Sunday, June 24, 2012

The July Effect

Rico's band, "Up the Academy" playing at the 8th Street Tap Room, Lawrence, KS.

You don't want to have any type of surgery in the month of July, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  The reason, and a review of the medical literature will support this, is that medical errors soar in the month of July--the month when new Residents (kids right out of medical school) start their residency at the hospital they've been matched to.  This is when they begin their practice, and believe me you don't want them to practice on you.  If you must have surgery make sure you get in writing that your surgeon will be the actual guy doing it--not watching or talking a resident through the procedure so they can learn how its done.

I had this document prepared last week to hand to Dr. S. as I tossed and turned for a few nights awaiting my visit to his office.  I had a MRI and got bad news--my quadriceps tendon was 2/3rds torn.  A nurse Belinda called me and she stated this finding to me in a monotone robotic fucking dead-pan voice--which offended the fuck out of me.

"Is this a recording?" I said.  There was a long pause.
"Dr. S. will discuss with you surgical options at your appointment."  Nurse Belinda coldly stated...

I need to back up about a week when Little Egypt was back from Kuwait for a few weeks, mes amis...

Little Egypt got home and she and Rico and I debated what to do about our vacation and her time off back for R and R.  At first I wanted to try and go, and then it was decided that she and Rico would go and I'd stay back in KS--or maybe we'd all stay and just rest and go to NYC some other time.  From where we would be staying on Staten Island, we would have a mile walk to the free ferry that went over to Manhattan every day.  Feeling strong but still on crutches, we decided that I would try to walk to downtown Lawrence to have dinner just to see if I could do it.

It was a disaster, mes amis--I couldn't even get two block before I was exhausted.  So we decided we'd stay home and we'd all rest up.  Rico was planing a three week tour with his band and before the road, he wanted time by himself and to rest and re-charge.  School has just gotten out and it was a busy semester for him.

We also went to go see the Avengers.  Aliens come down to NYC and start a rumble.  Little Egypt and Rico joked that I would have probably been toast--unable to run away from the death beams and falling debris as the Avengers fought to save the planet.

Little Egypt and I went to see the Surgeon in Kansas City a few days later.  It was not fun for me--the place was super busy and people were hurting and damaged; much sicker than me.  I tried to hold myself up and have some dignity--one, by not wearing a sleeveless shirt showing off all my tasteless tattoos--and two, not texting or blabbing on my cell phone in some ill-mannered fashion.

The thing I observed about Medical Industrial Complex USA is that on one extreem you have the sick: for the most part a blue collar, obese, cigarette-smoking lot of folks with mullets and tattoos.  And then on the other end the smug tight-asses in scrubs--The clinical staff.  They tend to be fit, handsome, and clean people.  In particular the women favor athleticism--but they treat you like a sub-specis.  To them you are the unwashed masses--cattle mulling around in the great public feedlot of America.

I actually get them to help me, sometimes even look at me, by being polite and well mannered...

Anyway, so we see my surgeon after waiting two hours--the poor man is busy, very busy.  He apologizes that it has taken three weeks to get in to see him.  With my kind of injury its important to have surgery right away for best results.  I let him know I was a staff medical librarian at Tucson Medical Center--so I knew what kind of stresses he had every day.  He was able to relax a bit and then he said, "So you probably know what's going on right?"  and I said I had a good idea.

The real test to see if I needed surgery was if I could lift my leg up--lying on my back, and then lifting up my leg.  I was able to limp around without crutches, stand okay, and had no pain.  I told him about my cycling and weight training (Will my coach at the Jim Thorpe Fitness Center had me training to do squats to strengthen my legs for the Brevet Season) but when the test came, I could not move my injured left leg at all.  This meant the tendon was torn and I'd need surgery.

But as I seemed to be pretty strong and Dr. S. couldn't feel a hole or space where the tendon had separated from my knee--he asked if I'd be up for him taking all the fluid off my knee; that might enable me to pass and then we'd know if it was just a bad sprain--or torn tendon.  Little Egypt quickly volunteered me, bless her heart--while I started to get nauseous--Dr. S. was going to give me a couple of shots to numb my knee, then take a LARGE syringe and drain the fluid off my knee.  And then give the knee a steroid shot.   I got through all this by keeping my eyes shut and concentrating on not passing out.

After a few minutes I tried to repeat the leg lift--I could not do it.  I was devastated, mes amis--it meant surgery.  Dr. S. seemed a bit disappointed as well.

About ten minutes later as we were getting ready to leave and waiting for paper work from the nurse, Little Egypt had me try again.  Holy Shit!  I was able to lift my leg!  I had done it!  The nurse ran got Dr. S. and he was like, "Okay what now I'm so freakin' busy..." and I repeated the feat.  His expression changed to one of satisfaction.  "This is good.  The MRI I'm ordering will tell us--Later..." and he was gone.

What a difference bloody goo being sucked off you knee can make, Gentle Readers of This Blog!  Each day I got better and better--stronger and able to walk, now without crutches (although with an awkward limp) but I was sure that the knee was going to heal, and I'd soon have physical therapy on top what I what I was already doing at the Jim.

MRI Results, June 20th

Back to the call from Nurse Belinda.  A torn tendon 2/3rds damaged was a let down.  This perplexed Will, my weight training coach as he felt for sure that I'd get by without surgery.  So we began to prepare for yet another six to eight weeks of recovery post surgery (it was now going on six weeks after my fall) and my weight training resumed to get my upper body prepared to lug my fat ass around on crutches some more.

Back in KC and at Dr. S.'s office, I was prepared for the news.  Dr. S. came in and sat down, and then explained the MRI and the tear--and then he said, based on my fitness and over-all ability to walk, etc--that no surgery would be needed--I had made it, Gentle Readers of This Blog!  The tear would heal, much in the same way if he went in and sewed it together.  The 1/3 of my tendon left attached was holding things together and I would recover.

It was still going to take some time, and I'd have to have physical therapy--but without surgery (in July even) things were looking good!

So I texted everyone in the parking lot of the sports medicine complex, and then as I drove home I got a call from Little Egypt from Kuwait.  She was wanting to know if she was going to have to fly home on emergency leave to take care of me after knee surgery.  I gave her the good news!  And she was happy because she just got back to Kuwait and it would be a logistical nightmare to fly back to KS again, and then fly back to Kuwait--just to fly back to KS at the end of her deployment.

It just so happened that Rico and his band were on their way back from Chicago for one night at the Tap Room downtown this same day.  We'd get home about the same time and we decided to have lunch--I'd tell him about my good fortune, and he'd tell me about the tour so far.  We had lunch, then came home and he did laundry and slept while I sent an email to Little Egypt.  I slept the rest of the day (I took the day off from work) and I'd meet Rico later at the show.

So I saw the show (they played last) had a beer, and felt like I had lucked out--but really, as you all know, it was due to my cycling (spin class) and weigh training (at the Jim) that saved the day.

Cheers!  Bruce

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