Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, December 21, 2012


So it's been one of those weeks.

Shoulda know, what with the whole Mayan Apocalypse thing.

On Monday (the 10th) Kitty got her new knee and we went home that Wednesday.  Things seemed to go pretty well except on Friday Kitty overreached and fell.  She fell again the next day.  So we called 911 and the ambulance came and off to the hospital we went.  That's when the bad news started coming.

Kitty's newly operated leg was broken.  Fractured, really -- the femur right smack-dab where it met the new knee.  Ouch.  Another ambulance was called and we headed off to Annapolis where she had had the initial knee replacement (and where the state's premiere joint replacement facility is).  this ride took over an hour with Kitty in the back of vehicle in pain and my riding shotgun in a seat designed for someone at least three feet shorter than I.  I was so concerned about Kitty that I almost failed to notice the circulation in my legs being cut off.  Almost.  Not quite.  So there was ouch from both the back and the front of the ambulance.

At Annapolis, the surgeon took a look at the x-ray and was suddenly very, very quiet.  We were told that he would not operate the next day (Sunday) because he wanted to consult with a number of his colleagues to come up with a plan.  The break (excuse me, fracture) was a very tricky one.  We understood that when the word "tricky" was used, the phrase "oh, sweet Jesus, what the hell are we going to do?" could be an appropriate substitute.

Kitty's blood count was low (because the blood was going to the fracture) and her coumadin (a blood thinner) level was high.  So while the surgeons were figuring out what to do, Kitty was getting transfusions and trying to bring the two levels into balance.

So Monday afternoon came and they wheeled her down to a prep room, then to pre-op, then to the OR.  Her surgical team included the two most prominent joint replacement surgeons in the state.  I was told that because of the complexity of the operation, it would probably take longer than the hour to an hour and a half that a "normal" knee replacement would take.  The lights in the hospital flickered four times during the operation and I became a great believer in redundant systems.

The operation actually took over four hours and six units of blood.  The fracture had actually splitered the bone and about four inches of Kitty's femur had to be removed and replaced with a prothesis.  Her new knee (I understand) was custom built with a rod going inside the femur almost to the hip and (on the other end) about half way down her calf.  Turns out there was some fear of vascular damage due to the length of time a tourniquet had to be used.  A difficult operation, indeed.  If she breaks another bone, the leg may not be able to be repaired,

Physical therapy this time around was more difficult and more painful.  We were supposed to go home on Thursday, but her blood count was low again.  Another transfusion.  Then last night (Thursday) just hours before the Mayan Apocalypse, the hospital went dark -- along with much of the city and a good portion of the country.  A line to one of the main power transformers failed/blew up/ imploded/exploded/or something.  The black night lit up like day for a few seconds and 50,000 people in the city lost power.

So today it was time to leave the hospital, hopefully never to  return.  Before we could, however, lights started flashing and "Code Red" warnings were being blared over the intercom and we were in a hospital wide lockdown.  Don't know what happened but wasn't the apocalypse.  After the lockdown was lifted, I ran into five firefighter in full gear and axes.  About an hour later, Kitty's ambulance came and we headed off to a rehab facility in our neighborhood that had been approved by our insurance.

Understand that Kitty, although in pain, was pretty much under the influences of various drugs.  Her hospital stay was not a pleasant experience.  Sadly, they give no drugs to husbands of patients.  What they do give us are the world's most diabolical couches to sleep.  By couch I mean love seat and by love seat I mean a piece of hard, uncomfortable furniture designed by a sadist and only appreciated by a masochist.  One end of the loveseat expanded to reveal a kind of drawer; none of the two hard plastic cushions fit into this dark pit.  Along the center of the loveseat was a hard wooden brace intended to dig into the spine.  On each end of the love seat are long, hard "arms" sure to cut off the circulation of anyone foolish enough to try to sleep on the sofa.  That Torquemada loveseat was my companion every night (which was every night) I slept in Kitty's room.

But I digress.  We were on the ambulance headed toward the rehab facility which is actually a nursing home.  This ambulance had maybe an inch more leg room than the one that brought us to Annapolis; this was offset by a lack of leg width that was responsible for my severe leg cramps.  If only Kitty had it as easy as I.  She told me later that the two people working the ambulance (one in back with her, the other in front driving) were evidently very mad at each other.  Turns out they did not fully secure her stretcher so every fast or hard turn sent her sliding.  They also did not secure everything else in the back of the ambulance.  Small boxes of whotheheckknows went flying -- luckily none landed on her knee, although some of them hit her.

We showed up at the nursing home about a half hour after whoever does physical therapy went off duty.  The nursing home turned out be a nice one.  For a nursing home.  For a rehab facility, not  so much.  First of all, the bed was totally inappropriate for Kitty's type of injury.  Nothing on one side to hold onto; on the other side a plastic (!!!) rail that could not used for support.  And they had no equipment.  The RN on duty had to borrow a walker from one of the other patients and expected Kitty to pull herself up on it.  (A complete no-no for a number of safety reasons.)  The RN was about the size of my ten-year-old grandchild and physically could not help Kitty get up.  I explained  the difficulty to her and said that, at this stage in the game, at least two persons were needed to safely get Kitty she called another person and the two of them stood there and expected Kitty to  get up without their help.  I told the RN the bed was completely unacceptable and she said, "But it's a hospital bed."  There are hospital beds and there are hospital beds.  Kitty did not need one like this that actually broke along the bottom within a half hour of her arrival.  No one working at the nursing home tonight seemed to have any sort of knowledge or experience with dealing with a knee relplacement.  I mentioned this and was told that a physcial therapist would be available tomorrow morning to evaluate Kitty.  Why (I asked), when they were told by the hospital what Kitty's problem was and what she needed, had they not been ready for her with proper staff and equipment;  a physical therapist (she answered) would be available tomorrow morning to evaluate Kitty.  I swear we had to be talking different languages.

So we called a halt to this.  Neither I nor Kitty are going to risk her recovery with these bozos.  So we told them thanks but no thanks and called Christina.  She and Walt came to the nursing home with a walker and a transport wheelchair and we took Kitty home.  We moved a bed out into the living room and slowly (and safely) got Kitty settled.  Have I mentioned that both my daughter and son-in-law are exxperienced EMTs?  (And that they have a great deal of patience and were more than happy to get Kitty ensconsced in out living room.)

By the way, Jessie and her girls are on their way here from Massachusetts for Christmas.  (This planned well before Kitty's latest surgery.)  They should be here within the hour and were full expecting Kitty to be in rehab.

Declan is being good (thus far) and can't understand why he cannot sleep on the new bed (brought, in doggy logic, expressly for his use and comfort) in the living room.

Before Kitty's fall last Friday, I had a few items in the queue for the blog.  This week I had planned to read and review Harry Harrison's Montezuma's Revenge for my Forgotten Book today.  Well, maybe next apocalypse.

Blogging may be sporadic over the next few days as we figure out where we go from here.  But, on this night, Kitty is home and is safe.  What more can I ask for this holiday season?


  1. Jerry, you and Kitty have been through a lot these past few days and I hope and pray that Christmas and the New Year brings good health, cheer, and happiness in your lives. Merry Christmas to you all!

    1. Thank you, Prashant. (We need it.) And I sincerely hope the same for you, your family, and your loved ones.

  2. Yikes. What a kerfluffle. I'm glad Kitty's home and safe, and I hope there won't be any more falls or accidents of any kind. I hope the two of you and your family have a merry Christmas in spite of the current situation, and let's hope that 2013 is a better year for all of us.

    1. Thanks, Bill. A merry Christmas is guaranteed: the family is all together for the next few days, so there is nothing but laughter and love throughout the house now. Both girls and all grandkids (including the six-year-old foster girl) are dedicated and organized helpers. Today was Organizing Things to Make Kitty's Life Better Day. Tomorrow is Christmas Shopping Day. Monday is Final Planning For Christmas Dinner Day. (Evidently my idea for MacDonald's take-out for Christmas dinner got shot down. ("Go away, Dad. We've got this whole thing figured out. Trust us.") Kids! Whattaya gonna do?

  3. Oh, man, I hope things get better soon. I'll be thinking about both of you. May it be a merry Christmas.

    1. We have a good friend, James, whose teen-age daughter is having some undiagnosed (as yet) digestive problems. She's had some tests already and is scheduled for a minor test on the day before Christmas. Our friend has taken this to heart and has facebooked, "Worst Christmas ever!"

      We love our friend, but, whoa, let's get some perspective! There are twenty-six families in Connecticut who are having the worst Christmas ever. There are people throughout the world who are facing challenges that would leave me a quivering hulks in a corner. We have health, hope, family, friends...Sure sounds like a merry Christmas to me!

      May you and Livia also have a fantastic holiday!

  4. Glad you got things straight, Jerry. I've had some experience with places like that during my recoveries from several surgeries. Two good, one bad(though not nearly you guys' mess).

    Merry Christmas to the family and I know Kitty will be up and about soon.

  5. Thanks, Randy. Kitty's already looking and feeling better.

    I don't like to dis nursing homes; most do a fantastic job, although some are just plain horror shows. This place was good for what it was, but it just wasn't set up for Kitty's type of problem and should not have unwittingly presented itself as so.

    Wishing you great books and many spaghetti westerns for the new year!

  6. There is, however, a certain tendency, particularly in the DC area, toward slipshod medical care, and I'm not sure why. I wasn't happy with my doctors there (not that in Philadelphia I've been turning handsprings, but it's better), and my father's experience with back surgery and rehab and such and my mother's with work on her ear have been, shall we say, discouraging. The preponderance of lawyers? The relative lack of med schools (you can't throw a prescription pad in Philly without hitting a med school)?

    Very glad things are apparently now on an uptick...