Thursday, September 17, 2009

Barely Coping

This broken leg thing brings way more pain, trouble and inconvenience than you might imagine.

Poor C. Peevie. When he arrived home on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, he moved awkwardly and painfully. His temporary cast seemed bulky, but provided only a minimum of stability and protection. Even a slight bump of the pillow under his leg made him cry out.

The parents-on-call in Door County for that first night after The Break managed C. Peevie's pain medications assiduously and conservatively. HarMom checked on him frequently, timed his doses down to the millisecond, and doled out a single Vicodin every six hours. The narcotic would take the edge off for few hours, but the last two hours would bring increasing discomfort and pain.

"I think it's good for him to try to manage some of the pain without medication, don't you?" she asked. Actually, I don't. She was more concerned about the dangers of addiction than about pain. I'm the opposite, probably because I'm so pain averse myself that I request nitrous oxide at the dentist. For cleanings.

So when C. Peevie started showing signs of pain, and then more signs, and then overtly complaining, I made the executive decision to increase his dose and his frequency, to one-and-a-half VicoLalas every five hours. "Stay ahead of the pain" is my motto.

Even with the increased dose, though, we'd spend hours every day before and after each dose managing his pain and discomfort. The nights were the worst.

Instead of starting high school on September 8, C. Peevie went to the orthopedic surgeon. We were so glad he didn't need surgery, but Dr. Ortho said the swelling would not allow him to put on a permanent cast yet. He prescribed a wheelchair for safer mobility, and I spent the next two days making phone calls and researching medical equipment companies online. Once the wheelchair arrived, C. Peevie spent hours doing wheelies, crashing into furniture and walls, and getting in the way.

Pain levels fluctuated over the next week. By Thursday and Friday, C. Peevie was managing his pain with OTC helpers; but over the weekend, pain returned with a vengeance and he was back on the VicoDuh. Between the pain of the break, the mysterious pain in his heel and Achilles tendon, and his fidgety, can't-find-a-comfortable-position-on-the-couch vexation, the two of us were getting an intermittent total of four hours of sleep per night.

Still not able to go to school, during the day C. Peevie watched Frasier DVDs incessantly, played video games, and re-read Harry Potter for the zillionth time. Every time he needed to pee, I'd lift his leg off the mound of pillows supporting it and place it gently on the ground. I'd help him up from the couch and hover while he crutched himself to the bathroom.

"You don't need to help him so much," instructed my friend Dr. Vespa, a physical therapist. She taught him how to get up, sit down, and maneuver himself on crutches. "He can do it. His balance is better than yours or mine," she assured me. So I backed off a little, grateful for the reprieve, but still anxious that he'd topple over.

On Sunday at ridiculous o'clock a.m., I was waiting for him to finish in the bathroom, when I heard a slide-crash-thud. "Mom!" he called out with fear and desperation in his voice, but I was already there. He had somehow fallen while standing in front of the sink, and was half-kneeling, half-lying on the floor, with his broken leg stuck out in front and his good leg--if it was still good-- scrunched underneath him.

"Get me up!" he said urgently. "Get me up, Mom!" I lifted him up from under the arms and sat him down on the toilet seat.

"Sit!" I said. "Just stay there. I'll go get the wheelchair." I wheeled him back to the couch and laid him down. Scared and suffering, he shook and whimpered for half an hour afterward. So did I. He had no idea why he fell.

The whole process of coping with a kid with a broken tibia is exhausting and stressful. I was telling my therapist that I feel like I'm crashing: I complain all the time, and overnight I went from feeling like I was getting healthier and stronger and happier to feeling like I was just hanging on by a piece of used dental floss.

"This is a family crisis," he said simply. "You are dealing with a crisis."

This simple explanation brought enlightenment and ironically, relief. A crisis? I wondered. It never occurred to me that this was a crisis, because it does not involve life and death. But it makes sense; everything has been affected, inconvenienced, complicated. Hearing the word "crisis" caused a paradigm shift that allowed me to give myself a break. In a period of crisis, it's OK if all I can do is barely keep my head above water.

And that's what I'm doing: Ordering lots of carry-out. Doing just enough laundry to avoid having to turn my underwear inside out. Washing just enough dishes to avoid food poisoning. Taking just enough showers to avoid smelling like butt.

Most of the time.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ms. Peevie, I loved your post. I broke my tibia and fibula in middle school. I don't think we had VicoRaRa's way back then. Just tylenol. What was really funny after reading your post was the Google ad at the bottom of the page for The Malibu Addiction Treatment Center. How funny. You and C hang in there.

Gregg L.

E. Peevie said...

Thanks, GreggL. Don't know how you found The Green Room, but I checked out your website and learned that you are based in Sister Bay, WI.

When Mr. Peevie and I went there a few years ago, we asked our host where to eat, and he recommended the Sister Bay Bowl. We thought to ourselves, "Great! Asian food!"

We were amused to find out that Sister Bay Bowl is actually a bowling alley and supper club. We were pleasantly surprised that they served excellent whitefish.

boneyard said...

E: I truly relate to the family crisis concept. QT and I have been in a family crisis for the majority of our marriage (7 yrs last Thurs). You and C hang in there, it does become routine. Please check out my blog here Love ya

E. Peevie said...

Boneyard, Thanks for the encouragement. I checked out your blog, and managed to find one or two things to agree with!