Thursday, January 13, 2011

My BIG Knee Hematoma...

Update: April 10th, 2011...
101 days since I fell... and my knee still has spots like a dalmatian!

I continue to go to physical therapy three times a week and it's really helping. We're working on building up my quad strength and regaining the muscle I've lost. Other good news...I drove this week for the first time since December 28th!

February 28th, 8 weeks since the accident.
I started physical therapy this week.
This is my taped patella, "Alien treble clef- Lady GaGa look"!

Six weeks after the accident...


Two weeks after the accident...

One week after the accident...

(Outside of leg)


The day after it happened...

Monday, January 3, 2011

One Small Step for Man

You have to wonder what it would have been like in 1969 had Neil Armstrong done a face plant stepping off of the first lunar lander. It certainly would have put a a comic turn to the whole event, so long as he wasn't hurt and didn't puncture his spacesuit. "One giant, OOPS!!!!

Well, we arrived at Cambridge Beaches, checked into our lovely room (where we spent our honeymoon), and freshened up to go to the "Manager's Reception for Returning Guests".

We went down to the room, which is a cozy little bar where, five years ago, one of our guests, Brian, was entertaining everyone singing Irish drinking songs. A very fun place. We were very tired and thought about leaving early, but we were the first couple introduced by the manager, Richard Quinn.

We met a lot of returning guests, including a couple who was returning for something around the 25th time. We had one drink and then headed out of the building. I led the way and stumbled down the step outside the entrance (which was abrupt, broken and ill-lit), and I started saying "Karen, be careful of the step * * *." It was a little too late, as Karen, while holding a glass of ice water, took the same step and ended up doing a full frontal into the ground.

Fortunately, the glass went free, but Karen hit the ground hard. A group quickly gathered and we were all asking how she felt and if we should call an EMT. Karen was embarrassed, but got up, brushed herself off and went to the bathroom to freshen up, thinking that she would be fine.

We walked back up to the room and I put Karen into bed, giving her some ibuprofen and getting some ice for her right knee, which she had hit the hardest. We thought things would be fine, but within a short time her knee started and continued to swell.

There is some dispute as to exactly how large Karen's knee ultimately got, but it was clearly the size of a major fruit, something from the melon family. This was not a plum or peach swelling, it was something with a lot more body, possibly a little South of a watermelon, but not much. This was accompanied by a huge amount of pain, which Karen has later described as more than any pain she had ever felt before, including childbirth. At the time, detailed comparisons to prior experiences were not particularly apropos and the basic message was, "do something, now!!!!"

We got the EMTs to the room and they were great, but basically said, "get this girl to the hospital," so that's what we did.

Karen rode in the back of the ambulance and I was in the front. If you've never been to Bermuda, it is an incredibly scenic and small group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, with no major highways, all of the streets are small and winding country roads, with rock walls or cliffs on one side or the other, which vary in size from (i) "just wide enough to take two cars going opposite directions with side mirrors, so long as neither driver sneezes or becomes distracted", (ii) "not wide enough to take two cars going opposite directions with side mirrors regardless of the driver", to, (iii) "if you see someone coming the other direction, think about putting your car in reverse".

Our ambulance driver had flashing lights and occasionally used his siren, not so much as a continuous warning, but more of an informative nudge. He drove between 50 and 60 miles an hour. Given Bermuda's roads, this is the equivalent of entering your garage at 50 miles an hour and executing a turn before parking. It was like being an extra in Death Race 2000. I was terrified and impressed at the same time.

We made it, without further injury, to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

I have always thought that there is a direct correlation between the amount of pain and the amount of time it takes someone to do something about it. The inmates at this particular institution had this down to a science. We waited and waited, for more than an hour.

At some point, with Karen's urging, I stressed that we needed something right away to relieve the pain and someone needed to look at the still expanding knee. The nurse muttered something about morphine, which I thought was a good idea (for both of us).

This is one of the few points where Karen and I have differing views. I think an illness is something to be fought with blazing guns, attacking with a combination of multiple doses of medicine, chased down by whatever highest proof is available. Karen tends to avoid medicines, generally taking half or less of what the doctor might suggest. We compromised. Karen tried one of the lighter medicines, then stepped up to the stronger dose when the first one didn't take. There wasn't enough left for me. Of course, Karen had an allergic reaction to the morphine which actually got the nurse's attention. They had to add another IV with anti-histamine to fight the morphine which was fighting the pain.

The ER command nurse could probably do the role of Big Nurse in Cuckoo's Nest, only not quite as friendly. Our doctor, also was a bit on the odd side. He was either "quiet and reflective" or "a stone who couldn't communicate", we lean towards the latter. His nurse obviously didn't get along with him and we found ourselves siding with her. When he started muttering something about surgery being possible, Karen and I exchanged one of those, "not in this lifetime anywhere near here" looks.

We eventually were allowed to check out, Karen's knee wrapped, sitting in a wheel chair and waiting for a taxi back to our hotel. The taxi driver, Jay, was outstanding! He had a delightful bass voice, a lot of opinions about the World, and helped me carry Karen up the stairs to our room. In saying he "helped", I am being polite about the ability of a man in his late fifties (even a loving husband) vs. a young Bermudian who is in shape and about 6'3". Let's say, I attended.

We made it back, around 2:30 a.m. (after the 20+ hour plane rides to Bermuda and a day and a half with almost no sleep), exhausted.

At this point, we were also able to check out what other parts Karen had managed to scrape, cut, bruise or otherwise injure. It was pretty much everywhere. The right knee was the worst, but Karen managed to scrape and bruise her right arm, her left hand, and her left ankle and leg. We have since found additional places she bruised in the fall. It is hard to believe that a single tumble did all this. Basically, she looked like we had run her through a rock polisher.

Karen has been working at moving around on crutches.

Long John Silver always made it look so easy!! Perhaps because he didn't have the risk of hitting his bad foot on anything. It is a lot more difficult that it looks. On top of being unstable, they hurt the user's underarms. All around, it is hard to tell whether they are really tools for the handicap or elaborate torture devices. Maybe if I get Karen a parrot and an eye patch, it will be easier.

Since then, we have altered our original vacation plans, which had included a trip down to Florida and Key West. The concept of multiple plane rides, an extended car ride down the Keys and checking in and out of various hotels kind of loses its allure when a lot of pain and crutches are involved.

We opted to stay in Bermuda, propped up with pillows overlooking the ocean, with all-day room service to suffer through.

It has been tough, but we are surviving.

All the Best from Gilligan and a crippled Mary Ann!!!!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Best Laid Plans

As Robert Burns said years ago: "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, gang aft agley."

I'm not totally clear what "agley" is or how "aft" they may "gang", but I've always translated this roughly to: "Even if you have a martini pitcher and glasses chilling in the freezer, don't forget where the you put the flashlights and bandaids."

Karen and I spent the time in November and December, after sending off the last Zip-Loc bag of turkey with the kids and before ripping open presents, counting down the days to when we were boarding the plane, first class tickets, on a nonstop flight to New York, followed by a flight to Bermuda. Essentially a repeat, for our fifth anniversary, of our wedding trip. Each day was "___-days until we are sitting on the plane, vodka tonics in hand". We were excited, hopeful, a bit thirsty and woefully naive.

We kept our eye on the weather, both West and East coast. We were mindful of our trip to Europe a couple of years ago when Portland got hit head-on with a massive snow and ice storm (some say, well me, "of Biblical proportions") that caused us to go to Trafalgar Square in London by way of Ghirardelli's in San Francisco, the subject of an earlier post. This time, we were comfortable that we could adjust our travel plans and leave early if the weather started to get bad. The problem was, the weather didn't "start" to get bad, it just "got bad". Once again, as in 2008, airports were closing on our planned travel route and then started closing on all alternate travel routes. I can understand New York and Boston airports closing because of snow, but Atlanta? This starts to feel like the work of a much higher and somewhat mischievous power.

On the day of our planned departure ("Only 12 hours until we are sitting on the plane, vodka tonics in hand."), I received an email from Continental Airlines informing us that "Your flight has been canceled." Not delayed, rebooked, changed, or slowed down, but canceled. The email included a contact web site and a phone number for us to arrange for alternate plans. I didn't realize at the time that they were just joking.

I started on their web page, which ran me through an infinite series of various steps, all incredibly slow to download, followed by a massive entry of information which, by the time they start asking for personal information ("what is your preferred sexual position?"), you just put in an answer and hit "Return". Finally, I got to the "coup de grâce" of the search with a final hit to "Return", at which point the web site started thinking away with the screen filled with the Continental Airline insignia and whirling planes. After an incredible amount of time (I thought days, Karen told me it was just a huge number of minutes), Continental Airline's solution to our travel problem appeared on the screen: "We are unable to process your request, please call us at * * * *."

So, after a few choice words, I hit the phone and called the number. The phone was answered by a recording which said, "Due to the high volume of calls, we are unable to answer the phone right now. Do you know you can make and change reservations on our web site? Just contact us at * * * *." I could be wrong, but it felt like they were telling me, "Fuck you, and the plane you rode in on." Actually, it would have been nice if they would have given me the opportunity to leave a message on voice mail (they didn't, it just hung up), I had a few thoughts.

I tried both the website and the phone number (together with a few additional phone numbers on their website) - all with the same result. I even tried United Airlines, as Continental has merged with United and they have assured us that they will be "one big happy airline" - just not quite yet. The United personnel indicated that they could not handle rebooking a Continental reservation, but they could provide us with both a website and a phone contact which we could use to do that with Continental.

In the end, in this world of instant world-wide communication and all electronic reservations, we were forced (once again, as in 2008) to fire up the family auto and head to the airport. The nice thing this time was, although the East Coast was buried in snow, it was just wet, cold and miserable in Portland. We made it right up to the ticket agent and we had the choice of a reserved flight to Bermuda by way of Chicago and Newark (so, one more stop) on Wednesday, three days later, or to arrive at the airport on Monday and wait as a standby as the rest of the US slowly got back on schedule after the Winter storm. We opted for the Wednesday reserved flight.

We rebooted our calendar, "only three days until we are sitting on the plane, vodka tonics in hand." and enjoyed a few extra days at home with Ole and Asta (who always love it when we stay at home, never quite grasping why we have to go away some days).

On Wednesday, with Aunt Jonie taking care of the puppies, we headed off to the airport!!

When making reservations, it is important to note what they are proposing to do with you on your flight. One thing is the difference between "direct" and "non-stop". For those of us who were raised on Monopoly ("go to Jail, go directly to Jail, do not pass Go") you might think that "direct" is the same as "non-stop". It isn't.

The other thing that you need to watch out for is that you can have a "direct" flight, from point A to point B, on Flight 784, but that this "direct" flight may include an undisclosed stop at point C (isn't A before B, except when C is involved?) where you stay on the same flight, which is Flight 784, it's just that Flight 784 is now a different plane. In our case, our "direct" flight from Portland to Chicago included a stop in San Francisco (as in, the "wrong way" from our ultimate destination) followed by deplaning, walking down the concourse and replaning (which may or may not be a word) on the same flight but with a different crew, seats, hull, engines and magazines (which is to say, some other idiot has taken an inartful stab at the crossword puzzle and Sudoku messing it up for anyone with half a brain who would like to do it - it amazes me the random answers that some people come up with - " 4 down - Facing glacial direction" -- attempted answer: "North" "5 across - 16th President of the US" attempted answer - = "Clinton").
Planes waiting to take off at EWR

Well, from San Francisco, we went to Chicago and from Chicago, we went to Newark, then from Newark we went to Bermuda. When you add the various layovers in each airport, it ended up being about 20 hours to make the 7 1/2 hour trip. Of course, if this had been the 18th century and we would have gone by boat around South America, it would have taken a month and a half. I'll bet Continental Boatlines could have done it in five months.

We finally arrived in lovely Bermuda. Our luggage came out in fine style, immigration/customs was a snap, "Welcome to Bermuda, Mr. and Mrs. Barnum, too bad you are only staying with us for four days," and we were met by a cab from the resort with our name on his sign.

Coming round the bend in the road (with an old rock arch framing the ocean), we were greeted with the beauty of Cambridge Beaches once again!!! The pink stucco siding on all the buildings, with the white roofs, the graceful English reception area for checking in. We were greeted by Nadia, our wedding organizer from five years ago. Whitney brought us a warm wash cloth and a "Dark and Stormy" (a wonderful ginger rum thingy). We then were whisked away to Kiskadee Upper, the gorgeous room where we stayed on our honeymoon.

All was right with the World.

Well, at least for three hours.


More in the next post.