Bit of an odd and serious sounding title to this blog but I think you’ll agree it is fitting.
Yesterday morning as I was getting ready to head out for a short 2 hour cycle. Kath mentioned she would like to get some exercise as well so we departed the campsite with confidence that we’d be back within two hours as I had several teleconferences and emails to send that day thus a long trip wouldn’t fit. It was a beautiful sunny warm St Brieux Saskatchewan day without the traditional wind we have come to recognize here, so I thought this would be a good time spinning the Cervelos up.
Three kilometres down the road we needed to cross a set of railway tracks that crossed the highway at a 35 degree angle making them a bit tricky. Not to mention the road disrepair was considerable so needless to say it was an area requiring a bit of gentle attention. I went across first reducing the angle to a more perpendicular approach and turned back to say to Kath to “be careful” and BOOM! Down she went. Her front tire slipped precariously into a groove beside the iron rail that pried her free from the seat and sent her to the ground with outstretched left arm. She connected with the ground left palm first and then left leg.
I circled back as she was making her way to her feet but cradling her left arm. I could see immediately one of those wrists was not like the other. It was already swelling and clearly displaced at an angle not common to humans. My heart sank for her as I knew this wasn’t going to be good news. She rested in the shade quietly and after a few minutes of me checking her over I decided to cycle back to get our truck and make our way to the Melfort Hospital.
Fortunately we were just a few minutes from the campground where I quickly packed our first aid kit, Motrin, Birkenstocks for our feet and a change of shirt for Kath; we headed into town. We were greeted by a very helpful set of Nurses who tended to Kathryn’s needs perfectly. An X-Ray proved the fracture was not simple and a Orthopaedic consult in Saskatoon at the Royal University Hospital (RUH) was warranted. I felt the colour drain from our faces when the Doc informed us this was a complex fracture and may require a surgical repair. We headed back to the trailer to pack a bag and then made our way to Saskatoon after we secured our wonder dog Nikki with our son Jeff who would retrieve her after his work that day.
Arrival at the RUH in Saskatoon was uneventful and we observed before us an ER in total chaos. The waiting room was standing room only, the waiting area just to register was standing room only. Patients were on stretchers in the hallways and client medical assessments were ongoing even in the entrance security area. Its been a while since I ‘ve witnessed this type of scenario and I must admit it triggered me some.
Finally we were registered and commenced the marathon wait for ER doc, then Ortho consult, then a plan. Our first Doc was a resident who we fondly named
“Doogey” as we were sure he hadn’t started shaving yet. Dr Butcher…. that’s right I said “Butcher”, was our Ortho doc who presented as extremely professional and thorough. He explained the situation with the fracture and shared the X-Ray with us showing several problems. at least two fractures on the Radius (big arm bone) and one on the Ulna “smaller one”. There was displacement of the bones and a rotation to the wrist that if left untreated would no doubt prevent normal function of the wrist and likely arthritis later. His plan was to try a local anesthesia with finger traps and weight attached to try and allow gravity to re extend the joint where it should be and then do a manual manipulation of the wrist to ensure proper placement and cast it for healing. This all made sense but I was concerned about the level of pain Kathryn would endure through this. Kathryn, as the strong willed Irish Catholic gal she is, agreed to the plan and prepared herself for what would turn out to be a significantly uncomfortable event.
Many hours past in the ER as we waited for Dr Butcher to have the time to do this procedure. Every few minutes another ambulance pulled up with more injured cargo requiring his skill set. Kath’s pain cycled as expected hovering around a “5” when the Morphine was working and spiking to a “10” when she was moved or poked. We began to learn the names of the other clients awaiting care as we were all trapped by the injuries we came with. Nurses came and retrieved one client and then another, and then they all came back to wait for the next go around. There were people with dementia who became combative and threw punches at nurses and docs, young men fainting while visiting their father in the ER, Rugby players showed up with splints already in place fresh from the tournament ongoing that night, and whole families there to support their Grandfather who was having a Cardiac event. Kath and I were totally immersed in all this commotion as curious onlookers and full of empathy. I felt like I was seeing this hospital staff doing its level best to contend with the situation and they did so with a smile and kind word. Finally, it was Kath’s turn. Dr Butcher used a rather large bore needle to try and inject freezing directly into the fracture. I won’t go into the graphic description of this part. I tried to comfort Kath with a reassuring hand on her shoulder as she endured intense pain associated with this process. It’s all I could do and it seemed not enough. I thought that would be the worst of it… I was wrong!
Then and once the freezing had established itself, Dr Butcher proceeded to manually “push” the bone fragments back into place….. WTF! Kath was simply in agony with this but remained willing to proceed hardly making a sound as this well intentioned professional moved her bone fragments about. Finally he seemed to achieve some relief when he felt the wrist come back into alignment; it came with a “snap” or “clunk”. He sat back and looked at Kathryn’s face now drained of any colour and told her “she was the toughest person he had ever met”! He said “he had done this treatment many times and usually to men and they usually screamed through it”. I felt this incredible sense of pride in Kath as she stared this horrible event in the face and endured what most others could/would not.
Our Frustration mounted when Dr Butcher informed us after the X-Ray to confirm the correct placement of bone that it had only partially worked. The plan now would be a surgical repair after a CT Scan the next day. We of course agreed and set off with a script for morphine for the night and in search of a all night Pharmacy and hotel. It was 0300 and we were in a strange place; what’s the worst thing that could happen?
Pharmacy-no problem but no hotel rooms were available in the city!! After checking a couple of hotels I pulled into the downtown Raddison Hotel and encountered two great staff, Chris and Shelaigh. They didn’t need to do this but after they turned us down for a room, Chris started calling all over the city looking for a room for us. After the tenth call and disappointment that we would likely not find a room that night, Sheliagh suggested to Chris that they give us a reserved room for Air Canada Air Crew. The aircrew person had not shown up and it was after 03:30 at this point so they likely wouldn’t get there. They agreed after I had told them Kathryn was out in the car recovering from an 11 hour experience at the hospital not to mention she had nothing to eat during that time as they said she might go to the OR for surgery that evening and needed to be NPO. We were both so famished we stopped at the all night McDonalds and ordered two large fries which we didn’t even eat as when we got to the room we crashed. I can’t thank those two staff enough for their kind generosity to us and especially for Kathryn as she was at the edge of her capacity to tolerate much more. It was 4am when we settled.
The phone rang at 0730; it was the CT Scan folks telling us we had an appt at 1130. This was good news as it meant things were happening as Dr Butcher had planned them just a few hours earlier. CT went uneventfully and we settled back into the familiar ER waiting room again to wait for word as to a surgery day next week. We noticed in the waiting room another woman sitting with her son also cradling her left arm with the right hand and clearly had a fracture in the exact same place as Kath. We struck up a conversation with them as we each compared notes as to how this happened. As it turns out she was also out for a short one hour cycle before her Grand Children were to arrive. She went down on the same outstretched hand and also received the same road rash Kath did on the left lower leg. She marvelled at Kathryn’s sling and I suggested that she might try one to take some of the strain off her right hand and better support her broken left wing. Her son grabbed a sling off the cart and before I new it I was installing a sling on this new friend in the middle of the waiting room. She seemed much more comfortable as she told us of her trip to the UK and Germany next month which now might go a bit different.
We were given our marching orders by 3pm today and we headed back to St Brieux to await a date for surgery. This was a challenging day and a half for us especially since we were not in our own home Province. This is our lifestyle now. Both Kath and I were well treated by all concerned and the outpouring of offers to help as well as empathy from family, friends and colleagues has been overwhelming. In the middle of all this I realized that we will be OK and get through this. We will flex our plans and make sure Kath gets the care she needs including Physio when the cast comes off as we need to get that golf swing back for her. As a couple we managed this well from my perspective, there was no panic, no anger, only frustration that it happened at all, but mostly I saw the woman I have loved for over 33 years now demonstrate inner strength, fortitude and patience to accept what happened and push forward with purpose towards the solutions. We very much did this as a team/couple and I am very proud of her as even when she was the most uncomfortable, she offered up empathy to the hard working Docs and Nurses who were doing their level best for her. Love you Kath. C