One day in the waiting room

Efrosini Serafimidis

Efrosini Serafimidis

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from the board and care facility where my mom lives. It was late morning. They said she simply woke up complaining of intense pain and couldn’t move her left leg. She had been in bed all morning. I went over as soon as I could. She was clearly not able to move her leg much and certainly could not stand. But as she lay there in bed, she said she would be okay, that she just needed to rest her leg because she had been overdoing it. Then a little later, she said she had fallen down a couple days before and now it was sore. I had seen her a couple days ago. And the day before. This didn’t really quite add up. That’s not really a big surprise considering she has worsening dementia. Nonetheless, I worried that she had indeed fallen and that I wasn’t getting the whole story from the nursing home. They claimed she just woke up with pain in her leg.

She was actually in pretty good spirits and insisted she would be fine with some bed rest. I already had a lot on my mind that day, so I didn’t push it. I decided I would go back home to finish a couple errands and call the Kaiser advice nurse from there. I described the situation as best I could. The advice was to get to the ER as soon as possible. Which we did.

I started to assume the worst, which was that she had fallen and destroyed the hip replacement she had just had done in May, and from which that she had only just fully recovered. In fact, just two days before when I had seen her she was really getting around great with her walker, and taking a few steps here and there without it. This was part of the reason for my increased worry. She has always been incredibly stubborn. I plead with her to be safe and always use her walker. Which she doesn’t.

We spent all day and evening in the ER. They x-rayed her hip. It looked fine. That was a huge relief. She is so small that the x-ray image got about down to her knee, and the ER doctor saw something down there. So eventually they got another set of shots of the left knee. There they saw a bone chip. The location and lack of bruising suggested that she had not fallen. The doctor opined that something like a sudden muscle contraction could have pulled off a bit of her fragile bone. Perhaps she was catching herself from falling. It also appeared that there was not much to be done about it. After finally hearing back from the orthopedic doctors about her x-rays, the ER doc declared that they would put a brace on her leg and that we could leave. But it was now midnight. Everyone would be asleep at her facility. I would have to get her into my car here, and out at the other end—or pay a few hundred bucks for an ambulance. And she was pretty loopy from the morphine, not to mention tired and in pain when she moved. Moving her at the moment didn’t see like a good idea. So, I talked the doc into keeping her there in the ER overnight so that I could come and get her in the morning. Which I did.

We had an appointment with the orthopedists the following week. We sat in the waiting room. I took some pictures. Eventually we saw the doctor. The doctor agreed that surgical intervention was not worth it. But she cautioned that it would be painful for a while. Which it has been.