Friday, March 6, 2015

Last Few Tidbits

I am sick of talking about my stupid leg. It is healing well. I can walk on it with the help of crutches, but I cannot wear the brace boot I'm supposed to wear till the doctor declares me 100% because the top of the brace hits exactly where the fracture is.

Can't be blamed for that. I am a tall drink of water, for one. Another reason I could not have anticipated this problem is that I tried the boot on 3 days after the break, meaning my leg was too swollen (and I was floating on pain killers). I couldn't tell how it was going to work once the swelling went down.

During surgery, the doctor made 6 small incisions (cuts) into my leg to place a titanium rod that is meant to stay inside the bone for the rest of my life. He stapled those incisions shut. I had to have my staples taken out 2 weeks after surgery. Being as I was in China by that time I had to rely on Chinese doctors to do it. Not that I doubted their ability. I feared the pain.

In America, healthcare providers make a big deal out of pain management and patient comfort. They ask what your pain level is on a scale of 1 to 10 and medicate you accordingly. To remove surgical staples in America, first the area is swabbed with Lidocane, a numbing agent. Once the doctor is sure the area has no feeling, s/he will proceed with yanking out the staples. In theory, one shouldn't have a moment's discomfort.

My first let-down was that the nurse tasked with removing my staples had never seen such things. Surgical staples? How to deal with them? With Sam interpreting I told her they are just like staples that hold paper together, and they can just be pulled out. That might have been a huge mistake on my part.

Now armed with hemostats, this pretty young nurse attacked my leg. No numbing agent. Through various misfortunes, some of those incisions had bled and were crusted over. I flinched and hissed when she got one of the staples in the hemostat's jaws and started pulling. Immediately she withdrew, declaring she did not know how to deal with staples. She recommended the doctor himself come and remove them.

Sam pulled the doctor out of consult. In a matter of moments they returned. The nurse explained her predicament, handing the hemostats to the doctor. He exclaimed over the surgical staples, saying they don't use those in China. And then, he set to work.

Still no numbing agent. I'm doing my very best to not writhe in agony as he gouges my leg again and again. That sweet, compassionate nurse is now holding my hand and cradling my head. Sam gets in on the comforting by placing a hand on my knee.

The doctor, chuckling, says: “The Chinese must be more resistant to pain than foreigners. A Chinese patient would not be suffering like that.”

He made me feel like chasing him around with a stapler, letting what staples I managed to plant in his flesh fester for about 2 weeks and then yanking them out with no numbing agent.

There were more than 20 staples, all told. Intellectually I remember the pain, just like I remember my leg hurt in the immediate aftermath of the break. The human brain has a wonderful defense mechanism: it only remembers excruciating pain academically. That is how women are able to bear child after child. If they remembered how bad it hurt, most women would probably only have 1 child, and may even scare other women from ever having children.

I'm due back at the hospital in 2 weeks for an X-ray to see how the bone is healing. I hope by all my stars that I everything is well and I won't need any more treatment.

Especially because the doctor – whose English was really very good, while reading through my American doctor's instructions regarding care, asked when we should take the titanium rod out of my leg. I hope they don't see fit to rebreak my leg in order to remove it!  

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