When last we left off, I was about to go into the hospital for surgical excision of an unidentified mass on my right hip. When I went to see the specialist, he assured me that since the tests came back “indeterminate” that the probability was high for the mass to be benign. He told me “If the mass was Very Bad Cancer, the tests would have come back saying Very Bad Cancer.”
I went to work out one Friday afternoon with my trainer, Chris. We were using the boxing gloves for an aerobic warm-up when I went to land a roundhouse punch, and in the process of aiming towards the practice pad I reached too far to my left. I felt a terrible tear and intense pain. I took the power chair from the gym to home, which is about a quarter-mile. Every bump, every curb, every curb cut, and the pain grew more intense. Finally when I got home, I called 911 and told the paramedics what had happened. I got a ride to the University of Washington medical center because although I was having surgery at Swedish medical Center, I knew that the University of Washington was far more effective in pain management. For the next two weeks, I was imaged within an inch of my life. Because I am so heavy, they had difficulty in getting accurate imaging to give to the surgeon. Once they did, it was decided to move my leg surgery from late October to the next day. They transferred me by ambulance to Swedish medical Center, and the surgery was scheduled for the next morning.
The surgery itself was relatively uneventful. He said the surgery was estimated for three hours, and it took seven. Part of the reason was that the mass was unlike anything he had to seeing in his 16 years of practice. The surgeon opened me up, excised the mass, then took it into the Radiologists office for examination. They discovered this mass to be the size of a small Nerf football. When they sliced the mass for cell slides, they discovered a giant lump of nothing but dead blood cells, and bits of fat and bone. I tell people that it is the biological equivalent of having one of those giant patches of plastic garbage that float somewhere in the Pacific ocean. Apparently, since I have had a gastric bypass, my body has difficulty reabsorbing waste products due to injury. That’s all this was. They confirmed there was no cancer anywhere.
after Swedish medical Center, they transferred me to kindred Hospital. I was very fortunate to get a bed at kindred, because much to my surprise kindred is one of the best hospitals for relatively long-term rehabilitation. It does not take long for my muscles to generate to the point where I have difficulty walking. Fortunately, since I work out a great deal, I have tremendous upper body strength. If you spend one day in bed, it takes three days of normal activity to recuperate. It was going to Take me several weeks of therapy in order to be able to transfer safely from chair to bed and back again. During this time, they put me on a very rigorous pain management program which lasted far longer than it really should have. I was on a great deal of strong injectables, and I found myself with a vicious addiction to narcotics. Fortunately, I’ve been here before. I am fortunate in that being a chronic pain patient, our bodies do not react to narcotics in the same way that people who are not in pain experience.
I was at kindred for a month and a half when they told me that they were very full, and since I was the furthest along in terms of getting better, they would transfer me to a nursing home – – excuse me, a “skilled nursing facility.” Well, I was in one of those “skilled” nursing facilities for nearly 5 years after I first became disabled, and I had no desire to go back to that situation at all! Just when things look gloomiest, and going back to one of those places seemed inevitable, suddenly the University of Washington had a bed available in their Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit. This unit is considered one of the top three rehabilitation centers in the country, and that’s for good reason. The nurses, aids, and physical therapists are all at the top of their game. Sadly, I’ve been in and out of hospitals for the past 15 years and never, ever, have I experienced such a kind and generous care as I did at the University of Washington.
After the first couple of days in this Unit, I got very angry. When I left kindred, I have completed my physical therapy and was considered safe to transfer. Why am I going to the University of Washington, I asked? I got very angry when I arrived at the Unit and told them that I didn’t understand why I was there, that I had finished my physical therapy, and I was ready to go home. Well, said that, that may be true. But we need to run you through the paces and find out just how strong you are and how ready you are to go home. That was on a Monday. By the time Wednesday rolled around, I had to go to this care meeting and they told me that yes, if everything maintained, they would send me home on Friday. Well, Fridayrolled around, and the doctor in charge said that yes, I was ready to go home, but I would have to undergo an assessment by DSH S. Unfortunately, there had been a phone outage at the DSH S Ctr., and they were backed up for their assessments so I would have to remain at the unit for another FIVE WEEKS.
I should have been kinder. I should have been more understanding. But at this point, I was both physically and emotionally stressed out of my mind, recovering from severe narcotics addiction, working through some PTSD related issues, my testosterone level had gone from 1399 to 71. In every way that a person could crash, I did. Needless to say, I was in a foul mood for the first couple of weeks while I was there. Fortunately, there was a physical therapist there named Brandon who found out what I was all about and managed to find a way to get me re-motivated and re-energized. In every single situation where I was stressed and in pain, the University of Washington took care of it. Never in my life have I met people who, in some of the worst, grossest, most challenging situations were kind, friendly and thoughtful. I owe them more than I can ever repay.
I got home the third week of January. The next few weeks were terrible, still suffering from withdrawal, barely able to finish a sentence, think a complete thought, and I had the awful experience of saying things that I never intended to say out loud. I started going back to the gym the first week I was home, not expecting a lot out of myself, and working as hard as I physically could every day. Now, A little more than a month later, I am getting close to returning to my previous strange. I was worried about this because even after intense physical therapy, I discovered that my total body strength had diminished quite a bit. But both Chris my trainer and his girlfriend Logan told me not to worry, that muscle memory would come into play and I would recover much faster than I was thinking. So far, this is true.
I am back. If not completely back, been much closer to it than I was when I left the UDub. As it turns out, I will need this strength for the next phase of my life.
See, there’s this great guy named Abe…