So. Last September, huntingospray and I went to Greece. Whilst there, I picked up some sort of infection in an open wound (no more than the size of a small spot, really). I tried to deal with it by self care (the Greek equivalent of Savlon, and plasters), but by the time we got back to England it was getting bad. I resisted for a few days, but the Saturday after we got back, I ended up going into hospital. There, they said that the infection was deep, they were worried it might have got into the bone, and I ended up having to have the big toe on my right foot amputated.
Soon after that, I was discharged, and On a couple of occasions the district nurses came round to dress the wound, but after that I had to start going to the local GP surgery to have it dealt with. Fortunately, despite the amputation I was able to hobble around fairly easily, so this wasn't an issue.
Unfortunately, once I got to the GP, the nurse took one look at the wound and said she thought it was still infected. One of the doctors confirmed this, and said I needed to get into hospital ASAP.
So off I trotted, by myself and without the car (it's three buses from Hemel to Watford... 😒), and I was re-admitted. I think I was there for about a week, a week which was characterised, as I recall, by being pumped with antibiotics and being sick. However, eventually I was declared fit to leave.
But when I got back home, I found myself still being sick, so I eventually went into hospital again. Again I was there for a week before they discharged me. Sarah was unhappy with this, as she felt that not enough had been done to get to the root of the problem or, indeed, to actually cure me. Which was proved by the fact that when I got home, I started throwing up again. It got to the point where I was throwing up rather violently (one of the district nurses who visited said this was not good and I should seek help).
On one occasion, I was going to the toilet. I stood up after I'd finished to wash my hands, and...the next thing I knew, I was flat on my back on the bathroom floor. As far as I can tell, I'd fainted, or at least temporarily lost consciousness. Fortunately, I'd fallen in such a way that the top half of my body was in the open bathroom doorway, but as Sarah pointed out if I'd fallen differently (or heck, if we were in the habit of closing the door, which we're not unless we have visitors), I could have cracked my head and things could have been much worse.
After a couple more days of being sick, and at least one more fainting episode (again involving the loo...), I was re-admitted to hospital, travelling by non emergency ambulance (getting me in there was fun - I fell to the pavement one more time before they could get me in).
And the nightmare began. I was in AAU at first, then transferred to a side room, then finally a ward. I was still being sick, sometimes horribly so, but no real explanation was achieved except that it was probably the result of gastroparesis. Worse, was the fact that I was still having fainting/collapsing episodes. It reached the point where I had to have a member of nursing staff take me - initially by hand, and ultimately by wheelchair - to the toilet.
Worse still, it reached the point where anything I ate just came right up again, and I didn't even need to go to the loo. The only form of relieving myself I was able, or needed, to do was peeing into a little cardboard pot. Nothing was coming out of the other end.
Worse still, I reached the point where, thanks to the fainting/collapsing episodes, I was too scared to walk. I don't know if I actually couldn't walk, but I effectively rendered myself bed bound.
Apparently I was in a terrible state during this time. Sarah was apparently worried she'd lose me, as was my mum. There were occasions where I hoped I'd die, quite frankly. The turning point, in one respect, came when I was told that they were considering putting some sort of tube down me. I'm not saying that everything was psychsomatic or something, but somehow I was suddenly able to open my bowels, as the medical staff euphemistically put it - although this had to be done using a bedpan - and I was able to eat without being horribly sick.
Also, thanks to the physio team, I finally got out of bed and started walking, slowly and unsteadily at first, but things eventually reached the point where they were happy to discharge me.
Between the start of October and the end of January I was in hospital for the better part of 3½ months, on and off. I hoped that would be the end of it. I settled into a routine of getting the dressing on my toe wound changed regularly, first by the district nurses and then, as my mobility gradually improved, at the GP surgery. Things were going well.
Until, over the Easter holidays, I was unable to get the drsssing changed, partly because the GP surgery was closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday, and also because Sarah and I were going to Harrogate for Eastercon.
So, the Wednesday before Easter, I went to the surgery to get the dressing changed. No problem.
The Wednesday after Easter, I went to the surgery to get the dressing changed. The nurse took one look at it and declared that I had gangrene. The middle toe on the right foot was basically dead with the infection, and the toes either side were going bad. Two doctors confirmed the diagnosis and said I had to get to hospital straight away.
I've no idea what had happened, although theorising I suspect I may have damaged the foot at some time on the Wednesday before Easter when I did a long drive. I actually started being sick again the Thursday morning just before we set off for EasterCon, and that was to continue for the next few days. I also started coming out in red blotchy irritable itchy patches on my skin pretty much all over. At the time we put it down to an allergic reaction to some biological washing detergent, maybe in the sheets at the hotel, but in hindsight maybe that and the vomiting were the result of the gangrene.
So, off I went to hospital, where they put me on some heavy duty antibiotics to reduce the infection and to salvage as much as my foot as possible. They eventually, however, made the decision that the only way forward was to remove the whole foot, a below the knee amputation.
To say that I was petrified out of my tiny mind would be an understatement, but to be honest, there was so little time between the initial declaration that my foot would be removed, and the actual operation (just two days) that I didn't have time to think about it. They said it would happen, it happened, at the time I'd have done anything to stop it happening...but it was the only way forward.
Since the operation, though...I have, quite literally, felt better than I've done for ages. I wonder if the infection that developed in Greece, and whatever led to the gangrene, may have been there lurking inside me for ages, resulting in the horrible vomiting (and when I say for ages...I had a couple of vomiting episodes in January/February last year which led to some brief hospitalisations, and another back in October 2014 which led to me being in for over a week). As well as sickness, I've long had a problem with exhaustion, but that seems to have dissipated. I haven't been sick for several days, I'm eating normally, I'm feeling, despite the loss of a foot, really good in myself. Amputating my foot may have been an extreme measure, but it seems to have done the trick in terms of finally clearing me of infection and getting me back to something approaching normal.
Of course, I'm a bit scared about what the future holds - crutches, wheelchair, prosthesis, adjustments at home, changes to the way I do things. But - because despite my depression, it's the sort of person I am - I'm being philosophical about this. What will be, will be. Sarah and I will do what we need to do. We'll cope. Somehow, whatever it takes, we'll cope.
And, as people will have noticed, I'm also handling this with a sense of humour, because...well, you've got to, haven't you?
This has just been a bit of a précis of what's happened, and some speculation about stuff. If you've got this far, thanks for reading. Thanks also to all my friends and family for being so amazingly supportive of both me and Sarah at this incredibly difficult time. Depending on how the physio goes, I expect to be in here until about the end of April before being allowed home. Until then, I'd love to receive visitors. You will find me happy, chipper, probably sitting up in bed reading, browsing Facebook, or watching videos. Or possibly doing physio exercises. 😕 But yes, it would be lovely to see friendly faces. I'm currently in Flaunden Ward, Bay 4, Bed 6, Watford General Hospital, Level 5, and visiting hours are 1:00pm - 9:00pm.
Cheery bye, folks. 🙂
Right. The above was written on 20th April, when I was still in hospital. I was released on 14th May, since when I've been mostly mastering the art of maneuvring around our house in a wheelchair. Started off with one on loan from the British Red Cross (had a puncture in one of the wheels, and had to take it to a bicycle repair shop to get that fixed!); then another British Red Cross one because we only had the first one on loan for six weeks; then finally my own wheelchair, from Millbrook. The new one was interesting, because the seat is slightly higher than the previous ones, and also it's slightly wider than the other ones had been. It was already a bit challenging to get through some of the doorframes in the house (Sarah had had to remove the doors to make them wide enough as it was), and the new one makes it more so, but still manageable, just about. As I've joked - getting round the house would be a lot easier if it wasn't for the house getting in the way.
Unfortunately, not long after being released from hospital, I had a fall, and the stump started bleeding again. It had to be seen by a Doctor, who announced that it was okay at the time he saw it. But over the next few days, it became obvious that a couple of wounds had developed in the stump, and that they were infected. Long story short - the District Nurses were coming round periodically to change the dressing on the stump, but now they started coming round even more often, once a day at one point; and I ended up on antibiotics. The wounds grew to quite a size - probably about a penny, maybe about a ten pence piece, in diameter, and quite deep - it rather squicked me out as they were being packed with something called aquacell, and seeing all this stuff being put into, and then removed from, my leg, was rather unpleasant. I didn't look in great detail.
And then third wound managed to develop, next to the first two. And that got infected too. And I ended up being sick again and back in hospital for a week or so at the start of August (just coinciding with Sarah going off to Raglan Castle with her friends from the Society for Creative Anachronism for their annual "camping out at a Welsh castle for a week-and-a-bit and doing medieval stuff" session. Fortunately, the antibiotics they pumped me with by IV seemed to go a long way towards killing off the remaining infection, and the wounds have cleared up nicely.
I've now been out of hospital again for about a month and a half. The nurses are only coming round twice a week, and I suspect that will go down to once a week in the not too distant future. Life is littered with occasional medical appointments, including trips to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital Limb Fitting Centre - at the moment just to have the wounds reviewed, but when they've cleared up we can progress with getting measured and fitted for a prosthetic leg. Also having physiotherapy sessions with a group of other amputees. And other checkups periodically.
In the meantime, most of my time is spent in the house. Unfortunately, the layout of the house is such that I can't leave it on my own. I can't get out of the back door at all - there's a lip on the doorway, and quite a steep drop down to the patio the other side. The front doors also have lips in the doorway. There's a drop down to the porch, but we've put a ramp there. But someone needs to pull me back down over the two lips to get out of the house, and then push me back over them to get back in. We're looking at getting the doors replaced with ones that are level with the floor/ground, and also changing the front door so that it opens outwards.
So, I'm wheelchair bound and housebound, and although we hope that both of those will change in the future, in the mean time, if anybody I know would like to pay me a visit, you would be more than welcome. PM me or email me for the address and to arrange a good time (but my social calendar is mainly empty!). Company is a great thing. Hugs are also welcome, either electronically or in real life!
Thanks for reading this far. I've probably missed out important stuff. Feel free to ask me questions.