When I woke up at Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center in September, 2011, I didn’t know anything. Who, what, where, when or why—Literally! I found myself on a learning curve that began from scratch.
But first, little history:
Preparation for my total knee replacement was going as planned. Knee surgery was to be followed by total hip replacement if I met all necessary medical conditions. It was during this workup that a heart problem surfaced. Further diagnosis proved that I was in need of a triple bypass and an evaluation of my heart valve. Heart surgery had taken priority over any elective orthopedic surgery to improve mobility. My heart surgery was put on the fast track and scheduled for late March, 2011. The result was a successful quadruple bypass and a bovine aortic valve replacement.
Post operative therapy was progressing without difficulty and with positive psychological rewards. I pursued my usual activities of daily living with caution, but was able to go back to my favorite pastime of frequenting local coffee shops and resuming my interest in photography.
Beginning in mid-July of 2011, I started experiencing lower back pain on the left side. It became increasing more severe. I finally decided to go to the emergency room at McGuire Veterans Hospital located here in Richmond, Virginia. The Veterans Administration had been my medical provider since before I moved to Richmond from Connecticut. The ER doctor examined me and her suspicion was an intestinal issue. I was treated and released.
My discomfort continued and increased. I remember going to the emergency room at McGuire four times in one week. On one trip, I was accompanied by two of my neighbors. The pain was so extreme that I screamed in the waiting room and almost collapsed. The emergency room treatments provided me with only short term relief. The results of the X-rays revealed a blockage in my upper intestine but found no obstruction. Treatment included suppositories, laxatives, and finally Golytely. The results of the Golytely were inconclusive and produced no evidence of obstruction.
Finally, I resorted to going to the emergency room by ambulance and called my friend to let her know. I had gotten up that morning, shaved, dressed, walked to the kitchen, fed my cat, fixed coffee, and sat down in my recliner to watch TV. I was working up the courage to place the call for an ambulance. My neighbor even suggested that I have the EMTs bring the gurney up to the apartment rather than walking down to the front door to meet them. I was fully capable of walking down.
When the EMTs arrived with a gurney, I lifted myself on to it and lay down. They wheeled me down the hall, into the elevator and then into the ambulance. The ambulance had a see thru roof and I watched the street signs as we proceeded to McGuire. I noticed that the driver did not turn left on 14th Street as expected, but got on what appeared to be an interstate highway. Finally, the driver did get on Hull Street and I was familiar with our location. The attendant was checking vital signs all during this time. At some point on Hull Street on the way to the hospital I slipped into a coma.
The next thing I remember, I woke up at Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center on the campus of McGuire VA Hospital. I had never heard of this rehabilitation facility, didn’t know where I was, how I got there or how much time may have elapsed. I honestly thought I had become a victim of some conspiracy.
I was confined to bed with bolsters on each side to keep me from “falling,” but under the circumstances, I thought that I was being restrained. Everything was very confusing and I was later told that I was hallucinating, delusional, and aggressive. I do remember being sure that my cat was with me and under the covers. I vaguely remember someone was mentioning the need for back surgery, but have no memory of signing a consent form. I have no idea as to who, where, or when this conversation may have taken place.
No one has come forward with information regarding my being admitted to McGuire Veterans Hospital, being transferred from McGuire to Sitter and Barfoot, back to McGuire for surgery and then back to Sitter and Barfoot. All of these moves and transfers were made, to the best of my knowledge, without my consent or the consent of my family.
The result is that I have not been able to stand or walk since slipping into a coma and currently have spasticity in both legs and suffer from paraplegia. The current facility, Sitter and Barfoot, is no longer providing me with skilled nursing or supervised rehabilitation.
I had an abscess between T-8 and T-9 vertebrae caused by the MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) virus. The abscess was putting pressure on the spinal nerves and needed to be removed. McGuire Veterans Medical Center performed a laminectomy on my spine and I have not walked since the surgery.
The road back to reality has been a somewhat rapid at times, always upward, and often a frustrating. If you don’t know what you don’t know, you have to start from scratch. Fortunately, I suffered no cognitive decline but did experience a brief period of short term memory loss. Most notably, computer passwords. I did regain 100% of my memory back, except the time in a coma. Once back on the computer, I set about researching and reconstructing the what, where, when, and why.
Now I’m writing about my accomplishments, losses, and many frustrations.