Thursday, March 26, 2009
My feet continue to improve every day. My left foot and toes are probably more flexible than they've ever been, except for the biggest and littlest toes. Those two, which spent time pressed against the frozen sides of my ski boots, were hit the hardest on that foot and they're moving a lot slower in the return to flexibility. They do flex pretty well in relation to the foot, and I'm getting more movement in the joints halfway down the toe but it's pretty slow.
My right foot is also improving, though it's been a bit swollen the last couple days from the long work days. Yesterday was a little better though as I did a better job of propping my foot on the desk and lowering my chair. I also spent a little time on the floor with my feet on a chair as I read some tips on grantwriting. All of the toes are flexing pretty well where they join the foot, though the foot itself is still really rigid. The other joints in those toes remain pretty stiff. Part of the issue though is that it's still bandaged all day, so it's hard to tell exactly where things are at with respect to true flexibility. I should probably do a better job of testing those things during wound care when I can actually see them.
Most of the skin has peeled off my left hand and the nails are starting to loosen up, especially the thumb. My hand should act as a good primer for dealing with my feet. The skin that appears once all the layers of old, damaged skin slough off is this super-thin, clear, ultra-sensitive stuff that looks pink because it sits right above the bloodvessels and everything. The bad news is that it's so sensitive that gripping anything of consequence hurts too much and in that respect it leaves me one-handed in many cases. The good news is that it's healing up pretty quick and I can already see the growth of a new layer of skin that is starting to form on top of this one. I can only hope things progress as quickly on my feet.
All in all, things continue to improve and I feel like I'm moving back into normal life a little more each week. Tomorrow I pick up Denver, the animal that I was dogsitting prior to my little unplanned hiatus from the real world. All of my neighbors and coworkers have been incredibly helpful coordinating care for Denver and his house. Lately one of the neighbors' babysitters has been staying at the house and taking care of the enormous and active black lab. But, she's leaving town and I'm taking the big fellah back. He and Sophie get along pretty well so that will be nice. Hopefully this snow will melt soon so that he doesn't constantly lose tennis balls.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
The good news down here in Salt Lake is that I won't be needing a skin graft on my foot -- so I'm headed home! I'm not exactly surprised as I thought my foot was looking pretty good, but I'm sure as heck relieved. I wasn't looking forward to another week or two in the ICU, even though the nurses and their assistants are as good as they could be.
It's been a great weekend hanging out with my brother, Cole Hanley, and Andrew Cole as well as Andrew's fiancee whose name I better not try to spell. They've all been just wonderful and made what could have been a tough weekend into a nice vacation.
We're off to the airport now on a beautiful 60 degree and sunny day. It'll be kind of a long time to hang out at the airport, but that's cool. I just can't wait to be back in Jackson! I don't have to come back down here for about a month, so that's pretty nice too!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Do not expect any pictures of my feet though. We've started taking pictures during wound care this week to give us a frame of reference to compare and look for progress. The thing is, they're pretty shocking, even to us. There's something about taking the foot out of context and shooting a picture that makes it look pretty rough. In addition, while we're seeing significant progress in terms of avoiding a skin graft, that doesn't mean they look pretty. We're still talking about pretty damaged feet. So, if you're one of those types who want to see that, let me know and I can email you pics. I just don't think they're appropriate or necessary to post here.
This week has been absolutely flying by! It's been so great to be home. Everything is more comfortable, I've got a therapy dog 24/7, and the food is to die for. Lori has been spoiling me with wonderful and tasty meals. I've also branched out on my beverages by adding herbal tea and water in the evenings to the gatorade that accounted for 100% of my fluid intake in the hospital. I was directed to get in as many calories as I could while in the hospital, so they discouraged drinking plain water. The notion was that I needed every bit of energy possible to regrow me some skin. Well, I think I'm still doing alright with that, but the warm tea is so nice in the mornings and evenings, and I was begging for cavities by drinking powerade at 3am. In any case, it just feels a bit more refined to imbibe more than one substance, which is an important feeling for a guy who can grow a 'stache like that.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Yesterday Lori and I made the trek from Salt Lake back to Jackson. Everything went as smoothly as can be expected, which was nice. We did the dressing change on my feet bright and early and the nursing staff was just wonderful about packing up supplies, procuring a wheelchair to get me downstairs, and all of the million little details that come with getting discharged from the hospital. The night staff isn't typically involved in wound care which made it extra special that they were so helpful in getting that done at 6am.
The airport staff was also wicked helpful, though it turns out that neither airport uses wheelchairs that can elevate my foot. Oh well, we managed. Lori was just amazing as well -- lugging bags loaded down with books and food that have been pouring into the hospital while also pushing me through a super-crowded airport. It was good for me to get a preview of what I'll have to navigate on my own next week.
The plane ride itself was uneventful. Luckily there were plenty of empty seats so Lori and I had a whole row, both sides of the aisle, to ourselves. That allowed me to crank my foot up onto the seat next to me which minimized the discomfort. Anytime my right foot is below my heart there's some pain, and the lower it gets the higher the pain. My mantra therefore is, elevate, elevate, elevate.
So, we got into Jackson, came home, and I promptly passed out on the couch. The fatigue I was feeling from that 1 hr flight was right up there with the jet lag of flying to Europe. It worked out though, as the computer guy hadn't made it over to fix the internet over the weekend. He came over that afternoon, and by the time things were up and running I was having short periods of consciousness interspersed with uncontrollable napping.
We ran through wound care again before we went to bed, since we decided that evenings were going to work much better for us than mornings. I think that there's been a ton of progress over the past few days. The sort of dead yellow layer has peeled off in a large area and revealed a pink/purple patch of skin with lots of spots where blood is coming through. It was difficult to tell in the light whether we were looking at something healthy or not so I don't want to get too optimistic. There's also another patch that remains yellow with some brown and green splotches. Anyway, so we're going to do the dressing change in better light tonight so that we can see what we're looking at.
So I've got the day to do work and be supervised by Nurse Sophie (pictured above). She's taking her duties quite seriously and doesn't appear willing to leave my personal space anytime soon. It's awful nice to be home. I slept through the night for the first time since I went into the hospital. The furniture is also a heck of a lot comfier than my hospital bed or a wheelchair. In fact, it's so comfy that staying awake is going to continue to be a battle. Oh well, it's worth it. Being back in the Tetons has given me an amazing sense of peace and calmness that I haven't felt in over two weeks. I can't imagine that that won't help with healing.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
P.O. Box 4534
Jackson, WY 83001
475 W Kelly
Jackson, WY 83001
PLEASE NOTE: All U.S. mail must be sent to the P.O. Box -- there is no mail delivery to street addresses in Jackson. ONLY use the street address for something like UPS.
My apologies to everyone that has asked for this info in the last couple days that I haven't responded to, it's just been a little hectic getting everything ready to go here. Thanks so much to everyone and I'll let you know how the travel experience goes.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Travel will be interesting. I managed to book a one-way ticket on the same flight that Lori is taking home on Monday morning, so that's cool. I'm borrowing a pair of crutches from the hospital for the week, then will return them. Lori has been in touch with a friend about borrowing a pair to use later, which is great. I'm not sure how it's going to feel to sit on a plane for an hour with my leg hanging down. I used the real toilet last night and just that length of time with my leg dangling was excruciating. I'm sure I'll be able to prop it up or pull it onto my lap or something though.
I haven't figured out yet how I'm going to get back down here. If I can score a flight as cheap as Lori's next weekend, like heading in Saturday then coming back Monday, that's probably the best thing I could do. Then, even if they decide to go ahead and graft after all, I can just pay a change fee and pick a day to come home. I wish I could drive, but I really can't imagine hanging my foot over the gas pedal for five hours, especially without being able to take the painkillers. In any case, I suppose I could theoretically do it, I just don't want to and probably wouldn't be allowed to. Some things are just bad ideas.
As intimidating as it is to be traveling and having to take care of myself (with beautiful help), it's pretty darn exciting to be headed home. I've tested the healing power of the Tetons for the soul time and time again and always find myself rejuvenated. We'll just have to see if there's a similar power that aids physical healing. Most importantly though, I'll be in a familiar place with a fantastic person and there can't be anything better for healing than that. I won't be able to stop smiling either.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
On Monday, the doc will put me on the graft schedule for next week. It appears that they make those schedules weekly so that's the next opportunity to make that happen. In the meantime, I'll be taking in my antibiotics as they annihilate the infection in my foot. The doc will also be watching the top of my foot for progress. There's a chance, though I'm not holding my breath, that the skin may recover and even the graft may become unneccessary. In any case, he'll keep watching that up until the time of the operation and we can cancel at any time if need be, so that's cool.
While I'm hanging out and waiting for the antibiotics to do their thing and my foot to steal some skin from my hip, everything else will be healing like crazy, so by the time I get out of here I should be much better able to take care of myself than if I left earlier. My left foot and hand are in really good shape with the open wounds healing real nicely. I'll lose my thumbnail and my big toenail for sure and perhaps a few others, but that's not too out of the ordinary for me. I'm hoping the skin on my right foot will start closing up in the healthier areas soon and get a little easier to take care of.
Physical therapy continues to be a nice diversion during the day. Lately I've been burning my upright time by walking to my showers and back, so fewer laps around the unit. Because of the foot infection (which also causes extraordinary pain when my foot hangs down) they want to discourage too much use of the walker at the moment. But, I've been cranking away on the hand bike, free weights (10 pound max, what kinda gym is this?) and some thera-bands. I'm also getting pretty slick at piloting my wheelchair through the halls, though I don't think I'm quite ready to give it a try on the stairs yet.
Every time the dressings come off my feet and I see the old black sharpie lines indicating where this story could have ended, I just shake my head and try to wrap my brain around just how lucky I've been. I don't think it has all sunk in yet and I'm not sure that it ever will. But, even if I can't quite grasp the magnitude of my luck I can't help but be overwhelmed with thankfulness for the amazing staff down here as well as in Jackson for being aware of the options in Salt Lake. The support from family and friends continues to blow me away as well. I can't say this enough, thank you.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
I've got an infection in my right foot. It's not an awesome thing because it's pretty painful, but it's also nothing to worry about in the big picture of my foot. They decided to put me on some pretty intense antibiotics since I was in the hospital anyway and they didn't want to mess around with anything lingering. One of the things about this particular antibiotic is that it's hard to use with a regular IV. So, they've got me on what they call a "pick line." It's essentially a narrow catheter running through a blood vessel from my arm and into my chest, emptying out directly into an artery right above the heart. The complications of this are all in the insertion, and that was super smooth so I'm good to go.
The most difficult part of this is how, if at all, it impacts my length of stay here. I totally understand that they need to wait and see how I react to things before they can give a date for when I might get to go home. That said, it's just hard to sit here and not have any idea how soon I can go home. I'll just have to deal with it though. I figure if I just keep healing as fast as I can I'll be out of here soon enough. In the meantime, everything else will just continue to heal and I'll just be that much more mobile by the time I get out.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I also got in a bit more mileage with the walker today. I was still restricted to 5 minutes, but I made it two laps around the unit. It was pretty difficult and it definitely got me sweating and my heartrate elevated. I was still just on my left heel -- the right is awful sore still. With a clear path and both feet, I bet I can make 4 laps in five minutes using the walker. My arms are going to suffer though -- it's pretty tough on them. Oh well.
As Lori gave a great recap of the weekend, I won't bore you all with that. Everything is improving, clearly, and that's the real news here I guess. On Sunday evening, Andrew Cole and his fiancee, who is totally amazing, brought over a salad to complement dinner. Cole has been sooo great since I've been here -- I don't know what it would have been like without him. In addition, the salad was simply magnificent.
As we were eating one of the nurses on the floor who I hadn't met and my nurse came in to confess that they had found the blog and read it. The nurse I didn't know yet, Mary, seemed awful sheepish about it but I thought it was pretty funny. We traced the connection through a mutual friend of Jen Sparks. Anyway, it was a nice conversation to help cap off a great weekend. It's funny how easy it is to forget what you're going through when you've got great company.
It was great to meet Morgan, who I now adore. I know how busy he is with saving the world with his great intelligence so it was touching that he came to see Chris. I know how much Chris loved seeing him and catching up on old times. We hung out that night until Morgan had to catch the train back to his hotel and the nursing staff was nice enough to let me crash with Chris. Nothing like sleeping in a twin bed again, makes you feel 7. They come in at all hours of the night to draw blood, get vitals and just poke him. The staff there has been just amazing.
I got kicked out of the room around 6:45 for staff change and I went and grabbed another hour of sleep in the back of my truck. I got back up there around 8:30 and was able to go in with Chris for his shower and change his bandages. I want to see this as much as possible so I will feel somewhat prepared when he comes home. They told me to eat something before going in because some people pass out when the bandages come off. This was not music to my ears as I get a little swimmy when it comes to blood and wounds but there was no needles so that was a positive. I got to glove up, then had to put on a mask, hair cover thing and plastic gown which doesn't help the swimmy effect to be in a plastic gown trapping all your body heat in your head.
I have seen Chris's feet from the beginning and I was prepared for the worst veiwing but really it wasn't that bad. Yes, they do look like the anatomy books pictures with the transparent pages where you turn back the skin, fascia, muscle, etc. But once you get over that, they look like feet, minus skin.
I was put in charge of washing his hair and beard, which I did and then I had to re-bandage his hands which look really good. You take strips of this nonstretch webbing and put this goup on it to keep the wound moist (hate that word) and then wrap it around his finger and then put this stretchy webbing over it. Then it all gets sewn together. Not hard at all. The feet look a little more involved but I can get that down too. The whole process using me and two other nurses took about 20 minutes. Chris had a rash on his torso that they think is from the laundered sheets so they will get him organic, touchy feely sheets from now on. Chris didn't need the narcotics this time when they changed the bandages which is great progress.
After the shower, Morgan came back by and we all participated in a lap around the nurses station for PT. Chris used a walker and could walk on the heel of his left foot only, but he got around the station, waved to his old room and made it back to his bed. I pushed the IV, Morgan made sure he didn't fall and there were two other nurses on each side. He did great but said the blood rushing to his feet is really painful and he had a little sweat on his brow when he finished. There were no aid stations on the route and he might have gotten a little dehydrated (kidding).
We had burritos for lunch and while we were waiting for the burritos to come, Chris had some other another random lunch. After we ate and watched a few Seinfeld episodes, we loaded Chris into the wheelchair and got outside. It wasn't sunny but it was warm, in the low 50s which felt great. We walked outside for about 20 minutes and the nurse had to come let us back in because with the hospital construction, it was hard to find a way back in.
I had to leave around 4 for the five hour drive home and said my goodbyes to Morgan and Chris. It's hard not being there all the time but he's at a good hospital and they are taking wonderful care of him. Now my focus is on when he gets to come home and told Chris to start asking. We are still not sure what he will get to keep but progress is made every day.
I think Chris will start trying to get some work done remotely this week. I brought him some cards that people sent (thank you!) and a care package from our good friends, Kris and Julie. We didn't get to do the coloring book that they put in there but I am pretty sure that Chris has already gotten into it today. Thanks again to all our family and friends who have been undying in their support and help. Chris and I will there for all of you anytime you need us.
So it's another week of work and twice daily calls to find out what's new with Chris. Hope everyone is doing well.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I know Chris is super sick of being stuck in bed most of the time (notice I didn't use the "t-word") although he is having the chance to visit the outdoors a little bit nowadays. Above is a picture of "young Chris" at our Grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary party on their farm in WI (thanks Camille). Notice how Chris just plops down where ever he feels like it to take a quick nap. He used to fall asleep on the gym floor at my basketball games so he can pretty much sleep through anything I guess...