It's been awhile since we gave people an update on Dave's two fractured vertebrae. The last update was his open letter to my travel family. We both received so much support from everyone it was overwhelming. It has been two months of highs and lows and here is a little recap of what we've been up to.
Read: An Open Letter to my Travel Family, a thank you from Dave
Dave spent 18 days in hospital and another two weeks at home using a walker. By the time Christmas holidays were in full swing, he had cast aside his walker and was walking on his own. We were elated when he took his first walk outside. It was a short jaunt down the road, but it was the start of a quick recovery. A physiotherapist visited our home for four weeks and by the beginning of January he was doing out patient physiotherapy at the hospital.
Hospital Trials and Tribulations
I can't say that everything went smoothly. There are a lot of bumps in the road when it comes to Canadian health care. There was a delay flying home from Peru because there weren't any hospital beds here in Ontario. We've learned that hospitals are understaffed and it is affecting Canadians in need of health care. Woodstock hospital finally took us, but they didn't have a spinal department, so we were stuck with rotating Dr's discussing Dave's condition with doctors in London.
Luckily we had Travel Insurance to at least have the opportunity to fight with the Ontario Health Care System.
When Dave first arrived at the hospital from Peru, he was in really rough shape. He hadn't had a bowel movement or eaten for days. The heavy narcotic medication that they had him on in Peru wreaked havoc on his system. There are a lot of side effects to narcotics and he should have been on other medication to stabilize his system and alleviate discomfort. But they just kept pumping him full of painkillers.
When he arrived in Woodstock, he suffered greatly at first until until my brother and sister-in-law came to visit. Heather is a nurse with 20 years experience here in Canada and the U.S. She told me that he should be on IV and that they should be explaining the side effects of his medication. Her words were, this is unacceptable. I had to complain to the nurses to get him on IV as he was severely dehydrated, they said they'd talk to the doctor.
They didn't give an IV until the following day. That night, Dave threw up blood and had severe pain in bowels and back because of the pressure from no bowel movement. The laxatives they were giving him weren't working because he hadn't eaten, he was dehydrated, and the pressure on his back due to his bowels was unbearable. Plus, they were giving everything to him orally and he couldn't keep it down. He felt so sick.
The next morning I saw the nurses talking to the doctor about their concern that Dave wasn't doing any better and that he was sweating profusely. The doctor shrugged them off saying “his blood tests are fine, he's fine.” I lost it and said he should figure out why Dave's doing so poorly. I know my husband and he doesn't complain about things lightly. I yelled at him and told him that Dave had been flat on his back in Peru for 8 days being pumped full of painkillers, and hadn't eaten anything for 4 days. Plus he was severely constipated and had only 1 bowel movement during his 8 day stay in Peru. We need to get this figured out now. And then I used the word “Buddy” I don't know why, but I called Dave's Dr. Buddy. “You need to figure this out Buddy!”
Needless to say, we demanded a new doctor and got one. (To this doctor's credit, he did apologize to Dave later.)
This new doctor was great. Dave was on IV that morning, and he came in to explain why Dave was suffering so much. He talked to us about the side effects of the medication and he told Dave that he would add Gravol to control his nausea. Plus, he would add more pain medication every two hours above and beyond his current dose. We didn't know that the medication he was on yesterday was slow acting and that it would take 24 hours to get into his system. He also said that once he is hydrated the stool softener would start to work and he would finally have that much needed bowel movement. Once all the medication kicks in and he's stabilized, he'll start to feel better and they will send in a therapist to get him mobile as soon as possible.
We learned that with a fractured back that is stable, you should move as soon as you can. As the nurses said “If you don't use it, you lose it”
By the way, Dave went to a gastroenterologist in January and she confirmed that he had a bleeding ulcer due to his medication in Peru and that is why he threw up blood, and that throwing up blood is never a good thing. (Take that bad doctor!)
Once he gained his mobility he started to recover quickly. Two days earlier he looked like death, but soon he had colour back in his face, he was standing up and walking a bit and eating a healthy dose of food. After a week, they discharged him quickly and suddenly.
I was really happy to have him home, but once again, if it weren't for my sis Heather, I wouldn't have had any clue what to do. If Heather didn't give us advice on making sure we met with the CCAC and to contact home medical care, we would have gone home with nothing. I swear they would have discharged us from the hospital and not given us any means to take care of ourselves.
As it turned out, we had a walker and high toilet seat delivered to our house, we had home physiotherapy set up and we were sent home with three weeks of medication until we could see our own doctor to get the prescription refilled.
We were so relieved when we got home. We set up the house to make it comfortable for Dave and felt like it was smooth sailing.
That is until we received a call from the pharmacy that the doctor prescribed the wrong dosage and that they can't fill the prescription by law. I said I'd call the hospital and that's when the pharmacist replied, “I already did and they said it's not our problem, he's already been discharged.” That was unacceptable so I called the hospital in hysterics and told them what happened. They weren't very co-operative at first and said that there was nothing they could do. The pharmacist should be able to dispense the dosage. Well, I talked to my sister and she said, “no, pharmacists have strict guidelines especially for narcotics and they work differently than hospitals. In the hospital they can split up doses to make them work, when the pharmacy fills it ,it has to be exactly as the doctor orders. Well, 7.5 mg is not a dosage for Dave's medication. It needed to be written out as 3 and 4.5. What a hassle.
Luckily the pharmacist said she will fill one dose for the night and one for the morning so that Dave wouldn't have to suffer in agony but we'd have to get it figured out the next day. After several phone calls and angry conversations, we got our medication at about 5pm the next evening. Dave was set for the next three weeks anyway.
Dave received home care physiotherapy for four weeks where she worked on giving him some gentle exercises. She told him that he really can't do too much until his bones are healed which takes about 6 weeks. So, with over 2 weeks in the hospital and four weeks of Physiotherapy, his six weeks were up and he was ready for outpatient physiotherapy.
We had to fight to get Dave physiotherapy which was frustrating. Our home care nurse and CCAC assistants should have been working on this for the entire month, but on Dave's last day of physio she informed him that she can't get him in and that he'll have to go to a private clinic and pay. I looked it up on the Internet saw that he was qualified for coverage as he had spent at least one night in the hospital for a spinal injury. (18 to be exact)
A few days later the hospital called and said he'd need a note for physio from our physician. I was livid as our Dr. was closed for the holidays and we saw him just a week earlier to get his prescription filled. We could have asked him for a referral had we been told he needed one.
Once again I found myself yelling and taking my frustration out on the poor nurse on the other end of the phone. I especially lost it when she said that our home care nurse could have written the note and should have supplied us with the referring hospital Dr's. note. I was like “we asked her all about this and she didn't seem to know what to do to get us into out patient physiotherapy.” She said we may need to pay for a private clinic. I freaked out (yet again) and I guess my freak out paid off because the next week, the nurse called back and said that she pursued Dave's dr from his hospital stay and got him the referral.
He's now been to three out patient sessions at the hospital and is doing so well the nurse told Dave she doesn't need to see him for two weeks!
Back in Action
So we are now happy to announce that Dave is back in action. As of today, he has officially stopped taking his pain medication – Feel bad for him, he is in a bit of pain and suffering a bit of withdrawl and is working on strengthening his muscles surrounding the spine to reduce future pain. He met with the orthopedic surgeon last week and was told that his bones are nearly healed and that he doesn't have to go back for another appointment. He was also told that his ulcer is fine and that he won't need to worry about that either. He is going to make a full recovery!
We've been going for walks nightly, be it outside or to one of my mom's walking videos inside. On really icy evenings, I don't want to take the chance of having Dave slip and re-injure himself.
Visit from Travel Friends
On January 10th we had the most pleasant surprise when a group of travel friends hopped in their cars and took a road trip out to my parents place here in Woodstock. It was so generous of them to give up their Saturday afternoon and evening and spend it trekking two hours out of the city to wish Dave a happy recovery. The visit lifted our spirits and left us with a lot of food to eat over the rest of the weekend.
The holidays were a welcome change from constant travel and we spent our time relaxing, visiting friends and family and catching up on our favourite TV shows. We also caught up on a lot of work editing photos and videos and making plans for 2015.
Read next: Top Tips to Stay Healthy Abroad
Now that Dave is back in action, we are beginning to think about travels again. In the coming months, we'll be crossing Canada for a media tour discussing travel safety on behalf of Sanofi Pasteur, we're then speaking at the Outdoor Adventure Show on behalf of Outdoor Ontario and then we're traveling to Alberta, The Caribbean and Hawaii before we settle in Spain and Europe for a couple of months.
It sounds busy, but this is all taking place between now and the end of April. (Plus, two travels are finishing up a couple of obligations left over from last year that had to be postponed due to Dave's injury) We have decided to slow down a lot in 2015, and take things much slower. Dave's injury was an eye opener and we have realized that we don't have to be in high gear day in day out. We are instead going to get back to our roots of slow travel where we take our time and enjoy the moment. It's going to be a all about giving ourselves time to craft great content and video before moving on to the next project or destination. Because life is short, anything can happen, and you have to follow your passion and do what's right in your heart.
See our complete Travel First Aid Kit to be prepared for your own travel emergency.
Check out more of our ordeal at:
- Home from the Hospital, the Recovery begins
- Airlifted from the Amazon, Our Worst Travel Fears Realized
- Dave's Broken Back and a Little Healing Time