January 17, 2019 8:42 pm

Broken Leg – Part Two

When we left off, I had arrived at home from the Emergency Room in the wee hours of the night. I was so hopped up on adrenaline that I never did end up falling asleep that night and stayed awake for the entire next day. I mostly spent the morning responding to DMs and text messages.

Once clinics were open, I began making phone calls. First, I called the orthopedic surgeon that the ER referred me to, but they told me that due to my insurance, I needed my Primary Care Provider to refer me to them – the ER wouldn’t cut it.

I made a call to my PCP and had to leave a message. They took a while to call me back, and referred me to a local orthopedic surgeon affiliated with the only hospital in town. I actually preferred this, since I didn’t relish the idea of having to travel an hour each way to see the ortho that the ER recommended.

I was told to wait a couple of hours and then call the orthopedic surgeon’s office to make a plan for surgery – my PCP had already sent over my x-rays. I waited approximately half the time they said and then called.

It took them THREE HOURS to call me back, and when they did they asked if anyone had called to schedule me yet. I replied that they had not, and they told me their weekend on-call orthopedic surgeon was super backed up in the operating room, but once he was out of surgery he’d be calling me himself to make a plan.

Up until this point, I was still assuming I’d be able to see a doctor that day. Once it was getting close to the end of the business day and I was facing the prospect of a weekend full of long, painful nights, I started to despair.

HOURS later, at 8pm, the orthopedic surgeon finally called me. He said I needed surgery for sure, so rather than having to call their office on Monday to schedule, he advised I just show up Monday morning (reminder: I was speaking with him on a Friday night) for an appt and then we’d see about putting me on the surgery schedule.

During this terribly long wait for an update, I had a really poorly timed bathroom break and ended up crying the entire way back from the bathroom to the couch. Using crutches was really difficult, as the splint from the ER went up and over my knee and was very heavy. I had not cried up until this point, so you know it was bad. After that experience, I figured out that I should time my bathroom breaks to be approximately an hour after taking medicine but not less than an hour or two before needing to take them again. It was a short window of time! I also almost passed out once on the way back to the couch – it was early in the morning and Daniel was taking me before he left for work, and I had to sit in a chair and then needed him to hang on to me in case I blacked out. I didn’t, ultimately, but everything went fuzzy and I definitely came close.

Insurance Woes

On Saturday, I began to do some insurance-related research. The weekend on-call doctor I’d been assigned wasn’t familiar to me (I live in a very small town. We know who the local doctors are!) and when I attempted to look him up on my insurance’s website, he was not listed as an in-network provider even though all his coworkers were.

Knowing that my out of network deductible was FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS (because the United States is a backwards hellhole that doesn’t have universal healthcare), I promptly panicked. I called the orthopedic surgeon’s office and left a very tightly-wound voicemail indicating I liked the doctor when I spoke with him on the phone, but for insurance reasons I had to see somebody else. I said he wasn’t showing as an in-network provider and if he’s not in-network, my deductible is astronomical and there’s no way I can be on the hook for the full cost of my surgery.

I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink after midnight on Sunday in case they decided to go ahead with surgery. I showed up Monday morning and as we were parking, I saw I had a voicemail from their office.

In it, the admin assistant acknowledged she’d received my call about wanting to switch providers for insurance reasons, and wanted me to know that even though he shows as out of network, it’s only because he’s new to the practice and he’s actually contracted with all the same insurance companies his coworkers are.

To recap: I was assigned this doctor Friday the 2nd. I requested someone else via voicemail early Saturday the 3rd. I was arriving at his office for an appt on Monday the 5th. (This info becomes important later.)

NOTE: I know I have several non-US readers, so if this insurance stuff is confusing, I’m so sorry and it’s confusing to all of us too.

Surgery

Once I was taken back to the exam room, I kept telling Daniel that I cannot let this guy so much as LOOK at me or else I will be on the hook for everything out of pocket. The sad thing was, I really liked the doctor! (We’ll call him Dr. K.) Daniel asked if I wanted him to talk with the front desk and I said YES, so he went to do that. Dr. K came in and I said the same thing to him – it’s not about YOU, it’s just that you’re not listed on my insurance. He reassured me it was fine and that he’s on all the same insurances the other doctors are. Daniel came back and said the front desk told him they’d spoken with my insurance and it was all fine. I wasn’t sure I believed them, but I was in pain and had been suffering with a very broken leg at home for four days and I was ready to get this show on the road.

Dr. K scheduled my surgery for that same day at noon, and we headed to the hospital. My mom’s cousin (“Aunt K”) was my pre-op nurse, which could sound embarrassing but was actually really comforting. It was nice seeing a familiar face! I also liked my anesthesiologist and we talked about how we both used to live in Portland. I had to have blood drawn for a pregnancy test even though I have an IUD and Daniel has had a vasectomy but AN ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION I guess. They gave me an IV and placed a nerve block for my leg, which is kind of like a leg-specific epidural that goes in the back of your thigh, close to your knee pit.

The only terrible part of the whole ordeal was in the operating room as they were trying to knock me out. They applied an oxygen mask and told me to breathe deeply and count backwards from ten. As they were saying this, they pushed something cold through the IV in my hand. It was so PROFOUNDLY painful that I screamed and burst into tears and so the last thing I remember before going under was me scream-crying and someone rapidly telling me to keep breathing so I’d go under faster.

Happily, I woke up a while later with a repaired leg and ankle and the news that Dr. K didn’t have to put in removable pins to hold my tibia and fibula together, meaning this surgery was one-and-done and I wouldn’t have to have a followup surgery to remove anything. Yay! Daniel told me my surgery took about three hours.

Aunt K was also my post-op nurse, and she took great care of me while I recovered. I did need some anti-nausea medicine at some point because I felt gross, but recovery was pretty uneventful. I mostly had to pee a lot! I munched on some crackers and toast and eventually felt good enough to leave the hospital.

Recovery

The next few days were a blur of round-the-clock babysitting since I couldn’t get my leg on or off the couch by myself for bathroom breaks. Thora also came down with some kind of barfing sickness so not only was I completely non-functional, anybody who babysat me had to be willing to enter a house with barfing child germs. We went through a lot of Clorox wipes that week.

I was instructed to be completely non-weight-bearing for six weeks, so Daniel’s mom brought over a hard plastic school chair with wheels and it changed my life! I could sit and be pulled to the bathroom instead of having to crutch there! Later, she brought over a walker – one of the fold-up ones with a little seat that elderly people use to get around. I would sit on it and scoot backward through the house. (This is not its intended use, and it specifically advises against doing it on the walker, but it worked really well for me!) I cannot overstate how revolutionary this walker has been for my recovery. It has gone with me everywhere and I love it.

In total, I spent three unpaid weeks off of work, mostly sitting at home on the couch. I didn’t watch much TV; it felt too busy. I also didn’t feel like I had the concentration for books, so I spent a lot of time on social media. I tried not to do much online shopping.

One of the biggest struggles I had was with hygiene and self-image. The idea of showering with my enormous splint was so daunting – our house doesn’t have a bathtub, just a single standing shower stall, so space was an issue and I was terrified I’d accidentally get my splint wet and have to go in to get it replaced. I did a lot of awkward sponge-baths with soap and a washcloth. Daniel kindly washed my hair in the sink.

I was living in men’s sweatpants that we cut off at the knee for my splinted leg and at the ankle for my non-injured leg. I had a hard time wearing underwear since my regular cotton ones wouldn’t stretch over my splint and the synthetic underpants I had made my skin hurt.

I just felt so gross all the time. Unwashed! No underwear! Men’s sweatpants! Dirty hair! Ugh.

Follow-up

I had a followup appt two weeks post-surgery. They took my splint off, and I got to see my repaired leg for the first time. I was told my incisions looked amazing and Dr. K was really pleased with how I was healing. I received a walking boot (not for walking though!) and instructions to not put any weight on that leg until my next appointment six weeks from then.

That appointment was on Christmas Eve, and a high school classmate was my X-ray tech! She and I talked about our kids and Christmas shopping and it was really nice. Here’s what my repaired bones look like:

X-ray of leg and ankle showing a metal plate on each side and lots of screws
Front view showing the two plates and twelve screws holding everything together!
Side view X-ray that shows the plates holding my leg and ankle together.
Side view that shows the plates a little better. Dr. K said “Ignore the bone shard at the back. It’s fine.”

My X-rays looked great according to Dr. K so I was told I could start putting weight on my leg again! My instructions were: wear the boot for walking for four weeks; you can take it off to sleep (GAME CHANGER); after the four weeks, you only need to wear it if you’re going to be going outside because it’s snowy and icy. Whew!

Currently

Once I was allowed to put weight on my leg, I felt like my recovery really sped up. I’m still using the boot, but I can hobble around the house without my walker for short distances.

Lately, I’m noticing if I spend too much time upright or walking without my walker, I do get some swelling/pain under my skin, almost like the screws are irritating it from the inside. It looks completely normal from the outside (no redness or anything scary) but feels like a bruise. Kind of wishing I had Dr. K’s email address to ask him if that’s normal… maybe I’ll call about that tomorrow!

There’s a lot of stuff I’ve failed to document here (like my whole pain medication saga) but this is basically the gist of it all! It’s been such a wild ride. So many of our family and friends have supported us throughout my recovery, whether it was bringing meals or babysitting me or babysitting the kids and I’m so grateful for all of that and everyone who reached out to me over social media or via text! It’s been a pretty lonely recovery (I haven’t been anywhere besides work, parents houses, and my doctor’s office since Nov 1st) so my “pocket friends” have been a lifesaver.

I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have about any broken leg or ankle-related topics – I’m pretty open about my recovery!

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January 16, 2019 2:05 pm

Broken Leg

In December 2017, my friend and coworker Tarra told me she was going to start participating in a “Fresh Meat” (newbie) roller derby program in the bigger town about an hour away from where we live. She offered to be the carpool “derby car” if I wanted to come along, and I definitely did!

Four women smiling after completing their first roller derby practice.
Tarra, Bronwyn, Tatum, and Meggan smiling after their first Fresh Meat roller derby practice.

I started January 2018 and went to practice twice weekly, and I loved it! Roller skating is super fun.

I graduated from Fresh Meat onto the actual team in May (I won the “Brave Little Toaster” award for trying everything even if I wasn’t sure about it at first) and then in the fall I got to participate in my first scrimmage and then a Halloween bout!

On November 1st, I ran a bunch of errands before practice. I went to the book fair at Wesley’s school, went and got us both flu shots, and then decided to early vote in person “just in case,” knowing I had two derby practices between that day and midterm Election Day on Tuesday. I wanted to be sure nothing came between me and voting for Paulette Jordan for governor and voting to expand Medicaid coverage in Idaho.

I was the carpool car that day, so I drove Tarra and Bronwyn to practice. It was a pretty difficult practice for me – I’m okay at skating but horrible at endurance work and I was exhausted. I kept taking breaks to regroup but was still overexerted. Finally, our coach told the few of us that were struggling that we could do our own thing for a bit until we felt like we were ready to rejoin the group.

Once I gathered myself, the group had started a new drill to practice jamming. You skate up to a group from behind and try to make your way through. I felt good enough to try it.

I skated up to the group and started bulldozing my way through. I made a little bit of headway and then took a strong hit from the left that knocked me up and off balance a bit, and as that was happening, I took another strong hit from the right and immediately felt my lower left leg break while I was still off-balance. I screamed and fell to the ground where I screamed again as I landed.

Practice stopped right away and the girls confirmed that I really was hurt and needed an ambulance. Someone called, and as we waited for the EMTs to arrive, my teammates removed my skate and cut off my sock so they could assess the damage. They told me my ankle looked pretty swollen and bruised, but I could only focus on how badly my leg hurt and kept saying there wasn’t anything wrong with my ankle. (Spoiler alert: there was.) One of the first non-injury related things I said to them was that I was SO THANKFUL I had early voted so at least I had that out of the way.

My teammates were amazing and even though I was in a lot of pain, I wasn’t ever scared. I felt like they handled my injury and getting me emergency help really well.

I was lying in a very awkward position – I was on my back with my left leg stretched out forward but with my foot tipped out, so the outer side of my leg rested on the ground and my inner ankle was toward the ceiling. My right leg was bent with my foot on the ground, and my right hip and buttcheek were off the ground slightly. This was admittedly difficult to maintain but it was truly the only position that felt remotely “comfortable” if one can really be comfortable with a broken leg.

I didn’t cry, but it hurt a LOT and I definitely squeezed my eyes shut and did some very deep labor breathing. My friend Bronwyn later told me that she wasn’t sure if I was even hurt that badly because I seemed to be handling it fine, and once the EMTs arrived I felt like they made a similar assessment!

My friend Tarra brought over my wallet and phone, got close to me and said, “Here’s your phone and wallet. I am coming in the ambulance with you. Your gear is in your van and I’m giving Bronwyn the keys to your van, and we will meet up with her later.” SHE IS PERFECT, A+ HOSPITAL BUDDY, COULD NOT HAVE ASKED FOR BETTER.

I texted Daniel that I had broken my leg but that the EMTs were on the way and I was being taken care of – no reason for him to get the kids up or drive to meet me or anything. That must have been a horrible text to receive, but I wanted him to know what was happening even if he couldn’t help!

Once we were in the ambulance, one EMT kept putting words in my mouth to describe my accident. Like, “so you were skating and twisted your ankle?” and I’d say “NO, I got hit and it BROKE my LEG. My ankle is not even an issue” and he’d say, “so… you got hit and then you landed on your ankle and hurt it?” And I’d have to repeat that I FELT MY LEG BREAK and had no idea what happened to my ankle but that I did not land on it. I felt very frustrated at this point but I think he finally got it in the end. I rated my pain at an 8/10 at this point and Tarra told me later that it surprised everyone in the ambulance – they didn’t expect it to be that high based on how I was acting.

We arrived at the hospital and I’m not going to lie, I was more nervous about my impending hospital experience than I was about my leg being broken. I have a well-documented history of trauma in hospitals and while I trust them to repair whatever physical injury I have, I remain very concerned with how they will treat me as a human being. Fortunately, everyone was very kind and (once I got pain meds) it was actually kind of a jovial atmosphere.

Once I got X-rays, the doctors determined that I’d broken my medial malleolus (inner ankle bone) clean off and had fractured my fibula (outer lower leg bone) in two places.

Two fibula fractures.
Fracture of my medial malleolus.

The ambulance driver came back in to check on me at this point and since the X-rays were up, he asked if he could take a non-identifiable photo of them and I said sure. He couldn’t believe the breaks were that bad! I said I told you all that it was my leg, and he laughed and said sometimes people just know!

The worst part of the whole thing was when it came time to splint my leg. Tarra semi-jokingly asked if I wanted to hold her hand during it, and as I was about to decline, the nurse was like “YES, great idea, get over here!” Tarra grabbed my hand and they assigned someone to hold my foot in place, which meant keeping it bent at a 90° angle and it was excruciating. They applied the splint materials and I firmly squeezed Tarra’s hand while she asked me about what my kids did for Halloween and what they dressed as and where we went. It was the PERFECT distraction. Easy questions to answer, which gave my brain something to focus on besides the pain as the medical professionals wrangled my broken body.

We were told they needed to consult with an orthopedic surgeon before discharging me since it was clear I needed surgery but they weren’t sure if I could wait or if it needed to be done that night. Unfortunately for me, the ortho on call just… never responded to the hospital’s calls (which is VERY BAD, if you are on call you HAVE to answer) and they tried and tried but couldn’t get ahold of anybody. Ultimately, they got someone to consult — I noted they did not say they got an orthopedic surgeon to consult — and decided to discharge me and have me follow up with an orthopedic surgeon in the morning.

Overall, I felt like I did a good job advocating for myself during my time in the ER. I asked to take photos of my X-rays! I asked doctors to repeat things to make sure I understood them! When they tried to have me leave the ER at 2am with a prescription for pain meds but no actual pain meds to make it overnight until the pharmacies opened, I voiced my concern about this and we got it sorted out before I left.

We connected with Bronwyn, who was in charge of my minivan, and she came by to pick us up.

To get me in the minivan, the nurse recommended we lay the front seat down and have me scootch up so I’d be sitting on the flat back of the seat with my leg out straight. We got me into this position with some effort and then I realized the headrest was between my shoulder blades and my whole head and neck would be hanging semi-upside down for the hour drive home and I was like… nope. We need to do something else. We were all laughing pretty hard at the sheer absurdity of the situation.

Somebody pointed out that the seat was so far back that if I just kept scootching up and over, I’d eventually come to land squarely in the backseat, which is exactly what I did. This let me prop my injured leg up on the center console between the two front seats and it was actually comfortable and I could even use the seatbelt. Tarra drove my van home with me in the backseat.

When we arrived at my house at approximately 2:30am, I texted Daniel to move the car so we could pull the van really close to the house. He did that, and then as I was getting out of the van and attempting to make my way to the porch stairs, I heard Daniel mumble something about “not feeling well” and looked up to see him white as a sheet. I told him to go inside and sit down so he didn’t pass out and he agreed, so Tarra and I were left to figure out how to get me into my house. I eventually sat down on the steps and scooted up them on my butt, which worked better than I expected.

Tarra’s husband had arrived at this point and I couldn’t help but laugh as they stood on our porch, looking down at Daniel and I who were both sitting on the floor, wondering if they should actually leave us in this condition. We waved them off, thanked them profusely for their help, and then spent the next fifteen minutes sitting on the floor and talking.

I eventually butt-scooted my way to the couch, where Daniel went about setting up the funniest (to me) barricade for the children so they wouldn’t unknowingly jostle me when they got up in the morning.

A screencap from my Instagram story that night, showing the sign Daniel made.

The story of trying to schedule surgery and then actually having surgery and the subsequent recovery is too long for this post, but MAN it has been a wild ride.

Huge thanks to Tarra for being the absolute best hospital buddy a girl could ask for — she kept saying I was “easy” to help but truly, she was such a good friend to me in my time of need. May everyone have a friend like her!

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January 15, 2019 7:12 pm

A Life in the Day

I started watching The Magicians before Season three came out on Netflix, and now that it’s here I have a LOT to say about it, specifically S3E5, “A Life in the Day.” (Spoilers lie ahead!)

In the episode, there’s a storyline where Quentin and Eliot travel to Fillory in the past and have to solve a mosaic to show “the beauty of all life.”

It takes far longer than they expect, and they live out an entire lifetime in Fillory working on the mosaic.

HERE ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Quentin and Eliot’s kiss!
  • This tumblr post with nice kissy gifs of that scene
  • The song that plays during the montage – Evolve by Phoria
  • Eliot reclining and looking over his shoulder approvingly as Quentin and Arielle kiss
  • Eliot playfully tossing Quentin and Arielle’s child in the air
  • Eliot comforting a sobbing Quentin after Arielle dies, and gently placing a blanket over Quentin and his kid as they nap
  • Quentin and Eliot standing together (with Eliot’s hand on Quentin’s shoulder!) as they send their grown son off into the world.
  • How Quentin says “Eliot” once he notices Eliot’s not moving
  • Quentin wrapping a quilt over Eliot’s body. The handmade, well-loved quality of the quilt just slayed me. Wrapping him in a family quilt to bury him is so tender and caring and they had a LIFE together and *cries forever*
  • Eliot and Quentin are sitting in the Fillorian throne room reminiscing about their life together and Eliot says “And we had a family.”

AND WE HAD A FAMILY

This is such a good episode for other reasons too (Jane Chatwin’s convo with Margo, Prince Micah, all the outfits) but those few minutes where Eliot and Quentin have an entire life together? I’ve watched it several times and I tear up every single time.

Season four of The Magicians premieres later this month on SyFy and I need to decide if I can/should spend $30 to watch it on iTunes as it comes out or if I can wait a year(?) for it to come out on Netflix. I waited to see season three but now I don’t know if I have the willpower to wait for season four!

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