Today I went to the hospital because the visiting nurse alarmed me to the fact that a small infection formed at the peak corner of my new hip replacement scar. “No time to waste. You never know how fast an infection can travel. This requires urgent care.” She made a succession of anxiety riddled phone calls to my orthopedic surgeon, the surgeons’ two assistants, the on-call resident and finally my primary care physician. She was determined to resolve the infection in question swiftly.
At first, I felt safe with her determination to find an immediate solution to the problem. Then, as we waited for the return phone calls and she continued to apprise me of the meaning of a spread infection I gradually began to panic. Fortunately, my primary care physician agreed to see me immediately. My husband booked it on his way home from work and then off to the office we went.
“This is indeed an infection.” I was told. “But, not the sort that people with a hip replacement fear. See your surgeon first thing in the morning which he has already agreed to and we will sort this out. Another night of some pain, but nothing scary.” I remembered to breathe again and slowly began to feel contained within my own skin.
The next morning my daughter, my beautiful and compassionate day nurse for the next week or two, drove me to my appointment with the surgeon. He reigns over the orthopedic department at one of Boston’s finest hospitals, and was the mastermind behind the delicate placement of the titanium hip into the depths of my body.
At the information desk, I was told to take the elevator one flight down and go straight down the corridor to his office. My daughter drops me off because the valet parking is temporarily full. “I can manage getting to the doctor’s office,” I told Amy. “Just meet me after you’ve given the car to the valet.”
Hobbling inside with my chrome walker, I felt confident that I could get myself to my doctor’s office without any difficulty. I blew a kiss and one step at a time, off I went. No problem getting to the elevator; a few steps more than anticipated, but I felt strong and able. The elevator doors opened, I got out and there it was “ambulatory care.”
The only problem was that to get to the actual floor where I would find my doctor’s office, I needed to descend about fifteen steep steps and no walker was getting down these steps. I asked a physician getting off the next elevator run, “How do I get to ambulatory care?” He looked at me quizzically and said, “It’s right down these steps.” As he we dashing off I said, “But I have this walker.” I stood in amazement.
Then I summoned the courage to let out a loud “excuse me…” and got the attention of a staff member down that long flight of stairs. “How do I get down?” He said, “It’s easy. Go back on the elevator to the second floor. Go down and across the corridor and take the south elevator to this floor. It’s over there.” He pointed at the place I should end up once I followed all of his other instructions.
I thanked him and in a moment of weakness, regression and self-pity I felt the warm tears streaming down my face. It just felt like there was too much to do when I could hardly walk even with the aid of the walker.
Within a minute or two I regained my composure and reminded myself that I could do this and besides, Amy would be there to laugh and cry about the injustice of those ill-placed steps and the insensitive doctor who couldn’t help a person with a walker. That is just what happened.
My doctor prescribed antibiotics and mitigated my fears imposed by the visiting nurse. After a grim 24 hours, my sense of hope and optimism again returned.
When have you felt helpless?