Today was the day…I met Vernon and his wonderful EMT team, who rolled him via gurney to the Newport Orthopedic Institute in Irvine. The waiting room was busy, filled with patients, but the young woman at the desk was more helpful than any receptionist I’ve met on this journey yet. She told me not to worry about his being late, but that he could immediately go wait in a room down the hall. I make a point of saying this because it can be terribly awkward at these consultations, having to wait with Vernon with everyone else, especially if its a very long wait—or as has happened before, he’s turned away. We had a private place to wait and chat and were attended to pretty quickly after his arrival.
This was the first time I’d seen the x-rays from last week. I knew a plate had broken in his arm, but I couldn’t understand how it had happened or even where it was, exactly. Here’s a phone photo I took of the screen. That’s not just a broken plate—that’s a broken BONE.
So even after his initial surgery in May 2014, Vernon’s arm never completely healed. The ulna healed but not the radius (if I’ve got my anatomy in order.) It’s been fractured for two years, held together by tiny metal brace, which recently broke, apparently from simple wear and tear. The surgeon, Dr. Leiber, told me that the brace is really just like a paper clip holding it together, its not meant to do it for long. Twist it a couple times and it holds up, but you can only do that so many times before it snaps. I can hardly believe after all this time, we find that bone never healed.
Dr. Leiber told us the options. Surgery would be somewhat risky, due to Vernon’s need for dialysis and the shunt in his upper arm. For the bone to have a chance to heal, a bone graft would be required. He said it would probably be taken from the pelvis, and that the pain from that would likely be worse than from the arm surgery. I asked what the other option was, and he said, “you can leave it as is.” Really? I can’t imagine that leaving it like this for long wouldn’t make things worse.
My immediate response was to say yes to the surgery. Is there really another option? Vernon’s been showing such cognitive improvement lately (he’s remembering my name every day now and has for a few weeks straight) so I asked him what he thought. This was the first time that we’ve been dealing with doctors and surgeons that he could speak for himself. This was indeed the silver lining today.
“I’ll have the surgery, I’d like my arm fixed.”
“Even if it hurts, Vernon?” I asked.
“What’s a little more pain?” he answered.
I told the doctor it was worth the risk because after all, Vernon’s right arm is withered and of very little use, and he’s a painter.
“This is my painting arm,” he said, waving it at the doctor.
He’s booked for surgery on July 7. There are a lot of pre-ops to be considered, including his history of MRSA. I’d like it to be much earlier, but I’ve done everything in my power, so I’ll choose to trust that the timing is right.
I saw this on the way out…what a marker for our path.