It’s Gonna be a Bumpy Rigatoni…

So here it is, ladies and gentlemen! It’s been sixteen days since I went in for my above the knee amputation. I couldn’t post last week because I was so high on painkillers and other drugs for phantom pain that I would fall asleep mid-sentence, so you can imagine what my typing looked like.

Everything is progressing along nicely, but here are the quick and dirty facts for the morbidly curious:

  • The surgery took 7.5 hours, way longer than expected! This is for two reasons: there was one big unknown factor going into this operation, and that was the original rod and pins holding the break together. They took longer to remove than anticipated. The second unknown was the state of the broken bone and skin flap, which leads me to…
  • The size of the residual limb! We were told to be grateful if I got 6 inches. Turns out I had some god damn miracle workers in the operating theater! The bone was totally viable above the break and astoundingly the plastic surgeon was able to REBUILD MY THIGH using skin and muscle from my calf, this is known as a “fillet flap”, seriously! He even used an artery to give it a natural blood supply! With all that work and wizardry I am happy to reveal I got nearly twelve inches of residual limb!!
  • I lost five litres of blood during surgery, so not only was I bloated like a fatty pork sausage but now I’m anemic and it has taken ten days for my labs to settle down.
  • For the first week I would literally fall asleep mid sentence from all the drugs, but I’m happy to report I’m almost drug free!
  • I didn’t poop for well over nine days. I think anxiety before the surgery shut all of my systems down.
  • I got moved to rehab on day six (but only because I finally pooped).

So much has happened in the past two weeks that would make for great material I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with communication. As I mentioned I was on some pretty hard-hitting drugs, but it wasn’t the drugs for painkillers that knocked me on my ass, it was the drugs they were using to control the phantom pain! Otherwise known as nerve pain, it’s very much a real part of amputation, and the drugs to counter the effects really made me a hot mess. For the first few days all social media communications were handled by my lovely editor Chris but eventually he gave my phone back because he thought I was ready.

I was not.

If there is one thing I learned from those texts it’s that drugs are bad!!

You know what I also learned, you can take a bad experience and make fun of it on your blog so GUYS…do I have a story for you!

On Wednesday night around 5pm, I was transferred to rehab here at the hospital. I was already moderately sad about the transfer, for two reasons: 1) I was leaving behind the amazing nurses and patient care technicians of the 12th floor, which felt like the hospital equivalent of the Ritz Carlton. 2) The rehab location I was going to was rumored to be a high geriatric population, with very few amputees. Turns out that was correct: I was in fact the only amputee.

But that’s not the best part.

The night I transferred I was moved in to a room with an elderly woman who had had a stroke. I got a personal escort from my 12th floor nurses to the 9th floor to meet my new nurse, who is lovely. It was like a weekend custody handover.

But that’s not the best part.

The intake begins and I’m my usual chatty self, and “intake” requires giving the nurse all of my backstory. So I’m going through all the details of my life from the day I came out of my mom’s vagina, to present day. This takes quite a bit of time, and as we are talking I notice the daughter of the elderly stroke patient storm out of the room on four separate occasions.

But that’s not the best part.

This is the best part.

On the fifth trip storming out, she rips back my privacy curtain and screams “SHUT UP, SHUT UP, YOU ARE AN EGOMANIAC, MY MOTHER IS TRYING TO REST!”

Let me add some context: I was speaking fairly low, because this is a hospital and I am not an animal, and this was a full medical intake. I wasn’t just randomly chit chatting with the nurse for an hour, I was doing only as I had been asked as per legal hospital requirements.

Oh, and the woman looked like the grandmother from The Visit.

I was so shocked as it was happening, all I could say after I picked my mouth up off the floor was “You’re a mean girl”. I didn’t even say it: I squeaked it. Damn drugs, they dumbed me down! Otherwise I would have told her off real good. Turns out she’d done similar things to everyone before me, and continued to do it to everyone after me (spoiler: they moved me out of that room within the hour).

I did get to watch her in rehab dressed in flowing robes trying desperately to push her mother up and down a ramp in a wheelchair: that was fun.

Other than that little hiccup, my stay here at NYU Langone has been fantastic. The 12th floor recovery was a dream and 9th floor rehab is hard work but loads of fun. The nurses are stellar and every time I have to say goodbye to one I cry. The PT and OT therapists that have taught me how to be whole again and let me cry on their shoulders (shout out to Tiara Tara).

Today I packed my bags and headed home, but if it weren’t for all the lovely men and women who cared for me, I don’t know where I would be and for that I am grateful.

I’m also grateful for YOU: each and everyone of you who have reached out with texts, emails, via Facebook or Instagram. Every message was read and it definitely help me push through on the days I was feeling like I couldn’t do anymore.  For that I thank you.

The journey isn’t over now. As a matter of fact. it’s just beginning. So please keep following along until I get to my first 5k run!