Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gisborne Hospital. International Orthopedic Surgeons. Titanium Plate.

My stay here at the Gisborne hospital has been interesting. The hospital is pretty modern and very up to date. It is pretty fully staffed, but also not extremely busy, which means that you get pretty close attention. I'm in Ward 9, the orthopedic ward. The first two nights, before my operation, I had a single room, but after the operation, they switched me to a four-bed room, where I am currently the only patient. It seems that many of other patients in the ward are pretty elderly, with injuries from falls, although the nurses said that they do a lot of hip, knee and shoulder replacements here. Being in a more rural area, it's probably a pretty hard life on those farmers. I think that they probably get better attention and care here than at the big hospitals in Auckland.

My operation went well. When I first met the surgeon, he was considering putting on an external frame to hold the bones in place, but after looking at the later set of x-rays, decided that putting in a plate would achieve a better result, since they could fix all of the broken bone pieces in the right place, and was less likely to have any danger of infection or injury, although it was slightly riskier as they had to open my arm at the wrist and move a nerve out of the way. I agreed with his assesment.

This meant that my operation was delayed a day since the titanium plate had to be shipped from Auckland. Friday morning they did the operation. I thought I was going to be able to see it, but I slept through the whole thing. It was a pretty international surgical team. The primary surgeon was from South Africa and he was assisted by surgeons from India and Somalia. The anesthesiologist (called an anaethsetist here) was a woman from Wisconsin. She did a really careful job of explaining what she was going to do, essentially blocking the nerves in my arm and giving me a sedative (which I had also been given in Te Puia, when I was first treated). She said that since I was an American, she'd give me the long list of possible risks and side-effects, since that was what they had to do in the US now.

Anyway, the operation took about an hour and a quarter and I missed the whole thing, waking up in the recovery room. The nerve block was quite effective as I couldn't move my left arm at all, but it all came back in a couple of hours.

It was quite painful last night and I'd get pain relief every three hours or so, when I'd wake up with the wrist really hurting. The nurses were a little careful in their treatment. Although I was cleared to get morphine, they would come in and first give me Panadol and codeine and then come back about 5 minutes later and ask if it was any better. It wasn't, so then they'd give me morphine, the pain would go away and I'd sleep for another three hours or so.

I also had to keep the arm raised all night, which was a bit of a pain to get comfortable with and I had a lot of swelling on the back of my hand and around my thumb. They actually cut away part or the bandage to relieve the tightness (I have pictures). Rather than a full cast, they use a partial cast called a backslab. It essentially goes around half of my arm an wrist to immobilize it. but they fasten it in place with bandages. This also means that they have access to the stitches.

It felt a lot better today and they have put my arm in a sling. The swelling has gone down and all my fingers seem to be back to normal. My thumb is still stiff and sort of numb, but the surgeon says that is normal. It is connected to a nerve the they have to stretch out of the way during the operation, so it takes a while to recover. I haven't lost any feeling, but it is just stiff and sort of numb feeling. He said to keep exercising my fingers and thumb, even in the cast.

They had me get up and get dressed this morning, fortunately, I had my dry bag with some clothes other than my rather torn jersey and shorts. Taking a shower with one hand is a bit tricky though. Actually, it is the drying that is a bit tricky. During the week, I had a male nurse who would help me out (he also had to rub me down with some kind on antibacterial solution when I showered prior to the operation), but I was on my own this morning. The nurse did put a plastic bag over the arm though, to keep it dry.

I should be here until Monday. My friend Tom Hepburn is driving down from Auckland, a favor above the call of duty, to pick me up on Tuesday morning.

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