Saturday, September 29, 2012

The oven mitt, the Hand-v3.0 and a new arm

The Oven Mitt

Another surgery...
This one was to try to identify why my middle finger was a frozen hook and maybe even start to fix it.

I felt ok in the recovery room (thanks to a nerve block), but 10min from home the pain started.
I popped 2 percocets, curled up in bed and started my lamaze breathing.
30 minutes later and the crest of this wave of pain was nowhere in sight.
Not good.
I had my dad give me an oxycontin (The most drug I've had since Maui) and we started back to Stanford.
I found Dr Chang and he cut open the fresh cast and gave me 2 or 3 injections in the hand.
The injections sucked (sorry for cursing Dr Chang), but a few minutes later I was finally breathing normally.

The first night was packed with percocet, but by the end of day two I was feeling much better.
Now I just had to deal with the oven mitt.
Most people would struggle if they had to give up a hand for 8 days, but few can imagine having no hands.
Well, It SUCKS!!!
You lose your independence and your caregivers have to do everything, but chew your food for you.

Tuesday was the unveiling of my hand

The Hand-v3.0 (with pin)

Dr Chang was like a kid with a new toy except this was my hand and some of the contortions really hurt.
Then Carolyn (PT)  repeated the demo even while I was deciding if I was going to throw up or just pass out.

We left the clinic with just enough time to make it to SF where I got to try on

My new arm
The fitting was a strange experience.
My immediate reaction when he brought in the arm and started to hook up the harness was - "I am disabled"
I don't think I've ever felt this (or at least this strongly) even while struggling in San Diego.
Was it the shiny metal hook and cables?
The odd shade of pink plastic?
The weight?
The tightness of the harness?
I don't know, but the feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day.
I wouldn't say I'm at peace with being disfigured or being limited to 2 1/2 fingers, but I have always known (minus a few panic attacks during the hip-to-thumb process) that I'd be ok. 
Would I have felt the same if someone had strapped this on me in Sept or Oct of 2011?
I don't know.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The weekend before surgery

I go in tomorrow for another procedure on my hand.

It has been on my mind since it was scheduled last month not just because they will be cutting into my hand (again), but because it means I will have to give up every bit of independence that I have struggled to recover..

I will not be able to workout
I will not be able to drive
I will not be able to type
I will not be able to shower by myself
I will not be able to dress myself
I will not be able hold a glass
I will not be able to feed myself
I will not be able to use  the bathroom by myself
I will not be able to...

What would you do if someone told you that you'd lose the ability to do any of these for
A month?
Three weeks?
Two weeks?
A single day?

I doubt I could even imagine it year ago, but I've already gone through the loss and recovery cycle a few times in the last 12 months so I decided to take advantage of my first two weeks without restrictions since April to try to do all the things I used to consider normal and also

- By a car (a Honda Fit) with big knobs and a tiny steering wheel.
- Officially restart my membership at the club (College of San Mateo) and
- Start working out again (stationary bike and pool swimming).

And most importantly set a goal that I could achieve in such a small window of time.
Luckily I did not have to look very hard because the Board Short Mile was conveniently set for Sept 15th.

Sure there were a few obstacles -
I had not been able to work out in months, had put on a bunch of weight, had not been in the pool since February or the ocean in over a year, but that just meant I had to keep my plan quiet in case I had to cut the swim short.

Luckily yesterdays conditions were perfect with +70 degree water, no wind or surf and a hot cloudless day.
Even with all that going for me it felt a lot more like a 5 mi swim than a 1 mi swim and I had to tune out that my escorts were struggling to go slow enough for me.

Thanks Joel, Mike and Jane, Ken and Kathleen and everyone that showed up to swim and help raise money for CAF.

with Joel

with Mike

Kathleen and my uncle Ken
With the ladies waiting for our board shorts
the ladies rockin' the shorts

I'd also like to congratulate George and Tom for putting together a great event; I will wear my board shorts with fond memories.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who says that no one likes a show off?

I stopped by Chris' house while driving back from SoCal for a quick visit and was glad to let 3 yr old Kaitlin show me all the new toys in her room. 

That's when she asked me if I'd read her a story.
Before I could answer she added:

"I can turn the pages.  I have LOTS of fingers!!!"

Monday, September 3, 2012

A year gone by

It was a year ago today, I:
     1.) swam the Maui Channel solo alongside my good friend Mike.
     2.) had my arm taken from me.

 I'd like to say that I have been focusing on number 1, but it is pretty hard to ignore number 2 for very long.

I have been thinking about all of the people that worked so hard to save my life,  to make me as comfortable as possible, started to teach me how to use what was left, and who showed me that I was loved.

At the risk of missing someone:

Thanks to my crew:
Captain Killer and his deckhand Pablo
Support crew: Nell, Jane, Kai, Laurel, Scot and (my in the water support) Mike.

 Capt Killer
(For keeping me safe and on course for as long as you could).
Mike and Jane
(For being at my side on the beach, chasing the ambulance and everything else)

(I cant find pics of the rest, but hope to add them later)

Grant and his crew.
(Especially Grant for being more stubborn than me... on that day).

The guy who held me onto Grants sled (This must have been a cruddy job).
Those enlisted to carry me out to the parking lot and wait for the ambulance.
The EMT (I know that both of us wished she could have given me morphine more quickly).

Dr Galpin and the other surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologist and other medical staff for working so hard (and long) to save my life.

To all of the nurses and nurse assistants at Maui Memorial that made my the first two weeks a little less painful (and not just with a handful of opiates).

I have to single out a few of the superstars:

(Thanks for keeping me sane)
(Still my favorite nurse of all-time, but don't tell Stanford)

My "shower ninja" Edwina
(I can't believe I don't have a photo of her in her yellow suit).

(I'm still working on my balance)

Thanks to all of my friends and family that made the trek to Maui only to spend each day in a hospital room.

(Who can transition so well from great friend to Dr Casey and back)

(You always seem to be able to calm me down or at least help me laugh at myself)

 Gabor and Joel
(The two of you brightened my room, brought me all the love from HMB and from everyone at CSM,)

(She came as a favor then returned as a friend)
(I wish I had met you before, but glad to know you now)

Chris (Who has always come to my aid)
Scot and Matt (For sticking by me for over 27 years)

My mom (Who held it together and is still holding it together)
(On the left is Marilyn who came to my moms aid and supplied my room with the tastiest baked goods)

My sister Jen
(For becoming my wound care nurse, advocate, assistant, therapist...
I'm looking forward to going back to being just your brother)

I also want to thank everyone that visited, sent cards and gifts, called, sent emails and all those that took a few minutes to think about me and to send some positive energy my way.

And this was just in the 1st two weeks!!!
The list gets too long for a blog post, but I want to thank you all.

I needed all of you this last year and continue to need you.