I’m now a little more than 1 week post-op and am sporting a new Taylor Spatial Frame on my right ankle. Last time, I had Ilazarov frames. My new frame is special in that it has six areas with screws that attach the bottom to middle frame which one turns incrementally each day using a small wrench until the frames, now at a decreasing diagonal to one another, are parallel. This goes on for 15 days total (just 7 left) until the ankle bones are in the desired position. Then I get a flat walking plate on the bottom of my frame which allows me to be weight-bearing as pain allows. The frame itself stays on until at least mid-January, so no driving till I get the frame off and into a walking boot, and even then, am to drive sparingly. I will also have to clean the pin sites – where the metal rods enter my leg and are screwed into the bone – each day with giant q-tips and saline solution. Once I’m able to bear weight and the pin sites have healed up, I will even be able to go swimming (or some form of water aerobics) in chlorinated pools with my fixator. Fortunately, a bus stops just outside of my complex that will take me to a nearby pool.

I only needed to be in the hospital for a couple of days, until the pain was manageable with oral medication alone. Then I could move to a SNF (skilled nursing facility), where I have physical therapy, occupational therapy, and have my metrics like heart rate and blood pressure taken twice or more daily, am fed etc.. I have to admit that I liked dilaudid injections in the hospital a lot – it gives me visions with many sensations, in some of the same ways that physical intimacy can give me experiences of synesthesia. Now I take orally: oxycontin, aspirin, antibiotic, iron and colace. I found the skilled nursing place two weeks in advance which would hold a place for me prior to going in for surgery (this turned out to be a lynchpin in allowing the surgery to move forward), and it’s turned out to be awesome in terms of skilled nursing places, which run the gamut and can really be terrible. Here, I have my own room with a nice view of trees and they leave me mostly to my own devices apart from PT (zooming around on my knee scooter and needing to quit pretty fast from exertion after not being out of bed or have blood pooled in my right foot for so long), taking turns in the wheelchair, walker, and crutches as well, and OT (they have notched up the weight machines and hand weights for me to maintain and improve my good upper body strength). The food is actually good – they offer lots of vegetarian options – and the staff have been really, really nice.

Sleeping can be tricky. My SNF bed is the sort where you can raise the head and foot with buttons. My right foot is propped up on a stack of three pillows with the foot of my bed completely raised at all times to elevate it above my heart. Usually I sleep on my stomach or side, but here I’m forced to sleep on my back or in some really weird pretzel configuration which keeps my right foot elevated on its stack while on one side or the other. The left side seems to work best because I can use my left leg to support the right while folded underneath it up to a point. Also I’ve gotten pretty inventive with the pillows.

I only get to be here as long as insurance allows (they decide each Friday whether I get an additional week or not), which involves some calculus of how well one is improving via PT/OT markers and how much additional improvement the nursing curriculum can offer going forward. It’s a careful line to walk. Ideally, I’d be here until a week or two after I get my walking plate mid-month and have handily mastered stairs, as I have 16 up and down from my apartment. But that is not something which insurance considers. Then the home health people will show up periodically to help me, and I’ll need to go to PT appointments… and cook. I stocked my house with easy meals before leaving, so I will live.

The good thing about bad bone pain is that it’s so easily forgettable. After turning the screws or exertions in PT or OT, it really hurts, but easily solved once my next dose of Oxy kicks in, and it’s not terrible as long as I don’t get behind in the pain meds. Once one is behind with the pain, it can be extremely hard to catch up.

I have found that all of these pain meds also address another ailment, minimizing (though not totally eliminating) the symptoms of PMS, even the very prolonged kind from a late period. On the other hand, the addition of the blood-thinning aspirin turns a manageable creek into a river once it arrives.

I’ve needed to sleep a lot, especially the first 5 days following surgery, and my energy has been really uneven, but have also needed to set my alarm clock to wake up and ring for pain meds every 3 hours to stay on top of the pain. I’ve mostly been reading, just starting up with work again today, as well as my book group. We read A Girl’s Story by Annie Ernaux, which I would describe as aligned with themes common to Fleur Jaeggy’s Sweet Days of Discipline, Lord of the Flies, maybe a little Törleß.

Since I don’t have a TV at home, it was a novelty to have one for a few minutes in my SNF (skilled nursing facility), but the only thing I end up watching is Maddow. Sadly, they seem to have taken Xena off of late-nite TV. However, they do have all of these stations which function as musical streaming stations that offer pieces of trivia as a piece progresses. “Grieg was born on June 15, 1843, in Bergen, Norway.” The light classical station, which I leave on while reading, has really changed the Stimmung of my room.

I’ve actually been savoring the rest and tended solitude I get here, and so haven’t swung the doors open wide for lots of friends to visit until I get home, where I’ll need a little more help. M has come for short visits most days, and one other bike friend who lives around the corner from my SNF. My cat Tinte is staying with M (who moved within a couple of miles of me after selling her condo, so we can still sometimes split Costco shopping etc.) until I’m functional enough to tend to her as well as myself. Unfortunately, they don’t let pets visit the SNF anymore. I do feel that M and I have been able to evolve a really strong, mutually supportive, caring friendship without too much drama, but it will probably be put to the test when either of us starts dating or up with someone new.

My mom generously came out from CO to take me to the hospital and back. That worked, but I’m not sure I’d make the exact same decision again. My mom, though very sweet, tends to worry a lot and become stressed out very easily, I call it her easily frustrated “chicken little” side. It comes from a place of care and concern, but can be really unnerving. For example, with so many unknowns just before she flew in for the surgery (which would be the case with any surgery these days) she suggested I cancel and have surgery when it looked more sure, after all the gears had been put in motion to allow mine to happen if everything aligned with hospital availability. She often second-guesses all my decisions, big and small. Over time, I’ve learned to tune this out and to realize that she just worries. By the time she arrived in Portland, she had worked herself into a state of nervous queasiness which took all day to settle down. Then when the hospital made clear both ahead of time and at drop off that she could not accompany me past the entry, she stood outside the doors until the concierge let her in and tried to convince him to let her go with me, and I had to firmly but gently say see you later. I have not been in touch with my Dad for a couple of years, and it’s been a repeated problem that she tries to intervene, either by pressuring me to suck up to my Dad, or by telling him what she knows about my life. Without asking me, she called my Dad and asked him if all of the medical pieces pertaining to my surgery were normal (he’s a Doctor) and told him everything about it. She did the same thing with my sister, who’s a pediatrician. I’ve asked her again and again to please not do that, and that my health and medical information belongs to me alone to share, that my dad and sister don’t get automatic access just because they’re in medicine, especially if I don’t share with them myself. However, I don’t think she will ever change. She considers it her right because she’s my mother. I pointed out that she was doing this not for me, but because she needed reassurance (I’m capable of asking for a second opinion if I need one) and that I felt she was using me as an excuse to talk to my Dad, which was far more upsetting than helpful to me as I went into surgery. I think I have to just let that go and be careful never to confide in her anything I don’t want my Dad to know too. Which is a shame, but realistic. She spent a couple of days staying in my place as and after I moved to skilled nursing. I had cleaned – vacuumed, changed sheets, cleaned kitchen and bathroom, etc., but my mom is very afraid of germs and dust. So rather than just enjoy some time in the city or at a park after visiting with me, she needed to totally re-clean my entire apartment with all kinds of chemicals. My ex (who is quite tidy) visited to pick up mail and some things for me today and was simply blinded by the extremes my mom had gone to to scrub basically everything. I have to understand this as a form of love, though now I’m almost afraid to live in my own apartment.