J: Both home now!

My wife returned home yesterday. She has to attend a daily clinic locally or in Bath to have her throat drain checked, but is basically fine and over her thyroidectomy.

I think I ticked four boxes. First the doctors seemed comfortable to let me home when they saw what good progress I was making with my mobility; second my pain seems to be greatly moderated and third that I am to be supported by a community team to deal with any pain I have. I also have great support at home with my wife and son.

The pain has been an issue again. Due to some ludicrous paperwork error my drugs file was sent down to pharmacy a couple of days ago so my lunchtime drugs were delayed as the file had not returned. I kept asking and was told they had not come back from pharmacy so no drugs at all could be given. I escalated and eventually the rather nurse rang around and found that the paperwork had gone back to another ward. I finally got my painkillers a bit after 3pm that day but by this time I had been in very severe pain for over an hour. They ask us to rate pain on a scale of 1 to 10 and this was 8-9, what I call ‘groaning and streaming’ (with tears). The oxycodone kicked in eventually and I gradually quietened down. My wife and son were with me during this which was comforting for me but not nice for them to see.

This has been the last major pain episode I have had, which is promising. Yesterday I did a fair bit of walking about and stretching muscles with the physio and we were all wary of pain returning thereafter but even though I had not taken any of my ‘breakthrough’ drug oxycodone, the pain didn’t resurface so that was a big relief and I hope we are now past that stage; its return is always possible as I keep pushing the mobility forward.

Mobility is of course relative. I will be getting about with the assistance of two zimmer frames, a pair of crutches, a wheelchair and our new stairlift. With luck these can gather dust one by one and soon.

Putting in a new hip involves cutting the abductor muscles in the thigh. These are the ones that move your leg sideways. So imagine you are lying in bed with your right abductors not working (as in my case). How do you get out? You can’t, especially as you are advised not to cross your legs and roll due to a risk of dislocating the hip (it will take a few months for the muscles to grow and hold it all together).

A snag we hit  was that, as the physio pointed out, I would need to sleep on the right side of the bed, as my weak right leg needs to exit first. My wife has slept on that side for 40 years and I could see the look of horror on her face at the prospect of swapping, but she did eventually concede it was for the greater good. Phew! We each have piles of about 50 books on our bedside tables so to be fair it’s bit more work than you might imagine.

I was right about wanting to go to a fracture ward – the place is stuffed with physios who have been essential. To get out of bed I have a simple strap of webbing. It comprises two loops and a centre section which is wire reinforced to make it stiff. With this I can snag my non-operating foot then pull it sideways, to be followed by the good leg. Then I can then manoeuvre my body to the edge of the bed, put my feet on the floor and push myself up on to whatever aid I want to use – such as a Zimmer frame. I can put full weight on my right leg so that’s already a big improvement. My ability to lift that leg is still limited but will return steadily. I already have a ‘sock puller’ which is a wonderful gizmo for putting on socks when you can’t reach forward (I am banned from bending more than 90 degrees) though it is slower than if my wife puts them on for me!

Getting out of the ward today was subject to the usual delays. I needed a) discharge letter b) removal of catheter c) demonstration of independent urine production – takes a while as the catheter drains your bladder fully d) physio signoff e) Doctor to issue take home meds list f) Meds to be requested and provided by pharmacy.
Because of all this we’d agreed that our son would not come to pick me up until after lunch. Just as well since as usual it was the pharmacy which got us stuck. The meds list went down before lunch and came back about 2:30pm. About 2pm a palliative care nurse came and checked the copy and spotted that I was missing my ‘breakthrough’ oxycodone – a top up when the background meds are not enough. Can’t go without that! So a doctor had to be found to sign that off and another chit put in. We eventually got it and we got out at 5:30pm – rush hour and blocking the bed meantime. And I needed that oxycodone. Good to be home though.

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