- Published: Tuesday, 04 April 2017 04:35
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March 15, 2011, was a day that changed my life forever; it was the kind of day all diabetics fear. I have been a T2 diabetic since 2001. I had it under control for many years but then totally lost control. This is the story of my life for the two-and-a-half years that followed. I want to share my experience to let all diabetics, and, in fact, to let anyone who suffers a dark day like it did, know there is always hope. Here is my story.
Walk A Mile In My Shoes
By George Breithaupt
The longest journey of my life began on the Ides of March 2011, which was a bit ironic. But Sunday evening March 15, 2011, found me on my living room floor going in and out of consciousness. However, my lucid moments were anything but. I recall trying to stand up and being unable to even make an attempt. At one point I remember thinking, “I wish Dylan would stop by.” Dylan McCament was a friend and former coworker at the newspaper where I worked.
I eventually became aware of someone knocking, pounding really, on the kitchen door, which was the main entrance to the house. I must have heard him without realizing it at first because he later told me he had been knocking for a while.
“Dylan, come in! I’m here,” I yelled. I heard him say the door was locked so I yelled at him (I thought) to wait. He kept knocking and I was afraid he was going to leave because he couldn’t hear me. After an excruciatingly slow and painful crawl of about 8 feet I reached the door and pounded on it to let him know I was there.
“George? Are you there, George?” I heard him yell. I banged on the door again and tried to reach up to flip the latch which locked the outer storm door. It was barely within my reach and had to be flipped up. I made it after several tries and the door opened.
“George! Are you all right,” he said.
“I can’t get up,” I told him.
He asked if I wanted him to help me get in my recliner and I nodded my head. Dylan is a pretty strong guy and I was nothing but dead weight. I tried to help but could not. He finally hustled me over to my recliner; a distance of probably 15 feet. How he got me into the recliner I don’t know. He later told me he didn’t really remember how he managed that.
“Do you want me to call the squad (paramedics)?” he asked. I told him I was OK which neither of us believed.
“Where is your cell phone? I don’t have mine.”
I shook my head. But he said he was calling the squad.
“I’m going to go next door to get John.”
John was my neighbor and good friend. Dylan gave me his half-finished cigarette and left saying he would be right back. It was the last cigarette I would ever smoke!
It seemed like he took several hours but Dylan finally came back with John who took one look at me and said he was going back to his house to call the squad.
The next few hours, in fact, the next few days are a blur. I remember the squad arriving and people talking to me, but I don’t remember if I answered them. I do not remember being taken to the hospital, Knox Community Hospital, and I only remember bits and pieces of being there.
I later learned they took off my shoes and my right foot was black. I have a vague memory of them cutting off my jeans, my favorite pair of black denim jeans. I also remember thinking about how I could repair the jeans later.
I remember a woman – A nurse? A doctor? – examining my foot and asking me to indicate if I felt anything. She was poking my foot and I told her I felt something, I thought. Evidently not the right answer because she said, “No you don’t feel anything.”
After that, there are just bits and pieces of things I remember. I remember my friend Zach sitting there talking to me. It was, as I recall it, like a dream sequence with a haze around Zach and no background. I remember that about several incidents. I woke up the next day (right!) feeling marginally better. I asked the nurse if there was a phone I could use. I said I had to call work to tell them I wouldn't be in. The nurse gave me a funny smile and showed me the phone next to the bed. I called work, the local newspaper and asked to speak to my editor, Samantha.
“Samy, It's George. I finally took your advice. I am in the hospital and don't think I'm gonna make it in today.”
Samy laughed, longer and harder than I expected.
“Do you know what day it is,” she asked.
“It's Wednesday. I've been to see you every night. Just get better, OK?”
I started taking her advice. But it took a long time.
I have to give it to Samy, she was incredibly supportive. When I was recuperating in a Health Care Center in Westerville Ohio, about 40 miles from Mount Vernon, she visited several times there, too. And she brought me T-shirts! A wonderful gift for someone in that situation. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I found out later that the doctors at KCH were very worried about my condition and weren't sure I was going to survive. My white blood count was about as bad as it could be and my foot was black and my leg not much better to look at.
“It was black with big streaks of red and yellow, my brother Dave told me. “It didn't look good at all!”
The hospital spent several days pumping my body with all kinds of antibiotic to get my condition to a point where they could transport me to Columbus – a 50-minute trip – for better treatment. I think I was there three maybe four days before they sent me to St. Ann's Hospital in Westerville.
I do remember people talking about sending me over and even asking me if I felt like taking a ride to Westerville. However, I don't remember if I gave them an answer.
But it was decided to send me and I remember being in a wheelchair and sitting up the whole ride. The attendants kept asking me if I was comfortable and I even remember talking to one of the guys about working at the newspaper. He said his brother knew someone or he knew someone who worked at the newspaper or used to. Well, you get the idea. The trip seemed to take maybe 15 minutes but I was later told it was about 80 minutes because of traffic.
Everything was a blur at St. Ann's. I do recall arriving and being wheeled into the emergency room. I evidently was able to give acceptable answers to the questions I have since learned are asked by every emergency room.
The blur continued and there was a parade of faces swimming in the brown fog that was my world during those days. I remember one face in particular that – I later learned - belonged to Dr. Vincent, the surgeon who did the surgery on my leg. And I do remember him talking to me.
“You are very sick,” he would say, “And your leg is not in very good shape. We will try to save it. We can't save your leg.”
I know this doesn't really make sense but it is how I remember it in my “very sick” and confused state. One thing I do remember very well is the signing of forms that would let the doctors make many decisions they felt were needed. These were very explicitly explained and I believe my brother Dave was there to help make these understood by me. In other words, they were asking my permission to amputate my leg. In fact, it was probably my brother who actually made that decision.
Dave has told me that Dr. Vincent told him the prognosis for my leg was not good and neither was it good for me. I think my brothers were pretty well convinced they would be the first ones to bury one of the brothers. They were all staying close to their telephones during the operation and my sister-in-law Lorraine, John's wife, told me she cried for half-an-hour when Dave called and said I was out of surgery and doing well.
Although I was not in a condition to fully understand what was going on, it was a harrowing experience for me, too. I remember, at one point, after a lot of discussion, being taken down to a large room with round, overhead lights. I was transferred from a gurney to a rather cold table covered with just one sheet. Again there were more discussions and questions to me. I don't believe my answers were acceptable, this time. One group was insisting I was not in any kind of shape to make any decisions or sign any permission forms. Others contended there were other forms I had signed that were “perfectly good.” I think one problem was that Dave wasn't there to legitimize any actions on the part of the doctors or the hospital. I had had a couple of “shots” so I soon lost interested in the argument and kind of drifted off.
The next thing I know I was being wheeled back up my room. I sort of have a recollection of asking if the discussion had been settled. One of the people accompanying me kind of laughed and said I did all right. Again I drifted off.
The next thing I remember is sitting in a larger, very white room that seemed to feather away rather than end in hard edges. There was a couch and an easy chair and a large potted plant. I was sitting in the easy chair having a visit with my parents, whom I had not seen since they had passed away many years before.
Unfortunately, I do not remember much of what we discussed. I am sure it would have been nice. But what I do remember is that after a while I heard a voice e calling my name.
“I think it's time for you to go, son,” my Dad said.
“I'm not ready to go, Dad, I'm not ready yet,” I said.
“It's time for us to go,” my mother said. “but you can't stay!”
“We will be here son,” Dad said. “We'll be waiting for you. There are other people who need you.”
The voice grew louder and I managed to get my drier-than-dust throat to answer.
“How's your pain level, George. How you doing, honey?” It was the nurse talking to me.
“Yeah, I seem to have a little more pain in my leg.”
“I'll go get you some pain medication,” the nurse answered. “And then I'll call your brother and tell him you're out of surgery.”
“Whoa, wait a minute! Did you say I just got out of surgery?”
“Yes, I did. You got out about 15 or 20 minutes ago,” came the answer.
The nurse left the room and I laid my head back on the pillow. I lifted it again and stared down at my right leg, or what was left of it. It was swaddled with bandages but not enough to cover a whole leg.
“Good God, they did it,” I thought. “I did it!” I was very calm and accepting of it. I didn't look down and scream “where's the rest of me!” I didn't then and I haven't yet. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever say that to myself. I live in some fear that I WILL wake up one morning, look down at my leg, or lack thereof and THEN scream.
Although I was very accepting of what happened to me, I did wonder what was going to happen. I thought briefly about having a cigarette but realized was going to be a problem with that. So I forgot about it. The nurse had come back with a couple of small looking pills for me, which I took. I was feeling pretty mellow, immediately forgot about a cigarette and laid my head back down on my pillow. Little did I realize I had just quit smoking.
But this was only the beginning of my journey; there going to be some very dark days and more than a few with light and hope.
It was only the end of Part One.