Watch Out for the Curveballs
Copyright © Robert L J Borg 2017
It’s Friday 21st July – 6.20am. I had a fitful night; in and out of sleep, relieving myself into that horrid bottle at least five times. At one point I had to buzz the nurse to empty it just so I could fill it again.
It was a long night.
The ice bag lost its effect somewhere around 2am. I found that I was willing myself to exercise my leg for fear of developing any DVTs [Deep Vein Thrombosis – a blood clot]. For some reason only known to French medical professionals they don’t like using compression stockings [TEDs] after surgery. When I was in recovery yesterday I asked for one to be fitted and was told they don’t use them until I got up and walked – D’oh!!
A few years ago I was diagnosed with a medical condition known as Factor V Leiden by Dr Christopher Ward who is a haematology specialist at the Royal North Shore Hospital at St Leonards, Sydney. I had first experienced a blood clot in my left leg which was approximately 12cm in July 2007. In May that year my wife, Sandra and me had traveled to Alice Springs to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. We then traveled by coach to Uluru a journey of six hours. It was a lovely holiday – but it came at a price: the blood clot was a result of my leg being immobilized for all that time, even though there were some short breaks to ‘stretch’ our legs. Anyway the ‘cure’ was to take a course of Warfarin – not a nice medication, and one which forces you to continually have regular blood tests to make sure all is okay. Five years later, I experienced another blood clot this time in my right leg, one that was 15cm long!
Nowadays, whenever I travel any distance greater than 3 hours I always put on some TEDs, and especially when I fly regardless of how long the flight is. Australian hospitals always put them on patients when they are admitted.
So coming back to the present, as obviously the French don’t follow such procedure I found myself massaging my calves below the knee as far down as I could reach, and flexing and rotating my feet just to get the circulation going.
This is certainly an experience I don’t want to repeat so I may have to put up with the pain in my right hip for a few more years.
The night nurse knocked on the door at 5.30am and emptied my bottle so I could fill it again and then played around with the drips. I asked her if I could get up this morning as I desperately needed a shower and go to the loo – not necessarily in that order. The last time I shifted my bowels was Wednesday morning, the day before surgery. Again I was surprised that not one nurse had asked me the question since surgery of this bodily function. I’m also keen to have a decent shave – I hate looking scruffy.
I’m amazed at the number of patients all recovering from orthopaedic surgery of one sort or another. Despite living in such a beautiful part of the world, there are still a lot of sick people around.
Going back to my request to get up today so that they can also change the sheets as they will no doubt be diving into the laundry basket by themselves the moment I vacate the bed. I was told I would have to wait the surgeon’s visit at around 8am. At this point in time I only have an hour and fifteen minutes to go.
Daylight has revealed itself and it looks like it’s going to be another beautiful day. I doubt I’ll be allowed to venture outside yet, this being day one after surgery – but one lives in hope.
I shall resume quill to paper after the doctor’s visit.
It’s 7.55am and the morning nurses have shown their lovely faces just now; and I seriously do mean lovely. Had one of them shaved me yesterday I don’t think I would have been able to control Mister Doodle!! One of them took a sample of my blood. She said if the platelets were okay I might be able to get up. I thought to myself “if you’d put TEDS on my legs that would ensure the platelets would be okay reducing the risk of developing DVTs” Instead I smiled and for once kept my mouth shut – especially as she was the one holding the needle.
Her colleague had entered the room behind her and was patiently waiting to attack my body – wishful thinking on my part; but attack it she did with a syringe full of the drug Lovenox straight into my stomach. She then changed the spent fluid drips with new ones, and left me an anti-inflammatory pill. I questioned her about the Lovenox wondering when I could revert back on to the Pradaxa – at least it is a pill, so much easier to administer and no regular blood tests necessary. She told me it was still too dangerous a drug to switch back to.
Medical practitioners – you love them but you can also hate them.
When the threat of DVTs had been finally controlled in Australia and I was taken off the Warfarin by Dr Christopher Ward. He told me it would now be safe just to take an aspirin a day to ensure the blood would remain thin. The nice thing about aspirin it is a safe drug and if you have to come off it to allow for surgery or a tooth extraction then you can do so without the need of any substitute.
Since leaving Australia early last year I have noticed how the pain in my legs had increased to a point where my walking was being impaired. I was beginning to shuffle rather than walk and it was making me extremely tired. I’m sure it has nothing to do with my new geographical location but everything to do with the reduced amount of walking I was doing. In Oz I was still working, and hence commuting. When you live out in the suburbs and work in the city there’s a fair bit of walking involved as I’m sure a lot of people would agree. In other words I was more active than now, where being retired to a small village-type town where everything is so close, the need for walking great distances has been drastically reduced.
So, as I said earlier in this saga, I got to the point of wanting to do something about the hips once and for all. So what better way to start the New Year than to deal with the offending problem? I was told by a friend, who runs a small hotel in Golfe Juan – http://www.hotel-leprovence.fr/ that she was to have one of her hips done by Dr Bohic later this year and that he had in fact successfully replaced her partner’s knee. Therefore armed with her recommendation I made an appointment to see my General Practitioner.
As usual, before I had a chance to make my request for a referral letter, he examined me. Took my weight: too heavy at 90kg, blood pressure: a bit low, heart beat: too fast at 130 beats/minute and I was at rest at the time [at rest the pulse rate should only be around 60-70 beats per minute].
He picked up the phone and called to make an urgent appointment for me with a Cardiologist.
Hang on!! I only came in here for a referral letter, said I. The hips can wait, the heart can’t, said he. That will be €25 thank you. Sod it!! Oh yes, a note to my fellow Australians do you remember when we all whined about having to pay $5 to visit our GP?
So before I knew it I was stripped to my underpants lying on the cardiologist’s examination table with electrodes all over me while he performed an ECG test. Yup! Definitely too fast AND it skips, said he. Yours would too if all you wanted was to have your hips fixed and now someone is saying you are at risk of having a major cardiac event, thought I. I had told him of my past cardiac events, of the angiogram that went horribly wrong in 1999 – but that’s another story. If you’re interested you can find it on this blog at https://tomewriter.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/pinpoints-of-light/
In this instance however this guy, Dr Houssem MASMOUDI told me something too technical for me to comprehend and then proceeded to conduct a full ultrasound at which he confirmed that my valves weren’t coordinating properly. In other words they weren’t closing when they should because instead of having two electrodes in my heart to coordinate the valves I apparently have a few extra ones sending out confusing signals. Nothing is ever straight forward with me is it? I can’t wait for the future when we all evolve into bodiless beings. He said the best solution was for a surgeon to stick a laser through a catheter in my groin and cauterize the offending electrodes. Sounds too much like an angiogram to me – “No thanks” said I, the last one almost killed me. I’ll wait and let nature take its course.
Having re-dressed I sat in the chair opposite him in his office while he wrote out a couple of prescriptions for medication I would need to buy and start using without delay. They certainly like to put the fear of God into you these people!! That will be €160.42 thank you. WTF!!!
I left his office stunned in more ways than one and went across the road to the pharmacy to purchase the necessary drugs. €130 Thank you… no wonder people are having heart attacks at these prices – I really must sort out my medical insurance a.s.a.p.
And so began treatment for my heart. Aspirin was immediately stopped and the Pradaxa and Amiodarone started; the former twice a day and the latter once a day. I then went around the corner to my insurance broker and took out a policy for health cover with AXA. The premium was/is €59,57 per month, and worth every cent of it [no I haven’t got it wrong, unlike any other normal country that puts a dot after the dollars or pounds followed by the cents, in France they use a comma after the Euro followed by the cents – don’t ask me why, it’s just the way they do things here – they also use it in percentages].
The only snag with Pradaxa however is [once I began to read about it] that once you’re on it you can NEVER come off it completely as there is no antidote for it. What you have to do is apply a similar drug which has an antidote capability such as Lovenox. I used to have to self-administer them in Australia after surgery, but I can’t remember the name of the drug. All I do remember is that it leaves some nasty bruising, and it was the same this time around.
My GP was still refusing to give me the referral letter unless I got approval from the cardiologist. This done I got the letter and here we are…
Okay, coming back to the present – I hope I’m not confusing you too much with my time-hopping, but it’s the only way I can explain to you why some things are happening to me right now.
So, no Pradaxa then… I didn’t get any of my other daily meds either. I expect they’ll bring them later with breakfast [if it appears] – I could murder a cup of tea, but I’d be pushing my luck if I asked.
The Lovenox went in without a pinch – it’s good when you know what you are doing. Unlike my own attempts on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning; the injection has to be administered twice a day, but on Wednesday I thought bugger it; if they want it administered in the evening they can do it. They did.
Hello! As I’m writing this I’m suddenly becoming light-headed. Perhaps it’s the stuff in the drip she’s just administered. I’m going to stop writing for a while.
To Be Continued…
RLB – Tomewriter