It’s been a week now since I was discharged from hospital following 4 emergency surgeries to save my left lower leg from amputation. And what a roller coaster it has been.
When I was discharged from hospital on Tuesday 28 July, I have to admit, I felt nauseous, weak and absolutely terrified about what would happen next. I was given multiple blood thinning meds (1 x more than is normal) and I chose to no longer take any pain meds.
I don’t really have that much pain, which is flipping remarkable considering all that I have gone through. I simply felt thick headed and wiped out from all the many meds I was given while I was in hospital.
As usual, I had the same argument that I always do, that I do NOT want the meds, so please don’t make me. More than one nurse did point out that it is most unusual for this to come from a patient: their normal issue is people who want more pain medication than is appropriate. After going through 9 days of cold turkey horrific withdrawals from the pregabalin (lyrica) in hospital (caused by the fact that they forgot to chart the med on my record and therefore forgot to keep giving it to me) I was in no hurry to take any more any time soon.
The main issue on discharge was the thick head, headache, sluggishness that I still had as a result of all the general anaesthetics I expect. That and the fact that I was so so weak that anything at all was making me feel exhausted. Remember – 6 days of being completely bed bound and not moving at all – its astonishing how much cardio vascular capacity and muscle mass you lose, and how fast this happens. Even walking a few steps was making me gasp for breath.
I continued to take the anti nausea meds for 4-5 days just to keep everything on a level. But what I did find, was that as I started to feel better and was able to eat more, I felt better each day. The toughest thing of all has been the morning routine. Shower and getting dressed is such a mission that it takes me almost 90 mins.
I sit down in the shower – and am still out of breath by the time I have got dried that I need to lie down for 30 mins before I have the energy to get dressed, then the same ritual again before I have the strength to brush my hair. I have never felt so weak in all my life.
This is getting better gradually each day but it will be a long road to restore my energy and strength.
I have walked with crutches for almost 6 months now. Sometimes I was able to get around the house without them, sometimes not so.
Once I managed to restore a bit of the strength, enough to stand up and sit down confidently without feeling wobbly, from there it really was like a miracle.
Two days ago, I decided to go out without the crutches. It was a calculation: all the distances I was going to walk (car to doctor, doctor to car, car to house) wer short. I was finding that there was much more an element of mind over matter than I expected. I was actually questioning whether my legs would actually do what they were supposed to do.
And what happened next was quite amazing
I found that I did not actually need the crutches, it was my mind that thought I needed them.
Today is Wednesday 5 August. I have not used the crutches since Monday 3 August.
I am still very careful that I do not walk too much, or too far. I always have them in the car, but I have not needed them these last few days.
I am walking without nerve pain in my foot and without calf pain (which was caused by hypoxia – lack of oxygen to the muscle due to lack of blood flow to the lower leg).
The nerve pain has not completely gone however. It visits me occasionally and is brielf, and mild. I am not sure if that is just my new norm or not. I have a follow up at the hospital for another vascular scan next week.
Clearance to drive
exactly 7 days after discharge, I went to see my doctor, to have a physical exam with the hope of getting clearance to drive. He checked the pull and push strength in both legs and both feet, and concluded that yes, I would in fact be allowed to drive again! I am stoked, excited, amazed!
The last time the right leg was operated on was 17 july (to remove the great saphenous vein – to use as the graft in the left leg.). The right leg is feeling pretty good and the dressings are pretty much ready to come off now.
The left leg has had quite a different trip, having been opened up at the ankle and the groin 4 times, the last one on 21-22 July (overnight operation). The incisions in the groin are pretty good, the incisions either side of my knee are almost there, still a touch sensitive but are healed. The incision in my lower leg to the ankle is having a little more trouble.
The blood pressure is highest at the ankles, therefore this is the area where the system is under the most pressure, that plus gravity means they do take longer to heal.
I have had a surface suction dressing on that area since 18th July (surgery no2, where they replaced the drain with this surface vacuum dressing). Although it is intensely annoying because it is wired to a small vibrating pump that I have to carry around in my pocket, it has done its job – to draw out the excess fluid and as of today, my ankle and calf is almost back to the normal size, having been incredibly swollen following the final 4th surgery.
It is still slightly uncomfortable to bend my knee too far, I sure can feel the fact that someone has been in there messing about with the popliteal artery (at the back of the knee). I’m sure this will just take a bit of time to settle.
Once that last incision on the left ankle is completely healed, I will be allowed to swim again. Yep, I am feeling incredibly impatient but I know that I must wait for proper healing to occur.
There is a lot at stake here – like – a leg is at stake. So I am being mindful to do everything correctly.