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The Twilight Zone

New Legs with Feet

For those of us born back in the good old 1900′s, we probably remember some version of the frustratingly addictive show, “The Twilight Zone.” You know, the one where the characters find themselves trapped in a nightmare of some kind trying desperately to escape. Well, I am beginning to suspect that I’ve crossed into that space between where yesterday ended and today began, and I can’t quite get out.  Every time I think I’m in the clear, I find myself not far from where I began.

I left you last time, with the video of me walking outside.  You were proud of me.  I was proud of myself, and was hoping to write today about the exponential progress I had made.  Sadly, I have made little improvement following my last post.  Rather, I have lost ground on my recovery.  Much of June and early July was spent in the hospital.  I had two more infections in my arm, which required a week as an inpatient.  Surgery to repair my right eardrum went well, though I lost a good amount of my hearing on that side, and we are still hoping for furthered healing in the weeks ahead.  The ear surgeons examined my left ear where surgery was done mid April, and found that it did not heal as desired and still has a small perforation which will require a future operation.  Also, it appears as though I sustained some nerve damage during the procedure which has left part of my tongue numb, and everything tasting salty and bland. In addition, I was prescribed an antibiotic following the ear operation in June which we later found I am allergic to .  This allergy was not known to me or the medical staff, but after orally ingesting the medication, the harsh bodily reactions were prevalent, and I found myself back in the hospital for intravenous steroid treatments.  Slowly, they brought my body back under control.  I was released a few days later, but was given instruction to avoid strenuous activity for three weeks, as we didn’t want to risk blowing the new eardrum.  Unfortunately for me, walking still falls into the category of ‘strenuous activity’.  Cardio and core exercises were the extent of my physical therapy until recently.

As I drew closer to the end of those three weeks, x-rays of my arm revealed that my right elbow was not fusing as desired.  While bone had sealed the upper and lower parts of my arm, my orthopedic surgeon was not optimistic, and was certain the bone would snap soon after removing the frame regardless of how long we allowed it to heal.  The alternative: Surgery.  So last Monday I went back under the knife, and the doctors cut the bone at the elbow and removed about 1cm of the bone before reconnecting the ends in hopes of a stronger elbow fusion than before.  Another week in the hospital.  Another period of intense pain in the arm, along with the heavy doses of narcotics that accompany the pain.  To make matters worse, during the operation, my radial nerve sustained some sort of trauma, which has left me with Radial Nerve Palsy.  This means that I cannot extend my fingers or raise my wrist.  I’d say that I have lost about 80% of the function in that hand, and it is hard to say if or when I will regain any of it.  This happened once before back in October when the frame was initially put on, and it was three months before the nerve began to show signs of healing.  As I said, I’m stuck in the Twilight Zone.

Some good news though!  I finished all my driving tests and now have a shiny new Texas driver’s license.  I bought a new truck and am in the process of having a wheelchair lift and hand controls installed.  Once the work is done, I will no longer be dependent on others for transportation. Which will be a huge relief to me.  Part of the new bone that grew in my right arm over the past nine months has strengthened to the point that the doctors removed half of the frame from my arm along with numerous pins from my shoulder and wrist.  It was an immediate and drastic relief when it was removed.  The remaining metal frame and pins will stay in place for another four to six months before also coming off.  And finally, today I got back up on my feet for the first time in almost a month.  The stubbies have grown about five inches in length, and actual feet (the prosthetic kind) have been attached.  The feet are now longer than the square stubbies, and narrower, but look more natural, and I am even able to put shoes on.  The legs are still rigid with no knee joint, but I suppose we can say that the stubbies have been retired.  The change in height and the shape of the feet made walking very difficult, but I am determined not to retreat back to the stable stubbies.  While I seem to be stuck in some bad episode of the Twilight Zone, I have no option but to drive forward, and hopefully one day soon I can break free from this place, and move on with my life.

Thanks for sticking with me through this nightmare, and for keeping me moving.

Greg

4 Comments
  1. Colleen A Small #

    Dear Greg,
    You are by far one of the most courageuos men I have ever seen. I continue to keep you in my prayers . Keep up the great work and remember your great support team. I am very proud of you ! You are truly an inspiration to all.
    God Bless !
    Colleen A Small
    (Sgt.Zach A Small’s mom)

    July 22, 2012
  2. Terri Cooper #

    Dear Greg,

    Just read your recent update – OMG I had no idea that June and July have been so challenging for you. I know that there will eventually be an end to all the surgeries etc. and I just ask you to stay positive – you will get there I promise.

    Take care
    All my love
    Terri

    July 24, 2012
  3. Joe Flanagan #

    Greg,

    Your strength and perseverance are awe inspiring!

    I am training for the inaugural US Ironman Championships in NYC 8/11 and that training does not come close to the training you have been doing for the past year. Your example is going to help get me across that finish line! I will be thinking of you during the race.

    Keep hitting it hard. You will get to where you want to be.

    All the best,

    Joe Flanagan

    July 26, 2012
  4. Mary Olsen #

    Thinking about you and hope you are making forward progress. Much love from N.Y.

    August 17, 2012

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