Tonia and I drove to UNC Chapel Hill on Monday, October 17th. I was at the hospital a little before 11 AM on the 18th for surgery. The plan was to put 3 to 4 stents into my vein through my groin and then keep me overnight to start me on blood thinners. The 3 hour surgery went as planned. Dr Marston put in 3 stents (about 4″) into my femoral vein. He told us that it went very well and that I should begin to see immediate improvement. I was sore and tired but happy. Tonia looked very, VERY happy. It was a rough night. Between failing IV’s, (I have had so many that they fail in hours instead of days.) nurses and aides coming in to take vitals and a noisy neighbor (I thought the guy was going to die during the night.), I got very little sleep. After spending the morning taking in a few more IV bags of Heparin and starting Coumadin and Lovenox shots, Tonia took me back to the hotel where I slept for the afternoon. That evening Tonia and I went to a restaurant down the street from the hotel with friends who lived in the area. I didn’t eat the hospital food, so a nice meal was welcomed. We arrived back in Carlisle on Thursday night. I was still pretty sore and was bruising a lot more than I might have normally from all the blood thinner, but my leg felt pretty good. (At least the parts of my leg that have feeling.)
While we were at UNC, the October issue of Central PA Magazine hit the news stands with a featured story about my family and our recovery. This story was written by Carolyn Kimmel, the same women who wrote the article about us for the Patriot News a few months back. She was asked to write a story for Central PA Magazine and she wanted to do it more from Tonia and the kid’s perspectives. She has spent a lot of hours talking to us over the past year and I truly feel like she “gets it”. I also like that some of the attention is off me and more on our family’s recovery. The link to the article is here.
Tonia and I got back in time to be at a special event that I was really looking forward to attending. We had been invited to be guests at the 25th Anniversary Celebration for LifeLion held under a big tent by the hanger at Hershey Medical Saturday night. This was going to be my chance to thank all the people involved with LifeLion and to meet members of the crew who saved my life. A State Police officer, shot in the line of duty, and I were there to represent patients saved by LifeLion. We spoke to TV and newspaper reporters and met with doctors, nurses, pilots and administrators. I was glad that I was feeling well enough that Tonia and I could attend and proud to be able to share the important role that LifeLion plays in saving lives. It was a special night and one I won’t forget. You can read the Patriot News article here and watch the WGAL 8 coverage and my interview here.
Sunday morning I found myself back at Hershey Medical Center.
I was about to go out the door around 9:00 AM for Katie’s soccer game when I got a severe pain in the left side of my back. I couldn’t breath deeply. The first thought was blood clot. Tonia called my doctors and then put me in the car and drove me to the emergency room at Hershey. The doctors thought that I might have a clot in my kidney or lung. After x-rays and CT scans, they didn’t find anything, but the pain was just as bad as it had been at my house. Actually, they said my CT scan showed all kinds of problems but that they were all from the accident. hernias, calcium build-up, scarring, fractures and torn cartilage and muscle, just to name a few of the issues. I was refusing to take narcotics for the pain. I had a physical addiction to them for a year and a half after the accident. When they gave me them at UNC in my IV right after surgery, I realized my leg, pelvis and abdominal muscles didn’t hurt and I kind of liked not having the pain. I know taking narcotics would really help my chronic pain, but I also know that long-term, they didn’t help my mood or my memory. The thought of taking them when my pain is at its worse, like it was a that moment, has crossed my mind many times. But, I am afraid to open that Pandora’s Box. The “tricks” I leaned to manage pain would have to work for this new pain as well.
After some more tests and scans, the only thing the doctors could come up with was that I have shingles. “However, because none of your nerves run to where they should anymore, you could be feeling severe pain in you back and the problem could be in your big toe.” the doctor informed me. They sent me home with the peace of mind that I didn’t have a blood clot in my lung or kidney and told me to watch for a rash to begin on my back over the next two days.
Over the next two days, my pain remained about the same. Tonia would check twice a day for a rash to appear on my body, but nothing real obvious appeared. I was getting plenty of black and blue marks from the IV’s, needles, and shots to my stomach, but no rash. I saw by family doctor Tuesday to see how my blood thinners were working and to follow-up about my shingles. Since all other “things” seem to have been checked, he felt it was probably shingles, but had some concern since with shingles, that the pain normally builds up, and doesn’t just instantly start. I would have preferred a more definitive diagnosis, but I would have to wait and see if I got a rash or if something else happened, that would give the doctors a better clue. I also found out that I would be doubling me blood thinner and continuing shots for another week. I guess I was going to get a lot more black and blue…
It seems I am starting to be known as much for my many setbacks as I am for my recoveries. I was really looking forward to getting back to the gym this past week after two long weeks off, to continue to work on said recovery. I will be there tomorrow. My back pain hasn’t gone away completely, but it is a lot better than last Sunday. I have three more days of shots to my stomach. The good news is that my left leg is not swelling near as much as it had been for the past year and the bruising and pain from the surgery is about gone. Perseverance…. God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.