Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Surgery number two

I wrote this yesterday but had trouble with the photo. Mr. Houdini (above) did not cooperate last night and both IVs were eventually removed after D'Arcy had had enough of holding Ben down. We told them the hand IV wouldn't work (he also had one in his foot). We told them he had a phobia. We asked for sedation. We told them it would be bad. But the bad had to happen before it came out.

Surgery number two

This is a photo I took of Ben waiting for his surgery this morning. For a brief moment he forgot about it and laughed at the movie he was watching.

He didn't look anything like this in the recovery room. He lost blood during the surgery and was white, puffy and fragile. Luckily things improved and he avoided a blood transfusion.

The surgeons discovered that part of his hip bone had broken at the place where the screws came out of the hardware installed two weeks ago. Apparently Ben's bones are so soft and weak they feel like an elderly person's.

They put in a new plate and wrapped him in a non-removable fibreglass leg and body cast.

From my earlier posts you'll remember that when he first had hip surgery two weeks ago he was in a removable, two-piece clamshell-like cast. The cast wasn't seen as essential, but it now is! Because of the weakness of his bones we can't risk another failure so he'll be in his cast for six weeks.

We had a dramatic but relatively painless descent from our house on the hill this morning.

Last Thursday when Ben was taken back to hospital because of acute pain, the EMS folks placed him on what's called a scoop stretcher, which is two aluminum boards with side handles. They snap together under the patient. This was used because a regular stretcher couldn't be carried up and down our 29 steps.

It was incredibly painful for him to lie on that hard surface, strapped down, and by the time he got to hospital he'd reached his limit. He was lying on his stomach but they wouldn't let him roll over and wouldn't transfer him to a padded stretcher that was standing right beside him.

The orthopedic clinic was bursting at the seams with waiting kids and parents and he screamed while the person at the desk did papework for his x-ray. Then he was wheeled to wait in the x-ray hall but again was not allowed to be unstrapped. He continued to cry and thrash around hard against the straps and metal that bound him.

The x-ray showed a screw was dislodged and my husband is convinced that Ben damaged the hip hardware during that fiasco.

When it was decided Ben would have the revisionary surgery today, I was petrified that the same EMS folks would insist on transporting him on a scoop stretcher. I talked to the dispatchers at length about my concerns.

Our experience this morning was like night and day. When they arrived, the paramedics questioned why the other folks had put Ben on the scoop and instead suggested a canvas material that acted like a hammock when carried by metal rods that were threaded through its sides.

These two gentlemen were so gentle with Ben. As they positioned him on the canvas, to our surprise, five giant men in overalls trooped upstairs and into the bedroom. Were they part of some backup EMS team?

Six men carried Ben down our stairs and at the bottom the hammock was placed on a padded stretcher. D'Arcy accompanied Ben in the ambulance and I followed behind.

I didn't realize who these burly guys were till I drove up the street behind the ambulance and saw a fire truck parked there. Unbeknownst to us, the firefighters had been called in!

As we drove along a busy Toronto street during rush-hour, I realized the ambulance ahead had its hazard lights on, and was going at a snail's pace. A couple of times it swerved way into the oncoming lane, as if to pass an accident, but as I followed I realized the driver was dodging potholes. A number of times it pulled off to the side of the road. Was the driver trying to get my attention? Was something wrong?

Soon I was four cars ahead of it and I began to worry that perhaps Ben was screaming bloody murder because he hadn't been able to have his heavy-duty pain meds on time (we were told the last dose could be given at 6 a.m.). At a red light I put the car in park, got out and ran the few cars back to the ambulance with the narcotics in my hand. I was stunned when the paramedic rolled down the window and explained that Ben was just fine. He was driving that slowly on purpose. He didn't want Ben to feel the bumps.

As soon as we got to the surgical unit they put Ben on a padded stretcher and instead of lifting him up to extricate the canvas material he was lying on, they slid out the rods and said Ben could keep the canvas. They didn't want to disturb him. They also left Ben wrapped in an orange EMS sheet and blanket (we had mentioned earlier that Ben's favourite holiday is Halloween).

Tonight in his room on the unit Ben was sleeping and his face still seemed puffy, but his cheeks were pink.

He managed to crack his eyes open for a second and signed "When off?" as in "When can I take them off" about the two IVs and, of course, the gigantic cast.

It's so hard to see him go through this again and wonder what he's thinking inside. He refused the sedative we hoped would make him drowsy before going to the OR so I again donned the infection-control "bunny suit" and went in.

I liked the anesthetists so much better this time – they really cared. Still, it wasn't easy, Ben cried and I wondered about how forcing these procedures on him was breaking his spirit.


Oh my what he has to go through. Your writing is beautiful. Your a great mama bear getting him the best EMS care and those fire fighter to help. EMS sounds so caring on this trip back to the hospital. He deserves all the TLC.

Wow. I'm exhausted reading this after what you've already been through. Big round of applause for the EMS team to think ahead, and put Ben's critical needs as the priority.

Sending our family's well wishes!

This whole post has me sitting here, weeping -- for the pain that Ben has, for the beautiful vision of the firefighters (I'm ridiculously enamored of firemen!) and for your last devastating line. I won't believe that --

And PS - I've never seen an up close photo of Ben. A handsome fellow you've got there.

Tears in my eyes--at Ben's ongoing suffering (and yours) as well as the blessing of those wonderful EMTs and firefighters. I once wrote a whole blog post about the grace of a talented EMT who managed to give my daughter an IV while both she and he were lying on hot blacktop (where my daughter had just had a scooter accident with two major broken bones). The IV went in practically painlessly and allowed her to get pain meds on the spot before she was moved at all. That EMT is my hero. Such small things, but so big too.

Blessings on all of you. And when all this is over, let me know if you have any questions about fragile "elderly" bones. We know an awful lot about those in our household!

so glad things went well. I wish they could get it right every time!


Hi everyone -- thanks so much for your kind messages and support. Yes Ellen, I would love your advice in future re "senior" bones and thank you for sharing the beautiful story about your daughter and the paramedic.

Good news. After his bad night last night, I asked for Ben's pain meds to be upped. He was being given the same dose of hydromorphone that he was getting two weeks after his first surgery. In other words, nothing had been increased to account for the second surgery. So the hydromorphone was doubled and within 15 minutes of the dose, you could see his whole little body start to let go. We're hoping for a better night tonight! Soon we will be off to Bloorview where Ben will be an inpatient. I will keep you posted.

Ellen, you will have to write a guest blog for us about the bone condition you share with your daughter!

Just read your most recent post. For better or for worse, I think it will take more than this to break Ben's spirit. And yours, for that matter. I don't mean to say that you all aren't fragile, or that this whole ordeal hasn't wounded you. Just that the strength and resilience your whole family--and those around you, I love those EMTs!--demonstrate will not go without a fight. So I will pray that Ben's spirit, and yours, will be restored and even strengthened.

Thanks for giving some of that same strength to those of us who read this blog.

Amy Julia

have been thinking of you these past days... particularly when walking along the river and feeling its healing power & watching the foliage burst with new life- sending it your way.

This is a difficult post to read, and much more difficult for you all to live through.
Ben's been through a lot, you have all been through a lot, it's exhausting and beyond my own personal experience. But I believe once you get to the other side of this surgery (and 6wks of cast) it will fade into memory, and his spirit and your spirit will still be there shining away.

(firefighters do conjure up a certain image which warms the heart!)

We are thinking of Ben, and hoping his pain gets better. You and D are AMAZING!! And acts of professionalism (so rare) must be a small blessing...

Thinking of you as always Weezie and sweet Ben too. I'm hanging on to the moments of grace in your post...the care of the EMS team, the comfort of the orange blanket...all the small things that make the unbearable somehow bearable.