Thursday, 23 June 2011

Things Fall Apart

After a week at home I visit Mr Patel's Friday outpatients' clinic so that he can check on the frame and give me the instructions for shifting the struts.  Visiting outpatients is more onerous than it sounds.  First of all, you have to arrange hospital transport.  This reminds me of trying to see Major Major Major in "Catch 22".  When you ring the number it is either engaged or rings interminably unanswered.

Once transport has been secured it entails a 35 mile journey to the hospital wedged in the back of a car with my leg up on the seat.  At the hospital a wheelchair has to be commandeered, followed by a long wait, shuffling around trying to find the least uncomfortable position as you wait for the inevitably delayed appointment.

Eventually I get to see Mr Patel and he presents me with lists of figures for the altering the six struts each day and I set off on the trek back home.

The following Monday one of the pins becomes detached from the frame.  I email Mr Patel and he asks me to attend his Tuesday morning clinic.  Rather than trying to secure hospital transport I ring my friend Pete McGeown who very kindly takes us to the hospital.

When I see Mr Patel he decides that he needs to readjust the frame and this will require another visit to the operating theatre.  After a five hour wait on an examining couch in outpatients a bed is secured and I am readmitted.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The End of the Beginning

My operation was arranged for Monday 16 May.  I was admitted at 7 am and told that I was second on Mr Patel's list.  I went into theatre at 10 am and was returned to a ward at 4.30 pm.  I awoke in recovery to the sight of Mr Patel with a hacksaw cutting the pins to size! 

As well as a general anaesthetic I was given an epidural so the pain was controlled very well.  I now have a large piece of what looks like heavy duty meccano attached to my right thigh.  It consists of three metal circles held together by metal bars and kept in place by eight pins screwed into my bone. It starts about two inches above my knee and finishes about an inch below my crotch.  The top two circles are connected by six struts with numeric scales which can be extended by turning a screw.

I was given a bed in a bay of six beds. The other patients were recovering from hip replacements.  The five nights that I spent there were a bit of a nightmare - sleep was a rare commodity.  Opposite was an old guy called George, very frail, unable to stand unsupported, who had a penchant for trying to get out of bed in the early hours of the morning.  Being opposite him I was the only one aware that this was happening so it fell to me to ring for a nurse to tuck him back in again.  Next to George was Steven who suffered from some kind of dementia and throughout the night, unaware that he was in hospital, would shout at an increasing volume for various people.  Add to this a guy who thought he was having a heart attack and another one who fell down on the way to the toilet on his walking fame and you get some idea of what the nights were like!

After a couple of days I was advised that the epidural would be slowly phased out and replaced by slow release morphine taken orally.  The epidural was turned down and the pain increased.  After a few hours I complained about the pain and the epidural was turned up again but it made no difference.  It transpired that the epidural had become disconnected from my back and was simply pumping its analgesic into the matress!

By Friday I had been assessed by Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy and was given the go ahead to be discharged on Saturday.  There was a short hiccup when I discovered on Friday night that one of the pins had become detached from the frame but Mr Patel made a few adaptations on Saturday morning and I was home for 5 pm.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Long and the Short of It

It all began on 23 August 1962 when, at the age of 18, I broke my femur in a motor bike accident.  I spent 13 weeks in hospital with my leg on traction (attached via a pulley to a set of weights) and at the end of the period discovered that my right leg was some 60 millimeters shorter than my left leg.  It has been like that ever since.  I  was eventually prescribed a built-up shoe and managed to do more or less everything I wanted to do. 

However, a couple of years ago I began to suffer a lot of pain in my right knee.  Eventually I went to my GP who referred me to the local hospital (James Paget in Gorleston).  I got a consultation with Mr Bowers the knee specialist.  After x-rays he diagnosed that because my femur had become bowed it was connecting to just the right side of my knee thereby causing arthritis.  A knee replacement would be of little use because the femur was the problem.  He then brought up the possibility of a major reconstruction of the femur.  He knew a consultant at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital who specialised in this sort of operation.

He arranged for me to see Mr Patel, the consultant in question, so that I could talk about the possibilities.  He explained that the femur had become deformed in three planes - not only was it short but it bowed to the right and the front.  He said that all these things could be corrected, given time, by the application of a spatial frame.  The process would take about six months, during which time the frame would remain attached to my leg. He would break my femur and then screw a number of rods into the bone either side of the break; these would then be attached to the frame and connected to a number of movable struts which could then be gradually adjusted in order to correct the deformities.  At the end of the process I would hopefully have a straightened femur the same length as the other one. 

I agreed to undergo the procedure. 

Monday, 16 August 2010

Big Sur to San Francisco

On Saturday we drove through Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway. The road hugs the coastline and you’re almost always in sight of the sea. It’s a wild and rugged coast with beautiful little coves and beaches along it. However, for the first half of every day it is almost invariably blanketed by coastal fog.

When we reached Carmel we went on the 17 mile scenic drive and viewed elephant seals. We stayed overnight in Salinas (the birthplace of John Steinbeck), just east of Monterey.
Today we drove to San Francisco. We first visited Golden Gate Park so Sue could have another look at the botanical gardens, then I dropped her off at the hotel and returned the car to Hertz.

In the last five and a half weeks we clocked up 5,656 miles, visited 14 states and stayed in 26 different hotels!

Three nights here and then it’s back to sunny Lowestoft, where we can start planning our next trip!

PS We’re staying at the Sheraton at Fisherman’s Wharf. This is easily the classiest place we’ve stayed but is disappointing for two reasons: AMC is not among the 72 TV channels listed, so no Mad Men tonight, and it is the only hotel we have stayed in that expects you to pay for wi-fi, all the others have provided it free!