Sunday, May 11, 2008


I'm okay. I'm not in the hospital, and the fevers are steadily decreasing; the wound is still draining, but less all the time. I'm able to be active around every other day now. A deep MRSA infection knocks a person off their feet. That little nothing-looking bit of cellulitis will likely keep me sick for weeks to come. That's life.

No, this time it's Walter.

About ten days ago - a week ago Thursday - he was in Dallas making a delivery. It was a very windy day. As he entered the customer's office, the wind grabbed the door out of his hands and slammed it back into him. Right into his sternum. Right into his titanium mesh.

I tried and tried to get a good image of this sternum business for you, but couldn't. I did surf up a YouTube video of the sternum-cracking procedure used in his open heart surgery. I can see or discuss just about anything, medical-wise, but I found myself unable to watch that to the end. I did check, and it didn't seem to include the part where they bring the two cut halves of the sternum back together and tie it all up with the titanium.

Basically, the procedure leaves the two halves of the cracked-open sternum floating. They're connected with metal, but not necessarily with re-grown bone, even this year and a half later. Leaving the cut sternum flexible is done to allow the patient to breathe. Apparently if they completely close it back together, the act of breathing becomes too difficult as the inflated lungs press on the broken bone.

The door slammed into this delicately pulled together bone. It set off a chain reaction of medical and other events.

His heart, thank God, is fine. What he has is an orthopedic problem.

The bone was badly bruised. On top of that, it seems to have set off an inflammatory condition in his ribs. They're very tender even to touch, all the way around to his back.

If you've ever had a broken rib, even just a hairline fracture, you know how hard it gets to breathe. Every breath can feel like a knife stab, like pneumonia does. Now make it most of your ribs, from the front to the back, and toss in a broken sternum held together with wires, which had a big metal-framed door slammed into it with some force, making blood vessels burst and bleed into bruises.

Yeah. He still can't breathe or talk very well, and making him laugh is a mean thing to do.

Even before the injury, we'd had four short paychecks in a row. With this, we'll have at least two more. Add in that I paid the mortgage earlier than I'd like to have done, on dire threats from Chase, wiping out everything in the budget and some funds that weren't actually there yet. So Comcast, seeing their bill wasn't paid, rudely shut off my internet. Those of you who saw I was not only not posting but not commenting or answering my emails - I wasn't dead, just doing without internet access for a bit. I scraped a payment together, so I'm back.

Walter, though...This is not good. I have a sense it might be the end of his driving career.

The problem with driving once this sort of thing occurs is that basically, you can't. The steering wheel is huge and so is the gearshift; they require some force and stretching to work them. The seatbelt presses right into the damaged sternum as the driver moves or the truck lurches about. That doesn't help.

Surely we don't want a driver compromised this way to be handling a huge piece of heavy equipment like a big rig.

But the idiot doc at the worker's comp clinic had no conception of what goes into truck driving, and after a lot of hemming and hawing, said he thought it could be done. With *restrictions.*

The restrictions meant things like Walter not raising his hands higher than his shoulders, or using more than 10 pounds of force. This doesn't add up: You need to be able to do those in order to drive a rig. Oh - and he can't use the pain meds the same doctor prescribed.

But Walter said he'd try, and went back on the road. Why? Because the fact that the doc wouldn't get over his fascination with *driving but with restrictions* means that this was NOT considered a full Worker's Comp case.


His medical bills are covered on Worker's Comp, but since he supposedly can drive a truck by magically not using force or raising his arms, there's no salary compensation. Having endured a day without food and ten days on low food because there was simply no money to buy food with, Walter didn't think living with no income was a such good idea.

The only reason I didn't pitch a huge fit is because his transmission is sort of *automatic.* It's not the same as in a car - he still has to work the gears to some extent - but it certainly helps cut down on his continuing damage.

I bet he'll half kill himself driving his current load to the New Orleans area, then give it up. All the healing that's taken place will be compromised by this drive.

Worse yet, that inflammatory condition won't necessarily stop at all. On a far lesser scale, it's been brewing in him as a chronic problem for some time. The cardiologist has been monitoring it. Walter hadn't made it to an orthopedist yet to see what can be done.

The underlying chronic inflammation may have helped *inspire* his immune system to ramp up into this new acute flare-up. Whether the flare-up is temporary or chronic, only time will tell.

Should he be unable to continue driving because of the pain, I made him promise to use his legal right to a second opinion by a doctor of his choosing. New Orleans has excellent medical care available; he should be able to find a good orthopedist. We'll see what happens from there.

Everything I've read and heard says it normally takes a month or so to heal just from the bone bruising injury he took. That's without having a broken sternum to begin with, and without that inflammatory condition. So if he can't drive, I'll go out and get him and bring him home.

Please excuse the worried tone of this post. I'm trying hard to look forward to a possible trip to New Orleans. I lived there for three years and I need to go back. I need to touch base with it, see it now, after the hurricane. Eat some real gumbo, some shrimp etouffee.

I'm trying to look forward to that, and stop looking over my shoulder for Trouble #3.


SeaPhoenix said...

Jiminy Christmas...when it rains, it pours at the K house! Ramping up the lil' red crosses for ye both!

p.s.: I'll try to send a pic of the "our" newborn soon!

Pretty Lady said...

Glad to have you back. Take GOOD care of yourself, and if you have to make the trip, you can do it. Walter can do it too.

John P. McCann said...

Have a safe trip.

As always, you're in our prayers.

Livey said...

I will keep Walter in my prayers.

Desert Cat said...

If I told you that you've already had #3, and that your Saturn dying was actually #1, would that help?

Jean said...

Are the fires near you?
Be careful!

k said...

Walter asks me to say Thank you! for all your truly good wishes. He's actually getting better, finally. What a relief.

Desert Cat, you're RIGHT! :-O !!! OMG! Okay. Now I can chill. *whew!!!*

Jean, I had to stay inside a few days last week. In fact, the fires played a part in deciding not to bring Walter home immediately. Apparently even small amounts of smoke can be very bad, very fast, for Heart Attack Man. That's especially true for those who have coronary insufficiency due to spasms in the vessels, like what landed him back in cardio ICU last October. His vessels were perfectly clear, the bypass ones were beautiful.

The wind has changed, and the smoke from those fires - the Lake Okeechobee ones - has shifted. But the fires are still growing, so while the wind is easterly, I'm working outside as fast as I can.

The Broward fires are under control or out as I write this. So far they've been either arson or accident. They got them in time, so we're okay for now. How long that lasts...we'll see.

I hope you're okay out there. The really bad ones (Palm Bay etc.), over 60 houses burned up already, are still on the east coast, from what I hear, but I think they had some going not too far from you as well.

That year the whole state was on fire is still in my memory too. I wanted to go out and see, take pix, bring water, all that - and I couldn't, I just couldn't breathe.

Conditions are too favorable now. I have that same uneasiness you're probably watching the path of an incoming hurricane.