Barb's Broken Back

On Sunday, 6/14/15, Barb decided to do some gardening. In the process she tried to unkink a garden hose by walking backward in the alley way between our house and our neighbors. Unfortunately, she forgot about the open window well next door, tripped and fell backwards around 7 feet to the bottom of the well. As it happened, I was working in my office and saw her walking around and was going out to see if I could help when I heard her yell and the crash. I leaped down the window well where she was gasping "I can't breathe" (I reframed from pointing out that it's hard to talk without breathing) but there was the first major relief - she was alive.

Next, I got her to move both her arms and her legs so now my heart could start working again. She might be hurt but she wasn't paralyzed and it was just a matter of getting her well again. (Needless to say, waiting to see if she could move her limbs was one of the scariest moments in my life.)

I think this time I won't do a day by day report (a lot of it would just be a repeat of Barb's broken leg incident from 6 years ago). Instead I'll break it down into the major events and summarize what happens during those periods.

Current Status (6/25/15):
Barb is home! Had a bit of a nasea issue on the front steps (probably because of the ride home) but she's resting comfortably right now. Next step is just a multiple week convalescence.

Paramedics (Sun 6/14/15)
Someone called 911 and the paramedics arrived. Now we had the interesting problem of getting her out of the window well. They looked the situation over and decided (correctly) that the best way was to open the window and move Barb into the neightbor's basement. So one guy was in the basement with the backbord supporting Barb's head and two other beefy guys somehow squeezed into the bottom of the window well, supported her at the hip area, and slid her through the window onto the back board. (Barb said one of the paramedics told her to hold on to his arm and she was thinking - how, his arm was too full of muscles to get her hand around it.)

Anyway, got her into the basement and then hit the other problem - the stairway landing was too narrow to get the stretcher trough. Fortunately they have this chair like device (kind of half way between a stretcher and a chair) that they put her on and got her up to the main level. Then they put her onto the real stretcher adn into the ambulance.

ER (Sun 6/14/15)
Fun trip to the ER. It was interesting that, when I asked the ambulance people where they were taking her the answer was "where do you want to go?". Unless it's an immediate life threatening situation (in which case they go to the nearest trauma center) they'll go where you want them to.

Anyway, we get to the ER and eventually they do some x-rays and discover that she has:

(When Barb decides to do something she goes all out.)

The breaks on her fingers are not a concern, there's no deformity of either finger so they hurt but they only need to be splinted so that she doesn't try to bend them too much while they heal.

The broken ribs will probably hurt as time goes on but the back issues are kind of swamping the rib pain for now.

The T12 vertebrae is not a concern, it's a stable break so there's not much danger to it, just let it heal with time.

The T6 fracture - not so good. Fortunately, the burst fragments went out so nothing cut the nerve so that is good. The area is very unstable and that is bad. Our neurosurgeon talked it over with his practice and 2 out of 3 doctors recommended surgery to fuse T6 to T8, completely stabilizing the area which is what we opted to do (wearing a back brace for 8 weeks and hoping that nothing goes wrong while waiting for the bones to heal, which was the alternative, just didn't appeal). Dr. Nelson explained that that area of the spine doesn't bend much anyway so fusing those 3 vertebrae would create minimal long term issues (probably won't win any yoga contests but, other than that, she should get her life back completely).

Surgery (Mon 6/15/15)
Surgery was a complete success (he was even able to strighten out her spine a little) but recovery is talking longer that we had hoped. She's still at BCH but we hope to get her out of there soon, maybe by Friday or Satuday (hah, talk about being optimistic). Took her into the OR at around 1:30PM and she came back around 5:00PM. Still very groggy from the anesthesia but, given her history, that was only to be expected.

Doctor explained that they had no problems fusing the vertebrae, that went fine. He did decide to cut the nerver that went around the left side from the back to the middle of the lower chest. The nerve ending `looked ugly' so he decided to pre-emptively cut it out so that it wouldn't cause problems in the future. Should have no impact other than a little numbness in that small area of the chest (Barb has reported no such numbness so removing that nerve has had no impact at all).

Recovery (Tues 6/16/15 - ?)
Now the hardest part of the whole situation - recovery. The big problem is that Barb does `not` respond well to pain mediations, especially narcotics. They wound up giving her Oxycontin, which does a great job of controling the pain but Barb will take a week to recover from the side effects of the Oxycontin. Got her off that and we're now trying MSContin (at least it's not Oxy), Tramedal for pain, and Valium for muscle spasms.

Pain med update - we decided maybe the MSContin (still narcotic based) might be an issue so we'll stop that. The pain is better so we'll go with just Tramedal in general, Dilaudid (she had this in the ER and seemed to tolerate it OK) if we need an extra burst of pain relief, and Valium for muscle spasms.

Yet another pain med update. Still having trouble with nausea so let's stop the Tramedal and just go strictly with Dilaudid for pain and low dosage Valium for muscle spasms. We'll see.

The main recovery issues are that she's not eating at all well (she never has, this just makes that worse), and she's so weak it's a struggle to get her to walk 10 feet out of the room. She is mobile enough to walk to the bathroom but we need to get her eating and walking.