Thursday, October 16, 2014

Josh's Surgery

The day has finally come and gone for Josh's surgery.  It's been a long and tough 7 weeks while we've waited for this day.  Or I should say that he's waited for this day.  This is not the way any of us planned on starting our time in the Netherlands and I have no doubt in my mind that this has been not just physically difficult for Josh, but also emotionally.  I can't say that I've been much help with those emotional feelings since I've been struggling on my own.

But my hope is that the worst is behind us now.  I hope.  I really really hope that the worst is behind us. The frustrating part for him is that over the 7 weeks his leg was healing and now we've got to start again at square one.

But back to the surgery.  Neither of us has much experience with hospitals or surgeries.  For that, I'm extremely grateful.  So it's hard for me to compare what the experience was like here compared to what we had in Spain or in the US.  But I can say that it was frustrating.  I know that this was in part because of the language (even though most people speak English, you cannot expect it to be completely fluent or for your point to get across completely).  It was also in part because of the culture.  And finally it's just the way the medical system works here.  And that is different than the US and Spain.

Because the kids had to be at school at 8:20 and Josh was scheduled for surgery for around 10:15/10:30, he took a taxi to the hospital.  No, it was not our ideal.  But as we have no friends close to here that can take the kids to school, we weren't left with a whole lot of options since he was told to be there around 7:30.  And so I met him there.  It was a bit of a close call as my 20 minute drive from school to the hospital took 50 minutes with rush hour traffic.  I was in a bit of a panic thinking they may have taken him to pre-op and I would have missed him and not had the opportunity to wish him luck and let him know I'd be there waiting.  And since he wasn't allowed to take electronics with him, he didn't have his phone on him so I could say I was late.

In the end, I got there at 9:30 and they didn't end up taking him until 10:45.  So I panicked for nothing. It was all very odd.  They just came in, told him to put on his johnny and that he was heading out for surgery in a few minutes.  I think it was because he wasn't ill or anything, it was just kind of like, well this is how you do it and just get yourself prepped and then we'll take care of things from there.  Before I knew it he was off and I asked where I could wait.  The only wait area was in the lobby of the hospital (odd if you ask me and not very comfortable).  But Josh had forgotten his crutches (unlike the US, many hospitals in Europe make you pay for them and we already owned a pair from when he injured himself) so they asked me to go home and get them as he would need them after surgery.

Ready to go get his knee fixed!

I raced home (ok, I also stopped to grocery shop on the way as the surgery was going to be at least an hour plus the recovery time from the anesthesia), picked up his crutches and was back within 90 minutes.  When I asked where he was, I was told he was in recovery and could not see me yet.  This was at 12:30.  As far as they were aware, this was a day surgery and he would be coming home that same afternoon.  They said they would call me when he was ready.

By mid afternoon I had been waiting for quite some time and called up to the floor.  He was still in recovery.  Now I have no idea how long someone is supposed to be in recovery.  I imagine it varies and depends on the type of surgery, how they react to anesthesia and probably several other factors. But since they had told me he would be ready to come home in a few hours when they took him that morning, I was surprised that he was still in recovery.

By 4PM I was getting antsy and worried.  I called up again.  He was still in recovery.  Seriously?  And that he was in a lot of pain so they would be keeping him overnight.  By 4:30 I had elbowed my way up to see him.  And in fact, he said that he had just been given a room shortly before (with 4 other roommates) and he was incredibly groggy, in and out of sleep.  I asked how the surgery went and he had no idea.  He told me that he had seen the doctor that morning and was told he would not see the doctor again after the surgery.  I had trouble believing that.

And so I spoke to the nurse.  She said that the doctor does the rounds between 4:30-6:30PM.  So I stuck around until I had to be back for the kids (who were with the sitter).  I spoke to the nurses before I left and asked if I would be able to call for more information from the doctor.  They gave me a number to call in the morning and said to call after 8.

I called Wednesday morning at 8 and asked to be given more information on Josh's condition.  They transferred me to Josh.  This is the language issue.  Yes, they speak some English (way more than we had in Spain) but obviously there are still communication issues.  Josh said that there had been no one in to see him (at least as far as he was aware) but that the nurses suspected something was wrong with his cast that was causing all his pain.  He knew he was being discharged hopefully by lunchtime but knew no other information.

Around 10 he called and said that they would be changing his cast but he didn't know when.  As it was Wednesday I had to pick up the kids at 12 at school so it would be tight to get him home and situated before getting them.  But he said to just wait for the call and then come.  Wait, wait, wait.  Finally around 1:45 he called to say he was ready.  The nurses were supposed to call me when they took him to get the new cast but did not.  Aidan had swim lessons at 3 so we raced to get him.  He'd already been discharged and was waiting, very uncomfortably I might add and not in a wheelchair, at the entrance to the hospital.

You could see the pain and discomfort in his face.  It was like the first night all over again and it pained me to see him having to go through it again.  It just reminded me that there is still a bit of a long road ahead of us and that this is not yet over.  The recovery is really just beginning.  Here we are on Thursday, a little over a week since the surgery, and Josh is doing a lot better.  He hates having the cast and it's rubbing uncomfortably against his stitches.  But he's been walking on it a little bit, finds sitting to be uncomfortable because of the position of the cast on his thigh (it runs from upper thigh to his ankle) but overall is improving, definitely more so than I expected given how he was on last Wednesday.

We go back on the 20th to have the stitches and (hopefully) the cast removed.  We have no idea if he will need physical therapy or what happens after the 20th.  None of this has been discussed (not sure if this is because Josh didn't ask or the doctor didn't give him all the information) and so we don't know what's ahead.  We were told initially 2-4 weeks recovery after the surgery but is that 2-4 weeks to be back up and literally running or is that 2-4 weeks to be walking semi-normally again without a limp? How do they define recovery?

So only 5 more days to go until the cast comes off.  Given the 7+ weeks we've had, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  We just don't know what it's leading to.  But hopefully in 5 more day we'll have a little more insight and Josh will be well on the road to recovery.

Both the boys loved signing Josh's cast 
(he had a brace when he first dislocated it so this was new to them)


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