Friday, January 6, 2012

Knee Surgery

I went to the orthopedic surgeon yesterday and I have to get my left knee replaced. This really comes as no surprise. I have had problems with my knees for years and I have had to go in and get cortisone shots in my left knee every 2 months for over a year now. There is no cartilage in my knee at all. It is bone on bone. The cushion behind my kneecap is gone too. I have bone spurs in the joint and there are a few growing out of the joint, up the side of the knee like boars tusk. Surgery is set for February 20th.

The thought of surgery, frankly, scares the hell out of me. And I don't mean in like a "someone jumps out and says BOO" scare, I mean it SCARES me.. BAD. It terrifies me. Now I know that a lot of you reading this will look at it and say "hell, I've had my knee done or I know someone who had theirs done and it's no big deal".

Well for me it is a big deal. My close friends understand why this is and what happened to me. For those of you that don't, here's why I am a little more than gun shy.

In October of 2007 I had my right knee replaced. It was irreparable. I had 3 arthroscopic surgeries done, Syn-Visc injections, Cortisone shots, etc. The pain had become unbearable. It was bad but not as bad as my left knee has become.

The surgery went well. I was in the hospital for a week and then spent a week in rehab. My therapy was going incredibly well. I was progressing much better than anyone expected. I got to come home after 2 weeks and all looked great.

On November 7th I went to bed feeling o.k. but I woke up in the middle of the night sick. I thought maybe I was coming down with the flu. I was running a fever, was nauseous and couldn't get comfortable. I tried to make it to the bathroom but my knee was bothering me and I ended up falling in the bathroom. Julie had a migraine that night and had taken medicine that had knocked her out. I really didn't think it was to serious so I went back to bed and tried to sleep it off.

As the night wore on the symptoms got worse. I was burning up, vomiting and I was delirious. I finally fell into a very restless sleep sometime around 6am. Julie got up for work at her normal time. Most mornings consisted of her getting up for work and I usually sleep through it. I may wake up but the most intelligent conversation from me resembles that of a caveman like "UG". This morning was no different. She asked me if I was o.k. and I responded with my customary "UG". I was tired, sick and just wanted to sleep. It just didn't occur to me that it could be anything serious. I thought that I just needed rest. To this day it bothers Julie. She beats herself up thinking that there was something that she should have done.

By 9am I realized that this was not just the flu. I called my mom who lives about a mile away to see if she could come help me out. She got to the house about 10 minutes later and I told her that I needed an ambulance. I had dropped the house phone after hanging up with her and she couldn't find it. The only phone that we had was an old disconnected cell phone that the girls played with. It still had a charge and she was able to call 911 with it. Thank God for that little law. By the time the ambulance got here, I was pretty much unconscious. I remember people coming into the room but I don't remember anything else.

One of the employees for the City of Sedgwick called Julie at work and told her that I was being rushed to the hospital and that I was unresponsive. She got to St. Francis as soon as she could. The doctors told her that I was having a total system shutdown, that my body was septic but they didn't know why. Whatever I had was attacking all of my organs causing mass organ failure. They told her that they would do everything that they could but that she should probably start making funeral arrangements because it was doubtful that I would make it through the night. She looked at the doctor and told him that they didn't know who they were dealing with. That there was no way that I would go out like that.

She called all of our friends and family and within an hour a couple of dozen people were outside of my room. I later found out that my best friend and brother Shannon had sat by my bed for several hours a day, every day, holding my hand, talking to me and watching TV. He would stay there with Julie and when Julie couldn't be there, he was. He didn't want me to be alone. He worked nights and would get of at about 4am. He would go home, get a couple of hours of sleep and then come to the hospital. He did this every day for about two months but then had to go out of town for business. My other brother and best friend Alvin was also a constant by my bedside. He heard about me being in the hospital while he himself was in the hospital. He was two floors above me recovering from a heart attack. He had gone to visit his wife and daughter in the Philippines and had a heart attack on the plane. He didn't realize it until he got home. 

For 5 days the doctors told Julie that they were doing everything they could. And everyday they told her to prepare for the worse. She was an emotional wreck. My kidneys and liver had shut down, I was on dialysis, I couldn't breath on my own and I had developed pneumonia. I had contracted rhabdomyolysis, (rhabdo) which is a disease that eats the proteins of your muscles. When muscle is damaged, a protein called myoglobib is released into the bloodstream. It's then filtered out of the body by the kidneys. It then breakdown into substances that can damage the kidney cells. Thus the kidney failure. When one thing went wrong it created a domino affect.

On that 5th day one of the nurses took Julie outside and told her that she needed to get an infectious disease doctor. Julie was stunned. She assumed that they had already assigned me one. She immediately told them to call Dr. Tom Moore. She had heard of him from some other people and was told that he was the head infectious disease Dr. in the state. He was able to make it to the hospital a couple of hours later and after reviewing the test results and lab work he diagnosed me with the MRSA super staph infection, (Methicillin-resistane Staphylococcus aureaus) and that it had gone septic. The MRSA infection is caused by a strain of staph bacteria that become resistant to the antibiotics that are commonly used to treat ordinary staph. MRSA, infections occur in people who have been in hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis centers etc. When it is contracted in these locations, it's known as health care-associated MRSA (HA-MSA). HA-MRSA infections typically are associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, IV tubing or artificial joints. So to put it in layman's terms it is a multi-antibiotical resistant staph infection. Septic MRSA is fatal in 97% of the people that get it.

Dr. Moore immediately took charge and completely changed my treatment. All medications were changed and new procedures put in place. The treatment course that the the hospital had me on was doing nothing to treat the infection. so basically I was just circling the drain. He later told Julie that if he hadn't have changed the treatment schedule and put me on the correct medicines that I would have died within 24hrs.

When I woke up I had no idea where I was, what day it was, what time it was or even how old I was. It was 5 days before my 43rd birthday when I was rushed to the hospital and I had no idea how long it had been. I did know that I couldn't move. I couldn't move my arms, legs or head and my right leg was killing me, I was on a respirator so I couldn't talk and all I saw was a white ceiling and all I heard were machine's beeping. I thought that it was the middle of the night because it was real quiet and no one was in the room but I wasn't sure. I was scared to death.

The next time I woke up Julie was there. She stood over me looking down into my eyes. She looked like an angel. Over time she was able to explain to me what had happened. I had been in a coma and on a respirator for about 3 weeks. The MRSA and rhabdo had devastated my body.

They ended having to replace my right knee five times. Just when they thought they got rid of the infection, it would re-manifest in my knee. They finally had to take my knee out and put in a concrete knee with antibiotic spacer. I had to leave that in for 4 months then go back in and replace it with a new knee. With the muscle loss and the other issues they were unsure whether I would be able to walk again. 

The out-pour of support was incredible. Julie belonged to an online mom's group and she got much needed physical and emotional support from several people that she had never met before. They cooked meals, helped her clean the house, watched the girls so that she could come to the hospital and see me and so on. Our family and friends really stepped up and helped us in every way possible. My brother Larry stepped in and did repairs around the house and built a wheelchair ramp for us.

On November 12th, 2008, my 44th birthday, I was released from rehab and sent home. I was able to walk out of the rehab facility with the aid of a walker.

From October of 2007 to November of 2008, I spent a total of 11 months in hospitals, nursing homes or rehab centers. Over the course of the year I had gone from 460lbs. to 212lbs. I lost about 70% of my muscle mass.

Four years later.....

The side affects from the MRSA are permanent. I am on lifetime antibiotics and numerous other medicines. My memory has been affected and things just don't quite "fire" right. I know what I want to say but can't or I try to name something and can't put a name to it. My lung capacity is about half of what it used to be so I get winded easily. My muscle mass is only about 60% of what it used to be. The rhabdo really messed me up. My speech has been affected. I slur certain words and I can no longer sing, something that I really miss. I used to have a pretty good singing voice. The peripheral neuropathy has worsened so it makes walking very painful and between it and the muscle loss, my balance is bad.

I have been in and out of the hospital with other issues that were caused by the MRSA infection. I have had other surgeries since this and they have gone okay but the fear of this new surgery is weighing on me heavily. I don't have much of a choice. The pain in my knee has become unbearable. I can't keep getting the injections and without them or the surgery I will be in a wheelchair.

This is a different surgeon than the one that I used before and he told me that there have been significant changes in the way that the surgery is performed. They take extra steps to prevent infections that were never used before. The surgery is much less invasive than it was 4 years ago and because of this the hospital and recovery time is less. That sets my mind at ease a bit but I am still very scared. If there was anything else I could do I would. The good news is that it has been over 3 years since I was released with no signs of infection.

I will try to keep everyone updated.

Wish me luck and if you have any spare prayers laying around I could use them.

Thanks everyone.