safety is my middle name

Passion is relative.

Everyone’s level of passion for one thing or another is set at a different level – and while I may consider myself to be relatively passionate about something, you over there may think I’m over-the-top crazy about it. And that thing I’m “relatively passionate” (over-the-top to you) about may be of little importance or concern to you, be it because it has no relevance in your life, or because you either don’t care or aren’t informed.

My big passion is car seat safety – child passenger safety.

Not long after I found out I was pregnant with littleman, the recommendation came out from the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) to rear-face children until they reach at least 2 years old, or until they reach the height or weight limits for their rear-facing child safety seat. With a bit of research, that limit could be extended to 3 or 4 years old quite easily, depending on the seat that is used. My goal was to rear-face littleman as long as I could – at least 2 years – but I didn’t do my research all too well. I bought a seat that was very, very convenient for installation and harness adjustment. It was awesome – until littleman was about 13 months old, well ahead of 2 years old. He has always been a tall boy. At birth, he was 21.5 inches long, and by the time he was 13 months old, he had reached the rear-facing height limit of his seat. At that point, well, I begrudgingly turned him forward-facing (FF). With the seat we had, it was the only safe way for him to ride.

I came across The Car Seat Lady and The Baby Guy NYC (two awesome resources for parents and families – both are on Facebook – TCSL and TBGNYC, Twitter – TCSL and TBGNYC, and have their own websites – referenced above). I also found Car Seats for the Littles (there is also a Facebook page), a closed group of child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs) and parents that are incredibly knowledgeable about car seats and safety recommendations. In this closed group you can post pictures of your installed seat and get feedback on the install; additionally, they will let you know anything you have questions about. It’s great.

It was in the CSFTL group that I found the initial mention that children should remain rear-facing as long as possible – as close to age 4 as possible. Before age 4, the bones in the neck and spinal column are not mature enough – strong enough – to support significant injury. The risks of neck and spinal injury are significantly higher for younger children than older – this article from the CSFTL people does a fabulous job of explaining why it’s extremely important to keep kids rear-facing as long as possible. What it comes down to, though, is the ossification (closing/hardening) of the spinal vertebrae.

Once I found the information stating the importance of Extended Rear-Facing (ERF), I did more research and found out that I could potentially rear-face littleman for a bit longer. This was about 10 months after I had switched him FF – but I knew that he would be safer the other way. I took all of the loose change I could find, and bought two new seats. These seats are some of the longest rear-facing seats on the market – and with my extremely tall boy, he would definitely hit the weight limit prior to hitting the height limit. 10 months after he outgrew his RF Evenflo Triumph and began FF, I switched him back RF in a Graco MySize 70. He’s extremely comfortable, and significantly safer. For my peace of mind, and for his safety, and thanks to the Child Passenger Safety Technicians I dealt with, my son is safe in the car. Very, very safe.

The only other way I could ensure that he is as safe as can be, in addition to keeping him in a rear-facing seat as long as he fits, is to make sure I know a) how to safely install his seat, b) how to safely buckle him in, and c) when he outgrows his seat rear-facing. Once he hits the limits, it’s no longer the safest way for him to ride. He knows now that to be safe, his top of his chest clip must be level with his armpits, and he lifts it there himself if I don’t do it soon enough. He also tries to tighten the straps, but can’t quite get it there – can’t reach far enough once the straps begin to tighten!

My goal, due to everything I have learned in the past 18 months, is to Become a Tech with Safe Kids Worldwide. I want to be able to help others as I have been helped in the past few years, and I want to be able to make a difference. There is an abundance of incorrect information out there – even with pediatricians. The vast majority of pediatricians are not CPSTs, and are not up to date on child passenger safety. It’s scary when you find the science to prove that your child is safest rear-facing at LEAST to age 2, but your pediatrician – someone that most people will trust without any question, and someone that a lot of people will take the word of with no question – tells you that it’s “safer to have your child forward-facing at age 2″ (this was straight from our pediatrician – word for word).

The majority of parents don’t know how to correctly install a car seat in a vehicle.

Many parents don’t understand how to correctly and safely buckle a child into a car seat.

And many parents don’t realize the importance of working with the maximums – not the minimums. Don’t rush your child to the next step. Keep them safest by working with the maximum allowances for moving to the next step – rear-facing to forward-facing, forward-facing to seatbelted booster, seatbelted booster to seatbelt. It’s just not worth the risk.

I am a runner… but only in my dreams.

I have always wanted to run.

I’ve wanted to be a runner.

To outsiders, it appears to be something of a brotherhood… to insiders, well, I have no idea – I’m not on the inside.

I dream of running.

Literally. I regularly have dreams that I can run longer distances (I’ll run miles – long miles – and not be winded – and make it the whole distance – without hurting).

I bought a jogging stroller shortly after munchkin man was born, and fully intended to use it. I had plans to complete the C25K program, and seriously, honestly thought I would do it.

I checked in with my PT, whose response infuriated me, yet motivated at the same time: “Are you CRAZY???”

Then, just a few weeks ago, reality set in.

I’ll never be a runner; I’ll never run that 5k.

I’m realizing that, as I get older, my joints are a lot less stable than they were even a year ago.

I dislocated my wrist closing the car door.

I dislocated a pinky (in two different places) putting on Munchkin Man’s coat.

I dislocated my jaw eating.

I know that there will be those people that will read this and think, “she’s just lazy. why doesn’t she exercise? why doesn’t she make it her goal to run that 5k and, well, just DO it? why doesn’t she make herself stronger, make her joints more stable?”

It’s not that easy.

For me, exercise = pain.

For me, a lot of the time, exercise = injury.

Also – people with EDS are believed to have decreased muscle tone, which means that it is difficult to keep things in place (even more than it already is).

EDS is like that. I was given my “diagnosis,” which consisted of the rheumatologist writing the phrase “Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type III” on a piece of paper, handing it to me, telling me to do some research, and walking out the door. When I requested my “notes” from this office visit (“Ehlers Danlos Type III, Hypermobility, if pain, then injury. Be careful.”), I was surprised – he hadn’t given me much information, but what he had given me, finally, was an answer. I had always known that there was something wrong, but of course, in the back of my mind I thought it was all in my head. I wondered if I was a hypochondriac, if I was just over-sensitive. But this was eye-opening. There is a lot of joint instability, pain, injury, and therefore uncertainty with this condition. I didn’t realize just how difficult it would be to find a good doctor that could explain to me what everything meant (EDS is a connective tissue disorder – the connective tissue I have contains damaged or incomplete collagen, and that’s irreversible). I didn’t know what it would take to find a doctor that was willing to educate him- or herself to know how best to treat me… I’m still looking for a good primary care doctor to take care of my everyday needs, someone that is willing to learn or that already knows about EDS.

After my quack diagnosis from the “if pain, then injury, be careful” doctor I went down to Boston for a second opinion (with direction after the fact that my primary care doctor would continue my treatment after I left). It was the right choice, because they were able to tell me what to watch out for, and how best to keep myself from hurting myself (splints and braces). Gentle exercise (walking and swimming), nothing high-impact. And best of all – one of the real reasons we went down to see the Geneticist in the first place – it was safe to have a baby. It would mean that I would be considered high-risk and I would need more close monitoring to be sure I wasn’t going into premature labor, but I would be able to carry a child.

We have had our (first) child; I had an uneventful pregnancy and carried to 39 weeks. Throughout my pregnancy, from week 13 through week 30, I was closely monitored to ensure I would not go into labor early; this meant monthly ultrasounds and extra genetic counseling. I got to see my baby more before he was even born, and I knew I was healthy and progressing normally.

One of the risks with EDS is the chance of passing it along to children; there is a 50% chance is passing it to my children because it is an autosomal dominant gene – you only need one copy to have the condition. It’s still early, but we will likely know by the time he is in early adolescence whether munchkin man also has EDS. Because of the nature of the beast, there’s no GOOD genetic test right now for type III, because the gene has not yet been isolated. The test is mediocre at best – a 50% chance of accuracy – and because it is still so new (and not yet very accurate), insurance won’t cover it. It’s rather expensive.

Growing up I was rather active – I played softball and soccer, and danced ballet (even making it en pointe for a full year before the pain in my knees made me stop – well, that and my orthopedist telling me that one day my knees would just go. Full disclosure – the orthopedist was right – they just started to give one day, walking across the road). Even at the height of all my activity, I was in constant pain and because I didn’t know any different, I thought it was normal. I pushed through it. I didn’t realize how much harm I was actually causing to my body. Since my senior year of high school I have had 4 joints operated on – both knees, my left shoulder, and my right ankle. Both knees were essentially rearranged and fixed to make them more stable (they no longer give out with no warning); my left shoulder was repaired after a fall, though it was not successful; my right ankle was repaired after I turned it standing (see this, this, this, this, and this for details). I still have extensive pain in all of my joints – especially the surgically-modified ones – and my hands are getting worse every day.

I love, love, love to crochet. I recently finished an afghan for my new niece (at the beginning of October), but because of the pain in my hands, have not yet started my next project. Due to the progressive nature of EDS, I shouldn’t be surprised; however, because I am still relatively unfamiliar with everything that comes along with this diagnosis, I know that I have a ton of research still to do before I understand it as much as I should. I recently picked up this book by Dr. Brad Tinkle, which multiple people have recommended to me. It should be arriving soon.

The pain in my hands is exacerbated by the fact that I sit at a computer all day; I also enjoy writing (with a pen and paper) and do it when I can. I keep a journal (both one for myself and one for L), and hand-write each. Because of the pain that keeps increasing, I notice more and more how much my fingers hyper-extend. I try not to let them, but it’s rather difficult. I noticed on my drive home last night that even while driving they extend in ways they shouldn’t – in ways that cause me intense pain. I have been looking into these - they keep fingers from bending in ways they shouldn’t – and have schedule appointments with an occupational and physical therapist; she was actually the one that pointed me in the direction of rheumatology in the first place, and suggested I find out if I did in fact have increased hypermobility. Hopefully she will be able to point me in the right direction of things I need to do to ensure that I don’t hurt myself more, and perhaps even help stabilize my hands and fingers.

I will never be a runner. I will never dance ballet again. I will never be able to play basketball (not that I ever could anyway!), or climb a mountain. It’s not recommended, it’s not smart, and the amount of increased pain and daily difficulties it causes me is immense. I apparently hide it well. I’m lucky – I have a very, very supportive husband. He gets it. He sees me living with it day in and day out – and does not try to push me in ways that he knows would hurt me.

I may love the idea of running, but I will never, ever BE a runner… unless you count running in my dreams.

A belated birthday wish.

Munchkin man turned two last Thursday. I just… yeah. Still speechless over this fact. He is an amazing boy, such a joy. He is cuddly and loving and smart and silly and wow, does he keep us running. He’s always moving, always doing something. He is very self-aware, and loves his “kitty brother.” He gives awesome kisses and when we’re in the grocery store and I’m struggling with the self-scan checkout line and the register is misbehaving and one of the people has to keep coming over to allow me to continue to ring up our groceries, he loves to pull on my arm and pull me in with both hands so he can just hug and hold on and not let go. I’m still in awe of the fact that he’s ours. I don’t need to give him back. I get to keep him. He’s ours. He’s half me, half hubby, and we don’t have to give him back. I had always dreamed of this day – the day that some little one would yell for me – “Mommy!!” – while I was still getting out of the shower in the morning, before it was time to get up, before the day had even begun – and I’d be happy and more-than-willing to go gather this sweet-smelling boy from his bed and kiss his still-warm cheeks and just live in the moment. I need to remember that he’s not little for long… to live in the moment. To enjoy the time we have while we have it, because, cliché or not, he’s only little once, and it won’t be for long. To put down the electronics and play with the trains and make silly pictures and paint without worrying about getting dirty and dig in the sandbox and splash in the “cuddles” – the puddles – because it makes him happy. This love I feel for someone so small, so tiny, yet oh-so-big in personality and generosity – he gives me his favorite train to play with! – and kindness and love – this love I feel is boundless. It is never-ending. It is amazing, and makes my heart pound and skip a beat… literally. Who knew that the dreams I had years, years ago, would come to fruition in such an amazing way? This boy stole my heart just over two years ago, and has relentlessly held onto it since – and I’m okay with that. He’s my little man, my sunshine, my “babyman,” my munchkin, my monkey. He is my world. Happy birthday, monkey man.

In a state of confusion

Life has been upside-down lately. Many things have changed significantly; many things are completely the same. Much like my almost-two-year-old, I’m used to order and crave structure.

Life is a roller coaster; I understand that. There should be ups and downs – without them, there would be too much monotony and frankly, life would be completely boring.

I like boring.

When life isn’t boring, I become stressed.

When I become stressed, I internalize my panic and nerves and worries and strife – and out come health issues.

Gluten sensitivity to the point that I need to consume a strict gluten-free diet.

Headaches so intense I can’t function well.

Depression.

Pain.

This roller coaster, it’s a jarring ride.

I have been able to buffer the “jarriness” of the ride with books, my crocheting, and my family. It’s difficult, but with the anticipation of my sister’s new baby arriving (any day now!!!!) and crazy workdays (I’m back working in the office – after 3.5 months of working at home, at the beginning of June I headed back in for my hour-long commute and am back in the office. Oh, and I changed my hours – I go in -and therefore get out- an hour earlier. Good in the long run, sucks getting up early) and stressful coworkers and too much craziness and not enough wine, well, it has been extra jarring.

When I’m going through a gluten sensitivity bout, I have extreme issues with consumption of anything containing wheat, barley, hops, and anything else in the category; I also get sick if I use a toaster to thaw my gluten free bread that has previously been used for gluten-filled bread. It doesn’t take much to make my insides want to just explode.

I had been exclusively gluten-free for about 3 months. A short bit ago, I realized that the “medicine” that I had been taking to help me consume gluten a little bit better (aka, eat gluten free but if I needed to be sure I didn’t get sick from cross-contamination, take two pills and call it good, and later, a box of macaroni and cheese or a calzone and some  onion rings – all full of gluten) had zero active ingredients. Zero. I decided to attempt some gluten, knowing that it was likely going to be absolutely no different than with the “medication” – and I was right. I had no adverse affects.

I started eating gluten again.

My stress level has not changed. Nothing in my life has changed to allow my stress level to decrease – things have actually gone in the opposite direction. My stress level is through the roof.

And my chronic pain is back. I woke up a few days ago and my hands were on fire. I actually started this post just over a week ago, but after typing all day at work, the last thing I want to do when I get home is type. I’m crocheting an afghan for my new niece, and that’s taking up all of my hand strength. That, and caring for an almost-two-year-old. When I stand up at work after sitting for a while, I can’t walk upright for a few moments – I look like an 80- or 90-year-old woman.

Life is crazy. Life is full of give-and-take, and making sacrifices.

As much as I love gluten, I believe that I need to make some (permanent) changes – I need to significantly reduce the amount of gluten I consume, and I need to regularly work out. I need to focus on my health, and I need to increase my strength and stamina. I am tired of always being tired, always being in pain, always needing to stop what I’m doing because my body won’t let me. I understand with EDS that I need to take it relatively easy on my joints, that there are some things I can’t do, but I need to make myself stronger. I just need to do it, and I need to do it now.

For my family.

For my sanity.

For me.

Officially official

I officially have a WIP. Scratch that; I have two. Never expected to officially have one, one I’m really fleshing out, let alone two!! One is a children’s book, one is a novel.
I’m excited. Excited to get this dream of mine on paper, excited to get these books out of my brain and in ink. Or, well, in pencil and on the computer. Or note cards for now. Fleshing things out from there is weird, but it’s working nicely.
Dreams are funny, especially those that may seem impossible to attain; it takes a lot of heart and sweat and boatloads of motivation and little sleep. I need to find that extra motivation around – the fact that I am able to carry around one of my WIPs with me wherever I go helps.
And to that note, while I wait for my car, time to work on it.

On healing: 7 weeks out

Today is (finally) Friday.

I had my first physical therapy visit a week ago Wednesday, my second yesterday, and I have  my third today. When I saw the doctor last (May 2), I was one day short of 5 weeks past surgery date. He wanted me done with the crutches by May 9, and out of the walking boot by May 23. I would be able to drive shortly after May 23. At that point I was still relying on the crutches completely, as I was being a good girl and following directions.

Well, that information set me free. I have been working from home since February 13, and the last time I drove was February 12. I had had enough. By May 4 I was finished with the crutches, and I haven’t used the walking boot since May 11. I will be practicing driving Saturday (in an empty parking lot), to make sure that my ankle will tolerate it.

I have been seeing the same physical therapist for the past 6 years (not just the same practice, but also the same therapist – he knows my joints quite well by now), and today I will be starting at a new practice. Because I have not been able to drive, my awesome husband has been chauffeuring me around for the past 3 months. To be honest, we’re both tired of it. However, it has to be done. Anyway. The new PT location is a mere 15 minutes away, whereas the old PT location is about an hour away, next to my office. It was perfect when I would go to PT then go directly to work – it cut down on the commute time significantly. But since I’m working out of the house (for another couple weeks), I can’t lose half of a day due to commuting and PT. It’s not quite convenient.

I’m nervous about seeing a new physical therapist, because Dave – the old one – knows me so well, and we have a good friendship as well. We talk books, we talk munchkin and his kids, we talk life. He gets it. He knows me. How will it be with this next person? Will we end up with a good camaraderie, or will I simply go to physical therapy, do my exercises, report on how I’m feeling, and go home? I spend so much time in physical therapy – in the past 6 years, the longest I went NOT in physical therapy was from February (or was it March?) 2011 to now. I spent 6 months straight at one point going to PT at least once a week. It’s just what happens when I so easily injure myself (I’m working on that).

I spent 20 minutes by myself with munchkin Monday night (while he was awake) – the first time I had done that in 2 months – followed by a couple hours later on that same evening (while he was asleep). It was nice to be able to have the ability to take care of munchkin on my own, and to know that I was trusted enough to do it.

***Fast forward 3.5 hours***

I had PT this morning with a new therapist, Justin. Things were very different from the last place. Old PT is one big room with lots of tables, and nothing is quiet. New PT is lots of little rooms for consults, and then one big room for exercises. At first I thought  – Hey! this isn’t normal. It’s weird! – but then I realized I preferred it. I don’t need everyone knowing my business. There was one other huge difference. Whenever I went to old PT, I made sure to bring a book because I was often on my own for a bit icing or with heat. For an hour appointment, I would really only have Dave to myself for about 15 minutes, and it was definitely not 15 minutes straight through. If I needed to ask a question, I had to either wait until he wasn’t with a different patient, or had to interrupt. I don’t know why they book every 20-30 minutes if appointments last 60. With new guy – Justin – I had him to myself. He worked with me, and I had his full attention the entire time. It was a great change. Justin also focused on things that are going to get me back to where I need to be more quickly, and better – I know all physical therapists are different, but it seemed like new PT had a better handle on what I need to recover to the best of my ability.

So here I am, 7 weeks out from surgery, walking in sneakers, and really in a much better place than I ever anticipated. I’m happy, healthy, and on the right track to being 100% healed.

What have you done better than you ever expected you could?

Nostalgia

Paris has always held a special place in my heart: the lights, the language, the romance of it all. Even before I knew what most of it was, I loved anything French – pastries, berets, anything that was typically French.

I spent most of my childhood listening to my mother, her siblings, and my grandmother – her mother – speak French when my sisters or I were around. It was their way of communicating over us – we had no idea what was being said. Hearing the melodic flowing of sounds made me want to learn the language, if only to know what they were saying. It was my first link to anything French, anything Parisian, and I loved it.

Once I entered junior high – 7th grade – I had my first opportunity to take French classes. I loved it. Classes were relatively short – 45 minutes a day – but it was worth it. I picked it up relatively quickly, and continued through high school. I would read anything that referred to Paris or to France, however remote the reference. I lived for those escapes into the country, the city of my dreams, but never thought I would see it firsthand.

My first year of college, I took a semester of conversational French. I got okay – not great, definitely not fluent. But it continued my knowledge of the language. That semester I decided to change my major from English to Biology; at that point, I knew that I would no longer be able to take any further French courses. I had taken 6.5 years of the language, and I could hold a decent conversation. I enjoyed speaking in French, and luckily found that the French Club at my college took trips to Montréal and to Québec City on a regular basis (one per semester). It wasn’t France, but it was an opportunity to speak the language in a foreign place, and a chance to travel a little bit.

My sophomore year, I was still a part of the French club, and had since enjoyed two trips to Québec City, and one to Montréal. The first semester of my sophomore year was difficult – I was taking multiple science courses and a math course, in addition to two other required classes. I had no options for any additional French class. That fall, a friend mentioned that there was a meeting she wanted to attend for the study abroad program. It was something that I had never considered, but I decided to go with her, just to lend support.

I left the meeting determined to spend the following spring in France.

The only difficulty would be in convincing my parents that it would be a good opportunity, that I would be fine, that it would be worth it.

One weekend in the fall of 2002, I went back home. I had been thinking about how best to approach my parents, but I didn’t have the guts to do it. I finally cornered my parents in the laundry room, and told them that I wanted to spend the next semester in France. I had the paperwork, I had the information, I had the details. It wouldn’t cost anything extra (except spending money for traveling), and my loans and scholarships would cover everything; I even would get a stipend for food. My parents gave a collective sigh of relief – I later found out that they had caught on to my following them around the house (which I didn’t realize I had even been doing), and thought that I was going to tell them that I was pregnant. The desire to spend a semester abroad was a much easier discussion to have.

I left for France in early January 2003. January 3. I spent 4 months with awesome people; we took classes, drank beer, explored Le Mans, traveled Europe, and ate wonderful food. I saw Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, and multiple parts of Ireland, and it wasn’t enough.

Paris was astounding. The lights, the sounds, the smells, the food – it was all as I had hoped, had expected, had dreamed of for so long – and it was more. I enjoyed the touristy areas more than the less-populated areas, mainly because I had a mere 4 days in Paris, and who can see all of Paris in 4 days? Certainly not I. I saw some things that I will return to (La Tour Eiffel, L’Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, La Cathédrale Notre Dame, La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre), and some that I won’t (Les Catacombs). I would love the opportunity to walk through the streets of Paris with no destination, no deadlines, no need to be somewhere by a certain time.

I wanted more time; I wanted to travel more; I wanted to see more of the world. I had originally planned to extend my stay, but in early April, my grandfather fell and his health took a severe downturn. Instead, I left with the group on April 28th, the original departure date.

It has been just over 10 years now since I left France. I haven’t been back since (though I was able to score incredibly cheap non-stop flights to London from Boston, and spent New Year 2004-2005 in London with my mother); I haven’t been back to Québec City or Montréal, either. I transferred schools (and changed my major again) when I returned from studying abroad, and squeezed a full degree program into two years. I had zero time for French courses (though the school I ended up at didn’t have them anyway, just French 101 and 102 – the basics).

My mother doesn’t speak French anymore. My grandmother passed away 19 years ago, my mother’s brother – the one she spoke French with the most – passed away 17 years ago. There’s nobody for her to speak French with, and she has forgotten most of it.

Life has changed, has interfered.

I no longer speak much French; I have nobody to speak with. I am currently using an app to attempt to brush up on some of my vocabulary, but it’s not the same. I just don’t remember much of the language.

What had always brought me such joy now leads to such an intense longing, such heartache. I watched Midnight in Paris recently, not for the first time. I had purchased it unseen, and I have since watched it numerous times. It is one of my favorites. It reminds me that life is short, but there is such history. Where we walk, many others have walked in the past. Where we live, others have lived. Where we love, others have loved. We will never be the first to do something, nor will we be the last. But watching Midnight in Paris has reminded me that because of choices I have made – choices I would not change for the world – I will not be returning to Paris anytime soon.

I love Paris.

I crave Paris.

But I can’t have Paris.

I will continue to watch Paris in television shows and movies, and read of it in novels. I will continue to admire from afar, and someday… someday, I will return.

On healing – 2 weeks plus 2 days

Just over two weeks out, and a lot has changed since last Wednesday. I saw the doc first thing Thursday morning, and he (at first) didn’t even realize that there was any reason for me to be in other than that my cast was coming off; he thought it was my normal appointment. Apparently everything looked good? Once I mentioned that I was in because of the discoloration and issues I was having with the hot toes and funky colored phalanges, he looked at how long it had been since surgery and recanted a few statements; I was no longer allowed to move the foot/ankle like he had originally said (need to wait one more week) and I am not yet allowed to  put some weight on the foot (again, need to wait until next weekend).  However, both things happening this coming week are significantly sooner than I thought they would be.

The cast came off, and I’m in a walking boot – because everything looks so good, he skipped the splint and went right to the boot.

Walking boot

Walking boot

This boot is significantly larger than the other one I had been wearing before surgery. It goes up a lot higher on my leg, and is a lot more sturdy. I definitely feel like I’ll have an easier time with this one than the other one. I have to sleep with this on for a while, so it’s awkward and frustrating, but what can you do. It’s better than nothing, I guess. Better than going backwards. Better than the infection I thought I had.

The discoloration and warmth in my toes is due to the fact that I have swelling in my ankle, and when I stand up, the blood pools in my toes, and due to the extra fluid from the swelling, has a more difficult time working its way back up my leg. It makes sense. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself (seriously, not being sarcastic at all).

My ankle has been bothering me more frequently lately than originally anticipated, and I have been relying on the meds more than I thought I would still be. I’ve been trying to use Aleve more than the painkillers, but between the increased pain (because of the cast coming off) and the muscle spasms that have begun to happen more frequently, the pain is still pretty bad. I hate taking the painkillers and the meds for the spasms because they knock me on my ass – within 20 minutes of taking the painkillers (with food or without) my short-term memory is shot and I can’t form much of a cohesive sentence. It lasts for a good 2 hours or so. I’m currently scheduled to return to work on Wednesday (working from home for another 6-8 weeks), but I don’t know that I will be able to. I sure as hell can’t work on pain meds. My original plan was to start back April 22, giving me another full week, but it’s not that easy – I’m at the mercy of the short-term disability company, and so far, they want me back on Wednesday. I’ll be speaking with them either Monday or Tuesday to plead my case, but I’ll be getting the doctor’s “return-to-work” date before that. I need my doc to approve when I can return before I am allowed to start working again, and I need it in writing. We shall see.

Friday everything pretty much came to a head. I realized that it has been a full two months since I left the house of my own accord – since I drove last – since I worked in the office. I feel like I have absolutely zero independence. I rely on my husband for everything – preparing my food, making sure I don’t fall while bathing, taking care of munchkin. And I lost it. I cried for a good hour, just trying to get my frustrations out. I knew this would happen, because I’m incredibly independent; I always have been. I’m ready to be able to walk again, to drive again, to leave the house and grab a gallon of milk if we need one. I want to drop munchkin off at daycare, I want to get back to my normal, everyday routine. I miss it. I miss not needing to wake my husband up in the middle of the night if munchkin needs something or if I need to pee – shouldn’t I be able to do that on my own? But I can’t get to my crutches without falling out of bed. So I need him to get them for me, so I don’t hurt myself again. As thankful as I am to have the help, I feel guilty – there’s so much more that he needs to do because of my injury, because of my joints not working correctly. I need to get over this feeling of guilt. I have been apologizing too much.

When I was very pregnant with my son, my mother kept telling me one thing over and over again, and I think that it pretty much (in a roundabout way) applies here too, so here it is (paraphrased): every day/hour/moment that passes in my recovery is another day/hour/moment closer to being back where I want to be. It’s one less moment I have to get through, it’s one less moment I need to worry about. Once it’s done, it’s done.

Two weeks and two days down. At this point, I don’t know how much time is left until I’m back in the old routine, but at this point, in the long run, it’s two weeks and two days less than the total. I’m headed in the right direction. I can do this. I have to do this. I’ll get through it.

On healing – 2 weeks minus 2 days

I’m almost two weeks out from surgery. Things have been going great. I have my cast. I have the medications I need for pain, for muscle spasms, and for nausea. I have been following instructions: staying off of it completely, and exclusively relying on the crutches to get me around. I have been elevating whenever I can. I do not get my cast wet. I do not overdo it.

I noticed a few days ago that the one of my toes is completely numb. I assume it’s from the incision and needing to cut through a nerve. It’s a weird feeling, but nothing I didn’t expect. The feeling could come back, or it may not. It may partially return; I have no idea. I just need to wait and see.

I have noticed a few other things lately that I have been brushing off as “normal” and as me overreacting. This afternoon, however, I noticed something that caused me to turn around, sit back down on the couch, and call the doctor: two of my toes were extremely red and hot, and I was having burning in the area of two of my incisions and a deep throbbing in my ankle joint. Because I didn’t call until 4:15pm and the office closes at 4:30 (I have impeccable timing), I have an appointment for 8:45 tomorrow morning. I have a feeling they’ll be a) removing my sutures and b) replacing my cast.

After the last time I had surgery when I had an infection, I’m beyond terrified that it will happen again. I’m trying to be as positive as I can be, but I seriously don’t know what is going on. I don’t think it’s supposed to feel like it does. I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

One thing I never mentioned last week when I posted were the difficulties I have been having being as hands-off as I have needed to be. Because I am unable to do most things that require me to walk or to be on my feet at all, I have not been able to help out around the house as much as I would like, and I am unable to care for munchkin as I have done since he was born. It’s incredibly difficult to not bawl my eyes out every single time something needs to be done that I can’t do watch my husband do all the major things around the house and not feel incredibly useless as if I’m leaving all the crap jobs work for him to do. I feel horrible, and I keep apologizing, and I think it’s driving him nuts; I’ve stopped as much as I can, until I lose my shit again and start sobbing and then I apologize again and again until I feel incredibly badly about something that has gone wrong or something I used to exclusively do. It’s tough. I am having a really hard time being so hands-off. I keep losing my shit, and it drives me crazy. Additionally, I can’t drive – which means that every single time that I need to go to the doctor, my husband has to bring me. And munchkin has been sick a lot the last few weeks – the week I had surgery (surgery was a Friday), he was out sick from school Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then Friday he was with my parents. Last week he was sent home by 9am on Friday. This week he was sent home sick today. Because he has been out, my husband has also had to be out because I can’t watch munchkin myself. I can’t pick him up out of his crib when I need to, I can’t put him into his highchair when I need to, I can’t cook him food, I can’t really do all too much for him. So for every day that munchkin is not in school, we have to pay as if he is there – but my husband also can’t work. It’s the most annoying thing in the world, right now. It’s incredibly frustrating.

So this healing thing is obnoxious and frustrating and nowhere near a barrel of laughs; I’m just waiting for the next can of worms to open up. Not impressed, and we’ll see. Maybe that other shoe won’t drop after all. I just need to take it one day at a time. One.Day.at.a.Time.

On healing – one week out

***If you’re grossed out by incisions, don’t look at the photos. Or just skip this post. They’re not bad, but just a heads up.***

This past Friday, I had surgery on my ankle.

Surgery was a little different than we had expected – some things that were expected to be done were not done, some other things that were not expected to be done were done. I have an extra scar: two on the outside of my ankle, one on the inside of my ankle. More than expected.

But let me back up.

Friday morning we had to be at the hospital by 6:15. AM. Yes, I asked to clarify that when they told me the arrival time. Thursday night we had met my mother halfway between their house and ours – and she took munchkin back to their house, to watch him for the first weekend after surgery. It was a huge weight off of our shoulders. Friday we were up and out early – up at 445, out by 530. We’re not morning people, so it was impressive. We got to the hospital, and they said I was up first. They brought me back to the holding room, where I changed into the fashionable johnny and waited for what was next. They filled me in on the details – they were going to put in an IV for general anesthesia, but in addition to that, they were going to put in a nerve block – numb me below the knee along the nerve line. In addition to extra comfort immediately following surgery, the catheter for the nerve block would stay in for a couple days, giving me up to two to three days more of a numb leg. I was all for it.

I woke up after surgery, still a bit out of it, to find my leg looking like this:

My leg, post surgery, with catheter above the knee.

My leg, post surgery, with catheter above the knee.

I had no idea what had happened. I had no idea what was going on. I was very out of it. After a couple hours (I think? I was out of it!) of coming out of the anesthesia and getting used to the bulk of my leg – leg wrapped in gauze, topped with a splint, topped with more gauze, only to be topped with an ace wrap – we were released to go back home. In that couple hours, I have little memory of any conversations that I had or anything I was told. All I knew was that the parts of my ankle that needed to be repaired were in fact fixed, and there were no issues during surgery. That’s all that I needed to know.

One thing that I remember clearly is sticking with me, as it refers back to my previous concerns about this fixing it, but only temporarily – by fixing the extra thing that was found when the doctor opened up my ankle, he has reduced the chances of this happening again. And from what he said, the chances of it happening again were reduced significantly. It’s a huge sigh of relief there. Now I just have to make sure that it holds true.

After a weekend of recuperating, taking my painkillers every 4.5-5 hours, sleeping, and watching movies, my sister (the youngest of the four of us) and munchkin came home. I was so happy to see him. I got in a couple quick snuggles and he went to bed. Shortly after, sister C and I went to sleep as well. Monday munchkin went to school and J went to work; sister C and I watched movies (a really bad one that we only made it 20 minutes of the way through, and then two good ones), chatted, and just hung out. It was really relaxing, and was great to hang out with her. We don’t do it often enough.

Tuesday morning I had my followup with the doctor, and they had told me I would be getting a hard cast, though I had no idea if the difference in surgeries would be changing things, changing the plan. We went in, and they took off the wrap and the gauze, and I got my first good look at the incisions and the state of my ankle. I was excited to see it. A little swelling, which was to be expected – a lot of orange, from the iodine/betadine/whatever they used to keep my leg/ankle sterile – and three incisions, instead of just two.

Where they cleaned out the junk - arthroscopic entry.

Where they cleaned out the junk – arthroscopic entry.

Not too bad, but you can see I don’t have much of an ankle, due to the swelling.

The main incisions. Where everything else happened.

The main incisions. Where everything else happened.

They fixed the tendons and removed part of the muscle, which was causing most of the issues.

An overview - the yellow is antibiotic strips. Note the lack of an ankle.

An overview – the yellow is antibiotic strips. Note the lack of an ankle.

After the surprise at realizing I was only 4 days out from surgery because of how good my ankle looks, they stated that it’s obvious I’m staying off of my foot (duh) and following the doc’s orders to elevate (also duh). Seriously… why would anyone NOT follow directions to sit on one’s behind all day and just let the joint heal??? It’s the only smart thing to do, if I want my ankle to work correctly soon. So yeah. It all looked great, and I’m happy to hear that.

Once the poking and prodding was finished, they got me ready to put the cast on.

Note the angle my ankle was at. That was the angle I had been put at after surgery, and I hadn’t moved it. Not a smidge.

Then came the fun part. I had to get my ankle bent to 90* and turned slightly out. Turns out, it wouldn’t move much. I did what I could, but then the medical assistant had to finish it up. It hurt a bit – felt like I was trying to move my ankle through piles of sludge. Thick, concrete-y sludge.

Finally, we got my ankle where it needed to be, and it was casted up. I got blue. It was the only option. But blue is good.

Note the perty blue cast. And my orange toes.

Note the perty blue cast. And my orange toes.

This cast will be on for 2 weeks, and then it will be removed and I’ll be put back into a splint for another 3 weeks.

We took a detour on the way home for the best hot dogs in Maine – Flo’s. Yum. Luckily it wasn’t much of a detour, because I was in pain – we had to drive by it anyway.

That night, my in-laws came over with our nephew so that the boys could play together. Both boys were a bit put-off by the cast, but I think they were able to get over it when they autographed and colored it. They enjoyed that for sure.

autographed cast - lovely artwork!

autographed cast – lovely artwork!

I’m in the cast for two weeks, then back into a splint that will be able to be removed, at which point I will start physical therapy to get my range of motion back – currently, I have virtually zero. It was tough to be able to get my ankle bent to 90*, so I can’t imagine how it’s going to be after 2 more weeks of not being able to move my ankle at all. It’s frozen at this angle pretty well. But since this is the angle that the doc says will help me heal the best, so that’s what I’m doing.

I’m still going to have to stay off of it for the entire time I’m on the cast and in the splint, which will be a total of about 6 weeks. For that time, I need to use crutches. Another concern that I had had was the use of the crutches; last time I had surgery (3.5 years ago) I was 60lbs heavier, and couldn’t support my weight on the crutches. My shoulders couldn’t bear my weight. It was frustrating, it was obnoxious, it was annoying, and seriously – it was demoralizing. It was the heaviest I had ever been, and it was a daily reminder of my failings. Anyway. I have been using the crutches for a week – with absolutely no issues. No problems with my shoulders. No problems with my hands, or with my wrists. No issues climbing the stairs (backwards on my butt) –  last time, my shoulders dislocated. This time, nothing. It’s still early, I understand that – but after a week of absolutely no problems, I’m thrilled. And knocking on wood.

We have had a ton of help since I had surgery, and from the sounds of it, the extra help is going to continue. It’s amazing how awesome people have been. It’s awesome how much help we’ve had. People are amazing.

So far, so good. So far, no problems. So far, provided I keep up with the painkillers, I’m relatively pain-free. It’s good. It’s freeing. It’s a relief – and it’s motivating. I think that these last few pounds – once I can actually work out again, biking and walking – will be coming off sooner rather than later. And my ankle is healing. The turning won’t happen as frequently. It will be better. And it’s great.