The PAO trail: Torture in order to heal

***PAO = Peri Acetabular Osteotomy***

PAO trail – day zero: December 4th 2016:

dsc_0423It’s 4 pm and I get into the car like a normal person for the last time. Today has been a day of “last times for a while”. I’m surprisingly calm when we take on the 2 hour drive to the hospital where my surgery will take place. We arrive shortly before 6pm, I get out and my stomac turns. The lady at the reception desk tells me where to go but I need to pee first. Another thing I won’t be doing on my own for a while. We arrive at the ortho unit, and it takes us a while till we find somebody who brings us to my room. I asked for a 2 person room, cause the one person rooms I just can’t afford. There’s no space left in a two person room, so they put me in a 3 person one, in the saddest place one can possible think of. Squeezed in between a closet and another sick person. No personal space what so ever, no window, absolute sadness. This must be the Harry Potter spot.

I fight back my tears. They can’t do that to me. Don’t they know I live outside? Don’t they know I at least need a window? Don’t they know? I surrender and go lay down on the bed. I can’t breath. There is nothing but sick air in the room. How the fuck should I heal here?

Daniel has to leave by the time it is 8pm and the only thing saving me is staring at my tablet, scrolling through pinterest and surrendering to what is gonna happen. During the night I lay on my side as much as possible and move my legs the craziest ways as much as possible, as these things too won’t be allowed for a long long time to come.

 

PAO trail – day 1: December 5th 2016: Surgery Day:

It’s 6:30am when the nurses wake me up. Take a last shower with disinfecting soap, put on the surgery robe, let go. My last steps. Like Carine taught me I blow my soul into my Mountain Lion necklace. It’s a good place to keep my soul safe while they chop my left hip into pieces.

By the time it’s 7:30 they roll me down to the OR. I have to wait in the hallway, get parked next to the door of the OR. OR nurses walk by, chatting happily, just another day for them. Not so much for me. I try to stay calm and I visualize my fasting spot in the Inyo Mountains, with a gorgeous view on my beloved Sierra. I think of my Inyo Tribe and of the people who love me. I think of Lion. She is right here with me. Licking my face. I try to breath deep and slow.

The anesthesia doc comes and asks me all kind of questions. I tell him to please give me something so I won’t get sick. When I was 8 and I had surgery on my eyes I puked my soul out of my little body after surgery. Such misery. Please take care of me doc.

My surgeon passes by and tells me there’s an emergency knee operation where he has to go look. We might start half an hour late. Torture. But after 10 minutes he’s back and he says we can start.

2 people roll me into the OR. I climb from my bed onto the operating table. It’s cold and hard. I spread both my arms to the side. They start putting IV’s in. The anesthesia doc says “Just let it come over you” and I say “I’ll do my best”. Sierra o sierra. Lion. He tells me to breath the oxygen and then I’m gone.

I wake up on the intensive care unit. Though one can’t really call it “wake up”. I hear voices and machines beeping. After a while they let Daniel in the room. I don’t really notice him but I know he’s there. The sun shines on me through the window. I cannot say “it’s warm” or “it’s bright”. Right there, right now all I can do is “be”. My heart races. It beats too fast. The alarm goes off when I don’t breath regularly. And I wonder why they don’t turn those machines off,  cause that alarm is so damn loud.

Every hour a nurse comes to check my vitals. I don’t remember faces, except one of a male nurse and me thinking “what is a man doing in my room?” And there’s something in my memory of a man with a baseball cap coming into the room quickly, putting something on the machine above my head and disappearing again. I try to remember and to understand but I can’t. Maybe it was a dream.

The doc comes in the evening and they let Daniel stay with me for 2 hours. Thank god!

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hip-post-pao

You can see how the socket of my hip has been cut loose and has been rotated. In between the 4 fractures new bone has to grow and hopefully that’ll create a more normal shaped hip socket.

PAO trail – day 2: December 6th 2016

When I wake up I’m still on the ICU, attached to cables and IV’s and my pee runs through a cath into a baggie on the floor. 2 nurses come in and tell me they will wash me. They push the button of my morphine filled pain pump,  take off the surgery robe and I lay there naked and I don’t care. They cover me partially with a towel and start washing me. I actually enjoy someone making me clean. Washing the surgery dirt off of me. Untill they tell me they now have to turn me on my side and wash my back. I ask them if that really needs to be and they say ‘yes’. They put a pillow between my knees and turn me on my non-op side, carefully but I scream cause it hurts like hell. I am dead tired after the procedure. They make me a bread with marmalade but I can only take one bite.

At 11:30 they get the “Go” to move me to the ortho unit. Before I know it I’m back in the Harry Potter spot. But I’m too weak to say a thing. I don’t feel human. I cannot speak one decent sentence. Daniel asks me something and all he gets back are some strange wrong pronounced words. It’s as if the language center in my brain isn’t working yet. He goes to talk to the doc and they both agree the Harry Potter spot is a “no go” for someone with a surgery as heavy as mine. The two women who shared the room with me get to go home today and the nurses move me to the other side of the room. A window and on each side a meter of personal space. Luxury compared to the Harry Potter spot.

I have dsc_0440the room to myself for the night but I hardly sleep. I lay on my back like a brick. I push the button of my pain pump but then all of a sudden my body can’t deal with the morphine anymore. There’s no time to ring for the night nurse. I feel that feeling in my stomach and before I know it I throw up all over myself. My comfy pillow I brought from home is ruined and I can feel the vomit running down the side of my neck down my back. I’m to miserable to really care. The nurse comes and cleans me at least a bit and she gives me a shot with some other shitty medicine to take away some pain.dsc_04253

 

PAO trail – day 3: December 7th 2016

I feel sick.  I can’t move. My bladder cath is still in. They remove the morphine pain pump as it can’t handle it anymore. They try to come up with other pain meds to control the pain, but it’s not easy to find something that doesn’t mess with my stomach. They give me paracetamol and codeine. It works just a bit. My pain is not even near to being under control.

The physical therapist puts my leg on what I call “the machine”. It moves my leg for me very slowly. It’s painful but somehow good too. She seems to be disappointed I’m not making progress. When she wants me to sit up, I almost faint. No way I can try to walk to the door of the room with a walker. No way.

 

PAO trail – day 4: December 8th 2016

PT tells me I need to start moving. The moment I try to sit upright though, I get dizzy and the world around me starts going up and down. First I feel sick in my stomach, then I feel my blood rushing in my ears and my ears start beeping very loud. The next step I black out. I know what it feels like to faint. So I try to interfere inbetween the beeping and the black out. They tell me not to close my eyes, to keep looking up. It’s a battle.

In the afternoon my mom and dad come to visit. They bring me the biggest balloon ever. Ah! The balloon story! When I was 8 years old, I had surgery on my eyes and I asked my parents if they could give me one of these special balloons (you know the ones that look “metallic”) once I made it to the other side. But they forgot (I got a stuffed animal instead which I still treasure), and so till this day I still have that childhood wish for a special balloon. Daniel brought me an awesome cat balloon on day 2, and when my parents enter the room they are accompanied by a huge teddy balloon. 26 years later a childhood dream comes true.

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PAO trail – day 5: December 9th 2016

Still no progress. Still weak as fuck. Still dizzy. Can’t you folks help me? The doc pops by and tells me they will check my blood.

PT shakes her head.

What the fuck am I supposed to do? I can’t learn to use the walker if I faint every time I get up.

During the night they finally take blood and do a count.

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PAO trail – day 6: December 10th 2016

“You need a blood transfusion” they say. Your blood is low. See. I wasn’t making this shit up people! They fiiiiiinally take out my bladder catheder and put me on the toilet. I can poop immediately. Victory!!! Hell yes! And then half an hour later I can pee. Thank god! That was one of my biggest worries. Having a cath in for 5 days is not the best thing for your bladder. I try to drink a lot so it flushes through and bacterias get no chance. With the cath out I instantly feel better. I make the four steps with the walker to the bathroom without fainting. Yesss!!!! In the evening they give me the blood someone has donated (thank you unknown person!). It’s a bit creepy, someone elses blood is running through my veins now, but it helps.

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PAO trail – day 7: December 11th 2016

For the first time in a week I feel human again. My heartbeat is still racing above 100 (all week) and my temp is a bit high but fuck that. I make it out of the room for the first time. Things are changing!

I make it around the ortho unit with a walker and my crutches. WOW! What a difference!!!

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PAO trail – day 8: December 12th 2016

Every morning a doc goes around and ask everyone how they are doing. The most heard sentence I hear from these docs is “That’s normal with a surgery as major as this one. you can’t compare it to anything else”. They are allowed to send people home normally, not me. Only my surgeon can give me the “go”. So they say my doc will come by inbetween surgeries and he will decide whether I can leave.

The nurses check my temp and thank god it has gone down a bit. In the early afternoon my doc comes, we talk, I tell him I made it up and down the stairs with crutches (hell yeah! Doing stairs is the final test before they send someone home), and he says: Well then you can go. Yessssssss!

What a progress I made the last two days. Since my bladder cath came out and I got the blood transfusion everything changed.

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I am so happy I can go home. It’s been the worst in hospital. Especially not being able to really “heal” at my own pace (which is slow and very gently) ( AND the pain, I tell you… the pain is the worst I ever felt in my whole life!!!!!). They tried to push me (which I understand, they want me out as soon as possible, cause I cost money of course) and I had to roll with the hospital hours and the nurses schedules (however in the end I must say that I am grateful for the nurses and the people working in the hospital. Without them I would have even been more screwed. Most of them were kind and really tried to help me). At home all will be better.

 

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone who’s been holding me in their thoughts and /or prayers, been sending me good energy, been reaching out to me with kind words. It really really helped me through this most painful week of my life.

What now follows are 6 weeks of laying down and/or sitting in a recliner and resting as much as possible. I’m not allowed any weight baring because now the fractures have to heal and bone has to grow. After that I’ll have a control appointment with my doc, and if I have good bone growth, I’ll be allowed partial weight baring from week 6 till week 12 and I’ll be allowed to start physical therapy and learning to walk again.

This is just the beginning of the road. But at least “I took the first step”, I survived it, and now I’ll take it slow and I can go on this journey at my own pace. I am in a lot lot lot of pain but I am so damn grateful for “new” and “old” medicine and for my life. It is a gift!!!

Much love, 

a very humble Cat xxx

PS: I couldn’t have done this without Daniel. He was/is by my side every step of the way. This surgery is not just hard on the “patient” but also on the people around them, so a lot of credit goes to him. He’s the best man in the world!!!

22 thoughts on “The PAO trail: Torture in order to heal

  1. Helen, thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ve been thinking about you and Daniel every day for the last couple of weeks! YEAH to your first step and YEAH to all the steps that will come from now one. May they take you to your home & to new places, to your loved ones & to new friends, to your dreams, and – of course – to the bathroom 😉 Sooo happy to see you smile on the last picture!!!
    Renate

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  2. I’ve been through something similar and I know the pain. Day by day, there is no difference, but week by week there is. Hang in there, you will get better. As Joseph Kennedy said, ” When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. And you’re tougher than most.

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    • Thank you Sara. Yes it does feel like a Rite of Passage. And incorporation is really not easy. But what is true too, is that I can feel the holding and that really helps. It’s a soothing feeling to know that the human and the more-than-human world holds me like in a basket almost, and it’s a feeling of basic trust, that when I get through this, I will bring something back for myself and for all of you. Much love and gratitude!!!

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  3. Oh Cat, I feel for you. I have been keeping you in my thoughts, sending you little nudges. I can’t even begin to imagine what you are going through. (Birthing a baby was painful as fuck, but when the baby was out, most of the pain was over.) I’m wishing you aaaaaaaall the best! Take care of and be kind to yourself! ❤

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    • Lina, thank you so much for keeping me in your thoughts. It definitely is not easy and the pain is far from over, but there will be a day that things will turn and all will be better :c) I’m looking forward to that day :c) :c) :c)

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  4. So glad to hear the surgery went well, though that sounds incredibly painful. You showed incredible strength and determination. Glad you have such loving support. Is it getting better every day? Hope you can be patient with your body and keep sharing your story. Many of us who only know you from afar are rooting for you and holding you in our thoughts. Hugs!!!

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    • O thank you Joan!!! It’s getting better every day, and then the next day it’s getting worse again, so I can’t really say it’s a straight line, but o well, I never liked straight roads anyway :cP Till now I manage to be patient, I hope that still lasts a while cause this is only the beginning. It helps though to know people are rooting for me and holding me in their thoughts. Hugs back!!!

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    • Thank you Gabi. Ya it’s definitely not easy for a hiker and outdoor human like me :c) But like you said the mountains ain’t going nowhere, so I guess they’ll be there when I am ready to come back. Such a relief :c) :c) :c)

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  5. What a brutal experience to go through! So glad you are out of the hospital and on your way (however slow it may be ) to feeling better. As someone who needs the outdoors desperately too, I am so happy you have so many good memories and experiences to reflect on to carry you through this time until you can be outside and on the trails again! Blessings!

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