Monday, August 6, 2012

The Wound Vac Nurse

So, a couple of days after being transferred to City of Hope from the rehab hospital, Dr. Femino and I were back in surgery. I was only going to be in surgery for a short time as it wouldn't take more than two hours to clean the incision, verify my prosthetic was ok and set me up with this new wound vac. I was back in my room and waking up before I knew it. I couldn't see anything though as it was all covered with silver stuff and tape that looked like packing tape.

Me with Diane, the wound vac nurse.
A couple days later a nurse came in named Diane. She was the wound vac nurse and had a lot of experience from what I had been told. We found out later that all her knowledge of wounds and how to treat them was in such high demand, she was being courted from various hospitals around the country. She wore a white coat like the doctors do and had a name badge which had a lot of initials after her name (R.N., M.S.N., F.P.N., C.W.O.C.N.). It was cornucopia of letters proving her work was beyond that of an everyday nurse. Under her coat she had on a T-shirt material type of top and long pants with bulky looking nursing shoes. She was very friendly and explained everything as she went along.

Another thing was that she was insistent that my parents help if they were willing. She said it was a good thing for the family to be involved because if anything went wrong or if they needed to change it at home, they could handle it if she wasn't around. My parents were not afraid to help, and since my dad was a firefighter most of my life, he was not squeamish. My mom was not very squeamish either, but she was a little grossed out by having to look at the infected part of the incision which was slightly discolored, or so I've been told.

My parents were grateful to not only be able to assist her in caring for me, but for the information she passed along to them as she went. Every task she did, she explained to them what she was doing and why she was doing it that specific way. Every so often, Diane would start patting herself around her coat pockets and lifting up pieces of materials she had laid on the hospital table. While she was going through the motions of looking for something she kept talking to us explaining procedures. Sometimes she was just talking about her day with us. I always wondered what she was searching for until she finally found it. Her movements were quick and precise and felt as if she were too busy to be bothered with trivial things such as scissors. Eventually she would find what she was looking for and continued on in her conversation as if nothing had interrupted her.

She was a breath of fresh air for our family. She was unlike most others at the hospital. We enjoyed talking with her every time she came to change the wound vac. Twice a week, for several weeks, she would come in to change the wound vac dressings, take measurements of the infected area comparing it to the previous measurement 3 or 4 days before and critique the overall look of the infected area for any improvements. We always looked forward to Diane's visits with us. Her personality was delightful and mom said, "She was a stitch."

During the time of having the wound vac, I was still going trough physical therapy at the hospital. We made sure the line for the wound vac was not impeded by the body brace anywhere. I would walk up and down the halls of the original building. The nurses all cheered me on day-after-day. My surgeon was pleased with the amount of walking I was doing. I was getting stronger and stronger with each session.

This time, the insurance company was not calling me every day to send me back to the rehab hospital. They knew they had made a huge mistake when they sent me the first time. As a matter of fact, they never called me during this stay. The detailed notes from Diane about my incision and the infection were enough for them to leave me alone. I never received any apology from them either.

The wound vac in place after being changed.
After several weeks, it was time to go back into surgery to see if the wound was better off than when we had started. Dr. Femino came in with consent forms for me to sign. After signing the first form, Dr. Femino asked me, "Do you call that a signature?" I had to laugh at that coming from a doctor. They are notorious for having the worst handwriting of anybody. So I looked at the form where he had signed and retorted, "And you call THAT a signature?" We had a good laugh together about it. Mom has always commented on my signature being completely illegible, which made the situation even funnier. Now she had more ammunition to tease me with after this one.

It took the majority of the day to get back into surgery as some of those which were scheduled took longer than anticipated. Finally, when it was time to go in, it was around dinner. Because I was going to sugary sometime during that day, I hadn't eaten anything since the night before. And man was I hungry. Surgery was use like before, and I was back in my room before I knew it.

Next, "Good News Following Surgery."

"A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22

Do you feel a need to laugh sometime when facing hardships? Share what it was like during a time when you were able to laugh in the midst of a hardship.

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