered for me.

The last of my 10 operations was to place a skin graft to close my calf. After the surgery I had to stay bed bound for two weeks because the graft was so fragile. After this period I moved out of the “Sammy Loch suite” and back to the oncology floor for my second round of chemotherapy.

Looking back, this infection was scarier than cancer. My cancer diagnosis came with a clear plan of attack. I knew pretty much exactly what was going to happen and what the side effects would be. The infection was chaotic and the plan kept changing. I didn't know when I would be out of the hospital. I didn't know when I'd walk again or if I'd walk again. Fortunately my leg was saved and I did walk again.

I was able to walk again with the help of an incredible physical therapist. Edwin Malijan is quite possibly the best physical therapist ever. He has taught me to walk no less than three times and I don't know how I'd be getting around as well as I am today without him. I swear this man has magic hands; he could cure any ache or pain I had. At one appointment Edwin asked how I was doing. I said that I wasn't doing very well and even my pinky hurt. So, what did he do? Edwin worked on all my ailing parts from my lower left leg to my back and even my pinky. For the two years after my infection and subsequent surgeries Edwin and I worked very hard. It began with just being able to walk and by the end of summer 2010 I was training to go back to school, which meant I would do many of my exercises with my backpack on my back. We trained to gain strength and mobility and I know I'm doing as well as I him today because of the foundation Edwin helped me build from the start.

Mischief Managed,

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