29 December 2006

It's getting to be a tradition, no?

I will write an update, because I've just been to the doctor, and I'm sure you, my loyal readers, would like to know what happened at the doctor's office.

First of all, I think I drove the doctor nuts. My mom accuses me of being a worry-wart, but if you ask me, informing the doctor (in a calm, matter-of-fact manner) that the area around my incision is completely numb and that my ankle is perpetually swollen and that I can't see or feel my patellar tendon does not constitute obsessive worrying. (Ok, maybe the part about the patellar tendon is a tiny bit obsessive.) I just wanted to make sure he knew what all of my symptoms were, in case there is something wrong. Apparently the doctor is not used to his patients doing this. Or maybe he was just in a hurry.

Second, since I never said (and people have been asking), my ticket back to Russia is for January 22. I don't know if I'll actually be going then, because of bureaucracy (Russian, not US) and a lack of a place to stay in Moscow, but I'll be there for our mid-year review at the end of January for sure. (Thank you, STA Travel easy-to-change tickets.)

As promised at the last doctor's appointment, I got a new brace at this appointment. The most exciting feature of this brace, besides the fact that it's fashioned of sleek, stylish black neoprene (ooooh), is that it allows me to bend my knee. In fact, I now have permission to bend my knee anytime, anywhere, as often as I want. I'm also allowed to put up to half of my weight on the bad leg. The doctor acknowledged that extensive bending and such probably won't happen for up to a week, because there's a pyschological barrier (i.e. a healthy fear of pain and reinjury) that I'll have to get over first. He then proved this to me by challenging me to lift my leg up off the exam table. I couldn't do it. He called me a wimp.

Now, telling someone that their head is the only thing keeping them from moving their leg around seems to me to basically be a challenge for that person to prove their "inner strength." Or maybe I'm the only one who automatically thinks, "Psychological barrier? Pshaw. I'm not going to let any stupid psychological barriers stop me. I can bend my leg right now." But I'm guessing I'm not. Maybe this is the reaction the doctor is going for, since I suppose it could increase the drive to use the leg, but it seems to me that it could also set the patient up for feeling like a failure when, try as she might, she just can't bring herself to bend her knee. Is that really a good idea? Because from where I'm standing (ha), it looks like the only thing worse than the demeaning experience of being pushed around in a wheelchair like an invalid is the feeling that you're not healing as fast as you should be.

I don't know. I'm going to do my best not to let it get to me (in the event that I actually do have trouble with this "psychological barrier"). I guess I've been thinking a lot about patient psychology lately, though. I had read stuff before about how psychologically hard it can be to be a patient, to allow people to treat you like you need help and to cope with people who treat you like you can't do anything for yourself. I didn't really get it; after all, any rational person can see that there's no shame in having something wrong with your body that needs to get fixed. Well, now I do get it. It is hard. It's easy to feel like everything is an affront to your dignity; after the first few weeks, you stop wanting the sympathy of strangers. You get this urge to say to the people who look at you in your wheelchair, "Hey, this is temporary. I don't usually look like this. I can walk just like you." Which is horrible, because of course there's nothing wrong with being handicapped. Unless it's me that's handicapped.

Right. So, anyway, I can bend my leg now, and I have bent it a little, but it feels... weird. And the only other thing that happened at the doctor's office was that I learned that my crutches will be going back to Russia with me. Whatever. As long as it's not a wheelchair.

15 December 2006


My doctor's appointment this morning (first one post-op) proved not to be a disappointment. Many good things happened, including:

1. getting to unwrap my leg, which has been in an Ace bandage and an immobilizer (I believe normal people call it a "brace," but it's apparently an "immobilizer" in orthopedic lingo) from mid-thigh to toe since last Tuesday. It wasn't pretty, but it was happy to see the light of day again. My calf, by the way, is so skinny now! This is the first time in my life I've had a skinny leg. Too bad the other one doesn't match, eh?
2. getting to see the incision! It's gross and 3" long and still has bloody tape on it holding it together, but it's nice to see what it looks like, especially since until now I didn't even know where it was exactly.
3. getting permission to take the brace off when I shower, which we promptly did, which means that my leg and foot just got wet for the first time since the accident (minor spongings excepted). Hallelujah!
4. getting the ok for buying my plane tickets BACK TO RUSSIA!!!!!

Number 4 is obviously the most exciting. We discussed my treatment/recovery course, which the doctor described as "aggressive," since the injury wasn't as bad as they expected. I have two more weeks of keeping it immobile and elevated (too bad, since sitting around with my leg up all the time is really boring), but as of December 29th I'll be able to bend it, and I'll start physical therapy after New Year's. And THEN, after some intense physical therapy during which they'll teach me lots of exercises I can do on my own when I relocate, I can go back to Russia, probably in the 3rd week of January (around the 20th?). YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

That was all I really wanted: to know when I'll be back.

10 December 2006

To my credit, I'm not entirely shameless...

Because I know that if I stop updating, people will stop reading, I will post another entry. If that isn't a lame reason to post an entry, I don't know what is. I'm a little ashamed to admit that with constant internet access and little else to do, my Site Meter, a web page that tells me how many people are visiting my blog, is one of the most exciting aspects of my life right now. (Yes, that's right, I'm watching you. But don't worry, Site Meter doesn't provide me with names, and even if it did, I don't judge. After all, I'm the one who now visits facebook.com (a site that I vaguely recall thinking I had outgrown about eight months ago) upwards of twenty times a day. That leaves me precious little room to judge anyone else's internet habits.)

All this internet is definitely one of the weirdest things about suddenly being plunked back down in the U. S. of A. At first, I felt (predictably) internet-starved in Russia. The feeling didn't go away quickly - probably because, as a recent college graduate, I'm a member of the most internet-dependent demographic in America, and because I was going through the awful post-college loneliness we all seem to have felt a bit of once we set sail upon life's seas. But by the time I left Vladivostok I had just gotten to the point where internet felt more like a necessary chore than a delight. I say "chore" not because I dragged myself unwillingly to the internet cafe - that is certainly not true - but because I had come to see my posts, emails with friends, and poppings-in on the blogosphere not as lifelines, but as the simple motions it was necessary (and pleasant) to keep going through if I wanted to stay in contact with the people I cared about. I guess you could say I stopped craving an internet connection just for the sake of being online, and started looking forward to individual connections - an email from a friend I was waiting to hear from, or an update to a favorite blog.

In retrospect, I prefer that kind of relationship to the internet to the kind I have now, or the kind I (and most everyone else I knew) had in college. Perhaps when I move back to the States for real, I won't get internet in my apartment.

Oh, and how am I doing? I'm fine. I had surgery on Tuesday, as indicated in the last post. I've been getting progressively better, by which I mean I've been taking progressively fewer dangerously addictive opioid painkillers, and we're hoping tomorrow I'll be able to crutch around painlessly enough to take a shower. I know my hair would be happy. The good news is that they discovered in surgery that my knee wasn't as bad as they thought it might be - no serious cartilage damage, and not nearly as many bone chips (yuck) as they expected to see. So, physical therapy can maybe start a little sooner than they thought. For now, my eyes are on the prize, and that prize is next Friday, which is my first post-op doctor's appointment, when they'll remove my bandage. Hooray!

06 December 2006

Still alive, and I don't think I turned into a zombie...

Since various people asked me to let them know how the surgery went, I will start by posting this to say that the surgery went well and I'm still alive. It was all just fine except the IV they put in my hand, which inexplicably freaked me out beyond belief. (There was even a moment, sitting there waiting to go into surgery and unable to think about anything but the IV, when I wondered whether anyone's ever gone insane from having an IV in their hand.) But they moved it to my arm because it wasn't flowing right in my hand, and that was better. Times a million.

That's all I'll write for now because I'm drowsy from Percocet and worn out in general. Peace out, dudes.

01 December 2006

еще новости!

A brief update from my doctor's appt. this morning:

I'll be getting surgery (outpatient - yay - with general anesthesia - boo) next Tuesday evening. The doctor confirmed that my fibula has a hairline fracture, which will heal on its own. The tibial plateau fracture is worse than they thought, though - there's about 8-10 mm of displacement rather than the 3-4 mm they were guessing from the x-ray. Yikes. This means that I will have a bone graft that actually IS a graft. Of bone. From a CADAVER. I have the option of getting the graft from my own hip instead, but I think I'd rather not have more incisions than are strictly necessary. However, the cadaver-bone carries with it a one in a million risk of hepatitis and a one in 1.5 million risk of HIV. A little scary.

My favorite part of the appointment was the following, although I think the random med student who was shadowing the doctor was the only one who thought it was humorous. Ouch. Guess my funny bone's broken?

Doctor: Now, there are risks involved in accepting grafts from cadavers.
me: You mean like turning into a zombie?

To make this post at least a little Russia-related, isn't the Litvinenko poisoning story creepy?