The leg incident (part 1)

This is the story of my longest hospital visit. This was not only an agonisingly long stay but painful, exhausting and full of action. It was my first big example of what effects my blood-thinning medication Marcumar (which I’ve taken since my heart valve was replaced) could have and shaped my future regarding sports.

As I dribbled passed an opponent at a basketball tournament, his knee thrusted into my thigh, sending me to the ground. I had a dead leg. Everyone knows that feeling when you get hit on a muscle and it goes numb. Normally, not a worrying injury, for a medicine-induced hemophiliac however, quite another story. I struggled to walk home. My leg was clearly swollen once I arrived, but I tried to sleep it off. The next morning, my right leg was humongous and I knew i needed to go to the hospital right away.

My leg how it looked as I arrived at the hospital. The swelling was so bad that I could barely bend my knee.

My leg how it looked as I arrived at the hospital. The swelling was so bad that I could barely bend my knee. This is not a photoshop.

Easy decision
It was the most uncomfortable ‘needle’ I’ve ever had. A sharp thick metal rod, not designed to draw blood from a vein, but to puncture through layers of skin and muscle tissue, almost to the bone, to measure the pressure within. I could feel it perforating through each cell, as if in slow motion. Easily double its normal volume, my right leg was full of blood which had been pouring out into all nooks and crannies of tissue beneath the skin for nearly a day.

A second stab the following afternoon revealed that Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation would not meet my needs. They would have to either ‘slice the leg open to let out the blood, or might have to amputate’ as my lower leg was no longer receiving blood due to the enormous pressure in my thigh. Given the choice, three months after my 18th birthday, I chose to keep the leg in return for a 35cm scar from hip to knee.

I was surprised to wake up from surgery with synthetic skin stapled to my thigh, covering the obvious gap in my leg. I realised then that it would be a strenuous few weeks. Two leg hairs that were normally neighbours were now about 10cm apart with a sheet of white material parting them and keeping my muscle from bursting out of me leg. Two days later they repeated the procedure cleaning out the blood in my leg and re-stapling. Staples are much easier than stitches for areas that will be reopened. It was impossible to close my leg as my skin was not elastic enough to stretch out over my bulging quadriceps.

The evening after my second operation saw my condition worsen as i racked up a ridiculous fever. I was cold and sweating, my white blood cell count was through the roof. My temperature was 40.5C(105F)+. I was in a state of antibiotic-induced numbness which was helping my body fight what alien bacteria were attacking me. I dont remember much from this time because the strongest stuff available was being pumped into me like a balloon. Just like most organic things there is a best before date, and the blood still trapped in my leg was going foul. Practically rotting on the inside, it was fitting that there was something Zombie-like about my state. Even the noises that came from my mouth as I attempted to speak in the fight against this fever were as if from the undead. And fight I would.

This fever lasted long enough for the doctors to decide to snip open the synthetic skin and give the inside of my leg another thorough cleaning to alleviate my struggles at the origin of the problem. I felt much better waking up from this operation. Within a day my values had stabilised, much to the delight of my doctors and the whole medical staff who had been checking up on me several times and hour. SURELY the worst was behind me. Nope.

Blood sweat and tears
I was on the mend. My right leg was still much bigger than the left and the large chunk of manufactured skin remained to make up some of its circumference. But I was feeling well, things were looking positive and my mother treated me to some late night Asian food one night. A tomato soup, my favourite Asian rice dish and a good-night kiss later, I was lying comfortably in my bed awaiting the slow onset of sleep. This is when I noticed the feeling of a drop of sweat trickling down my leg. ‘Peculiar,’ I thought. ‘I am warm, but not THAT warm’. Another trickle. ‘I will ask the nurse to come in’

I love German health care. After just ten days, from the medication alone, my medical bill was well into a five digit figure €€€€€, as told to me by the nurse a few days later. Practically having an open leg for the better part of a month, you can imagine the amount of medicine they had running through my veins to stop infections. Thankfully, I only paid €10/day (maxing out at a month) during my stay, thus paying €280,- for the entire ordeal.

The friendly nurse started unwrapping my bandaged leg well after the dead of the night. Very soon did we realise that it was not drops of sweat, as the white bandage unraveled to a brown colour and then a very pure red. Blood red. The thick bandage was soaked in my blood and my leg was dripping like wet swim gear. They hadn’t closed my leg properly apparently and i was leaking. Remember, my blood clotted four times slower than the average person’s due to my medication. Two doctors rushed in minutes later and started to unpluck the staples in my leg and apply pressure… literally on the muscle inside my leg. They found the need to painfully pluck out more of the staples, which caused my body to uncontrollably tense in what I can modestly call complete discomfort.

Rushing me down the halls in my bed to the emergency room where they showed me other fancy instruments of torture was the least of my worries. It dawned on me, I would have to do this one without anesthesics, no drug to put me to sleep. ‘It is too dangerous to put you to sleep with a full stomach, if you throw-up, you could suffocate’. Uncharacteristically, shouting at the doctors, I was begging them to put me to sleep. But they were too busy. My shouts and cries echoed in the empty hallways, but there was no answer. Like an electric shock through my body, the doctors’ hands abused the nerve endings in my muscle. Seconds or minutes… went by. Time was distorted in my agony. Luckily, I could not handle the pain and fainted. I woke up to the morning nurse at my bed. ‘I heard you had quite a rough night last night.’ – ‘Yea, it was a nightmare’

This pretty much sums up the first week and a bit of my stay at hospital. For the concluding article of this hospital visit with more interesting stories and how they fixed me up please stay tuned. :)


Posted in Operations and Complications

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