Thursday, November 7, 2013

Life moves forward.

I remember when I was a kid, and I envisioned what adulthood would look like.  Probably much like every little middle class kid does.  Or at least every little girl.  You know, white picket fence, flowery garden, pumpkins on the porch in the fall, Christmas lights during the holidays, the whole shebang.  When I was living in South Korea, in a 11th floor flat, I loved it as a newlywed, but I hated it as a soon to be mom.  It never felt homey enough to bring my baby girl home to, so I looked forward to moving back to America, hoping we could move into the perfect little house for our family.  As it turns out, we did move into the perfect little house in Louisiana.  It genuinely looked like it came out of a storybook, trees filling the shady backyard, and the most adorable little front stoop you can imagine.  As life would have it, we didn't get to stay in that house more than a couple weeks, and we moved, once again, this time back into an apartment on a military post.  We had noisy, rude neighbors above us, but some really great friends in the surrounding apartments around us that we eventually became good friends with.  We and our neighbors gathered every single night, our puppies chasing each other and one year old Cori, as we all talked and laughed until darkness covered the sky.  When our little monkey, Avery, came along, we realized we'd outgrown the tiny two bedroom apartment, and much to our luck, our housing company offered us a beautiful three bedroom townhouse to move into.  We moved in only two weeks after construction was completed, and it was modern, beautiful, and roomy.  I loved looking down from our upstairs bedroom into the backyard and seeing Cori and Avery's playset, and the way the evening light shined through the dining room windows when I was cooking dinner every night.  It felt more like home than my little family had ever felt. 

But life fell apart in that home.  My marriage crumbled, and my perfect family vanished.  I don't know if I'll ever forget the night that I left through that front door for the last time, with my belongings shoved into the trunk of my sister-in-law's car.  I buckled into the backseat, beside my sleeping 15 month old Avery, and I cried my way back to South Carolina.  I had lost the family I'd been envisioning my whole life, and I feared, for the next year of my life, that I'd never get it back.  It was a pretty dark spot for me, and I bounced around with what felt like no direction towards a solid future.  Even when I felt ready to date, I got into a relationship that I knew, deep down, would never progress to what I truly desired, the family I truly desired.  After all, nobody envisions the perfect family as a single mom and her two kids. And I feared marrying a man who wouldn't show love for my own kids as if they were his very own. I loved being married, and I love being a mom.  I was terrified that I'd never have the perfect little family that I'd once had and will always desire to have again.  I felt like I wore a badge of shame for a long time, both for the actions I'd chosen for myself, and the fact that I'd been the wife that was cheated on by her husband.  I felt sadness at the broken homes my children would forever bear as their upbringing.  Shameful. 

But I'm okay now.  Somehow, I made it through the last year.  Somehow, I made it into the arms of a man that I think could one day actually fit into that imperfectly perfect little family unit that I want to have so badly.  I see the way he loves his son, and it awakens my heart and warms me throughout.  My children are moving home this week.  There won't be any more kisses via video chat, and heartbreaking goodbye hugs.  My babies are moving home.  Several times a week, every week, my kids will be all mine.  I can, for the first time in a very long time, picture happiness and completion in my not so far off future.  I see myself cooking dinner for my family, and waking up to a full house on the weekend.  I don't feel so shameful anymore because even the worst things have a funny way of making sense.  Life does move forward, you see. Somehow, life moves forward.

Friday, November 1, 2013

MPFL Reconstruction, Part 1

August 19, 2013 was the first day of class for the Fall semester, which also happened to be the day my injury happened.  It was a rainy morning, and when I went in to my first class, I stepped onto a weather mat, which happened to be soaking wet.  Since it was so saturated, my left leg slipped to the left, which resulted in my left patella dislocating to nearly the backside of my leg.  It was excruciating pain, the absolute worst I’ve ever been in, to include the natural child birth I went through.  Somehow, I suppose from the adrenaline rush of such pain, I manually pushed my knee cap back into place through screams.  At that point, a couple of teachers from the Charter High School next door were able to get me to call my mom, and get me into a wheelchair.  My mom and I were off to the doctor.

Here, you can see how swollen my left leg was:

 After four hours of no pain meds and the worst experience with a terrible tech trying to get X-rays, I finally was able to get a shot of pain killers in my hip.  They hardly touched the pain, but I was told no more could be ordered until after I met with the orthopedic surgeon.  So, off I went, back into my mom’s vehicle, which was brutal, by the way, and to the doctor’s office.  I sat in the waiting room, crying my eyes out, begging the receptionist to just let me go back and see the doctor.  Apparently, it worked because back we went.  My surgeon, Dr. L (top notch guy, by the way) checked out my knee and noted the pain that I was in.  He then was able to pull over 100cc of blood off of the injury.  Disgusting.  However, my pain level dropped dramatically once that fluid was pulled off.  An MRI was ordered for a week later when the swelling would further go down, as well as pain meds, a knee brace, ace bandage wrapping, and crutches until then.

Here’s the fluid that was drained from the injury… gross:

This was about the happiest face I could squeak out by the end of that first day:

But within a few days, I was back to my normal self:

So fast forward a little, I had the MRI about a week later, my divorce was finalized the next day, effectively ending my insurance coverage, and about a week after that, my MRI was scheduled to be read.  It was determined that I had broken my patella, bits of which were “floating around” in my knee, and destroyed my medial patellar femoral ligament (MPFL), which would need to be replaced with donor tissue in a surgery.  The surgery was scheduled for two weeks outs, on September 19th.  
When the 19th rolled around, I checked into Greer Memorial Hospital and was scheduled to have surgery around 12pm.  I was put under temporarily when my femoral nerve blocker was put in, and then later put under completely for the surgery.  I believe the surgery took an hour or so, but really, I have no recollection between being wheeled into the OR and waking up in recovery.  When I spoke to my surgeon after surgery, he told me that the damage was much more extensive than he had been able to see on the MRI.  He had removed the pieces of the patella that had chipped off, replaced my MPFL completely, and shaved down the cartilage on the underside of kneecap.  My pain level was astronomical, even with IV and oral pain medication.  I also had an ice pump wrapped around my injured leg, and an air pump attached to my other leg, to help circulation. I was doped up, sleepy, and couldn’t even use the bathroom without the help of at least two people.

Pre-surgery, I was flying high:

Here’s the get up I had to wear after surgery:

I stayed in the hospital overnight, and it was a rough one.  My pain levels bounced around, but never dropped below a 6 or 7 on a 10 scale.  I am one lucky girl though.  My mom stayed in the hospital with me overnight, and my amazing boyfriend, Spencer, brought me flowers that night to cheer me up.  When I was discharged from the hospital the next day, I headed straight to my first session of physical therapy.  Here was where I got to see my knee for the first time since the surgery.  I also realized just how long of a road my recovery was going to be, as I tried to not only strengthen my deadened quadriceps muscles, but stretch out my knee muscles and ligaments to get mobility back into my knee joint.  It was bound to be a brutal recovery, and my initial fears pretty much spelled out reality.

Taken from the hospital bed, this smile was meant for his:

At my first therapy session, I met this guy for the first time, a machine called Game Time, which ices and compresses my leg, after intense therapy:

Here’s what the initial incision points looked like:

That brings me to when I finally made it home after the surgery.  I’ll end it here for now, and pick up with the rest of my recovery just as soon as I can.  I don’t think I realized how long it’d take to get it all out into words until I started writing it, but I’ll account for the last 6 weeks soon!