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Eastern Europe Trip

A year of adventure and misfortune - the story of our Eastern Europe trip, the accident and subsequent recovery, and our lives up until September 2008... For the latest blog, click on Blogs in the header...

Thursday, 29 November 2007


Black Wednesday...

Yesterday saw us go return to Hope Hospital for Tracy’s appointment with the spinal consultant, Mr. Ross. With the appointment scheduled for 11.15am, we had arranged for the district nurse to come early in the morning to change the dressing on Tracy's arm, and she turned up just before 8.30am.

When the dressing was changed last Friday, it was clear that her arm was not recovering as well as previously, as the top layer of skin was starting to break down in patches, particularly on top of her arm, and there were concerns about the infection returning. Tracy had started a course of anti-biotics on Friday, and although the tests from the swab showed there was no infection, she had been advised to continue with the treatment to help keep her arm infection free. Well, when the nurse came on Monday her arm was a fair bit worse, with significant patches of raw skin on the top of her arm, particularly near the crook of her elbow, and she was in quite some pain as the dressing was removed (it seems the skin grows into the dressing, so when it is removed it pulls at the skin which is still extremely sensitive). It was therefore with some trepidation that we started the day on Wednesday… However, this time her arm looked a bit better, with less patches of really sensitive skin and some further signs that the stubborn areas are starting to dry out… To ensure that it is getting the best possible care, the specialist plastics nurse is due to come today (Thursday) to see for herself, and to determine if Mr Lamb, the consultant plastic surgeon, should also see it.

With the trauma of another arm re-dressing behind her, we got her dressed and ready for our return visit to Hope. Sitting in my car with her back brace on was not very comfortable, and passing trucks on the motorway were also giving her some worries, but we arrived without incident and quickly found the waiting room… how aptly named they are… After about 25 minutes she was called and told she needed to go for an x-ray, which was a fair walk from where we were. Once there, we checked in at the x-ray reception and proceeded to wait again… the chairs were causing Tracy some real discomfort as she was forced to sit upright with her brace on, which presses hard on the protruding vertebrae in her back… after a further wait of around 20 minutes, I went to ask the receptionist how long we’d be, as Tracy was by now in some pain, only to be told there were at least 10 people in front of us (and with an average time of 5 minutes per person, we’d be there for a ridiculous length of time). I calmly explained the situation, and how much pain Tracy was in, and managed to get us moved to another waiting area. At first, I thought this might be simply so the other patients (again, an apt name!) couldn’t hear us complaining, but it was so that Tracy could be rushed in to x-ray more swiftly… some 10 minutes later we were heading back to Mr Ross’ waiting area having had 2 x-rays of Tracy’s spine taken. However, that wasn’t the end of the waiting, as we had to sit around, again on decidedly uncomfortable chairs for a considerable time, before finally being called – some 2 ¼ hours after our allotted appointment time…

When we finally got to see Mr Ross, he was very good. He took us through Tracy’s x-rays, explaining that there is a slight sideways bend in her spine, but it’s nothing at all, really – much less than most he sees. Looking at her spine from the side shows the bend that we can see from the outside, with the 3 vertebrae (10, 11 and 12) kinking away from the normal path. The concern is with no. 11 vertebrae, which is clearly disfigured, and wedge-shaped where it was broken at the front. The discs above and below this vertebrae are also squashed, and the combination of the two is the reason for her pain. He went on to explain that this is why the pain is so much worse when she sits upright or stands, as the downward pressure compresses this area of her back. He explained that initially when her back was broken there was significant damage done to the soft tissue surrounding her spine at this point, and that takes a longer time to heal than the bones themselves, and that until it was healed, there would be some movement in the bones, which would cause the pain and could potentially cause more problems (hence the back brace). He also explained that there was no correlation between the damage visible on the x-rays and the prognosis for long-term recovery, as it depends on many other factors and some people recover without any further intervention, whilst in some cases it is necessary to fuse the bones permanently to cure the pain and stabilise the back.

All of which means that Tracy will need to continue to use the back brace for the next 6 weeks, before returning to see Mr Ross again. At this point either her back will have healed (or be well on the way to healed) or she may need to have the operation to fuse the bones. He did advise her to increase the medication for her pain, to help get that under control and give her some respite.

So, we didn’t get the outcome we were expecting or hoping for, but did get a better explanation of why she’s been in so much pain recently. The trip to the hospital left her completely drained – both physically from all the sitting around, and mentally from the shock of not being able to get rid of the back brace. It feels as though we’re back to “square one” almost, as we’re facing a further six weeks of not really being able to make much progress on getting our lives back to normal… and those weeks include Christmas and the New Year, which is going to be quite challenging. It also brings into focus the need for me to sort out better arrangements with work, as I’m not really able to get much done from home, and feel as though I need to pay more attention to Tracy to help her get better…

Other news…

Just to bring the story up to date, last weekend I was supposed to go to the bike show on Saturday and then have an advanced riding lesson on Sunday.

Well, Saturday was great. Chris (a mate from work) and I went to the NEC Bike Show and spent the whole day wandering round sitting on the new bikes, looking for bargains, watching the stunt shows and generally having a ball. I’ve posted some photos in the Gallery section of the site, so take a look and see why Chris wore an orange tee-shirt…

Sunday, though, was cancelled. Not the day, just my lesson. It seems the instructor, who also runs a small IT company, is having problems with one of his IT projects in Belgium (sounds familiar…), and so could not get back to the UK. He has very kindly offered to provide the lesson for free when he is able to make it, so I’m reasonably content, although it was a big disappointment as I’d been really looking forward to being assessed and learning what I needed to do to improve my riding.

With nothing planned for this coming weekend, we’ll concentrate on finding ways to keep Tracy amused for the next 6 weeks…

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