Sunday, June 14, 2015

Yet Another Leg Update

I thought I was done writing about this. I thought I was on my way to full recovery. I could smell it, it was that close. My wound was practically healed and I was feeling really good, when...

My knee started hurting again. It started off just hurting a little so I wasn't overly concerned. But to be honest, I had a little worry in the back of my head because of what happened the last time my knee started hurting. 

My dad came over one day and I couldn't hide the fact that I was in pain. He told me to call my orthopedic doctor and get an appointment with him to ask him about the knee pain. When I called to make an appointment, they immediately sent me to the ER to be safe. The nurse noticed that my knee was hot to the touch and swollen (which is a good sign of infection). After the doctor received my blood work and everything came back normal, they told me it was just tendinitis and nothing more. I was relieved but still had a bad feeling that it was something more. I just couldn't believe the whole "tendinitis" thing. But...I kept my mouth shut and continued on with the week. 

My knee kept getting progressively worse and every time I brought it up to my doctors, they kept saying it was tendinitis. A week after my ER visit, I woke up in excruciating pain. I literally crawled out of bed and drove myself to the hospital. My fever was 104 and when the doctor pulled off the gauze on my shin, she told me it was indeed infected. It was super red and full of pus. They sent me to get a CAT-SCAN and after nothing showed up, revealed that I had gotten to the hospital in time and could fight this infection off with some oral antibiotics. I felt happy that I didn't have to have another surgery but was hesitant if the antibiotics would really work. 

I struggled through the weekend and then called my wound doctor first thing Monday morning. He was concerned about the infection and asked me to come in immediately. During my appointment, he liked the antibiotics I was on and told me that my wound was looking a lot better. I kept bringing up the fact that my knee was still in so much pain. He told me that it was from tendinitis. That damn word I kept hearing from everyone. I had a hard time believing I would be in THAT much pain from something like tendinitis. I asked him if my knee would start feeling better soon and he said, "Of course. It should go away in no time." I got up to leave and could not stand on my leg. It was so painful. The nurses offered to take me to my car in a wheelchair and I agreed. I thought it was weird that they just let me get in my car and drive home, but sort of overlooked it because of how anxious I was to get to my bed and rest. 

After I got the kids to bed that night, Kyle and I sat outside talking. He was asking me about my knee and I said, "To be honest. I am really worried it may be something more. The pain is unbearable at times." 

At midnight that night is when things took a turn for the absolute worst. I woke up in so much pain. Pain that I cannot even try to describe. I could not move my knee at all. I woke up Kyle and told him I was calling my mom. He rocked with me and tried to keep me as calm as possible. I was literally screaming out like a crazy person. My mom came and got me as soon as possible and drove me back to the Emergency Room. 

I got the pain somewhat controlled and the doctor told me that he ordered an X-ray. I got upset and told him I needed an MRI and that I was not playing around this time. He said he wasn't sure if an MRI was necessary and that they needed to do an X-ray first. I huffed and sighed and continued on with his instructions. The doctor came back 10 minutes later and said, "The X-ray is showing something on the bone that isn't normal, so we are sending you to do an MRI right away." Thank goodness I wasn't crazy. I just wish they would have listened to me the first time. 

After I got the MRI done, it wasn't much longer that my doctor was in the room, telling me that I had osteomyelitis (an infection in my bone). He told me that the whole tibia bone was lit up on the screen. Even though I was freaked out that the infection had traveled to my bone, I was relieved that I had an answer as to why I was in so much pain. They immediately sent me upstairs to be admitted.

The next day, my orthopedic surgeon came to visit me. He was so confused to why this kept happening to me. He made the decision to cut a small opening in the knee to see what he could find. We set the surgery for the next day and the nurses did their best to keep my knee pain under control. 

This is where it gets scary. 

As I was getting prepped for surgery, the doctor predicted that it wouldn't be any longer than 30 minutes or so (just like the last 2 times). My dad and Kyle told me they would be waiting for me when I got out. 

Everything after the surgery gets blurry but here is what happened (according to my Dad):

The surgery took 3 hours because when they went to clean out my bone, pus sprayed all over the operating room. There was so much in my bone that it really freaked the doctors out. They could not believe it and were not expecting to find as much as they did. They ended up power washing the entire tibia bone and then opened up the wound in the shin (yet again) to clean that area out as well. They also made the decision to put me in the CCU (Critical Care Unit) so that I could be monitored very closely. My dad and Kyle were on pins and needles because the doctor told them that they were worried this infection could be life threatening. 

The next day, the CCU surgeon told my orthopedic doctor that she wanted to go back in and wash me out again, to make sure the infection hadn't come back. If it did, this would be a sign that the infection could be spreading. Luckily, after they went back in, the only thing they discovered was two holes in my tibia bone. They quickly made the assumption that this is how the infection was able to travel into my bone. They were confident they were going to finally be able to put a stop to all of this.

I spent 4 days in the CCU and the time spent there was extremely foggy. I was so drugged up. I do remember having lots of visitors and my sister flew in from Michigan. She couldn't stand being away from me at this critical time in my life. I am so glad she decided to come. Although when I first found out she was flying in, I guess I asked my dad, "Are you flying all the family in because I am dying?" Pretty scary thing to ask. Also, while I was in the CCU, I received 3 blood transfusions because my hemoglobin levels were extremely low. 

After the CCU, I was transferred to the ortho floor. Things get clearer here because I started weaning myself off some of the harder pain meds. I spent 5 days being really well taken care of. When discharge was approaching, I was getting VERY anxious to get home to my kids. I missed them so incredibly much. They got to visit a couple times, but that was not good enough for me. I yearned to be at home to see them as often as I could. It helped having Kyle come visit me every night and my dad come visit me every morning. And luckily, my kids were in excellent hands-thanks to my mom! Still-I was so happy the day I got to leave that hospital and go home. 

I am now at home, trying to recover. I have a long road ahead of me. I am not walking and my doctor does not want me putting any weight on my foot-in fear of breaking my tibia bone. I will hopefully get the clear sometime within the next week or so to start putting pressure on that foot. Once I am walking, I will be able to help out a lot more. I have the wound VAC back in my shin and that will be changed out 3 times a week by an at-home nurse. I have stitches in my knee that will be removed within the next week or so. My knee is still pretty swollen and sore from surgery but NOTHING like the pain I felt before. I have a PICC line where I inject my antibiotics in daily. I will have to do this for 6 weeks. Once a week, my infusion nurse will come to change the PICC line dressing and draw some blood. I have to visit my infection doctor on a weekly (or bi-weekly) basis. I have to get X-rays every 4 weeks. I will be participating in physical therapy soon and I continue to be on a lot of different medications. I even receive daily shots in the belly (ouch) to prevent blood clots. I am a mess. Haha. 

I am counting down the days until I can eliminate each thing. I know that time heals all wounds and that I need to be patient as my body recovers. Even though I am tired and restless, I am optimistic. I am not going to let this infection come back and take over my life again. As my infection doctor said, "We are going to run this critter out of town." I feel like we know what is causing me all this pain and how to finally put an end to it. 

I am so thankful for such a supportive husband, friends that check up on me every single day, my dad who helps out so much and makes sure I am staying on top of my medications, my mom who has basically moved in to help take care of the kids, cook, and watch over me. I am thankful for Kyle's family back in Nebraska who also check up on me every day, and for all the people who sent flowers (or edible arrangements-yum), and those who visited me in the hospital. I feel so blessed. 

And as far as my infection goes, I will no longer allow it to knock me off my feet, make me miss so many important events, and take precious time away from my family. 

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