Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Story

Gather 'round, gather 'round!

So I've told this story quite a few times, but figured I'd write it out so that you can experience it as many times as you like, whenever you desire! So sit back, pull up some munchies, and read on!

The adventure all begins on the Friday of Reading Week. A group of us started out to go cross-country skiing in the Jasper backcountry on our very-nearly-annual trip to the Tonquin Valley (Very-nearly in the sense that I've gone every year since 2007, but missed 2009). This year's group included me, my sister, my dad, some hospital friends of my dad's, heart surgeon Steve Meyer and cardiologist Lindsay Reyerson, and then Lindsay's husband Chris. It was a good ski out at -36 Celsius, around 20 km total, and we made it to the Backcountry Lodge without any difficulty (and a good deal of fun!).

Once we made it to the cabin, we had our annual awesome snack of freshly-made cinnamon buns (thanks to the great hospitality of the staff at the Lodge), and met the Hervieux family, who also came to the lodge over the same weekend.

The next day, we set out to find the infamous Wates Gibson Hut. We'd been told that it exists, but as this was our third year searching for it without success, we can't be sure. Natalie, as always, decided to stay back and do homework instead. Anyway, after 6.5 km of skiing (according to the GPS, which doesn't lie), we ended up on a snowmobile track going through some relatively steep (for cross-country) terrain. The snowmobile track made it really fast as we weren't breaking trail, and after a while 3/5 of us decided to just take our skis off and walk down. I wasn't part of the smart majority. Whoops!

Anyway, after falling three or four times (downhill skiing on cross-country skis is a fine art that I have no skill in), I finally decided that it would be about time to take my skis off too, as the path was starting to get windy. Unwisely, I phrased it to myself as, "Next time I fall, I'll take my skis off". Unfortunately, the next time I fell was the last time I fell. I guess I built up a bit more speed than before, because I fell and landed on my ankle, which went and popped when I landed on it. Not so fun.

So after a couple minutes of me trying to convince Chris (who was walking behind me) that I was fine, and then being unable to walk, we decided to stop there and have lunch, then turn around. Fortunately, by the time lunch was finished, I had had a couple of Ibuprofen, and was able to put all my weight on the buggered ankle, and walked back uphill to the lake level. Once there, my dad put some tape (duct tape, of course) on my ankle (thinking it was a sprain), which allowed me to ski back to the main lodge.

The next day was our day o' leaving the Valley, my dad put on some more duct tape around my ankle and I took more Ibuprofen, and we headed out. 20 kilometers later (at a fairly slow pace, of course), we were back in the mini-van heading home to Edmonton. Once we got home, I took off my boot, and found that my ankle had both swollen up and turned awesome funny colours! So cool!

The next day (Monday, for those of you who can't count) I went to school, and went to my first class. After that I headed over to the U of A fracture clinic, which was absolutely delightful. This is where I learned about the experience of having family in the hospital system: having your surgeon father show up when your orthopedic surgeon is reading your X-Ray skews the diagnostic somewhat :P. Originally, the doctor only took and saw this X-Ray:

This X-Ray looks pretty good, so he thought that I would just have to stay off it for a while. After a bit of extra feeling of my ankle, though (probably brought on by having a mini family reunion in the diagnostic room), they decided to do one more X-Ray 'under stress' (AKA the doctor wrenched on my ankle as they took the X-Ray. Very fun!). That turned up this result:

It's important to note that the tibia and fibula are apparently always supposed to overlap (as in the first X-Ray), so this was bad news bears for me. The doctor was all in a good mood, then took a look at the X-Ray, had his eyes blow wide open, look at me and say "You need surgery", all in the space of about 4 seconds. The doctor's plan was to drill a screw through my tibia and fibula to hold them together, which would then come out in three months.

So I was admitted to the hospital! That was a fun experience which consisted of my calling my professor to tell him I couldn't write his midterm that afternoon, then hopping on a bed up in room 3G3.06 (which would become my home for the next day). I was told that I was put on the Call List, and that I would be called down for surgery at any moment, provided no emergencies popped up later that day. Oh, and I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything for the eight hours preceding surgery. That part wasn't so fun. So I was hooked up to an IV that slowly dripped salt water into my veins to keep my hydrated (aka make me have to pee), given a TV to watch, and told to wait.

It was right around this time when I started mass-texting my friends - thanks everyone who responded to them! You totally took my mind away from the boredom!

Around 5:00 pm, my nurse was still unsure as to where I was on the operating list, so my dad pulled another surgeon trick, walked into the OR, and found out I was not going to be operated on that night. Immediately, my parents brought me food. I was very happy!

So I was made to stay overnight at the hospital, and got some lovely visits from Brett, Jenn, my whole family, Steve Meyer and Lindsay Reyerson. This was particularly cool, because by this point I had been visited by more heart specialists than bone specialists. Happy times!

After visiting hours were over, I was given the fun task of trying to fall asleep. That was really tough, because the fellow I was sharing a room with was very sick, and appeared to have problems breathing. In particular, I remember several occasions where nurses thought he wasn't healthy enough to swallow communion bread, and the difficulty his family had with feeding and taking care of him. It was really quite depressing, and made me really want to leave the hospital as soon as I could. I have an incredible respect for nurses and doctors now, for being able to deal with people who are so sick, and their families who are so worried.

By this point I had watched three movies and several TV shows on my little screen - I caught "Demolition Man", "Ghost", and "The Matrix", then several episodes of Mythbusters. Jealous? Don't be. I've found lying in bed watching TV all day is only desirable when it's used to procrastinate against something useful, not as a last result.

The next morning I was told that my operation would likely take place in the early afternoon, which was pretty exciting. Yay! 24 hours after getting admitted, and I was going to have surgery - pretty good, I thought. I definitely gave my nurse a traumatizing experience, though. She was coming by to check my vital signs at around 8:00 am, and I was sound asleep (with super-strong earplugs, thank you random person at 3:00 am!!). Of course, having earplugs, I didn't hear her increasingly louder calls of "Michael? Michael? MICHAEL?". At one point, I guess she tapped me on my back. You know how sometimes when you're about to wake up, some of the stuff in your surroundings gets worked into your dream? That happened to me - I guess her touching my back was translated into a dream of spiders crawling all over my back, so I woke up rather suddenly and quite startled. WELL. That scared the bejesus out of her. It was pretty funny, after we all calmed down...

That morning I watched two more movies, "The Sentinel" and "Avatar". Right around the middle of Avatar, I got word that I was getting called down. Yay!

In yet another shining example of parental privileges, my mom and dad were able to keep me company almost until right up to the OR door. Then they had to say goodbye, and I got wheeled on in. I remember going into the OR, hopping onto the operating table, joking with the nurse that it was cold in the room...

... and then looking around the post-operating room, looking at a shiny white cast on my right food, and having a tube taken away from my nose...

...and then sitting in my hospital bed back in my room, putting my pants on over my cast. Apparently in the middle of that I had a cohesive conversation with my mom about being done, but I don't remember it at all. Memory loss is fun, isn't it?

Anyway, I guess the surgery went great - the original plan to have a screw drilled through my tibia and fibula was changed, because I had a change of surgeons from Monday to Tuesday. The surgeon that I had was an ankle specialist, and after doing some "live X-Rays" (aka yank my foot around in x-rays while I couldn't complain about pain), determined that the screw wouldn't be necessary! Whew! I guess what happened was the ligaments tore away from my bones, causing an avulsion fracture, where the ligament took some of the bone with it. Yikes! Fortunately, they reattached the bit of bone, and all is well!

I spent the rest of Tuesday hanging out with more visitors - Melinda came and gave me a slurpee (best after-surgery experience ever), Daniel came and left me with a ridiculous Rubik's cube, and then Justine and Brett came by (after visiting hours - shock!!) for a lovely chat! Then it was bed-time again, and this time I was in a new room with two neighbors - one who whimpered with every breath on my left (and played with the lights until 1:00 am, not fun), and another on my right who I understand was in a consistent amount of excruciating pain (apparently his catheter was burning?) who moaned all night. My sleep that night was also not helped by the standard after-surgery practices of measuring vital signs - it clearly didn't matter that I was the patient the farthest away from dying on the entire floor, they still had to wake me up at 4:00 am to check my pulse, temperature, blood pressure, sensation on the foot, and give me fresh antibiotics. Sigh.

Anyway, later on that morning I got handed breakfast, and then (before I could finish :() was given a crash course on crutch warfare (I mean walking), had my IV yanked out of my arm, and I was free! Very satisfying experience (though I wish I had finished that muffin).

There you are! That's my story!

PS. This was the 'official' story the CIA wanted me to post. The real one involved the Swedish Women's Ski Team, some orphans that I saved, and Russian spies, but you didn't hear that from me.

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