Sunday, September 21, 2008


Many of you may know that last June I finally had my long awaited ankle replacement surgery. There were a few detours during the healing process. I ended up with a post-op infection, IV antibiotics for six weeks, an open wound that needed dressing twice a day, foot that needed to be elevated during most of that time, and a skin graft. All this took me out of work for about three months. I was then put on oral antibiotics until January. From January until last week, I would get flare-ups of extreme swelling, pain, and redness. My doctor had fluid taken from my ankle a couple of times to make sure the infection was not in the joint. The results from this always came back negative, but the swelling, pain, and redness continued.

Last week, I went to my orthopedic surgeon with the ankle swollen (the worst I had seen yet), painful to the touch, and an angry red color in a certain part. The x-rays didn't show anything -- everything looked great structurally. Together, we made the decision to go in and take out a plate and some screws in the area that was most painful. By the time I went in for surgery on Wednesday (Sept. 10th), I thought my skin would burst from the ankle being so swollen. The screws and plate were removed, but everything else looked good. They took some cultures which didn't show anything. Hopefully, it was just an irritation of the screws and plate with the tissue. Between the ortho doc and the infectious disease (ID) doc, the decision was made to put me on IV antibiotics for at least three weeks. They inserted a pic line and prescribed vancomycin, and then I was discharged. I am also non-weight bearing for a couple of weeks until I get the stitches out.

I have now been at home for a week and a half. I would have been to work sooner if I didn't get hit with the flu in the midst of all this. I realize that what I am going through is so minor compared to what others go through -- after all, I still have my foot, and it's only a few weeks out of my life. It always amazes me, though, how much these recoveries affect everyone. There has been a strain put on my husband, my children, my co-workers, and myself. This is a reality that isn't talked about much when we discuss complications or unanticipated outcomes -- how these setbacks affect so many people!

My family has been doing everything I can't -- all the driving, shopping, cooking, laundry, waiting on me, etc... They don't seem to mind it, as they have actually become used to it over the years. But, I can still see the strain. My co-workers are picking up all the slack at the office, and that adds even more pressure. For me, it's extremely difficult to be so reliant on everyone. As much as I hate to admit this, as I get older, I just don't bounce back as quickly as I used to. For the first few days, I was okay with just healing. Then, I started to get anxious about all the things I needed to do, but I still couldn't focus even if I wanted to. I do realize that what I am going through is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. I know that I am fortunate to have the support of family and friends around me!

We need to start having dialogue around the impact that goes well beyond the patient's physcial recovery following complications, unanticipated outcomes, and medical error. I would love to hear from those of you with similar experiences. I welcome all your comments.

With warm regards,


1 comment:

  1. I hope you are doing well, Linda, and that your life soon returns to normal.

    Oh, yeah, the aftermath of an error can be very disruptive.

    After surgery and a skin graft to correct damage from an intravenous error, my right arm was immobilized in a splint and layers of bandages from my elbow to my fingertips.

    I couldn't work. I couldn't drive. I couldn't put in my contact lenses. I had to temporarily move in with my parents. Not only did I miss my own home, but I hated having to ask my parents to do small things for me, like changing the dressing on the skin graft harvest site. I had to ask for a ride every day to my house, 10 miles away, so I could feed and take care of my cats.

    Even though family members usually want to help, it's just hard to have to ask all the time. Especially when it entails moving into someone else's home, even temporarily, and cramping their style and perhaps dumping a burden on them that they haven't really signed up for.

    Another concern: using up sick days. I was undergoing cancer tx at the time and had already used more than half of my annual sick leave. I was very concerned about losing even more of my paid sick time while I recovered from the arm surgery, and there were no sure bets that I wouldn't need more time off before I was done with cancer treatment. This is something that doesn't often enter the equation. I have disability insurance so my income would have been at least partially replaced, but it would have been a genuine financial hardship, and for some people, it could be enough to push them into bankruptcy.

    It seems to me that the medical trauma is like a stone you throw into a pond. It makes a huge splash and then we turn away from it and don't see all the ripples - the inconveniences, the additional expenses, the burden on family and coworkers - spreading out from the point of impact.



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