Sunday, September 4, 2011

Friday fun

Two ambulance calls in two months. What must the neighbors be thinking??? This one wasn't nearly as "convenient" time-wise, either. This one was at 10:30 at night.

Ron is fine, but he sure scared the living daylights out of me Friday night. And, it's all my fault (in a weird sort of way). Accidents happen, but if I hadn't insisted on him taking a shower, the accident wouldn't have happened.

We have a really small bathroom. It's barely big enough for him to go straight in with his wheelchair and back out. If he's really careful, he can turn around (very slowly) and drive out forward-facing. These units were built in the 1970s and although designed for retirees, handicap accessibility wasn't really something that was focused on back then. The bathtub was converted to a "step-through" shower but there's still a little lip there. In order to use the shower, Ron has to drive his wheelchair straight into the bathroom and then slowly turn until it's setting at an angle. There was only one shower seat that would fit in the shower but I made sure that it was rated for up to 300 pounds. When Ron is retaining fluid, he can go from 260 to 290 in just a matter of days.

Transferring to the shower seat is tricky. He doesn't stand up very well on his good leg (that only has 1/2 foot) because his knee has arthritis really badly. He needs surgery on it but no one wants to really tackle it because of his other health problems. He's in better shape [overall] now than he's been in a long time, but still not in a position where surgery is a good idea.  So, because he doesn't stand very well, he has a tendency to push down really hard on the side of any chair that is closest to him. That puts a little "twist" to the structure of that side of the chair. One day (when he was home alone and showered), he noticed that the seat seemed to give a little bit under him. We both "fixed" the screws that seemed to be loose and then didn't really think anymore about it. I did tell him that I didn't want him to attempt a shower without me being home.

We were scheduled to go to visit Oklahoma City with a friend on Saturday to visit some other friends who have recently relocated there and have opened a cupcake bakery (yummy stuff...). So, I told Ron that he should shower and I'd be there to help him in case there was a problem. He got into the shower with no problem. I arranged the shower curtain so he didn't get water all over the floor and then started going about the business of getting his things ready for the next day.

Suddenly, I hear him yell that the shower seat has collapsed under him. The structure had weakened because of the way he transfers and it just couldn't take it any longer. I rushed in and held the chair up while we got him rinsed off and then I got his wheelchair positioned so he could transfer. I just wasn't strong enough to help him get high enough to slide from the shower chair to the wheelchair. I thought we were there and he suddenly slipped out of my grasp. He didn't hit hard and we were able to get him up and in his wheelchair in a matter of moments.

Just in that amount of time, I saw blood starting to pool on the floor and at first I thought he'd re-opened a scratch on the top of his foot (he constantly hits that portion of his 1/2 foot on his wheelchair wheels when he's transferring). All of a sudden, I realized that blood was rapidly falling and there was no way it was coming from his foot. (This is in the space of just a matter of seconds - not even more than a minute had passed.) I went to turn his leg over so I could see what he'd cut (still thinking he'd cut it on his wheelchair because that was the only thing with any sharp surfaces) and realized that he had a huge gash down his shin, just to the left of the center bone. It was bleeding very heavily. I grabbed his washcloth and stuck it on there, all the while saying, "Oh my God! Oh my God! You've got a terrible cut!" I told him I was calling an ambulance and he asked me to call Rex (son-in-law) first. While we waited for Rex to get there, we'd gone through two washcloths, so I grabbed a towel from the linen closet and two rolls of gauze (thankfully, the big thick rolls that were left over from when I used to have to do foot dressing changes).  We had two rolls left and I used them both.

The part with the red box is what sliced his leg open. I think the real issue was the pressure against it as he slid down and the fact that his skin is so thin from diabetes and other health issues. It's not sharp. In fact, it's purposely designed to be safe for older Americans and people who have trouble getting into and out of a traditional bathtub.

About that time, Rex arrived and realized that we really couldn't get Ron out of the bathroom without him putting pressure on the wound (by standing) so he said to call an ambulance. I was crying because it was cut so badly and I felt like it was my fault. What if he lost his leg just because I insisted on a shower??? It would be all my fault. Poor Ron, he was so worried about me because I was so stressed. I don't do blood very well, but I do know how to react in an emergency. I may sound panicky on the phone, but it's not because I don't know what to do, but because I'm afraid for the person (usually Ron) that I'm calling an ambulance for.

In a matter of minutes, our house was full of emergency personnel (10:45 pm) and because I'd told 911 that it was a bad cut, they were all prepared to have to do pressure bandage. They were impressed that I'd been "with it" enough to put a pressure bandage on with the towel and gauze rolls. (The towel I grabbed was a "Sham wow!" towel and it really absorbed the blood and helped keep it from pouring out more.) They didn't have to change the bandage at all.

The hospital was very impressed with it, too. It wasn't quite as deep as I'd thought but he cut an arterial vein that was pumping blood out with every heartbeat. In other words, if I hadn't been there, he would have (could have) bled to death. Of course, if I hadn't been there it wouldn't have happened at all because he wouldn't have taken a shower without me being present.  The physician's assistant sewed on his leg for over an hour. He's got 15 stitches on the outside of his leg and about 15 in the next level. But... she sewed for over 30 minutes on the inside in just one place (the vein) and at one time, told the doctor that she'd put in about six different types of stitches in one small area and it was still bleeding. He had her do one more type; she asked him if the thickness of the sutures would be a problem and he said no. Based on what I saw her doing, and how long it took, we estimate he's got between 50-100 stitches in the wound (counting all of the levels and the stitches in the vein area).

We got home about 1:30 am and Ron insisted on going to OKC to visit our friends. Even though he didn't walk much, he wore his brace which helped keep the leg immobilized. Once he took the brace off, he's been unable to put any weight on it. (That makes a difficult transfer even more difficult.)

Ron wanted me to take a picture of it BEFORE it was sewed up. No thanks... I'd seen enough when I was putting the bandage on it that there was NO WAY I was going to stand there long enough to take a picture just so he could see it. He did watch them sew him up, which totally gave me the heeby-jeebies. I don't watch anything surgery related. (How I worked in the medical field I'll never know.) Then, he wanted me to take a picture of it AFTER it was sewed up. I did that so he could see it but I know there are people who read my blog who don't want to see "sewing" on someones body part.

But, I will post a picture of the bandaged leg.

It doesn't look bad in the bandage.


Bouncin' Barb said...

First things first. Stop blaming yourself. This was going to happen soon or later. Let's hope it heals well and it will be a memory to laugh over down the road. I would suggest contacting a contractor for an estimate in making something that he can sit on and then swivel it into the tub. If there's a will, there's a way. When I had my leg surgery and couldn't stand, I had to xfer myself to a desk chair on wheels with no arms and Rich would wheel me into the bathroom backwards, they I would swing over to a shower seat by using grab bars. It was not easy and it was exhausting but i never tried it alone. Worse case scenario, sponge baths until something can be figured out!!!! God, we could write a book couldn't we?

Thisisme. said...

Hi Teresa. I agree with Barb my friend. Please do not blame yourself for that accident. It could have happened at any time, but again, as Barb has said, it might be worth looking at seeing what could be done differently, to make it easier all round for both of you. I'm sure that something could be done. It must have been pretty traumatic for you though, especially with all that blood pumping out. Eeeek! I'm not very good with blood I'm afraid. Do hope that Ron is feeling okay now and that you're both getting over it a bit. Things like that really do shake you up though. Take care.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

He wanted a picture, God bless him! Maybe somebody clever could make a built in seat for him in the shower/tub. Those walk-in tubs intrigue me ....... but what if the drain clogs? How would you get out without opening the door and flooding the house? I am a deep thinker.

I am glad you got to get away on your trip and that he is doing better over-all. Don't beat yourself up about insisting on the shower ...... cleanliness being next to Godliness and all that!

Jo-Anne Rambling said...

It was an accident and is no ones fault so stop blaming yourself as Barb said it was going to happen at some point.

I would have liked to have seen a picture of it but I am weird like daughter is annoyed that I never took photos of her head when she split it open.......

As long as he is ok now that's good but I do think Barb's suggestion about a swivel seat would be good if it can be done....

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh man. That's a lot of stitches. And plain bad luck, honey. I hope you're able to fix that bathroom set up!

orchid said...

Dear Teresa,
Oh, my God!!! What a scary thing happend. "A cut an arterial vein",
if it wasn't for you who know how to react in an emergency, so relieving and admirable for your knowledge. Yes, please do not blame yourself!!!
Loosing much blood won't be good for our body, hope he feels no exhaustion out of it.
And also, I hope there will be a good renovation to change the unit for your husband to use safer way. I have no idea about how a swivel seat works or you can find...

Swift Recovery for him and good luck for your hearing☆☆☆

Your Japanese Friend, Orchid.

Pat said...

This was just a freaky accident. THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Be thankful that you were home when it happened. Okay? Hope Ron heals quickly and you guys find a better chair that works for him. Take care you two!

labbie1 said...

Hey! It isn't your fault. It just happened!

Another use for a Shamwow! Those things are the BEST, but never would have thought of that for a pressure bandage. I could have used that the last time my dad had a bloody nose.

Bled for 3 hours. No one could get it to stop. The paramedics gave us the option of driving him in the car or taking him in an ambulance.

I said I'd drive. When we got to the hospital about 45 minutes later, the nurses who came out to help thought he was a gunshot victim! Took 20 more minutes at the hospital to get it stopped and a rapid rhino blown WAY UP to keep it stopped.

Next time I'm gonna grab a shamwow on the way!

Sounds like you did well and Ron is okay. Let us know how he is doing!

lyndylou said...

I agree with Barb. Accidents happen. Unfortunately being his carer, guilt comes with the territory.

Glad you are both alright now though :)

kneesandpaws said...

Teresa you are amazing. I don't know the first thing about pressure bandages or proper first aid. I would have fainted dead away. It's amazing about the sham wow. I'm going to get one and include it in our medicine cabinet. Thank goodness you acted fast and that Ron is okay.