Mark I.

Survivor

It was the week before Christmas and we were pretty caught up in last-minute preparations just before the big day. On Friday evening, the 22nd, my husband Mark started complaining of pain in his hip and groin area. He said he thought he might have pulled a groin muscle. He went on to bed in an attempt to find a more comfortable position. Waking up on the 23rd brought no miraculous recovery. In fact, he felt worse. He decided, since it was a Saturday, went over to the urgent care not far from our home. They gave him some muscle relaxers and told him to call his doctor if there was no improvement.

My son had set up for the grandparents to get together Saturday and exchange gifts with the grandchildren. Unfortunately, I had to go solo. Tuesday was Christmas Day and the plan was to drive to Connecticut to spend the day with our niece and her husband and new baby. Upon waking up, I knew instantly this wasn’t happening. There was no way we could travel 2-3 hours confined in a car with this man who was in extreme pain. At 8 AM we made the decision the trip we were taking was to the ER at Ellis Hospital. It felt surreal as we arrived to realize this was Christmas morning and everyone we knew were opening gifts or attending church at this point.

Mark was taken right away since it wasn’t very busy. I went through a security check for ID and was told the room number they placed Mark. The ER has become quite sophisticated from the days I remember. You walked through the double doors into a maze. Asking directions was a must.
After a barrage of tests, IVs, EKG, CT scan, x-rays, MRI, the doctors had more than one possibility of what it could be. Kidney stones were mentioned. Groin pull was another possibility. One option was a total surprise: an infection of the hip. An infection is causing all this pain?

The more time went by, the more they thought this was the case. Since this was Christmas Day, the doctor needed to address this problem was on staff at Albany Medical Center. This was about 30 minutes away and a larger hospital known for its teaching and new medical findings. We would need to move Mark to Albany Med by ambulance to get an aspiration of the fluid surrounding the hip. This sampling would be tested for infection. We arrived at Albany Med, I drove the car while Mark had his ambulance ride. They were ready for us. Ellis had arranged in advance to inform them of our situation. Mark was brought in for the aspiration. It wasn’t long before we received the news. Yes, we were both blown away. It was infected alright. (Sepsis and Bacterial Infections) This would require surgery as soon as possible. The longer that fluid surrounds the hip, the better the chance that the infection could spread to the bloodstream or even into the bone structure.

This was totally unreal. I couldn’t wrap my thoughts around all this. Mark was kept comfortable and prepped for a 3-inch incision to flush the infected fluid out of his hip.

What complicated our case was Mark had 3 stents inserted in July for an 85% blockage of the main artery to the heart. They had to be very careful about losing blood since he was having issues with nose bleeds prior to this. His clotting ability was inhibited by the medication he was taking for the heart. Mark handled the surgery well and we were placed in a private room due to the possibility of being contagious. He was placed on a heavy-duty antibiotic through his IV, along with a menagerie of many other medications that took that route. During this time, I’m texting to family members and close friends. I needed that feeling I was “with” someone, when in fact, I was alone.

Mark was sleeping mostly, which was the best thing currently for his recovery. He was losing quite a bit of weight, which wasn’t the method of weight loss he would have chosen. He was so weak. He was mostly “out of it” as I would visit him daily once I left work. My day would start at 6:30 AM and drive 45 minutes to work and there were days I needed to leave early if he was having a bad day. Mark spent a week in Albany Med and was transferred to Sunnyview Rehab Facility not far from our home. Sunnyview was a real gem in our area. He took occupational therapy and physical therapy every day, plus his vitals were closely monitored. His other condition involved diabetes. This was just another complication to keep him within a safe range.

Thank God for my late mother’s walker. This has been his means of navigation. He couldn’t put his weight on the leg so he was totally reliant on that walker. The frustrations involved were enormous. He couldn’t do the slightest thing for himself. Losing that independence was a blow to his pride and going on short-term disability from his job was another blow. Little did we know how long the recuperation would be. What started out on Christmas Day is ongoing still on February 23. He is still out of work, still reliant somewhat on the walker, we have not been told the infection is completely gone, he has had breathing difficulties, which has resulted in the reliance of long-acting inhalers. He completed a week of wearing a heart monitor hoping the breathing issues could be explained somehow.

At the beginning of last year when he was trying to lose some weight, he was 267 pounds. When Thanksgiving time came, he had reached 240. Since the end of November to the present time in February, the scale tells us he reached a low of 210 and has gained about 5 pounds currently. The silver lining to this horrible black cloud is he no longer needs the high blood pressure medication, and his diabetes is now easier to control. The meds he took for this have been eliminated unless needed.

This has changed our lives forever. I am totally overprotective of what he does. I worry about his breathing, his falling, his frailty, his immune system compromised. He can’t say when he’ll feel comfortable going back to work yet, not while still relying on the walker. His stamina is compromised. And may I say, I truly wish those close to us could realize how very much we need them. I don’t think they have a clue how scary life has become. We get so wrapped up in our everyday responsibilities, that we let a full week go by without checking in to see if there have been any changes. I just want to say – we need you and wish there was more time for communication.

Source: MaryLou I. - his wife