Saturday, July 5, 2008

Part 3 of 4: Did a beloved cat cause me to lose my shoulder? If so, no hard feelings, cat. Still love you, cat!

Toast Ed and Wry visit me in my hospital room, the day after my hand returned.

I woke up to find that my right hand was gone. Half gone, anyway. My ring and little fingers were missing altogether, half of my middle finger was gone, while my thumb and pointer were still there, but numb and stingy-tingly. My elbow burned right at the funny bone and hurt terribly. Sharp pain had embedded itself into my arm, just beyond my wrist. I could not see my hand, for it was hidden by sling and bedsheet.

I struggled to wiggle my fingers, to see if I might detect motion that would prove that the missing digits were still there, afterall. Even through the numbness, the movement brought pain to the fingers that I could feel, but no sensation whatsoever to the ones that seemed to have vanished. 

I tried to touch the missing fingers with my left hand, but even then they did not seem to be there.

The little red rubber ball! I would try to squeeze the little red rubber ball! This was given to me by the middle-aged lady in the recovery room and although I remember that experience only as a strange dream, I remembered her telling me that I should squeeze that ball often, especially if I felt my fingers growing numb or tingly.

I grabbed the ball from my little table with my left hand and put it in my right. Strange! While I had the sensation of being able to feel the ball, it was as though it was no longer round, but only half-round. In my thumb, pointer and that part of my middle finger that still had sensation, I could feel the texture, curve and shape of the ball, but at my middle finger, that curve seemed to steepen and then level out into a flat surface that would have cut right through the middle of the ball. 

I called for the nurse. She felt my fingers and informed me that they were all there and that they were warm - that meant I had decent blood circulation. She suspected that perhaps my "block" was beginning to weaken. "Block." I then remembered the middle-aged lady saying something about a block, too.

Just before the surgery began, an anesthesiologist had gone right to the end of the main nerve to the affected area and had completely deadened that nerve.

"The surgery that you had is one of the most painful surgeries there is," the nurse now told me. "Without that block, you would be screaming right now. It usually lasts 24 to 36 hours - sometimes 48. As that block wears off, you are going to experience all kinds of sensations, including numbness and tingling in your hand.

"We will stay on top of it and will keep your pain under control."

Personally, I believed that what I was now experiencing was being caused by the fact that the edge of my sling seemed to be drawn too tightly right over my funny bone.

The nurse helped me out of bed and I used the restroom as she carefully watched to make certain that I did not take a head-dive onto the floor. I didn't care that she watched. In fact, I was comforted. By the time I was done, the feeling had returned. The missing digits were back and the ball was round once again. With the help of the nurse, I laid back down. I could feel the pressure of the sling tighten against my funny bone.

I again slipped toward sleep, but by the time I got there, my fingers had again disappeared and the ball had become half. There was severe pain in that part of my palm that I could still detect.

This time, the nurse put some real time and effort into making adjustments to the sling and into positioning pillows around me in a way that alleviated the pressure on my funny bone. This did the job.

There is much more to say about being in the hospital, of course, but I feel tired of the hospital right now and I want to leave it for awhile. Plus, I took many pictures on the second day and the third morning that I do not have anymore. I must have thought that I had downloaded them when I hadn't. I must have erased the images forever.

Among the vanished images are some that show the same board pictured above. In the "What's Important?" box (for notes left by the nurses for my doctor) is the same drawing of the cat, made by Nabysko, but there is no St. Bernard in the "Today's Plan" box.  This top drawing was added later by Toast Ed, who wanted to make certain that his dad knew that there was another, very important critter at home, awaiting his return.

I always like to see what kind of pictures I can take from a moving vehicle, and so I took this one, late Sunday morning, as Toast Ed drove us out of the Providence Hospital parking lot toward Granny B's for breakfast.

It was Sunday, June 15. I had mixed feelings about leaving the hospital. Doc had told me that my surgery had gone well, but that there was a 10 percent chance that it would fail and he would have to go in again and give me an artificial shoulder. "This means there is a 90 percent chance it will succeed," he reassured me.

I knew that it would be much more pleasant at home, but I felt vulnerable, reluctant to leave the safety of this place, where there were good nurses and PCT's ready to care for me at all times. I missed the cats, but I knew that they posed certain dangers as well. At home, I would be blessed by the care of my children for two more days only. Then, on the evening of June 17, all but two would leave for Arizona, to join their mother and the extended Apache side if family at the Sunrise Dance, and I would be left alone to fend for myself until their return, late on June 24.

Rye would stay home, but he works all night, sleeps most of the day and spends his few non-work, waking hours smacking golf balls or hanging out with his girlfriend.  Typically, I see him for about five minutes per 24 hours. Fire and wife Stephanie live 50 miles away. They promised to make a couple of visits, but if they made too many, or stayed too long, they would not get their work done.

So basically, for a full week, it would be just me and the cats.

Breakfast at Granny B's. Please click on this image, to enlarge it. I caught myself in the mirror and you can see a bit of the technique that I have had to use to shoot pictures ever since my accident. You can see that I hold the camera upside down in my left hand - pretty unstable; difficult to maneuver, hard to change settings. Poor Nabysko! She has been working so hard, missing so much sleep, but never does she forget her dad.

 Everybody is tired. Prickly Pear Blossom naps on the way home.

At home - Chicago.


Jim and Pistol. Martigny stayed hidden from my camera. Muzz stayed in town with Fire and Stephanie. 

Finally, bedtime comes. Almost always, Jim and Pistol sleep with Sunfower and I. If the door gets open, I sometimes wake up buried in cats. Sometimes, if the door gets open and all the cats come in, I am awakened by a sudden and frightful squabble - because these cats do have their rivalries!

I give orders that on this night, no cat is to sleep with me. I close the door tight, take my pain pills, make myself as comfortable as possible on the bed and atop the pillows that I have stacked near the head, close my eyes, feel the light breeze through the window and wait eagerly for sleep.

Finally, sleep comes. Just as I seem to be pleasantly engulfed in it, I am suddenly awakened by the loudest, most-frightening, cat squabble ever - right beside me. My reflexes take over. I push off the mattress with both elbows to sit bolt upright. Excruciating pain shoots through my right elbow, arm and shoulder.

I scream out in pain - my first scream of this entire process.

In time, the pain subsides, but a certain cold, clammy, tingle lingers. Toast Ed places a bucket and a large, plastic, kitty litter container filled with stones in front of my bedroom door. Hopefully, this barrier will prevent whatever cat it was that managed to work the door open from doing so again.

I go back to sleep - sort of. After I awake, I call the surgeon's office. They schedule a Wednesday checkup for me - just to be on the safe side.  It is Monday.

Come Wednesday, most everyone is in Arizona. Rye sacrifices his sleep to drive me to Anchorage. I get new X-rays. Then I sit in an examinging room. Dr. Duddy comes in. He looks grim.

"The sugery has completely fallen apart," he tells me. "I have to go in again. There is no other choice." This will happen Friday. Large parts of my bone will be removed, to be replaced with plastic.

I want to cry. I almost do. 

Maybe I did cry. Two tears, maybe.

Okay - I still have "Part 4" to go, but I am terribly weary of all this hospital stuff. So I will take a short break and throw in a few Fourth of July photos.

As already noted, I like to see what kind of pictures I can take from a moving vehicle. July 4 proved to be a very hot day, here in Alaska's Mat-Su Valley, so in the afternoon, as Toast Ed stayed home to care for baby Wry, Sunflower took Prickly and I out for a drive, to get icy drinks and ice cream cones.

As she drove, I found myself afret with worry that those whom we passed would all take bad falls and break their bones. Here are three of the images that I shot, holding my camera upside down, shooting through auto-glass, as Sunflower drove:

In the evening, Sunflower, Toast Ed and Prickly Pear Blossom grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, peppers and a mango, prepared a red potato salad and a goop salad. Then, joined by Kracker Cats Royce and Muzzy, we all ate and celebrated the Fourth as the inside Kracker Cats peered longingly out from various windows:

So far, my daily walks have all been very short, and often I have felt weak and drained at the end. On July 4, accompanied by Toast Ed, Prickly Pear Blossom, baby Wry and Muzz, I pushed the distance to about a mile-and-a-half: not much by my pre-accident standard, but a big leap now. Along the way, I spotted a cat. I shot one frame and then it was gone. 

I lacked the energy to go knock upon the nearby door to see if I could learn something of this cat's history. I expect to pass by this same place in the future, full of energy, and then I hope to learn it, because...

Like every cat, this cat has a story:

No comments: