Tuesday, March 18, 2014

timing is everything

After two lots of breast surgery and then 4 whole days of rest, it was time to fix the foot!

After the pain block [administered during foot surgery] wore off, I did find myself wondering "Oh, my God, what have I done to myself? If I had known it would hurt this much..."
But, anyone who knows what they are on about will tell us that bone pain is pretty much the worst type of pain. I've no way to compare the heel pain to the pain of childbirth. I would like to think I have a rather good pain threshold, but part of enduring pain is knowing that it will pass. After 24 hours the pain became tolerable, but in future cases of "elective" surgery I will probably make a point of asking how long it will be before the pain becomes manageable. Just so I can be psychologically prepared, you know?

Not long after I was returned to a ward, TO came to visit me with a brand new pair of crutches. [Not Prince Henry's vintage and, in fact, purchased by TO from a chemist shop.] Price approx $50.

Why do I have a picture here of barre exercises?
The answer is because I had sort of pictured the crutches
helping me walk gracefully...

Once I was home, the only way to get upstairs was backwards, on my BTM. Not only have I not swum a lap for ten years [hence the bingo flaps], but also have to haul more weight up the stairs than I should be carrying – it's almost as if chocolate is designed to come back and bite us in the bum.

On my first day home alone, TO headed off to work. At some point I tried hobbling on crutches to the powder room, only to lose my balance and flip A over T.
The surgeon later suggested, by phone, the enormous cracking sound I heard was probably the sound of the plaster cracking a little. I did not discuss with him the other sound I heard when I fell –a word I must confess I have used once or twice before.

That night, TO decided that because of the breast surgery [and the consequences of my own innate laziness] my arms were not strong enough for crutches and we should hire a knee cruzer.

4 Minutes into this clip you can see this thing has a great turning circle.

The cruzer TO ended up hiring – apparently the only short-ass option available – has a turning circle of 5 miles. Negotiating some corners in the house required either a 20 point turn or that I simply stand on one leg while picking up the knee rest and turning the entire scooter by hand.
For all its faults, my relatively crappy knee cruiser was a great success. Every single and/or married male from 5 to 95 that I knew [and some I didn't]  "had a go" at riding it. Each and every one of them enjoyed talking about a better way to design it for steering or manoeuvrability.
Just the same, for the price of delivery, return, and 4 weeks' rent, it might have been better value to simply buy one.

After a few weeks, it was time to remove the plaster and 15 metal staples from my heel.

A Moon Boot - Costs the Earth

Mr B, the bone man who fixed my foot, seems not to be in the business of supplying moon boots or ancillary equipment himself – but some extremely enterprising "company" keeps a woman on hand in his rooms to personally "fit" boots and stuff to people's heels as needed.
As the staples were removed, the wound dressed and then the boot fitted in one smooth sequence, I found myself forking over a 25% share of our little house in Franger before I had a clue what I was doing.

A quick search of the 'net now shows that I was well and truly robbed – the words "one time use only" stitched onto the boot seem a tad extreme to me. Even new it would be easy to find a boot much cheaper than the one I bought.

I shan't complain too much. Mr B has accepted medicare and private health care contributions as payment in full for the whole bang lot [except for the boot and compression stockings]. Nonetheless, I have now learned that some advance planning and questions about spending on complementary products before surgery might be a good idea.

Once I was in the moon boot, the crutches were actually handy as they helped me control just how much pressure I was putting on my foot at any point in time. I really only needed the scooter upstairs for the last week because TO did not want to hear me fiddling with Velcro straps in the middle of the night when I needed to go potty.

The surgical wound on my heel has been slow to heal. Here's a picture that will give you an idea of the size and location of the wound:

The timing of this surgery is an example of a case where TO did not put 2 and 2 together properly – radiation therapy does make the body take longer to repair.
The infection was only kept under control by the miracle of silver sulfadiazine dressings.

The exciting news is that I have now ditched the moon boot, and have a lift inside one of my proper shoes. I can drive! This will save  me what has been an average of $27 -$28 per day in taxi fares to and from radiation therapy. Phew.

The public vs private health system question is a question I'm not sure there is a clear answer to. With respect to a Haglund's procedure, what I can be reasonably confident about is that it would never be urgent enough to actually get done under a public system.

So, my private health insurance covered the cost of 2 nights in hospital.
It also contributed to the cost of consultations, surgery, anaesthetic, etc.

I've had to wear the cost of the crutches, the cruzer and the boot. TO's timing of the surgery has cost quite a bit of her energy, and a lot of dough on taxi-fares. In about 6 months' time I'll be looking for treatment to fix my right shoulder which has not been quite the same since my big powder room fall.
On the other hand, TO's connections have saved me tons of dough on "gap" payments to surgeons and anaesthetists.

I've learned a few lessons from this exercise - though hopefully I won't need to use them in a hurry - ask up front what I'll need, when I'll need it, and make sure I will have time to shop around.

For so-called "elective" procedures, private health insurance is a must, but on its own not necessarily sufficient to keep us covered. As I shan't be putting up with the burning, searing pain in my leg for the next 20 years the out of pocket expenses were worth it - but probably only because we could actually afford it.

Sorry peeps - have been a tad seedy, grumpy, busy etc. TY for sticking with me. :)


  1. I thin if you can't say something relevant, sympathetic or sensible, then say nothing at all. I should put that into practice.

    How is the woman who cooked up that huge amount of muck to feed the starving millions, but kept her kitchen spotless, in spite of mobility difficulties. She is one in a million.

    1. Andrew, anyone who cooks for others [starving or not] gets my respect. Anyone who keeps a kitchen spotless gets my respect. People able to do both earn 3 lots of respect.
      It would not be charitable of me to try and feed hungry people - alas, I must resort to other "good deeds" that do not involve me personally cooking anything.

  2. the weekend papers had an article about how doctors don't actually know a thing about the $$$ aspect of medicine., eg the writer said they could have had Test A or Test B and Dr Quack didn't know that one was $300 and the other $29.
    Wishing you swift perfect recovery on all counts.

    1. TY for your kind wishes, Ann. If doctors know little about costs of various medical services, tests I suspect it's because they don't understand how it's relevant.
      In my own case, I am lucky to have the benefits of a "swings and roundabouts" impact on my bank account.

  3. Gosh you have been through the mill. All that surgery and treatment in the same week. I hope you are recovering well. Glad you were covered for most of the expense. I was annoyed at our eye specialist fees being way over the medicare and private health gap benefit.

    1. Ah yes, diane - poor me. Still, I must remember that old saying "I cried because I couldn't handle my crutches, til I met a man who had no crutch"...
      Yes, gaps in our health insurance system are growing, just like gaps between rich and poor generally - or the gap between Gough's original vision and the scraps we still have today.
      I sense the two main benefits left of private health insurance are a] free hospital beds and b] a little flexibility of choice when buying expensive stuff like stents, artificial joints etc.

  4. Yes, I would think radiation therapy would make the body weaker and so cause you to have a more difficult time with a surgery. Didn't they give you strong narcotics for the pain? I am always one for knock me out with opiates if it means I have to endure pain. I have no tolerance and am a big sissy. But you sound like a strong positive patient.
    The scooter sounds like it was a great idea, and now you are already walking? That is wonderful. I hope good progress continues for you.

    1. Rubye, following the first 24 hours after the heel surgery, everything became bearable and manageable. Yep, a few strong drugs involved but not too many, and I am trying to progressively [and significantly] reduce my use of same. On the other hand, have managed to get some repeat scripts via my GP on the grounds the whole [the shoulder, the heel and the discomfort of radiation treatment] is proving greater than the sum of its parts.
      But yes, as a rule I'm irritatingly positive about pain - quite a contradiction given I'm such a whinger.

      One thing I am mindful of is that each of my own petty problems are largely temporary. Faced with the prospect of steadily diminishing health, as you are, I would be decidedly cheesed off, apprehensive and far less gracious.
      Rubye, I've a feeling I have misplaced a comment from you - cannot apologise enough.

    2. PS - re weakness - my greatest weakness has always been a bone idle lack of motivation. In theory, chemo [IV medicines] tend to make people feel sick, but radiation in contemporary doses mainly causes tiredness -and a little discomfort].

      I've had no chemo so should not have been but still was feeling awfully seedy for weeks until I discovered Tramadol - a hydrochloride salt you may know as Ultram - interacts in a very yucky way with various common types of antidepressant. Problem sorted.

  5. massive sympathy from me and wishing you swift recovery never mind the bingo-wings as alpha-fit-male Schumacher is still comatose.
    Pain is such a bastard I think the morphine drip should be freely available.
    Raising arms to wash/comb hair becomes a luxury ability, and sleeping flat on your back. I hope your podiatrist has not said to you, as mine did "Well Annie you will never wear 'occasion shoes' again". bitch.
    All the biggest houses in Ballarat belong to orthopaedic surgeons. ha ha.
    x x

    1. Ann, I am beginning to appreciate much more just how frustrating life must be for Aunty, as she has progressively lost the use or strength of this or that, but especially the ability to raise her arms.
      As for the shoes, not really an issue for me personally. "occasion" to me means the least-frayed pair of jeans in my wardrobe, and a little nugget on the sensible shoes.
      I'm sure it takes a while for surgeons to pay off debts then start saving but an awful lot of them seem to have beach "huts" at Portsea. Seriously, when it comes to ownership of the biggest houses, surgeons are just one of several sub-species of the larger order known as arseholes-general.