An unplanned day

Not very often does the 'unplanned' pop into my well planned life. I take great pride in planning my days thoroughly at least a week in advance so that I can set my priorities right and get the tasks completed on time. Of course there have been times when things don't always go as per schedule and some unplanned events like bumping into a friend at school and having a quick cup of coffee, are always welcome, but when one sudden event upsets your whole day or in this case most part of the following three months, then it comes under the 'what you can't change just enjoy' label.

February 27, 2012

It started off like a normal, routine day, a Monday which I usually keep free to finish off the household shopping or doing some errands. That particular day I had planned to go to Ikea to pick up some long needed kitchen stuff. After having dropped off the kids to their respective schools I hurried back home to prepare lunch so that I could leave home as quickly as possible. I had decided to prepare my favourite pumpkin and carrot soup which besides being healthy is the quickest soup in the world to make, except for this tiny part of peeling the pumpkin skin. Today however I was planning to use my brand new knife, bought just the day before, thinking that it would make the peeling task easier and quicker. It did, except that along with the pumpkin skin, I managed to dig the knife into a sizeable part of my thumb.

I drew my breath as I realised that this was not a small cut and quickly put my finger under the running tap to stop the bleeding. It took more than fifteen minutes and a good amount of turmeric powder (age old remedy for cuts) and ice to do so after which I rummaged around the drawers for some kind of a bandage and finished the job in the best possible manner I could. Now my mind was back on the soup and since the water was already boiling with the other ingredients I somehow managed to finish peeling the rest of the pumpkin and made the soup ready. However I had lost a lot of time and by then the Ikea excitement had died down so I just rested till it was time to pick up my son. 

When my son saw the big bandage on my thumb he was very excited. This time for a change Mummy wasn't careful, was she? After our lunch I sat down to slowly open my crudely tied bandage which was again wet with blood, to see the real damage. The mixture of skin and blood mixed with the yellow colour of the turmeric powder was not a very pleasant sight to see, besides I realised that my thumb was getting quite stiff, although the pain was not much. I debated whether to show it to a doctor as honestly I am not a very doctor-friendly person preferring to treat life's normal aches and pains at home. The other reason was that I was still very new to the area and I did not know of any GPs nearby. So I reached out to Google to get a second view point. Under the 'excessive bleeding' part, they spoke about tendons being cut, needing emergency operations, infections, etc. which was not good news for me. I started calling a few friends for GP recommendations in the area. I got three. One said Quality Health Centre, where I also had insurance but it was a bit further from home, the other said Queen Mary Hospital which was quite close but I wasn't looking forward to go to a public hospital. I finally ended up going to a local GP who was very close to home, but to my luck I found it closed. So I took the other option of going to Quality Health Centre. Without an appointment I was made to wait but not for too long and luckily my husband's office was in that vicinity so he came over to take care of my son. The GP examined my cut, asked me to try to move my thumb which by then had lost all mobility and said that I had to see a specialist. I couldn't understand why as I thought that he would just dress it and set me off home. However he confirmed the bad news that my tendons were most likely affected and needed the services of an orthopaedic surgeon! Suddenly what I had read on the net came to my mind. Cut tendons needed emergency surgery atleast within 8 hours to restore normal movement! I looked at the time - 6 hours had passed so far so I was still within limits. Meanwhile hubby dear, whose work schedule I had managed to ruin, had to leave to pick up my older boy from school. My younger one had been so supportive so far, holding my hand, kissing me when the doctor checked my wound, sympathising with me when he saw me flinch, that I almost did not want to let him go, but better sense prevailed and I set him off with his father. I was not looking forward to getting stitches but I had to muster courage and went to meet the orthopedic surgeon hoping he would be quick. After looking at my wound and taking an x-ray he explained to me that this was not just a flesh cut, the knife had cut off the tendons and that this kind of a surgery could not be done in a clinic but needed special equipments that only a hospital could provide! I couldn't believe it. Here I had come to just get a dressing done and then hurry back home to pick up my son and start preparing dinner, and now they tell me that I not only need stitches, I also need to be hospitalised? For what? This small cut that wasn't even hurting so much! When I mentioned that to the doctor, he informed me the numbness was due to the nerves being affected in that area. While I sat there all by myself trying to understand this unplanned day of mine, I was told by the nurse that there were no operating rooms available that day or the day after in a private hospital and the doctor confirmed the fact that the mobility of the thumb might be impaired if not sutured within the recommended 8 hours, so he suggested that I go to the emergency ward of a public hospital to get it done sooner. The last option on my list - Queen Mary Hospital!

Queen Mary, a public hospital, besides being very close to my house, is well known for its team of excellent doctors and its capability to handle the most difficult of cases. But what it is also known for and which is why I wasn't too keen on going there in the first place is it's 'customer friendliness!' From the time I registered myself at the emergency reception, I became a number to them amongst all others waiting around me. A number that is given according to the priority of cases that day. Mine was given priority no. 3, which wasn't so bad since the first two were reserved for almost fatal cases. So after the initial check-up by the first-aid medics, where they gave my story an incredulous look (can't blame them I did sound lame with the cutting of my own finger story), they asked me to wait for the doctor. Thankfully two of my friends had come over to give me company so waiting together in a room full of strangers speaking a strange language wasn't that bad. Finally when I thought my name was called out, pronounced in a way I could barely understand, I walked over to the nurses counter. Luckily the call was for me. I was made to show my thumb to a doctor who looked like she had just turned sixteen and who asked me the same set of questions as before. I volunteered happily thinking that now she would realise the gravity of the situation and would ask me to go lead me to the operation room, but without a word she just re-dressed my thumb, spoke something to the nurse and asked me to go and wait! I started telling her that the tendons needed to be sutured urgently as I had already crossed my 8-hour mark. I also asked her how long would I have to wait, that I did not want to spend the night in the hospital.......all my questions were met with an icy stare from the nurse, since the doctor had already started walking away. "Waiting, waiting!" was all the nurse said and impatiently showed me the waiting room in case I had forgotten where it was! Now I do understand that the staff in an emergency ward of a public hospital are mighty busy but can they not smile or give a reassuring look to a patient or answer a few basic questions?

After another 30 minutes a staff person came by and asked us to accompany her. We were brought to the female ward of the in-patients department where I was handed over a gown and showed to a 'cot' not a bed in a shared room. "No place for a bed she said." Now I was really losing patience. I walked up to the nurse at the reception telling her in no uncertain terms that I could not and will not spend the night in the hospital and certainly not in the shared room! "Do you have a private room?" one of my friends asked to which she got a prompt reply, "Go to a private hospital!" Well, since anger wasn't working I changed tactic and I pleaded "I have two little children at home and I do not have a helper. I need to go back after the surgery," only to be told "Send your friend home to your children, why are they waiting here, it is not allowed!" The nurses attitude, the dismal looking shared ward and no forthcoming information all made me a bit nervous and I called up my neurosurgeon uncle back home in Mumbai to take his advice on whether it was OK to wait for one more day for the operation. My uncle after listening to my symptoms advised me to get it done as soon as possible. Having no other choice the three of us just waited in the corridor

Finally at around 11 pm, two boys looking like doctors walked in. Instead of feeling relieved I was gripped by another panic as they both dressed in jeans looked like they had just stepped out of college.  Mustering up some courage I walked upto them to check if they were the surgeons who were going to operate on my thumb, though I already knew the answer. In the same breath I also made my request about wanting to go home after the surgery. I was in for a big surprise! For the very first time that evening at the hospital, someone made an attempt to talk to me, understand my concern and share information on what was to be expected and he actually smiled the whole time he spoke! 

Fifteen minutes after this conversation I was asked to come to the operating room. I urged my friends to take leave as I wasn't sure how long the procedure would take but they were quite determined to stay on till the operation was over. The other doctor I had seen earlier joined in and together along with their team of operating staff they began the procedure. 3 small pricks of local anaesthesia and my thumb was ready to be sutured. "If you can't bear the pain or if we come across any complications then you will have to be given general anaesthesia for which you will have to stay in the hospital, otherwise you can go home." Some soothing words before the surgery.

Post my surgery
Although there was no pain I just couldn't get myself to watch the surgeons perform the operation though my mind was making vivid images of what might be happening. The unrolling of my top skin, delving in, judging the damage, suturing my tendons, cleaning and then putting my skin back in place, before the final stitches. I was so tempted to take a photo with my mobile phone camera, but then I stopped myself. The surgeons were chatting  away happily during the whole operation so I assumed nothing went drastically wrong. A few minutes later it was all done and I heaved a sigh of relief when  they said that there were no complications and that I could go home. Yeah! My friends rejoiced when they heard the news and though we had to do some more waiting before the documentation could be finished by the same uncooperative nurse. She looked even more upset now that I had been granted the permission to go, but I smiled and thanked her all the same. We had to do one more stop at the pharmacist who handed us the prescribed pain killers and anti biotic before my friends drove me home. God bless them both!

It was almost midnight as I walked into my building. I felt very relaxed and happy that I was finally home and now that it was all over, I couldn't wait to share the details of my eventful day with my family and friends. I also realised how hungry I was since I hadn't eaten anything after my soup that afternoon. When I stepped into the house all was quiet and while I knew my kids would be asleep, I was disappointed that my husband wasn't waiting up for me, till I saw the kitchen light thoughtful husband was heating up the food that he had so lovingly prepared for his exhausted wife. What a nice unplanned surprise on this completely unplanned day in my life!

I had to wear my splint for the next three months and go for regular physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions. In retrospect it wasn't such a bad day after all considering all the sympathy and love that I received from my family and friends, not to mention the long holiday that I got from cooking and housework too!

Splint put on the next day after the surgery

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