Volunteering, Speechifying and Stuff…

Welcome back Dear Readers! Once again, I apologize for letting so much time go by since the last post, but there’s been a lot happening in my life and unfortunately, the Blog tends to take a back seat to everything else. I hope to do better going forward, but for now, it’s time to get caught up on everything that’s happened since I last entertained you.

To get started, let’s take a break from health issues for a little bit and talk about something else that’s a huge part of my life – volunteering! I’ve been an active volunteer in various capacities starting when I was a kid in Brownies and Guides, and then again during most of my working years, especially the years I spent working at Bell. Bell was a major sponsor at the Calgary Stampede, and for those ten crazy days each year that I worked for the company (2003 to 2007), I would go to work at the office for my regular hours (8am to 4pm), then head over to the Stampede Grounds and to the Bell Xperience Tent, where I would pass out flyers at the front from 4:30pm until 10pm or so – whenever we closed. I would dance at the front entrance, make all sorts of new friends and just have a ton of fun!!  I even had the opportunity to take a ride in the Bell Lightship as Hostess to the winners of an employee contest to visit Stampede – and they let me bring Ray along as well!!

19Pam  7PamandRay 1PamandRay

There were a lot of other volunteer activities I was a part of during my working days, including the Calgary Corporate Challenge,  Habitat For Humanity, and Blood Donation Drives.

After leaving work and going on Long Term Disability, I wasn’t sure how I could make volunteering a part of my life any longer. I mean, I couldn’t get through my days without needing to nap, I had no energy, no ability to converse with others without losing my train of thought halfway through a sentence – I was deep in depression and as much as I wanted to continue to give back, I simply didn’t have anything left in me TO give. So…volunteering was pushed to the back and left there, forgotten. I worked hard on trying to improve my health physically and mentally over the next several years, working with various Doctors and medical personnel to try and fix everything that was wrong with me. The list is quite long unfortunately and most of what’s on it is “unfixable” – I can find ways to help me feel better, but the issue in question is never going to go away.

I did start to feel better in many ways, and came to a point where I felt I was able to volunteer again, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. Most of what I had done before had been quite physical and I knew that wasn’t going to work for me now, so I had to be realistic about my new abilities. I came across an advertisement about Patient Voices Network and immediately knew this was the fit I was waiting for. The concept that I, an everyday, average British Columbian, could have an impact on how healthcare was delivered, completely knocked my socks off….I signed up on the spot!

I went through the orientation class and immediately began registering for various engagements that appealed to me. In the four years I’ve been a member of PVN, I’ve had involvement in the following opportunties:

  • Attending the 2014 BC Provincial Dialogue and having my thoughts printed in the PVN Voices of Change | Spring 2014
  • Island Health CSAE PDSA Progress Sharing Update – Island Health – 2014
  • Judge – Quality Awards 2016
  • The ERAS Project (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) – including the creation of a video – 2016. (I was also nominated by my peers for an award at the 2017 Quality Awards for my work on this engagement.)
  • Member of the Medical Imaging Quality Council – Island Health  – 2016 for one year
  • Member of the Patient Advisory Committee for the Update of the Canadian Guidelines for Safe and Effective Use of Opioids – 2016-2017
  • Member of the Planning Committee – Quality Awards – 2017
  • Information Governance Conference -Sept. 24/17 (opened the Conference by speaking to 175 people)
  • Judge – Quality Awards 2018 – Completed
  • PVN – Co-Chair of the Information & Advisory Committee (2017 to 2018)
  • Involved in a research project with Dr. Morgan Price. The project is looking into Medication Adherence – highlighting motivators and barriers to adherence
  • Patient Speaker – Board Governance Training Program (January 25/2018)

The best part is, I can pick and choose what I want to do, based on how I’m feeling. Most of these committees meet once every two months via teleconference, and occasionally, there is a face to face meeting held in Vancouver which is always a treat. Expenses are covered and I get a chance to visit my daughter Ashley on those trips, usually for lunch on my day of departure.

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My last trip to Vancouver was just such an occasion. I was invited to give a speech to a group of approximately 175 people, on the topic of Information Governance and why it’s so important that our Health Records be available in all Health Regions in BC, not just the Region you live in. I didn’t realize that was the situation here and spoke on the scenario of what would happen if you had an emergency in an area outside of your home Health Region. Here is the Video of my speech – it was well received and I had many people come up to me throughout the day to tell me what an impact it had made on them and how important they thought it was to open the day like that. I hope you enjoy:
PamelaJessenSpeech

      CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE SPEECH

I don’t have a lot of experience speaking in front of large crowds, but because I’ve sang in my barbershop chorus and quartet in my last life, I think it’s made it easier to talk to a big group. I wasn’t nervous at all and I even when I found out it was being videotaped, I didn’t get scared. I think there will be more opportunities for me to speak in the future, so I’ve been going over this one to see what kind of changes need to be made (not sure where that tic noise is coming from, but it’s got to go!)

Anyway, it was a great meeting with great feedback and that’s what I was hoping for. Later that day, I had to excuse myself to return to my hotel room for a conference call with the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council’s Oversight & Advisory Council. It was our first meeting together since I was accepted to the Council along with the other new folks, and yes, this keener was already applying to be the Co-Chair before the meeting was even over (which I ended up getting!). It’s going to be great being a part of this group…we basically guide the activities of the Patient Voices Network, so I’m super excited for the year ahead!!

 

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She’s Alive…Aliiiivvvveeee!!!

Oh my goodness y’all….I am SO sorry that it’s been so long since my last post!!!  I have been so busy since my hip surgery and recovery and every time I would come to sit and write about what I was up to, I’d get busy doing something else, and poof! Away would go my good intentions. I’m so many months behind that I almost feel like I should delete this whole blog and start over again and that way, no one would know how negligent I’ve been…well, except for you…and me. Damn it Jim!!  I guess I’ll just hope my apology is enough and then try and get you caught up on the last billion months since the last post. Speaking of….hang on while I go read it, so I know where to pick up again. Be right back!

* pretend you hear birds chirping and singing while you wait*

Wow…I really DID leave you hanging!! Let me start by saying the new hip is wonderful, it works well and any and all pain that I thought was coming from the new hip is actually related to the muscles that were cut and replaced. Yep, this wanna-be doctor was fooled completely…I was sure that the popping and snapping that was going on was related to the new hip, but when a few sessions of physiotheraphy and the first set of x-rays after surgery took place, I could see that it was a tendon “snapping” as it moved over the new hip…and it disappeared very quickly as my physio progressed. Once I realized my new hip wasn’t going to fall out (a silly but common fear), I was able to attack physio a bit more agressively – or at least as agressively as possible considering the state of my other joints and the arthritis I have in them.

Gradually, as I walked more and did more exercising, everything felt more comfortable. At my last appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Burnett, on August 10th, he released me from his care as everything he needed to do is done. He said that my left hip isn’t ready for surgery yet and as for my knee and the pain and “collapsing” sensation I get, all he sees is some “minor” arthritis, and there’s nothing he can do for it from a surgical viewpoint. More on this later….

So now what? Well, this blog has always stated it’s about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness. The reason for that is because my body never fails to deliver when it comes to one of those categories.

“But Pamela” I hear you ask…”what else could possibly be wrong with you?”.

“ha ha ha haaaaaa” I laugh maniacally in reply. “haaa haaa haaahahahahhahahaahaha”.  Okay…perhaps a bit too maniacal. Well, the next condition I want to discuss is called Trigeminal Neuralgia. Don’t hurt yourself…Tri-gem-i-nal Neur-al-gia. It is often called “the suicide disease” because it’s so painful – it’s a chronic pain disorder that affects the trigeminal nerve in the face. In my case, when the pain flares up, it feels like a deep ache that goes into my sinuses, my cheekbone, my eye socket and sometimes into the back of my throat. Along with the ache will be sharp stabbing pain, but it’s the aching that is so horrible – I can’t even describe what it feels like, except it’s pure hell. I’ve tried ice and heat to make it go away, but nothing touches it – and none of my drugs work on it…not even my opioid medications. I literally have to let it run it’s course…sometimes it takes a day, sometimes it’s days….sometimes I think it’s going away but then it flares up again…it’s an absolute nightmare and I understand why people kill themselves.

So, why am I telling you this? Because this is one of the next battles to be faced (ha ha) and dealt with regarding my health. I saw my Physiatrist (a Doctor who specializes in Pain Management) today, Dr. Paul Winston, to discuss something he suggested once before for my Trigeminal Neuralgia (aka TN) – Botox!  It has nothing to do with making me look younger, but when used for medicinal purposes, Botox can deaden the Trigeminal nerve, putting an end to pain and continuing flare ups. It’s not a guarantee and it’s not a permanent solution, but if it does work, it can offer some long term relief, with the option of repeat usage. And, when it’s done right, there’s no need to use it on both sides of the face to “balance out the features” because there will be no change in facial structure as there would be if I were using it for cosmetic purposes. Dr. Winston is working with his supplier to get more in, and when that happens, we’ll schedule an app’t and I’ll give it a go.

While I was there, we also discussed the issues with my knee – he had a Resident shadowing him named Chris, so I allowed Chris to do an examination of the knee and ask all the questions while Dr. Winston pulled up my most recent x-rays on his computer (the ones that my surgeon, Dr. Burnett ordered for our last visit). And here’s something interesting…Dr. Burnett considered what he saw as “mild” arthritis in the knee – and nothing that he could do anything about from a surgical viewpoint. Dr. Winston however showed both Chris and myself the x-ray, and the first thing he said was “now, you can see why Pam has so much pain in this knee – she has a lot of arthritis in there…and over here…and up over here…yes, and there too”.  I felt vindicated…it’s not that I don’t trust Dr. Burnett – I know there isn’t anything to be done surgically yet – but Dr. Winston always makes me feel validated.

So, what does he want to do? He wants to inject the knee with Synvisc, a gel type solution that mimics the natural fluids around the knee. This will hopefully help relieve pain and help the knee move easier for at least 6 months, when another injection can be done. He’s also sending me for physiotherapy. And once the Botox is in, we’ll get that happening as well. So, all in all, a productive visit – just the way I like them!!! Oh, and as for Chris – he’s going to be a fantastic Doctor one day. Great bedside manner, excellent knowledge and he’s a total hunk!!!  🙂

Whew…I am worn out. I promise…I will start another post soon, because that’s not the end of the health issues…and I haven’t even BEGUN to tell you about the volunteer engagements I’m involved in…yes, I’m back into volunteering!!! Super happy and can’t wait to share with you all soon!

Thanks for reading and remember….There Is Always Hope!

I’m A Happy Hippy, Part 2

Part 2 – Post-op – Day 2

After a night of basically no sleep, I “woke up” to experience my first attempt to get out of bed. Wowzers, was that ever a challenge!!! I don’t have a ton of strength in my arms, but in order to get in and out of bed, you need to use them for balance, and strength and pushing, etc.  The nurses were all fantastic at helping if I wanted it, but I’m also so stubborn, I want to do everything myself.

So, using the instructions of the nurse, I was able to sit on the edge of the bed and “dangle”. That’s what they call it – dangling – and it’s important to do that first, to make sure you’re not dizzy and aren’t going to collapse on the floor when you stand for the first time. After I assured them I was okay, they helped me put my Crocs on – easy footwear to slip on and off – and then using my walker, I stood slowly for the first time. I won’t say it was painful, but it felt really weird – maybe because the motion was smoother, since everything fits together properly now. Most of the pain was in the upper thigh and groin area, not the hip, so that was a bit strange. At any rate…I was standing…and all this effort so I could use the portable commode beside my bed, instead of a bedpan!!!  Yes, that’s what this was all about – peeing!

ThenLaughing

Relief and laughing!! I did it!

Of course, once you get out of bed, you have to get back into it again. And that too has challenges…because of the 90º restriction, you can’t just bend and twist as you might normally. In this case, you have to back up to the bed, and then using your arms and good leg, swivel yourself into the bed and then scootching over bit by bit. It’s exhausting!!!

And you’ve already seen this one, but yes…it’s the same kind of relief every time you successfully get into bed!

AllTuckedInAgain!

During this day, I was up for most of my meals, instead of having them in bed. Sitting in a chair is basically the same procedure in that you back up to the chair, then put your operated leg out while using the arms of the chair to help you ease down into the seat. It’s tricky at first, but I got the hang of it quickly, and found it much nicer than just laying in bed. It made eating a lot easier too, having the tray right there in front of me.

Almost...Almost!  MookieWatchingMeLaugh

The rest of that day was pretty basic, with the exception of having the Physical Therapy aide come to teach me some movements to encourage healing. I was told I would be able to go home the next day, and I was soooo happy! It’s nice to be taken care of in the hospital (and I was cared for VERY well!), but there’s truly “no place like home”!  And after another night of little sleep, that’s exactly where I went…home, to my hubby and my cat Dorie and my own bed!!!

DorieLovesMyChairNow

Dorie keeping my chair warm at home!

And as promised, I was released the next morning. I managed to get into the car without too much pain, but was relieved to be home. I spent the majority of the first week home sleeping in bed, or resting in my chair. I had purchased a cryotherapy unit for icing the hip to keep the swelling down, so Ray was in charge of getting that set up for me each time – adding the ice and water, etc.  If you ever need ice therapy for an extended time, I HIGHLY recommend using a machine like this…so much better than ice bags or bags of veggies from your freezer!!

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Getting ready to shower…this is after taking the bandage off for the first time. The circular impressions are from the bandage itself. Look at how beautiful that incision is…my scar is going to be almost invisible! Great work!

Over the last couple of months (March and April), I’ve made a great recovery. I’ve had one x-ray, just prior to seeing Dr. Burnett for my first post-surgical visit, and everything seems to be settling in well. I had the staples removed at that point as well – all 53 of them! Everything is healing beautifully and the scar is so thin, it’s going to fade into nothingness with no problems at all. Dr. Burnett truly did a masterpiece of work when he put me back together!!

I’ve been to Physiotherapy twice now to learn exercises to do at home between appointments (every three weeks). These are standard exercises, like the attached (this one is from my second Physio session), but wow, is it ever hard work in the beginning!!!

Physio

The only thing I’ve noticed is that I still have a lot of pain in the upper thigh/groin area and just recently, I’ve noticed that my new hip is “popping” when I walk. I’m sure it’s just everything settling into place, and with regards to the thigh and groin…when you consider muscles were cut and moved to accommodate inserting the new hip, things ARE going to feel weird/painful for some time. I do have a bit of a leg length discrepancy…the operated leg feels a tiny bit longer than my left leg, but again…that’s something that could take up to a year to finish healing properly.

The only other “issue” I’ve had with this surgery is the fact that my right knee is also/still a problem. I’ve been wearing a brace during waking hours, but without it, I’ve had frequent incidents where my knee will suddenly “collapse” from under me, with a huge bolt of pain shooting through. I’ve had it x-rayed and the results are osteoarthritis with a “loose body”, but so far, the doctors at Rebalance haven’t felt like there needs to be anything done, other that wearing the brace. I’ve noticed though that even when the brace is on, I can sometimes still feel that collapsing feeling and mildly, that bolt of pain. When I walk, whether with crutches, a cane or without any aid, my gait feels different. I’ll be discussing this during my next visit with Dr. Burnett, which happens in early May.

So…if I had to do this all over, would I?  Absolutely!!!  For the first time in I can’t remember how long, I no longer have the feeling that my hips are being crushed between a vise. Sure, there is still some pain and discomfort, but it’s NOTHING like what I felt before. I’m hoping I can actually decrease the dosage of my OxyNeo Slow Release oxycontin med for pain relief – there’s been that much of a reduction in my overall pain levels. I do still have the pain from my various other problems, but having this hip replaced has helped to diminish a huge part of the pain equation. I’d do surgery again in a heartbeat to get this relief!!

Thanks for following this part of my journey. I will be continuing to blog about life in general as well as the other medical issues I live with, as a source of information and encouragement for others.

So what IS happening in my life, beyond hip surgery??  Well, let’s see…

I’m A Happy Hippy, Part 2

Part 2 – Post-op

If you haven’t read Part 1, you probably should. It will help familiarize yourself with what’s happening as we move towards Post-op. Go ahead…I’ll wait.

< insert Jeopardy music here>

Welcome back and here we go!

I know that the surgery itself went very well, but I really was quite sedated for most of it. I did wake at one point, maybe when they were positioning me, and I could hear some hammering and a couple of voices talking, but it wasn’t disturbing or upsetting. I remember looking at the Anesthesiologist and sort of smiling at him, like “oh, hi there!”, but before I had time to realize that was my new implant Dr. Burnett was hammering into my leg, I was drifting off to sleep again. That spinal anesthesia/IV Sedation really was quite lovely and I think if I ever have surgery again and it’s an option, I will most definitely take it!!!!

The next thing I remember was a bunch of people moving me onto a bed, and then being rolled into a new room – so the transfer from the Operating Room to the Recovery Room. Because I hadn’t had the General Sedation, I was quite awake once the Anesthesiologist gave me medication to reverse the effects of the sedation I had received in the Operating Room. Again, I wish I’d had my glasses because I would have felt even more like “me”, but I understand the issues with potential loss, etc.  My nurse was excellent in regards to pain control and making sure I wasn’t trying to tough it out. Because of my Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain, I’m already taking long acting Opioid medication and was able to follow my usual drug scheduling leading up to surgery. I am sensitive to Morphine as I find it makes me quite itchy and “jumpy” and I also get very nauseous, which is a problem for me (have I mentioned earlier that I am unable to physically vomit due to a previous stomach surgery? If I am that sick where I am retching and dry heaving, etc. I end up having to go to the E.R. to get a Nasogastric tube shoved down my nose into my stomach to get rid of whatever’s in there, so there’s nothing to puke up. Sorry…that was probably too much information).

Anyway, Fentanyl is typically ordered for me in hospital so that’s what I was given and it worked really well. That plus the fact I couldn’t feel my legs (“you ain’t got no damn legs!”) really did make the time in the Recovery Room go quite comfortably. My nurse would check me frequently to see if I could feel my toes or my knees, etc. and I was finally starting to get sensation back in the left leg after an hour, and then in the right leg about another hour later. I know that the right leg, the operated leg, was more heavily frozen and took twice as long to finally regain all feeling again. It was the weirdest thing, to stare at my toes and try wiggling them, and not be able to do a thing. It gave me an appreciation for what paralyzed people might go through, and how the tiniest movement is so joyful when it happens!

I would like to showcase the latest in legwear – the flattering compression leggings and pumping circulation wraps to prevent blood clots!!! Take a look at this and then the picture beside it shows you why. Don’t look at my tushy (blush blush!) ha ha ha!!!

AllTuckedInAgain!  GREATIncision!!

Blood clots are a major concern after any surgery, but after certain surgeries in particular, total hip replacement being one of them. I wore these leg pumps for the entire time I was in bed, only taking them off to use the bathroom and to walk. Once I was back in bed, on they went. I am on blood thinners for a specific period of time as well.

Regarding the second picture, you can see my surgeon’s initials at the top. There are 53 staples in there and I think the incision is approximately 9 or 10 inches long. It’s absolutely straight and clean and will heal up beautifully!!! No wonder Dr. Burnett is the best!!! To get a better idea of where it’s located, I am laying on my left side, and the incision is on my right hip. The top of the incision is on the left of the picture and if you count off the spaces between the pen markings, my hip bone is between 4 & 5, almost right under the initials.

When I had regained a good portion of feeling back, I was finally moved from Recovery to my room in the South wing of the hospital. I had a private room – not that I had requested one, but apparently 80% of the rooms are private, which in my opinion is quite lovely. I don’t mind a roommate, but I really prefer my solitude, especially because I don’t sleep and I’m up at all hours. I would feel guilty if I disturbed anyone. I’m also fortunate to have Insurance coverage for this too.

Resting

The nurses kept me on oxygen the entire time I was there. I had planned on using my CPAP machine, but because I really don’t sleep much in the hospital, I had Ray take it home and just stayed on the oxygen. Here I’m just resting after getting all settled into my room. I’m waiting for Ray to get here…oh, and look. Here he is!!!

AfterSurgery

And yes, I finally have my glasses back too!!! All the better to see my fantastic husband. How I love this man…he takes such good care of me. I only just noticed after adding this picture how close I came to giving you a peep show with my gown slipping. Geez…you already got to see my tushy…I think those drugs really did a number on me. Time for some sleep me thinks!!! Actually, what I really wanted was food. I was so hungry at this point (I’m guessing this photo was taken around 7 or 8 pm?) but my Nurse Lisa told me that if I ate, I’d probably just get sick and throw it up (aka, get the dreaded NG tube!!) even if I didn’t have a General Anesthetic. I still had drugs in my system and she’s seen it happen enough. I did get some tea finally and then at around 11pm, Lisa showed up with this:

FinallySomeFoodNearMidnight

Yes, that was a roast beef sandwich on white bread with butter than I inhaled plus crackers and cheese!!!!  I ate the first half of the sandwich so fast before thinking “oh, I should take a picture for the blog”. Ha ha! It really was the best thing I’d eaten in a long time. Finally, I felt tired enough to try and sleep, so we did one fun go-round with the bedpan (there was no way I was ready to try and get out of bed yet, nor did they really want me to) and then off to the Land of Nod.

Thus ended Day 1. I shall continue the adventure again tomorrow!!!

I’m A Happy Hippy, Part 1

I am the proud owner of a new hip, and she’s wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First off, let me apologize for the huge delay in posting the follow up to my surgery on Feb. 7th. I should have know that a major surgery like this would cause me to be quite fatigued for a while, but I didn’t realize quite how tired I’d be! That being said, the surgery was a complete success and I couldn’t be happier with how things went!!! I’m going to break this up into three parts – Pre-Op, Post-Op and Home Again. So…here we go!!

PRE-OP

I was up at 4am on Feb. 7th, so I could have my second shower with my super scrubbing brush and get all the last minute stuff done before we left for the hospital. We live in Langford which is a small city just outside of Victoria – normally about a 30 minute drive in good weather without rush hour traffic. Unfortunately, good weather is NOT what we’ve been having over the last few months – this is what Ray found and dealt with:

SnowBigDeal  ICanSeeClearlyNow

Thankfully, the roads themselves were pretty decent, even for that early in the morning and we arrived at the Royal Jubilee Hospital at approximately 5:30am – half an hour earlier than our scheduled time. There’s a Tim Horton’s coffee shop right beside Admitting so Ray grabbed a coffee, and then we sat in front of Admitting until they opened. We chatted quietly, and then suddenly, we were being met by the greeting committee of one – Georgie:

Georgie2

Now, Georgie is a handsome boy who lives across the street from the Royal Jubilee Hospital. His frustrated parents have given up on trying to stop him from coming over here – he’s an indoor/outdoor cat and when he’s outdoors, he treks over here to visit, supervise, observe and greet. He’s polite and friendly, but very busy and he doesn’t always have time to spend with you – there’s much to be done for this busy boy. Once the metal security gate around the Admitting Desk is open, he trots in behind there to the offices where he’s greeted and loved up and then gets on with his day. Ray and I were so surprised to see him, especially thinking the Hospital would take issue with it, but Georgie seems to have proven himself to be quite the character, and most people who are greeted by him seem to calm down, feel less stress and anxiety and be more talkative, instead of pulling into their shells because of fear. So…it’s a good relationship for everyone!

Alright…so after getting all the paperwork done, confirming I had in fact paid for my new hip, and receiving my hospital bracelet, Ray and I headed to the 3rd Floor to Day Surgery, where all surgical patients start out. It’s only after your surgery that you’re separated after recovery – either back to Day Surgery if you’re going home that day, or to your Floor if you’re staying as an In Patient. As one of the first people booked for surgery that morning, it was fairly quiet when we got to 3rd and the nurses were just opening the doors. I was directed to a change room with a bag for my clothes, and given in return two gowns (one to wear open at the back, one to use as a housecoat) a pair of booties and a hat. Ray took my stuff and then it was time to say goodbye. He had to leave for a meeting involving a volunteer program he was involved in at the hospital regarding prostate examinations, and I would be going through the lengthy check-in process with my nurse Amanda. We had a quick hug and kiss, he took my glasses as well as my clothes (I WISH there was a way to keep the glasses!!!) and away we both went.

Amanda got me tucked into bed, brought me one of those wonderful warm blankets and then we went through my health history. I asked her who would be starting the IV and she said probably her, so I told her about my crappy veins. I suggested we might want to put some heat on my arm now to try and plump them up and she agreed, so we got that started, then continued with the questions. We talked about previous surgeries, outcomes, all my various health conditions, medications, all the various tests I’ve had done, my Diabetes and blood testing, plus my Insulin usage…you name it, we discussed it. Then she went and grabbed the IV kit and we got going on that. I’ll give her tons of credit…she listened to me when I described my veins and what they would probably do – how they would act and react and what she could and couldn’t do if she didn’t get a stick the first time. And because she listened to me, she got that big bore needle in my arm the very first time, with only a small amount of having to probe around for the vein. She said after, she’s learned to listen to people because we know our bodies. We know what will happen and we’re right, so as a nurse, why should she pretend to know more than us? She was an excellent nurse…just the right amount of professionalism and personality!!

Once all this was done, there was nothing to do except rest, until it was time to be moved over to the Pre-op area. Dr. Burnett came in to say hi, and to initial the hip, making sure it was the correct side that we were operating on, and then before I knew it, I was being moved over to the Pre-Op Holding Area. I met with the Anesthesiologist there, who confirmed my choice of Spinal Anesthesia along with IV Sedation, and he explained to me how that would work. Once I was in the operating room and on the table, he would give me a sedative through the IV and then a needle would be placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord, numbing me completely from the bottom of my ribs down. I wouldn’t even know it was done. We chatted about a couple of other things and then he told me they would be ready for me in about 10 minutes. And sure enough…in about 10 minutes, they came to move me into the Operating room. I was introduced to everyone there, they slid me from my bed to the table and started doing lots of things around me. I asked if I could say a quick prayer as they kept busy and then just prayed for God to be with everyone in the room, guiding them to do their best work and preventing any problems from coming up. I also asked the Lord to be with all of the medical people and all the other patients having surgery that day as well, as it was a very busy surgical day. Once I was done, the Anesthesiologist let me know he was going to give me the sedative. I thanked everyone and told them how much I appreciated their hard work, and then off to sleep I went….

Moving on to Part 2 – Post-Op

Getting Ready For Surgery, Part Two

Thanks for sticking with me on this adventure. If you’ve been following along, surgery is set for Feb. 7th for my Total Hip Replacement (THR) of my right hip. This has been needed since 2010, because of arthritis and because of something called Femoral Acetabular Impingement. The link takes you to some great information about why I’m having this surgery done – one of the other things I experience besides pain is the constant noise of my hip snapping, popping, clicking, etc. when I walk or move. You wouldn’t think it would be a big deal, but when you have to listen to it 24/7 for years, trust me…it’s a BIG DEAL!.

So, now that you know WHY I’m having surgery, let me tell you about some of the tests I’ve had done, including the surprise tests that happened, and then I’ll tell you about my surgeon, Dr. R. Stephen Burnett.

For any surgery, you have to undergo regular tests to make sure you’re healthy – blood work for various investigations (checking for infections, etc), an EKG to make sure your heart is functioning properly, a chest x-ray to make sure there is no pneumonia forming – those are the basics. The doctors like to have them within 3 months of the surgery date, so I actually had to have them redone. No big deal. Because I have Type 2 Diabetes, they also check my A1C blood sugar levels – an average of my blood sugar levels over a 3 month period. You generally want those to be under 6 and mine this time round were 6.2 which is pretty good. I use insulin to manage my Diabetes, injecting 14 units of it every night into my stomach or upper thighs on a rotational system. I admit, I often let my Diabetes take a back seat to all my other health issues, and I often forget to check my blood sugar levels on a regular basis, but overall, I’m keeping it under control, so that’s a good thing.

Now, in addition to these regular tests, I had a phone call from Dr. Burnett’s office, telling me they had set up a Bone Scan and CT Scan for me for Monday, Jan. 30th and that Dr. Burnett would want to see me to discuss the results of these tests prior to surgery. The only day he is available to see me? The day before surgery. Instantly, my stomach goes haywire and my brain goes into overload and I’m thinking “he’s going to cancel the surgery!!”.  I mean, I have no real reason to think this…it’s just more tests and there hasn’t been a recent bone scan or CT, but because I’ve waited so long for this, I’m wired to believe it’s not going to happen, because I was led to believe it was going to happen 6 years ago in Calgary, and it didn’t. There’s still a tiny part of me that is waiting for someone to say “oh, sorry…no can do…dreadfully grieved…move along now”.

Anyway, fine…I send a note to his nurse Angela, to see if she can find out why he’s doing these tests and is it going to impact the surgery, and her first response back is that she doesn’t see anything on his notes but she’ll try to snag him to ask him and get back to me in a day or so.

So on Monday, I went for the tests, still with no answers. The bone scan is a two part test…in part one, you get an injection of a nuclear tracker that spreads throughout your body and several pictures are taken in a special type of scanning machine. After that, you’re allowed to leave for a few hours, to give the tracker time to spread throughout your body. You arrive back at your appointed time and undergo a series of pictures – I think it took about 10 minutes for mine to be done.  The CT scan is straightforward – there was no contrast used in my test, so no IV and no medicine that makes you feel flushed and like you’ve pee’d yourself. If you’ve ever had that medicine before, you know exactly what I’m talking about. All in all, the actual tests took about an hour – it’s the waiting in between for the nuclear tracker to spread that took up the most time. You can leave while you wait, but I live too far away and take the bus into town, so I just hung out at the hospital, ate lunch, drank my requisite 2 bottles of water, and played games on my phone.

On Tuesday, I heard back from Angela, saying she had received the results and passed them on to Dr. Burnett and also confirmed he was still going ahead with my surgery. PRAISE GOD!!! I have never been so relieved in all my life!!!!  I couldn’t wait to text Ray and my kids and my dear friend Charlotte, as well as share the news on Facebook. I simply could not stop grinning!!!!  This is really going to happen!!!

Now, a few words about my surgeon. Dr. R. Stephen Burnett.

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I met him for the first time just a couple of weeks ago (remember, this was before the bone scan and CT scan) and thankfully had been warned that he didn’t have the best bedside manner. He introduced himself to me, I introduced Ray, and then he proceeded to share with me that my lab work looked good, so we were good to do. He told me that he preferred to use the ceramic head rather than the metal one that BC Health covers the cost for, so it’s a charge of $746.00 that I have to pay out of pocket, but it’s superior in function and long term usage. He asked if I had any questions, which I did, and that was that. Ray and I arrived 30 minutes early for the appointment, waited another 30 minutes to see the man and we were done in 5 minutes.

He’s very much an “all business” surgeon, so it’s a good thing I wasn’t looking for the hand holding type. I did expect him to be more talkative (he wasn’t) and to share more information (he didn’t), especially  about the artificial hip itself. He didn’t have my full file with him…he didn’t even realize how quickly my surgery was coming up!!! That being said, I’ve also heard from several sources that he is the absolute best in the business when it comes to hip surgery, especially with more complex cases, so I’m going with what a friend of mine said – I want a surgeon who’s all business and a Family Doctor who is more personable and hands on. He wasn’t rude, or anything like that…just not quite what I was expecting.

So, I will see him this coming Monday, Feb. 6th to discuss the results of the bone scan and CT scan. I did see my family doctor already this week though to get the results and to discuss any last minute issues regarding the surgery and things like my medications and when to take them on the morning of the 7th, etc.  Dr. Leong has been my Family Dr. for 3 years now and truly is the hands on, caring Family Dr. so I was glad to have the chance to see him once more. He took the time to go over the test results with me, so if Dr. Burnett doesn’t go through them as thoroughly, I at least know what’s happening. And what is happening you might ask? Well, thanks for asking. 😉

What the tests showed is that in addition to the hip impingement we know about and the arthritis we know about, I apparently also have severe arthritis in the lower lumbar spine which is the cause of my lower back pain. Now, keep in mind that I have bone spurs up and down my Thoracic spine and now we find out the lumbar spine is a mess – basically what the Doctors want me to be aware of is that after the hip surgery, if I still have pain, not to feel like this was a failure…it just means that we need to follow up on the back problems and start treating them. Oh yes my friends…with me, the fun never stops!!!

So, what’s next? Well, the last thing before surgery is what’s called “The Prep”.  On Monday night, I take a shower, using a special sponge called an Antibacterial Chlorhexidine 4% sponge. Everything gets scrubbed from top to bottom, then a clean towel is used and clean pyjamas are put on and the bed is made with clean sheets. Nothing to eat after midnight, and nothing but clear liquids to drink until 3 hours prior to my arrival time of 6am at the Hospital – and that includes black coffee!!! Yay!!!  In the morning, I repeat the shower, using a different clean towel to dry off – put on loose comfortable clean clothes and shoes that are easy to get on/off and then we head to the Hospital for 6am. I am the first scheduled surgery of the day, which is fantastic – unless there has been an emergency that’s come in the night before, everything should run on time.

Once I’ve been admitted, I’ll be taken to my bed where I’ll be asked to change into a gown. At some point, required paperwork will be filled out, an IV will be started and things will start to move too quickly. Ray and I will be able to be together until it’s time to move to the pre-op area – but he actually has an appointment at the Hospital that morning for some Volunteer work he’s doing, so he might need to leave before then anyway. Then, it’s off to the OR!!!  I will be having a Spinal Anesthetic instead of a General, so that will be administered. I’m opting for as little sedative as possible…I’d actually love it if there was a mirror where I could watch them replace my hip, but since I doubt that’s possible (and since they’ll take my glasses away and I’ll be blind as a bat anyway), I’ll just stick to listening. Once surgery is over, it’s off to recovery and then eventually, my room. I’m hoping I’ll only have to stay for a couple of days and I’m praying that the surgery won’t cause a Fibromyalgia flare-up or a flare-up of my Trigeminal Neuralgia. I won’t get my hopes up…every surgery I’ve ever had has made my Fibro flare, to the point that I felt like a semi truck had run me over and dragged me a hundred feet. I didn’t have the TN back then, thank God!

So my friends…that is what the next steps look like. I will post a very short note on Monday night, and then again as soon as I can when I’m up to it later. In the meantime, remember the motto:

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ps: Geez, I almost forgot this part….on Thursday, when I was seeing my Family Dr., my cellphone buzzed (it was on mute) and when I checked the messages, there was one from Dr. Burnett’s nurse, asking if we had somehow forgotten to send her a copy of the invoice for when we paid for the ceramic head that he’s using. Yeah…the one that WE FORGOT TO PAY FOR!!!!!  Oh my word…I couldn’t believe that we had forgotten to pay for the damn thing…I could just see it in my head….me on the operating table and the good doctor holding it in his hand, waving it at me, saying “would you like this???? It’s going to cost you!!!!!!!”

I paid it on Friday. In person. At the hospital. And I took pictures of the invoice, marked paid and sent them to the nurse. WHEW!!!!!!!!

 

Getting Ready For Surgery

Woo Hoo!!!!  Things have been super busy since my last post. As I said, Feb. 7th is my surgery date, at the Royal Jubilee hospital in Victoria, BC.  Since I posted that, I have received a letter from Island Health, indicating that I’m the first surgery of the day – I check in at Admitting at 6am!! My Surgeon is Dr. Stephen Burnett (more on him in another post) who is apparently one of the best in the business!

My husband Ray and I have attended the mandatory Education Class for all patients undergoing a Total Hip Replacement (THR) or Total Knee Replacement (TKR). It’s a 2 hour class put on by Rebalance MD, the Physicians Group of Orthopedic Surgeons who perform all of the Ortho surgeries in Victoria. It’s lead by one of the Orthopedic Nurse Navigators – in our case, Britta Henly, and takes you through all of the information you need to know about your surgery, from things like the equipment you’ll need to have at home to help you get around the house to Physio appointments to maintaining the 90º rules so you don’t dislocate your new hip. There are three major rules you have to follow for the first three months after surgery

  • No bending beyond 90º
  • No crossing of your legs
  • No twisting at the midline

They don’t sound all that difficult until you realize how often you cross your legs without even thinking about it, or how many times you twist in your seat to get something. Even getting in and out of the car is a huge new task when you can’t bend beyond the 90º range. I’ve been practising, and actually had my hubby Ray film me, so I was doing it properly and could look back at it to make sure it was right.

We’ve also gone ahead and purchased all the equipment I’m going to need for the surgery – a two wheeled walker, raised toilet seat, bathtub transfer seat, long handled reacher, crutches (I already have a cane), a 2″  foam cushion for in the car and for other seats to make sure the 90º angle is maintained when I am sitting, and a cryotherapy machine for icing constantly to keep the swelling down and to help with pain. My insurance company will cover the cost of the equipment and we thought it made sense to buy, rather than rent, since I’ll need to have the other hip replaced, as well as likely needing knee surgery too. We can then keep and store everything, or sell it when it’s no longer required.

I’m also using a CPAP machine now, since my Sleep Apnea really does need to be treated and the surgeon wants me using it in the hospital after surgery. It’s better for my recovery, and I can’t argue that, so I’ve bought a female sized facial mask – with the nasal plugs instead of a full face mask – and it’s MUCH more comfortable to wear!! Unfortunately, I can’t use it when I have a Trigeminal Neuralgia flare-up, which happened a couple of nights ago, but I’ll do the best I can.

So, that’s it for the getting ready, equipment wise. Next post…the Surgeon, the tests, the unexpected tests, and the stress!!!!  I shouldn’t be worrying, but I am. I have to remember…

There is always hope!

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