8 weeks: Patience for the unvirtuous

Saving Elmo update

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wheelchair-delivered

Happy crashiversary, Elmo!

Two months ago, the bottom of my left femur seceded from my leg. If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that patience really is a virtue.

Trouble is, I’m not that virtuous.

“I saw this and it’s exactly YOU!” a coworker once beamed, handing me a refrigerator magnet. It said, “I want it all, I want it now, and I want it delivered.”

Yup. That would be me. And watching paint dry is a rollercoaster ride compared to watching my bone grow, so there’s plenty of opportunity to be patient. Just as patiently, my medical team explains that growing bone

just.

takes.

time.

“That was a really bad fracture, Cynthia. Count on 6-8 weeks non-weight-bearing,” said my (now-beloved) orthopedic surgeon, AKA The Doc, as he started rebuilding the jigsaw puzzle that was once my thighbone.

Non-weight-bearing: The Leg can’t so much as touch toe to ground, so I hop like a 1-legged bunny or sit in a wheelchair for 42 days. I can do that. I think. 

Post-op, The Doc ups the ante. “That was a really bad fracture, Cynthia, even worse than it looked on x-ray. It’ll be AT LEAST eight weeks of non-weight-bearing.”

Deep breath: OK, wheelchair for 56+ days. Piece of cake. Well, not cake exactly, maybe more like a Prinsesstårta that I’m forced to make with only a lightbulb, spoon, and a Pringles can. But OK. I can do that.

Next visit, it happens again. “That was a really bad fracture, Cynthia. I’m scheduling monthly visits for you, because that was a really bad fracture.”

You already said that already. Wait…WHADDAYA MEAN, MONTHLY VISITS? You said 8 weeks. We’re on week 6. I counted. A lot.

“I said AT LEAST eight weeks,” he corrected, “It takes time to see any change in the bone, so a monthly check-in is best.” So we measure in months, not weeks.

Every month for the next three months, I’ll be webbed into a wheelchair transport like a giant fly, and we’ll go down to see The Doc and all the nice x-ray techs.

“AT LEAST the next two to three months,” he reminded me.

Do you guys even HAVE a wheelchair exit strategy? Sorry. Unworthy thought.

Of course they do. It’s called “Be Patient, Cynthia.” BPC. BPC.

The Doc reviews October’s x-rays, tells me everything’s still where it ought to be, which is really good. It indicates that healing may have started in that bone. BPC.

This is what I like about The Doc: When he’s in the room, he’s with you. He doesn’t check his phone or look at his watch, he pays attention. He doesn’t talk down, he doesn’t dismiss, or pull punches. Wish more doctors were like that.

“Even once you’re weightbearing, the visits continue,” he says, in this Charlie Brown kinda way, “As long as the bone is still healing. That was a really bad fracture, Cynthia.”

You keep saying that. OK. I just did 56 days in a wheelchair. I can do another 56 or 84…? 

In a way, this is a GOOD thing: It means that Elmo is still with us. I could get out of this wheelchair a lot faster if we went to Plan B. No BPC required. However…

Plan B: NOT saving Elmo

There’s this 3000-pound gorilla in the room that I really haven’t quizzed the medicos about: What happens if my bone stays broken? (technically, this is called “nonunion”) There’s a hole in my femur about the size of a hazelnut where they tell me the bone was too crumbled to do more than hoover it out.

What happens if my body doesn’t replace that missing chunk with new bone?

“So, how can you tell that Plan A isn’t working and we can’t save Elmo? I mean, outside of really obvious stuff like infection or my leg falls off or explodes or something?”

He smiles at that. “We check the x-rays for any sign that the bone fragments have started moving. If they have, they’ve broken free. If we see shifting on the x-ray, we wait a bit and x-ray again. If we see even more movement, then we assume it’s not going to heal.”

“And then I lose Elmo?”

“Yes, at that point our only option is a distal femoral implant,” he said, “We take out more of your femur, above the damaged area, replace it with an artificial femur and knee…”

“…which doesn’t work as well as Elmo, right?”

“Right, and it doesn’t last as long. It’s also less comfortable.”

“Less comfortable” = doctorspeak for “ouch.”

“What are the chances, when the implant wears out, that it can be replaced?”

“Hard to say. We try not to take any more of the femur than necessary to place the implant. If there’s enough femur left, we can try a second implant. Usually,” he said, looking serious, “There isn’t enough left.”

“So you fuse it all together and I get this really, really short leg that doesn’t bend?”

“Well, no. If you think about it,” he said reasonably, “There’s really nothing much left, bone-wise, in most of your leg. So the only real option is amputation.”

Suddenly this becomes very real, this $6 Million Dollar Woman stuff. Although, taking inflation into account, it would really be $33,391,764.71 in today’s money. 

Me as The $33.4 Million Dollar Woman. Ulp.

“So I lose my lower leg…” I say slowly…

“Not exactly. You see, there’s no bone at all until about mid-thigh, so that’s where we would…”

“Oh yeah, of course,” I manage, “Silly me.”

Suddenly, patience isn’t all that difficult to find. Be patient, Cynthia. BPC. BPC.

We talk about the fact that, even when I’m healed and walking again, my femur will be at high risk for rebreaking if I fall, for anywhere from three to nine years. Falling down has become strictly verboten and my home needs to be made fall-resistant.

Lots of problems there, which is why I’m currently living at Mom’s. My driveway has something like a 35-degree slope. “You don’t even get OUT OF THE CAR on that driveway,” said the occupational therapist, “Drive into the garage and get out there, where it’s level.”

It’s also like Stairmaster Central in there. Four levels, minimal rails, and the bathrooms are all at the top. Since right at the moment even climbing one step requires the kind of logistics needed to put on a Lady Gaga concert tour… nope. Not until I can walk and climb and all that. Even then…

“New stair rails,” says the OT, shaking her head at the follies of able-bodied architects, “And get rid of that sunken tub in your bathroom.”

Thought about selling the place, but stubbornness kicked in just as I was calling the realtor. The only way to ever make the house ADA-friendly would be to tear it down and start over, but with a few good contractors I can make it a lot safer. Better stair rails, redo the master bathroom and maybe add one downstairs, ream out the studio and turn half of it back into a garage…

I’m healthy, I’m strong, and I’m getting estimates for construction. I’m working 9-5 on weekdays, making arty stuff on weekends. Working out with weights to the point that my arms can just about heft a Buick. I’m keeping busy.

BPC. BPC. BPC.


*I left The Fortress in early October, and found I couldn’t go home because of the aforesaid inaccessible house. More sensible than her daughter, Mom picked out a house with living accommodations (and bathrooms) on the main floor. Just FYI, wonderful wonderful friends are taking care of Lola and Nikki and the house until I can get some catsitting tenants moved in there.


The Saving Elmo series covers my adventures after crashing to the ground on Elmo, my replacement knee, sustaining an “open, comminuted fracture of the left femoral shaft.” It’s a tad more dire than it sounds; if my bone doesn’t grow completely back and return me to normal function, there’s a new, more painful, less effective femoral replacement in my future…with eventual amputation.

If you want to follow along on the journey, try these posts:

Happy Crashiversary, Elmo

September 18th, 2017|18 Comments

So how did you break your leg?

August 10th, 2017|2 Comments

View from the mountain

August 4th, 2017|4 Comments

The ravell’d sleeve of care…

July 26th, 2017|6 Comments

Test: Can you spot the cripple?

July 22nd, 2017|14 Comments

Zeroing in and leveling out

July 20th, 2017|34 Comments

Femurs, accessibility, and Utah: Saving Elmo II

July 16th, 2017|14 Comments

Tripping the light surgical: Saving Elmo II

July 14th, 2017|12 Comments

Wheelchair traveler…

July 12th, 2017|7 Comments

Filling up on sweetness, with fragility

July 6th, 2017|8 Comments

Saving Elmo: Sometimes the bear eats you

June 26th, 2017|17 Comments

No place like it…

June 12th, 2017|6 Comments

Driving Miz Cynthia, Part Two

June 5th, 2017|9 Comments

Drivin’ Miz Cynthia

June 1st, 2017|5 Comments

Home-ward bound

May 29th, 2017|10 Comments

Room 15: Paying it forward

April 3rd, 2017|12 Comments

Whippersnapper

April 1st, 2017|5 Comments

The Fortress

March 25th, 2017|9 Comments

On the bone again…

March 10th, 2017|14 Comments

Moonlight at sunrise, with jitters

March 8th, 2017|8 Comments

The wheeled view

March 2nd, 2017|10 Comments

Elmo, Beorn, and the Ferengi’s ears

January 30th, 2017|12 Comments

Cliffhangers, clues, and claying around

November 28th, 2016|7 Comments

8 weeks: Patience for the unvirtuous

November 16th, 2016|12 Comments

Death by chicken

October 20th, 2016|5 Comments

Mr. Desmond

October 13th, 2016|7 Comments

Saving Elmo 4: The Meltdown

October 9th, 2016|13 Comments

Bedpans and reachsticks

October 2nd, 2016|4 Comments

Saving Elmo 2: The Plan

September 29th, 2016|11 Comments

Saving Elmo 1: I fight concrete…and lose

September 27th, 2016|26 Comments

2017-07-16T18:08:14+00:00

12 Comments

  1. Gayle Howard November 18, 2016 at 5:51 am - Reply

    Wow, I didn’t know you’d had this accident, Cynthia. What a heckva way to exercise patience let alone dealing with the pain and discomfort…. I am so sorry! All best wishes and my prayers for significant bone growth very soon! and a happy recovery. Hang in there!

  2. Sharon Rowland November 18, 2016 at 1:17 am - Reply

    Cynthia, you hang in there, your doing amazing!!!! You are still my hero!!! With your pure gumption I know you’ll do well. You already are!!!! I wish I lived closer so I could visit. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  3. Coretha C Fulton November 17, 2016 at 11:35 am - Reply

    Glad to hear that you and Elmo are still an item! What would we do without our moms?

    • cynthia November 17, 2016 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      In my case, hobble a lot longer and a lot less effectively!

  4. Bob Leatherbarrow November 17, 2016 at 7:15 am - Reply

    Cynthia…. what about one of those escalator chairs for stairs? Your “process” is definitely frustrating but, from my read, at least it appears to be going in the right direction.

    • cynthia November 17, 2016 at 8:11 am - Reply

      Yes, it is. Right now there’s a better chance of the bone fully healing than not, and I’m doing all the right things–sufficient nutrition, staying fit (as one can in a wheelchair, anyway) to encourage good circulation, and mostly never touching that foot to the ground, or twisting/bending the leg. So optimism rules.

      Considered lifts, and my contractor is investigating the possibility. Problem is, I don’t have just one long set of stairs in the home, I have several series of fewer stairs scattered throughout the home. At minimum I’d need two lifts.

      The other thing is that no matter how this goes, I’ll be walking again by the time I actually get to go home. So I’m more liable to ignore a lift and walk anyway–there’s a possibility the lift itself could become a hazard.

  5. ellen abbott November 17, 2016 at 6:40 am - Reply

    holy fucking cow Cynthia. but then I’ve said that before. repeatedly. so how many steps did you fall down? it might be best to sell. all that remodel is going to be expensive and no studio!

    • cynthia November 17, 2016 at 8:02 am - Reply

      3 steps. Yeah, I know…for this much damage you’d think I fell down the Filbert Steps in San Francisco, but in reality it was 3 little invisible concrete steps in a plaza. Apparently you can land on a replacement knee in just the right spot and cleave the bone kinda like a diamond. I wasn’t quite that accurate, so some of it was crushed instead of cleaved.

      Believe me, I’m thinking hard about selling, but the thing is, whether I’m doing Plan A (yay!) or Plan B (boo! hiss!), I’ll be walking again, so stairs won’t be a problem. Falling will be, and having looked at the number of truly safe, accessible homes out there (nearly nada unless you’re a zillionaire), I’d wind up either building something or going to a “senior community.” The first costs a lot more than renovation on the existing house, and the second isn’t something I’m interested in.

      Besides, I think The Doc agrees that this stuff is medically necessary, so it’ll be tax-deductible. 😉

  6. Susan Menke November 16, 2016 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Double owww. Life changes in an eyeblink. Thank goodness for your mother. Best, Susan M.

    • cynthia November 17, 2016 at 8:13 am - Reply

      Yup. Thank heavens for Mom. She saw me through the knee replacement, and now we’re back at it. We’re at the stage where I should be looking after her, but it seems to be stubbornly set at the other way ’round.

  7. Jen D November 16, 2016 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    Ouch!! Cynthia, sorry this is taking so long but glad to see you’re still feisty. Should you delay your renovations in case you need to incorporate an elevator?

    I do hope you’re getting all the right vitamins and minerals to encourage bone growth? All the best….Jen

    • cynthia November 17, 2016 at 8:11 am - Reply

      No place to put an elevator, unfortunately, too many half-levels in the house.

      Thanks!

Comments welcome! (thanks)

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