Amputation · Anxiety · Children · Health · My Blog · Self-Care

Taken by surprise

Friday was my first day out of the house in 2 weeks. I drove downtown for a doctor’s appointment to have the last of my staples removed. Thankfully the prosthetist was able to meet me at this appointment to fit me with shrinkers and complete an exam required for ordering my first gel liner. I appreciate not having to drive to another facility.

On my way downtown, I was shocked to see that there were so many vehicles on the road. It made me wonder if people were just ignoring the stay at home order by Governor Evers or if they all were doing essential outings/ were essential employees. I also was curious if they were thinking the same thing as me. If they were watching my car wondering if I was following the current restrictions or rebelling and breaking orders. 

During my drive I found myself becoming increasingly anxious as I watched people walking along the trails next to the road and drive to wherever they were going. When I pulled into the parking lot at Mayo, it was about half full or maybe a little less than half. On a normal day, almost all the spots would be filled and you would have to walk a significant distance to go inside unless you got lucky and someone had just left. As I hopped on my good foot, using my walker to get to the entrance, I noticed signs posted on the outside of the building and the columns racing the overhang for the drive-up drop-off station. The signs posted warned of no visitors allowed with/ for patients, prescription pickup is now being done by calling the pharmacy to have them run it out to your car and if you have a fever, flu, cold or respiratory symptoms, to stay in your car and call X number. 

When you walk through the front door the only two people you’ll see are nurses wearing gloves and face masks waiting at a table to ask questions about how you’re feeling and if you’ve traveled or come in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. Then they take your temperature and assuming it’s normal you get a sticker with the day of the week on it and are allowed to proceed to your appointment. Roughly 75% of the chairs in the waiting rooms are no longer present. The remaining seats are spread out to be six feet or more apart.

As I entered the building and was allowed to proceed to my appointment I felt my pulse quicken and my chest tighten. All I kept thinking about was if it’s airborne and someone walked through coughing and sneezing there’s a good chance I’ll get it. By the time I hop to the elevator and push the button to go to the fifth floor with my elbow and I’m focusing on my breath trying to calm my nerves. Once I’m in the elevator I just keep my fingers crossed hoping that no one else tries to join me because I can’t just step out and take the stairs.

After I check-in and take a seat, which I almost did not do, but unfortunately I don’t didn’t want to risk pushing my stamina to the limit with balancing on one foot while holding my walker for an indeterminate period of time. When the nurse approaches not wearing a mask, I have all sorts of thoughts running through my mind. I know there is a mass shortage of masks right now. Thankfully as we head back, I am several steps behind her due to being slower with hopping. When we stop in front of the scale, I slide my backpack off to set it on the floor next to the scale. Before it touches the ground she has swooped over and grabbed the strap and is holding it. My chest constricts, my eyes widen and with every ounce of self-control, I say nothing and stand on the scale. When I go to step off of the scale and grab my walker, this very helpful nurse is holding the handles of my walker to keep it steady, even though that is not necessary. All these small gestures of kindness usually would leave me with feelings of gratitude instead turn my stomach into knots. Again I say nothing, just mentally noting everywhere she touched as we head to the exam room.

After I’m seated she moves to take my backpack and set it on a chair across the room. I kindly tell her that’s all right I’ll hang on to it there’s stuff in here I need to show the doctor. This is true, however, I really want to make sure that she’s having minimal contact with me and my things especially since she is not wearing gloves. After she has taken my temperature and gone over my list of medications, I am able to release a deep breath as she exits the room. The moment the door latches I remove the Clorox wipes from my bag wipe down both the straps and the handles in my walker and everywhere else on both items until the wipe is dry. This is probably overkill, but I can’t risk getting sick nor can I risk bringing anything home to my family. Being immuno-compromised and knowing that very soon in Wisconsin our hospitals will be overwhelmed with cases similar to other cities like New York, Seattle and Los Angeles; I want to take every precaution necessary.

Once the surgical nurse enters the room, along with the prosthetist I am pleased to watch them sanitize and put on gloves. Now I can focus on the reason I am there. I’m able to ask questions about the next steps, limitations, and so on. She examines the remaining staples and the incision. Everything looks good and healthy. She then removes the staples with a tool that looks like a nifty little clamp. It bends the staple to pull it out without having to yank on the skin. Here is a video because I found it quite interesting.

I’m told to continue resting and doing my exercises. Any weight-bearing exercises are on hold until after 8 weeks post-op. I’m now allowed to take baths or go swimming which is exciting. It would be more exciting if we weren’t supposed to stay at home because I’m cannot take advantage of this exercise yet. 

Before she finishes up I hesitate before asking one question. In my heart I knew that what I did was fine, however, I wanted her to reassure me that I had not done anything to negatively impact the healing of the tissue in Stumpy (my residual limb). I let her know that the day before, I had not only filled and fired up our new chainsaw but wheeled across the lawn in my wheelchair to our fallen tree. I locked the wheels and held the chainsaw carefully, not over my legs and started to work on our tree. I cut the lower branches that were my seated height and below, into sizable chunks for my husband to move later. Once I had completed the portion of the tree that would be safe for me to do, I turned off the chainsaw. I felt like a beast, my old self again. If you have not ever wielded a chainsaw, there’s something almost magical about it. It is heavy, loud, powerful and it reverberates through your body. As you’re bringing the chain through a trunk or massive limbs you are able to feel and embrace the power.

When my 11-year-old learned what I did she proceeded to lecture me about how I shouldn’t be doing such things and how I should have waited for Daddy to come home. I reassured her that I was safe and would not have done it if I did not think I was able to without risking my safety. My husband was less than thrilled, to say the least. I received a stern talking too. After a quick dinner, he slipped outside to work on “a couple of branches”. Almost 2 hours later he came inside to let me know the tree was done. He wanted to make sure he finished it so that I wouldn’t cause any more trouble. I really do love that man.

Anyway back to the doctor, she let me know that being a month out from surgery no harm came from using the chainsaw. The vibration did not loosen or disconnect any of the internal tissues. She also said that it was alright for me to do as long as I was doing it safely, seated in my wheelchair, with protective gear and the wheels locked. Not that this stopped other family members from hollering at me. It really is tough to be loved at a time like this.

On my way home from the appointment my heart rate finally came down to normal, my anxiety was still high and the tightness in my chest had not receded. I had Taylor meet me in the garage with a hug and a bottle of water. Since it was so beautiful out I had her but her rollerblades on and grab the dog. We went around the block, me and my wheelchair and her on her rollerblades basking in the sun.

As I sit here writing this morning there’s something cathartic about putting these awful moments and struggles that I deal with inside my head out into the world. It makes it seem a little less scary and a little more manageable.