Friday, May 22, 2015

Back in Canada with cartilage in my knee!

Disclosure: I am heavily medicated. Sometimes blogging whilst stoned works, sometimes it doesn't. No guarantees. 

It's hard to believe that I was petting stingrays and sipping champagne at the Ritz Carlton just under a month ago - today I am falling asleep on the toilet and anticipating my big event of the day - a bath! How life changes in such a short time. 

hmmm…this isn't good.
Our trip back to Canada went fairly smoothly - with a few hitches, naturally. The morning of our departure the toilet in our condo began spraying water straight up to the ceiling, so while Ev played plumber, I double-checked our flight times, only to realize that our flight actually departed an hour earlier than I had reported. Ooops. Luckily, we were able to get our furry friends and 3 giant suitcases packed and en route to Canada. It was a long day of flights - Grand Cayman to Toronto, Toronto to Calgary, then Calgary to Saskatoon. The Calgary flight was completely geographically unnecessary, but actually saved us about $8000 - no joke! So we endured the extra 3 hours of travel. I was able to access wheelchair service the entire trip home, which was awesome! I highly recommend West Jet if you're ever traveling with someone who requires extra help. The bonus is the ability to bypass all the long lines. Totally worth it. At one point, as I was being frisked in my chair, I looked over at Ev who was sweating profusely. He had a dog under one arm, a cat under the other, and my crutches balanced under an armpit. As he walked through security, Biloxi, the angry cat, began swatting Dundee, the oblivious dog, repeatedly on the head. I could just imagine him saying, "You idiot! I told you the suitcases were a bad sign!" I tried to hold in my laughter as I overheard a woman next to me talking animatedly to her husband, "Honey, look at that funny man with the animals!" haha. Oh we were a sight to be seen!

My fabulous sister, Kayla, surprised us at the airport at 2:30am and offered to drive us home, which was such a fantastic offer after 12 hours of travel! Once we were settled in at our house in Candle Lake, I had a few days to mentally prepare for my 6th knee surgery - the 2nd cartilage transplant - this time in my left knee. I was extremely nervous, knowing what was in store. It turned out to be worse than I had anticipated.

The surgery itself went without a hitch. I was awake with a spinal, and I was ever so helpful, ensuring my orthopaedic surgeon was following all the proper steps to implant the cartilage in my knee ("Hey, Dr. M - did you make nice vertical walls?" - I'm  a "backseat" surgeon. haha. It's a very cool surgery! The cartilage is alive, and comes from a child cadaver. The cartilage was donated, and I feel extremely grateful to be the recipient of such a precious gift. It was my surgeon's second time performing the surgery - the first was my right knee 2 years ago. My condition is very rare, so there are few opportunities in Western Canada to perform this surgery, but I totally trusted my surgeon, as he and I go waaaay back with 6 surgeries together, and a trusting relationship that has spanned over the past 4 years. I'm grateful to have him in my life. 

ya, you smile, sister. Just wait until that freezing wears off !
The hard part came about 4 hours post surgery when the freezing began to wear off. We were unable to get on top of my pain. I was hooked up to a PCA - a device where I can deliver narcotics to myself every 6 minutes. In addition, I was given various other pain killers and anti inflammatories, but, unfortunately, since I've been on so many painkillers over the past 10 weeks, my tolerance is pretty high, and nothing seemed to ease the pain post surgery. It was pretty awful. There was nothing more that I could take to relieve the pain. I held my mom's hand, squeezed Evan's arm, and cried and cried. At one point, I whimpered, "Dr M, I'm too awesome to be in so much pain!" haha. "Yes, Kirstie, yes, you are," he replied. Not super at all. I thought that I was a seasoned surgical patient after enduring 6 knee surgeries - but this one was different - more challenging.  In addition, I had a whiny roommate - a hip replacement who lied profusely about her sleeping habits. This woman snored non-stop from 8pm until 8am and then had the audacity to tell her family that she "never slept a wink." Miserable and sleep deprived on the other side of the curtain, I whispered, "You effin liar!" Yes, it was time for me to get out of the hospital before someone got hurt!

It's been a week now since my surgery. I'm back at my mom's house now. Thankfully, mom and my step-dad, Lenny, have offered me their master bedroom while Evan finishes some renovations at our home. I don't know what I would do without my mom. She has been so awesome - ensuring I have my meds, brushed teeth, the right food, lots of love, etc. Just amazing. I love her so much! We've been spending a lot of evenings laying in bed together, watching "Southern Charm" online (awesome reality TV show - I'm hooked!) I really do have the best mom ever. Evan has been fantastic as well, finding creative ways to awkwardly shower me, without getting my left leg wet. Unfortunately my surgery took place on Evan's birthday, so his 36th was definitely overlooked this year. Evan always presents as cool, calm, and stoic, but I know this has been one of the most challenging years of his life, losing his father, and caring for his sick wife - again. Evan's always so strong for me and his family, but I see him lying awake at night, I notice his nervous eye twitch, and I know that he is struggling as well. During our hockey life, I watched Evan calmly endure heartbreaking trades, lose his job mid-season, and carry the burden of supporting us financially. I thought we had been through it all. In my immaturity, I didn't realize that the loss of a job is nothing compared to the loss of a parent and the challenge of facing recurrent health problems. I have so much respect for Evan and his choice to put his family first during these challenging times. He's keeping my spirits as high as possible, when I'm sure his spirits are wavering as well. 

It's very tricky to get around at the moment, as my "good" knee is not 100%. It's struggling to carry all my weight and I'm only able to crutch a few steps. Evan's been helping me by carrying me to and from the washroom. I'm still experiencing a significant amount of pain. The reality is beginning to set in that I'm much less mobile than I was the first time around, 2 years ago. I might be dependent on a wheel chair for a few months. It's a bit daunting, but I'm hopeful that my right knee will smarten up, the left knee will "accept" my new cartilage, and I will be able to walk again. I'm also hopeful that this condition does not affect any more joints in my body. My goal is to stay positive and try not to worry about things out of my control. I'm also cognizant of the fact that people face physical struggles everyday that are much more serious than mine. I can do this. 

I sure appreciate all the emails, texts, and Facebook messages from friends and family - thanks for thinking about us. 

Mom and Lenny's cat, Maggie. She hates that I've taken over her bed and frequently casts evil spells on me from her stoop. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Birthdays, Boats, and Batabanu!

"Kirstie, I have never heard someone use the word "worry" in her sentences as much as you! You worry about things that are happening, but you also worry about things that haven't even happened yet!"

Those are the words of my fabulous co-worker, Denise. Denise is a Psychologist who hails from Jamaica. She might possibly be one of the most fabulous people I've ever met. Dressed to the nines, nails perfectly manicured, legs that go up to her ears, and the most unbelievably sexy high heels you can imagine, this girl is something else! Plus, she has an opinion. Boy, does she ever. And she will tell exactly what she thinks. So she gave it to me straight one day as I expressed my worries to my office mates.

I'm a worrier. I always have been. I remember, as a kid, worrying about the weather constantly. Being the daughter of a farmer, I always knew when we needed rain, or when we needed the rain to stop. I remember standing outside staring at the sky, "Please let it rain. What if it doesn't rain?" In University I worried about my marks. I remember reading through my finished exam, calculating the lowest possible mark that I could obtain, and determining if my average would be high enough to be accepted into the Speech Pathology Program. I also remember worrying for Evan. Transfixed on that tiny rubber puck, I begged the hockey Gods to give Ev the strength to prevent it from hitting the back of his neck. Obsessed with the shot clock, I constantly recalculated Evan's save percentage throughout the game, hoping it would be above 90%. Did my worrying ever help? Did it actually ever solve a problem or make a situation better? NEVER. Did it give me stomach troubles, anxiety, and sleepless nights? ALWAYS. Bottom line: worrying is ridiculous. A total waste of time. I really want to stop. Being on this island is definitely helping. There's certainly a "go with the flow" "Whatever!" attitude here. I mean, when American airlines actually lost my passport (giving it to another passenger by "mistake"), they didn't seem too worried. Then why the hell should I worry? So I'm working on it. I really am.

Ev and I have one more week in paradise. We have grown to absolutely love it here, and overall, despite the normal stress - work, bills, traffic - our day-to-day life is pretty amazing. We are happy! Unfortunately, my left knee has never shown any signs of recovery, contains a large hole where the cartilage has given up on life, and definitely requires the cartilage transplant that the right knee had 2 years ago. I'm scheduled for surgery in Saskatchewan on May 15 - back in the OR with my incredibly awesome Ortho, to share our 6th surgery together. I'm very grateful that I'm still able to access my health care and this man whom I trust dearly can perform this very new surgery that, given the relative happiness of my right knee, appears to be my only answer. The cartilage transplant on the other knee is still fresh in my mind, so I know what I'm up against. 8 weeks of non-weight bearing, followed by months of intensive rehabilitation. Pain, immobility, frustration, total dependence, and boredom. Thankfully, I'm returning home where all my friends and family, who love me very much, can provide me with the physical and emotional supports that I will require. Ev and I, along with our furry friends, will make the trip back to Cayman in the middle of August - my hope is that I will be walking and able to return back to work, just in time for the new school year.

I'm not gonna lie, I worry (there's that damn word again) that this condition is going to affect more joints in my body - my elbow is giving me problems, and every time my hip or ankles crack, I cringe, wondering if it's a precursor to cartilage damage. But...there's nothing I can do about that. I will just have to see what the future holds. In the meantime, my goal has been to have as much fun as humanly possible. And guess what? I'm winning! Despite the crutches and pain meds, my 36th birthday was one of the best! We are so fortunate to have met such awesome people in our short 9 months here! And I'm very grateful that Evan continues to stay in good shape so that he can transport me around - without complaint, I might add.

 We also got to experience Batabano - the Caribbean's smaller version of Mardi Gras or Carnival. It was intense! It's basically a street parade filled with scantily clad women in feathery show-girl type outfits, lots of booze, lots of music, and lots of twerking/dry humping - not sure what you call that dance move? It definitely was not my mama's July 1st parade at Candle Lake!
Ev and Barrett and some stingray buddies

That pineapple water bottle might be spiked, just sayin'

hugging my sting ray friend

Me and Evs

Our boat crew - great people, great day!

My office-mates at Kaibo - including the fabulous Denise in gold, of course. Obviously, I got a head start on the drinking that day

Ev's workout: carrying wife for time

Batabano: Ugh! I feel so overdressed!

This is Batabano "jumping". In Canada, we call this "dry humping"

I knew those crutches would come in handy!

Here's video evidence of the drive-by twerking