It’s been over a year since I conducted a most epic gravity check. Just over a year ago I fell and broke my leg. I have still not fully recovered. After the surgeon put me back together again, he warned me it would take a least a year to completely heal. I didn’t believe him. I have trust issues with doctors (and television executives – but that is another story. Hint: Firefly). The doctor was right. Here it is, over a year later and I am still not back to the condition I was before my accident.
So what about this epic gravity check you ask? It was late at night, I was tired from being a little late on my infusion, and I fell backwards off a step stool into a confined space and landed on my hip. In the world of Pompe, falling is not uncommon, minor bumps and bruises, minor (and major) humiliation, and sometimes serious injuries happen in our little awkward community. My previous falls had resulted in a concussion, mild whiplash, and a twisted knee. Those were nothing compared to this fall. I had no idea what I was in for as I sat there on the floor waiting for the aching to subside. I thought I could simply scoot my way to a nearby chair and get up. Nope. I struggled for hours and couldn’t move more than inch without excruciating pain. I had no choice but to call for the paramedics. Even then I thought maybe they could just help me up off the floor and into my bed. I wasn’t in pain, unless I tried to move. When the paramedics got there and examined me, they thought I might have just dislocated my leg. They felt that I would be in much more pain if something had broken. Ok, I thought. They’ll just put my leg back, it will be painful, and I’ll recover in a few weeks. I had dislocated my knee in dance years ago and it healed fairly quickly. My dad is the master of dislocating his shoulders and he always heals up fine. No problem, I can handle this I thought.
When the paramedics moved me from the floor to their gurney I experienced the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. I would have to endure that same pain of being transferred from place to place over and over again over the course of the night. From the paramedic’s gurney to the ER bed. From the ER bed to the X-ray table – and then they had to move my leg all around to get good images of it. They did give me a mild pain reliever before they sent me to the X-ray lab. After the had me do what felt like yoga on the X-ray table, they transferred me back to the ER bed. And then I waited for them to tell me I had severely dislocated my leg. That was not the verdict. I had in fact broken my femur bone and it would require surgery. Not awesome.
A million thoughts ran through my head:
Like: I don’t have time for this!
I have a ComicCon to attend this weekend. Yes, that was my first concern. The entire cast of Torchwood was going to be there! I am still ticked about this. To add insult to injury, literally, just about all of my doctors attended the event. Making them cool doctors, but cruel people to not have taken me. With a little make up I could have been a zombie apocalypse victim. They could have just rolled me into convention the hall in my hospital bed. HMOs cover that right?
Worst of all, I had never really had surgery before. For one of my muscle biopsies they put me completely under and I was sick for days afterwards. And now, with my official Pompe diagnosis, I knew how dangerous general anesthesia was to me.
Luckily, I have one the world’s leading experts in Pompe Disease on speed dial. I got in touch with Dr. Byrne right away and expressed my concerns to my medical team at the hospital. Thankfully my medical team was more than happy to consult with Dr. Byrne about the special precautions they needed to take. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for better care. They brought a respiratory specialist in to join my team to make sure they were extra careful not to put more stress on my diaphragm than absolutely necessary.
Their plan was to do the surgery as quickly and as safely as possible. Then to get the tube out of mouth and sit me up as soon as possible. The surgery involved two lovely incisions, to place a rod and some screws into my leg to patch up the break. They stapled me back up and sent me to recovery. I woke up in my hospital room sitting up and without a tube down my throat. Good job docs! Apparently there was a recovery room I was in, but I don’t remember that part nor do I remember acting all goofy while coming off the drugs as a certain father of mine claims to have witnessed. There is no documented or photographic proof of this alleged behavior. I only remember waking up in my hospital room feeling a bit groggy with my leg bandaged up.
I spent two weeks in the hospital recovering. They brought in a physical therapist to work with me, I was able to stand on my leg the day after surgery. I couldn’t (and still can’t) pull all my weight on it, but I could stand on it. Nice going doc!
The reason I stayed in the hospital so long was partially due to needing an infusion. The doctor on my case was reluctant send me to inpatient rehab, my next stop, before I had my infusion because they were not equipped to give it to me. Well, neither was the hospital really. They had not been trained on how to mix or administer Lumizyme, but they stepped up to the plate. Once again, my personal care team at Genzyme helped save the day too. They worked with my insurance company and got the staff at the hospital trained so I could receive my infusion.
Two weeks in the hospital wasn’t too bad. The food was ok , I had a room to myself, free WiFi, a decent amount of TV and movie channels, and I had visitors just about every day.
After my infusion it was time for me to be moved to an inpatient rehab center. This would allow me to work on recovering enough to be self sufficient. I needed to go from completely reliant on nurses to being able to move myself from place to place on my own. I had a lot of work to do, but the facility provided the perfect motivation in the form of sleep deprivation and inedible food.
The physical therapists and nurses on this facility were top notch. My care was amazing. However, the living conditions just didn’t work for me. I was basically in a nursing home for lack of a better term. I was the youngest patient by decades. Decades. I shared a room with a patient who had to sleep with a bed alarm because she kept trying to get out of bed and she would fall or try to make a break for it. The alarm went off all night. Night after night after night. The food was almost comical. No, it was bad. I would take photos of it and send it to my friends and ask them guess what it was. A couple of friends would smuggle food in to me when they could. I would have killed for something from Del Taco. Killed.
I worked hard to get an early release. To reach all my goals as quickly and as safely as possible. In the meantime I was still plotting my escape in case my captors were not prepared to let me go. I had friends at the ready with an unmarked van waiting to snatch me under the cover of nightfall. Luckily it never came to that. It might have led to prison time – where the food might have been better. I was released after one week. The director came to talk to me before she would sign the release papers. She had never had a patient make that quick of a recovery. I wasn’t looking to set any records, I just needed my own bed, and some food that I could identify by sight.
I made it home and then went for outpatient physical therapy. This helped a lot, but I am still not back to where I was. It is frustrating to say the least. I am glad my surgery and recovery have gone as well as they have, but I am ready to be able to fully walk on my leg again. I am ready to take back the small bit of independence I still don’t have. It is just too painful to walk on that leg to this day.
Where it really holds me back is with driving. Not with the actual driving, but the loading and unloading of my scooter. Since my leg still causes me so much pain, I cannot walk the length of my car to load and unload my scooter from the lift. Someone has to do that for me. Sometimes it is a friend, sometimes it is a valet. Yes, it has slowed me down. I can’t just get in my car and drive someplace without having someone either with me or people at both ends of my journey to help me. However, it has not slowed me down entirely. With help, I can still enjoy the theme parks and travel and cruising. I am still able to get out there and give presentations about Pompe Disease to the patient and medical community.
My battle with gravity will never end, but hopefully soon my battle with my new metal infused leg will end and I will emerge victorious! I will Keep Fighting!