The Aftermath: Part 9
On a Downhill Slide
Armed with my x-rays and progress notes, I headed off to see the trauma specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UHIC) on April 1, 2005. He was a very compassionate doctor, who after talking with me and looking at the x-rays done by the previous surgeon the day before, determined I continued to have osteomyelitis, a bone infection, at the fracture site. To verify this, he ordered a bone scan, a two day procedure, to be done the next week.
The bone scan confirmed his diagnosis, and he recommended surgical removal of the infected bone. This would leave my leg with an approximately one inch section missing, which he would fill in with a spacer impregnated with antibiotics. During this time, I wouldn’t be able to bear weight. Once the infection cleared, he planned to remove the spacer and reconstruct the bone. He was optimistic that I would eventually be able to walk again.
Two weeks later, I had the surgery performed. When the surgeon talked to me afterward, he said the infection was much worse than he expected, and he had removed eight inches of my thigh-bone. An x-ray done the next morning showed the spacer had broken, and I was scheduled for another surgery to replace it three days later.
Following the second surgery, I was started on six weeks of IV antibiotics along with hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBO) five days a week. HBO is a procedure where intensive oxygen is administered in a high pressure chamber for two hours a day to stimulate circulation and healing. This required I be kept in the hospital for the entire six weeks. I was very depressed and in a great deal of pain. Two hours away from home, no one visited me. I was fortunate to have a couple of nice roommates during this time which helped some.
By that time, it had been over a year since I had worked, and all my financial resources were gone. Even in the hospital, the bill collectors harassed me, and I was very close to mortgage foreclosure. A decision on my disability was pending, and the hospital social worker was trying to speed along that process. All I could do was wait, hope, and cry.
I was notified a couple of weeks before discharge that my disability was approved, but it would take some time before I actually would receive a payment. I was very afraid that I would end up homeless and disabled.
I left the hospital the last week of June 2005 in poor shape both emotionally and physically to return home where I had no help, no money and a very dirty house that was days away from foreclosure. I was homebound, in pain, unable to walk, very ill and weak from the ongoing infection and surgeries.
I was in a rapidly deepening depression and really questioning whether life was worth living.
June 30th, I received my disability payment, just in time to prevent the mortgage company from filing foreclosure on July first. It was nowhere near enough to pay my other bills, but at least I wouldn’t be homeless for the time being.
I had been doing some research on osteomyelitis, and realized the prognosis was grim. I was to return to UHIC in two months with the hope of the infection being resolved and reconstructing my leg bone could begin. Two months of waiting and worrying.
To be continued…