The following is a description of the continuing saga of Caroline’s body renovation from the last blog. Some may have viewed much of this from a previous letter during the experience, but for those who did not have to endure my letter and have never been under the knife, you might find the following of interest.
On New Years Day we set out over the Coquihalla. Overcoming a minor snow storm, we arrived two days before the procedure. We had rented an AirBnB several weeks previously, after being told the event would occur on certain dates and Caroline would likely be in the hospital for a week to 10 days. Once we had completed the booking, however, everything changed. We no longer needed tests two days before surgery and Caroline would more likely be in the hospital only a few days. We had, however, booked a Point Grey home, between Jericho and Kitsilano beaches, and we were committed to spending a two-week holiday in frigid Vancouver. I can think of better places to occupy my time in the dead of winter…..and worse, I guess.
When we arrived, Vancouver was a sea of ice with a further week’s deep freeze expected. Who would have thought? Vancouver seldom experiences temperatures below 0C especially with accompanying snow. To complicate matters, Vancouverites have no idea how to clean streets or drive on ice. The city cleans the main roads but driving or walking on the numerous back streets is a serious challenge. Our street, West 2nd, was so treacherous it was easier to drive than walk. I managed a 9k run my second day even though the temperature only ascending to -7C. I did notice people were shoveling snow off the tennis courts at Kits Beach and one group was having a lively match. I contemplated joining them once the dust settled around Caroline’s procedure. Tennis guys are tough.
On the chosen day we were to rise well before the sun, about 3:30 AM. Our directions were to be at the hospital by 5:30AM for a blood test. Not wishing to expose the world to my less than affable persona before sunrise, I malingered under the cozy blankets until about 4:30 AM, then bolted for the frigid streets. Understandably, Caroline was a bit nervous and possibly awake most of the night. She was, however, looking forward to finally reaching a conclusion to her year of pain and disability.
Navigating the back street ice rinks, we made our way to VGH Admitting, but found the doors locked and a line-up of about 20 people with canes, wheelchairs and one burly man in pajamas. It appeared likely he had experience in such matters. The doors eventually opened whereby we were admitted and took seats. Caroline was called relatively soon and directed to Perioperative Care. In the maze that is Vancouver General, we found our way and were told to take seats in another waiting room until summoned. The room was full and seats were at a premium. In the circumstance of a life altering event, people turn out to be very friendly. I guess there is a common bond in such situations, whereby we seek solace as brothers and sisters in a mutual struggle. We met one man who was loosing his gallbladder that day due to cancer and another who had worked underground in the mines for 30 plus years, but was losing both of his legs to a tumor…a different kind of tumor than Caroline’s. People sat with their loved ones, smiling and chatting nervously. I expect everyone in that room was aware that their lives were about to change, even those not undergoing the surgery.
As we waited, others were called forward to begin their journeys. We waited, and waited….about 2 hours, until finally, a very abrupt woman with absolutely no idea of bedside manner arrived to take a sample of blood from Caroline. It seems, in the inner sanctums of the hospital, there is no modesty or privacy as she did so in the middle of the waiting room among our fellow compatriots. Another hour and we were finally called inside the ominous doors of Perioperative Care.
Perioperative Care was a bustle of activity. There were numerous patients in little alcoves of curtains with two or three people in blue medical-type apparel. Each medical personnel had a clip board whereby they were jotting down their patient’s responses to questions. We were lodged in cubicle 19 and were soon confronted with a lady whose face was covered, I guess, to protect her from us. She asked many of the same questions Caroline had already provided and that were visible in her large binder. I guess they were just confirming they had the right person and information.
As we waited, the former waiting room people, who had entered Perioperative Care before us, were rolled past in their beds, towards their destiny. Eventually, the anesthetist, the assisting doctor, and the surgeon arrived at Caroline’s bedside to discuss the procedure and leave a mark on her leg. I think each one of them actually signed her body. The anesthetist was the most interesting as he provided information and options. The big question was: “Should she have an spinal block or full body anesthesia?” After much deliberation, Miss Caroline, chose to have the spinal block with no mind altering medication. Her stated logic was that two of her children are doctors and they would find it interested to have an insider’s observation of such a procedure. It boggles the mind! Personally I would have opted for total mind alteration.
Eventually, she was attached to a bag of clear fluid, all the questions were asked, all the visitors visited, and she was rolled through the same doors and destination as those before her. I was left standing alone with an empty wheelchair and a green sheet of paper directing me to call a number that would allow me to find my wife after about 4 hours. With vacant wheelchair and green sheet in hand, I set off to catch up on some sleep.
I don’t actually know what happened behind those doors but Caroline’s version will appear in the next post. Her description will certainly be much more interesting than mine because she took no mind altering substance during the time she was absent while no one could be entirely certain of my mental health during those four hours or, some would say, now, for that matter.
The appointed time for my call was 2:00 and I dialed the last number at 1:59. It appeared I was early because they had never heard of her. A nurse told me to call back in about an hour as they would have further instructions at that time. I called again in an hour and got the same nurse. I felt as if I was being a pest, but I had my instructions. The nurse informed me Caroline’s bed was assigned but there was another person presently in that bed. He/she would be moving to the 16th floor, the palliative care unit. Yikes! I was told that once this poor soul was gone (not literally) they would need to have housekeeping clean the area, then order a porter, and Caroline would have to be ready to go, and, finally, she would be transported to T7A room 230b but “that would be a couple more hours….probably….but keep calling back as I was no bother at all.” (What a nice nurse!!)
Setting out to kill another hour, I drove around in Vancouver traffic, risking life and limb, got a car wash, and shopped for dinner. About 90 minutes later I made my third call. She was still missing in action but they had heard of her and were expecting her arrival at any minute. I set out to find a VGH parking spot. Having discovered that the parkade charges were $3.00 per half hour and the morning’s adventure had cost me $20.00 for about 4 hours, I drifted around the glazed backstreets near the hospital. Finding free parking about 3 blocks away, I dragged the entirety of Caroline’s possessions, including electronics, across frozen tundra and ice glazed streets until, taking life in hand, I arrived at the Jimmy Pattison building. As per my instructions I was looking for T7A room 230b but needed to know what that actually meant and the direction of such a location. I approached the hospital information desk, expecting knowledgeable and skilled personnel to immediately direct me to my destination. Enquiring of the 3 young women standing behind the desk who looked very important, I presented my information. Upon their perusal of the evidence I presented, they had no idea what I was talking about. One asked me what kind up procedure my wife was having. I suggested that such knowledge was unnecessary as I had the tower letter, floor number, room number and even bed letter. Eventually they made enquiries of someone who directed me to tower T and floor 7. That seemed logical to me although, the information desk girls seemed to resume their vacuity of mind and delusions of self importance. I hoped they weren’t getting paid.
I arrived at tower T, room 7 and entered room 230. There was a person in bed ‘A’ but no bed ‘B’, and no Miss Caroline. There was only one person in room 230….a private room. The nurse informed me Miss C. had just arrived and was in room 200. Seeking this room, I discovered my missing wife, in a semi-private room for the price of a ward bed. It seems someone had pulled some strings.
Since I have made a short story long, I will not belabor this experience and confirm that I arrived while Miss C. was in jovial discussion with the duty nurse which was possibly influenced by a chemical intervention that she was experiencing. She seemed in very good spirits and almost ready to walk out the door. As it turned out, however, she was not as ebullient after a night’s sleep. At that moment it became apparent, her greatest concern was that VGH did not provide WiFi. She would have to communicate through more primitive means such as voice, telephone or text, but it seemed unlikely her health would be impacted.
Although the surgeon was to call me with the specifics of Caroline’s results, he did not. Caroline, therefore, informed me that the surgeon had informed her, likely during the procedure as she was wide awake, that there was more tumor in the bone than expected and the femur was crumbling. They did not, however, need to replace the knee, which was positive. They were able to graft two bones provided by donors combined with cement, and attach it all together with a metal plate and seven screws. The surgery was deemed a success and she was expected to be capable of gradually increasing pressure on her leg after 6 weeks of recuperation. I was surprised that she did not have a full compliment of pictures taken during the surgery with her iPhone but, I was heartened that, all had progressed as expected.
After a couple of days, she returned to our Kitsilano AirBnB where we enjoyed a luxury holiday of sorts and she had access to her beloved WiFi. I took up my role of waiting on her hand and foot, and a few days later we returned to Kelowna where I provided a similar service, to the extent I have become affectionately known as “Mr. Step and Fetch.” After a few further weeks of convalescence, we began having visions of sailing off on a European river cruise and biking along the Danube. Well maybe not yet, but perhaps, in time!! All is going as planned, the surgery was a success, and Miss C. is well on her way to recovery.
Part 3 is Caroline’s more in depth and, certainly, a more credible account of her procedure.