Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Trip to the Doctor in PNG

So, a trip to the doctor is not exactly what I had on my list of things I wanted to do in PNG. A couple of days (on a Tuesday) after I got there, I was making lunch and cut my hand. I remember that the two concerns I had at that time were: I do not want to faint while I am padlocked in this apartment and I most certainly do not want to require a blood transfusion here. Thankfully with a nursing background I was all over it. I had the door unlocked and was sitting on the floor with my hand elevated and wrapped in a towel with ice and pressure and was calling Bryce to come home within a minute. Tears only threatened to come when I couldn't get the damn phone to work. We headed straight to the doctor who put two stitches in my cut to stop the bleeding. We asked about tendons etc. and he said he wasn’t worried about them. Given I had just traumatized my finger I wasn’t in a huge rush to move it around, so I wasn't too concerned. We went and had X-rays done which confirmed that I hadn't damaged the bone. The next day however, I actually couldn’t move my finger. I would tell my finger to move and try with all my might to move it without even the tiniest wiggle in response and that was quite concerning to me. I called the insurers to fill them in and shared my concerns that I might have cut a tendon and their medical team requested that I get a medical report from the treating doctor so they could pass judgement. So…the day after it happened (Wednesday) we headed back to the doctor where I more specifically told the doctor I was concerned about the tendons and he said ‘not to worry – you’ll be able to move your finger next week when the stitches come out’….
This was the first red flag - given that I could look at my finger and ‘tell’ it to move and see not even a small wiggle in response. On Thursday morning we picked up the medical report and sent it off to the insurance medical team along with a photo of the cut and a video demonstrating my range of motion (or lack thereof). The video was rejected by the insurer’s server and upon further enquiry I was told that the medical team did not require the video and they would get back to me soon about whether or not I needed to head back to Australia. Second Red Flag! So at that point I took matters into my own hands (or hand!).  On Friday, Google and I found me one of the best hand surgeons in Brisbane and sent him an email which included the medical report, photo and video. If I didn't get a reply back we would've begun to arrange my trip home on our own but I got a reply back from the surgeon within the hour: "There is no doubt what the problem is. You have lacerated your Flexor Digitorum Profundus tendon to your index finger.  It will be complete. It is best to have that repaired ASAP.  I wouldn’t delay too much getting back to Brisbane.  The results are not as good for a delayed repair after some weeks.
This obviously had me full of mixed emotions: on one hand, I got confirmation that my fears were right- I did the right thing, I can get the right treatment now- and on the other hand, I got confirmation that my fears were right - I have to leave PNG under crappy circumstances after I just got here after being apart from Bryce for two months to go home and have surgery and a long recovery. Who knows how this will affect our long term sailing plans! I have completely f'ed up and ruined everything!  Of course accidents happen but its amazing how everything can just change so instantly!
Of course it wasn't as simple as just going home, nothing ever is. This was on Friday and we found out that the insurers hadn't even processed the medical report that we sent them the morning before and told us " oh it's getting a bit close to the weekend so we might not be able to arrange anything before the weekend!" Great emergency travel insurance right!? Well, they certainly knew how to awaken Bryce's inner fight and I was on a plane home on Sunday! I went into the hospital on Monday and was operated on first thing Tuesday. 
My Very Special Visitors!
The surgeon that I found was amazing and while he didn't actually perform the surgery and I've never even met him, he seriously made me feel cared for from afar! He put his registrar on it and the entire process was seamless. We are so grateful to him as it was his quick response to my email that got the ball rolling! It was also quite an interesting experience being on the receiving end of care after being on the giving end for so long, I certainly appreciated being awoken nicely for midnights obs and antibiotics! I had some lovely visitors while I was in the hospital who certainly cheered me up and I felt a bit like a princess as staff brought me the phone multiple times a day with Bryce calling from PNG and my family calling from the states. Turns out I had completely severed two tendons and another on partially. The repair went well and I should expect to regain relatively full function of my finger (~80%). 
There's a lot going on for just a finger!
I am now decked out with this super 'awesome' purple splint that ensures that I don't use my left hand. Thank goodness I'm a righty, right!? So I'm learning how to do everything one handed. I'm ok at typing but I am hand writing these blog posts and Bryce's mum is typing them up for me. She is awesome and so is the rest of the family who are helping me with all sorts of simple things like putting up my hair, hooking my bra, chopping things up, cooking, driving me around and so much more! I am very grateful and lucky!
I currently have weekly occupational therapy and will be in my splint full time for three more weeks (currently at three weeks), before they start weaning me off of it. I can't start using my hand for another two and a half months and should expect to regain normal use in about 5 months (six months from surgery). This is just the general prognosis and hopefully we will be able to speed it up a bit!

1 comment:

  1. So glad you sent the flags, and they were seen! Wish you a well and timely recovery! Big hugs and love from afar! <3 Amy