PT, OT and random thoughts, in no particular order!

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So many thoughts running through my mind these last few weeks!

Now that the worst is behind me, I find myself thinking, “holy cow, I literally went through a life changing battle the last 2.5 years!”

While I was going through these last 2.5 years, I couldn’t focus too much on how difficult things were as I needed to focus on getting through the next surgery/procedure/hospital stay.

At times I felt so isolated and the feeling that time was standing still was abundant. As I was fighting the good fight, life around me went on as if nothing was happening. That’s just how life works. This is what I keep coming back to.

My aunt was just diagnosed with leukemia and is fighting to get through it, and as she is battling each day, life keeps moving. Time doesn’t stand still.

As I was getting my mammogram, the technician told me she thought it was inspiring to see that I still made time to come in. I thought that was so odd. Yes, I still have a long road ahead of me, but life keeps moving on and I need to take care of myself.

We all need to take care of ourselves, regardless of what is happening in our world. Some days will be tougher than others – and trust me, I get it. With every fiber of my being, I get it.

I told you – random thoughts folks!

Physical and occupational therapy started and I am making progress! PROGRESS, friends! It is hard! At times I feel frustrated but other times I feel as though I am kicking butt! I really need to focus on the task at hand and talk to myself inside my head when I am willing my leg to move. This is what I have been waiting for – the path to recovery. Walking, driving, working, etc., again. I knew there would be times of frustration & tears, but that’s OK!

When I first get up in the morning, I am very stiff! My hip is thinking, “whoa, I need to move!” Once I start moving around, it helps. By the end of PT or OT, my hip and knee are sore and my leg is oh so tired. It’s the good tired though, that feeling of accomplishment on most days!

Before I broke my leg, I had a very pronounced gait. As I have no muscle memory in this leg, I am learning how to walk again after 2.5 years, and guess what? My gait is so much better than before! It takes concentration when I walk as I tell myself, “heel, toe, bend your knee, don’t drag your foot … heel, toe, bend your knee, don’t drag your foot.” It’s working!

A better gait? What?! This my friends is another silver lining in this journey! AMAZING!!!

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I will have in home PT for a few more weeks and then I will transition to a rehab center as an outpatient. Believe it or not, I am looking forward to going to the rehab center because I believe they will be able to better assist me in getting me to walk and drive again.

It is unfortunate that I am not eligible to be an inpatient, as I feel as though the rehab center has more resources available to them that will allow me to do more exercises, etc., to get me on my feet. When you are an inpatient, they spend more time working with you. The rehab facility that I will go to is an acute care facility that I have been told does amazing work which inspires me!

I am in the home stretch and I can do this!

Life … it goes on around you while you are fighting the good fight. Be strong, be brave, and keep going. The end result will be satisfying because you will have worked your behind off to achieve it!

This post is dedicated to my Aunt Kathy. Keep fighting! You can do this! Sending so much love your way each and every day! I love you!

Finish this sentence: Life is…

Until next time, be well and go out and do a random act of kindness.

Jewels

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An Open Letter to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, you have been a part of my life for the last 2.5 years. Here, I have found the most talented, dedicated, kind, and wonderful surgeons, nurse practitioners, surgical residents, and nurses.

When you are going through a medical journey/crisis/life changing battle, you can only pray to find the very best medical team. I was lucky enough to do just that – I have the absolute best medical team!

Having had countless hospital stays and 21 surgeries in 2.5 years, I have always been well cared for at BIDMC. “Thank You” seems inadequate for the support, compassion, kindness, and care I have received here.

I believe recognition should be bestowed upon these outstanding and dedicated professionals whom I am fortunate enough to have been/be under their care.

Dr. Megan Anderson is an outstanding orthopedic surgeon who came into my life when I broke my leg 2.5 years ago. Dr. Mark Gebhardt treated me as a teenager, when I developed Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer. When I broke my leg and was transported to BIDMC for care, he introduced me to Dr. Anderson and I am so thankful to be under her care.

After having radical radiation treatments in 1984, there is significant damage to my femur. My case certainly isn’t a cookie cutter one, and Dr. Anderson had her work cut out for her. Initially she put in rods and screws, however, unfortunately, the break failed to heal. A year after breaking my leg, I had an infected non-union of the fracture, the femoral head crumbled and my hip fractured.

As I had many other complications, we needed to wait until the issues with my foot healed before we could proceed with the hip/joint replacement and megaprothesis of the femur. On August 3rd, we were able to move forward and Dr. Anderson was able to successfully complete this surgery!

Each time I have a follow-up appointment or see Dr. Anderson, she is encouraging and confident that I will learn how to walk again after being non-weight-bearing for 2.5 years. I truly appreciate what she has done for me!

Dr. Raul Guzman is the most humble and compassionate vascular surgeon … hands down! I first met Dr. Guzman after I developed pressure sores on my heel after my initial surgery to fix the break.

After spending time in my local hospital (90 minutes away from BIDMC) on IV antibiotics for my foot, my heel went from red to black. Upon discharge, I met a local vascular surgeon who painted a pretty dark picture. I had a blockage and the blood flow to my foot was .18. This was not good! The meeting with this local surgeon left me completely devastated and feeling as though there was no hope of saving my foot.

Thankfully, Dr. Anderson referred me to Dr. Guzman. Immediately upon meeting Dr. Guzman and discussing treatment plans, I knew in my heart that this surgeon would be able to clear the blockage and take care of me. Dr. Guzman has a wonderful way of speaking with you-not at you-he speaks with you. He addressed the issues and painted a picture that left me feeling hopeful.

Dr. Guzman was able to clear the blockage! He has done several angioplasty and I have two stents in my leg. The blood is flowing. I have my foot!

During each of my hospital stays, Dr. Guzman is often the first person I see in the morning before rounds start and often times the last person I see at night. Even when I am not on his service, he still stops in to check on me!!! He will call me at home to see how things are coming along and to make sure I am fine.

When I tell Dr. Guzman that he is my hero, he says humbly that it is a team effort. That is who he is. Trust me when I tell you that I have talked with nurses, nurse practitioners, anesthesiologist, surgical techs, and the list goes on, and they all say that Dr. Guzman is one of a kind. I could not agree more!

The pressure sores on my foot turned into a lot more than anticipated. The Achilles tendon and bone was exposed for 9 months. I had osteomyelitis (the bone was infected) and had a few surgeries, including grafting. As the foot was not healing, Dr. Anderson recommended that I meet with a plastic surgeon.

Enter Dr. Matthew Iorio.

Dr. Iorio is an extremely gifted plastic surgeon who does amazing work. He preformed a free flap, grafting, and had me go to hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy. After eleven months under his care, we were able to get the foot healed!

Dr. Iorio was also part of my big surgery and he was able to, what I consider, miraculously, piece back the skin on my damaged leg to cover the incision from the hip/joint replacement and megaprothesis. My surgeries with him were no easy task given the damage to my leg.

I am grateful that Dr. Iorio became a part of my journey. He is kind, compassionate, caring, and devoted to his patients. While he is an extremely busy surgeon, he always takes the time to talk with me and explain things so I can fully understand and grasp the situation.

On one occasion, following a 7-8 hour surgery with him, I needed to go back into the OR  later that same day and I was scared! Dr. Iorio has a very calming presence about him and was able to ease my fears that night. We should all be so lucky to have a surgeon like Dr. Iorio in our lives.

Awaiting surgery of any kind can be stressful. LeeAnn Allsop is a pre-op and PACU nurse. She was with me for a few surgeries, and what a blessing she was to me! LeeAnn is a warm and kind person who loves her job and loves caring for others. When I was nervous or anxious, she made me laugh and relieved my worries. Each time I would enter the pre-op area, if I saw LeeAnn, there was a sense of comfort knowing she was there. What a dedicated and wonderful nurse!

Serena Skiffington is a nurse practitioner who works with my plastic surgeon. How can I sum up Serena without writing a book about her?

It was evident to me upon meeting Serena that she is a person who is truly invested in her patients. She did rounds with the residents; answered all of my questions; came back to see me throughout the day if there was a problem or just to check on me; ensured that I was being cared for; handled the discharge paperwork to make sure that the visiting nurse was set up and that I had my medications … and the long list continues.

How many people go out of their way to run to CVS for you when you are by yourself in the hospital and need something? How many people will bring you a desperately needed cup of coffee? Serena does this! She is one of my biggest cheerleaders – always telling me that I can do whatever is set out before me, regardless of how daunting the task may be.

The residents and floor nurses adore Serena and I have had many a conversation with others about how lucky we all feel to know her. Dr. Iorio is lucky to work with her and we patients are blessed to have her in our corner as our advocate. Serena provides exceptional care!

Caroline Torney is a nurse educator on the orthopedic floor. At the time of my first hospital stay at BIDMC after I broke my leg, Caroline was a floor nurse and one of the first ones assigned to me. My daughter and I could not believe what a kind and caring nurse she is. I said to my daughter, “If all of the nurses are like Caroline, I will be in good hands!”

Caroline is a beautiful person on the inside and out. She is very sweet, dedicated to her profession, and makes being a nurse look easy, which we all know it is anything but easy.

Over time and through many surgeries, Caroline would visit me on the vascular and trauma floors. She wanted to make sure I had everything I needed. Seeing and talking with her just lifted my spirits. I am so grateful for Caroline and the work she does.

Kenny Lee was a OR tech who worked with Dr. Guzman. (He now works in another area of the hospital.) I was awake in the OR and extremely nervous before my first angioplasty. Kenny came over to me, started talking, joking, and asking questions. My blood pressure came down and we were instant friends. He has always been wonderful, kind, giving, and comforting. He is a constant each time I am in the hospital, and so is the laughter!

There are more kind individuals who’ve assisted me. The list is long. The nurses on CC6, Reisman 12, and FARR 5 are simply the best! Tiffany Phelan, a nurse practitioner for Dr. Guzman; Alicia Sepe, a nurse for Dr. Anderson; Christine Kuhn, an assistant for Dr. Iorio;  Dr. Sarah Carlson, a former surgery resident; Dr. Brady Sieber, Dr. Bill Knaus, and Dr. Brian Freniere, surgical residents – amazing people!!

Thank you Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for taking such great care of me and for having the utmost professional and dedicated staff.

The outstanding individuals mentioned above should be recognized and praised for their compassion, kindness, and incredible talent to their craft.

Signed,

A grateful patient,

Julie Schuder

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