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The Day My Life Changed

You Never See it Coming

By Harmony KentPublished 8 months ago Updated 8 months ago 7 min read
Top Story - August 2023
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The Day My Life Changed
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

If only I’d listened to my intuition.

If only I’d had the bravery to say no.

If only … so many if onlys in my life.

Had I listened. Had I been brave, I wouldn’t have had the surgery that went so very badly wrong. My life, for certain, wouldn’t be anything like it is now. Good luck? Bad Luck? Who knows? …

In the recovery room, after routine varicose vein surgery at age 34. My third such operation since age 17. You see, I’d developed those ugly protuberances on my legs at the grand old age of seven.

As soon as I awoke, I knew something was wrong. Seriously wrong. The whole length of my right calf, all the way down the centre, was on fire, and it ached. Oh, how it ached. There’s no sensation quite like it.

‘There’s something wrong,’ I told the theatre recovery nurse.

She frowned down at me. ‘What do you mean?’

‘My leg hurts.’

A shake of her head. ‘Well, that’s normal. You’ve just had surgery.’

Me, struggling and still anesthetic befuddled, ‘Yes, but it feels wrong. I’ve had this operation twice before, and it’s never felt like this.’

With a huge sigh, as though I were putting her to great trouble, the nurse got up and said, ‘I’ll get you some paracetamol.’

🦿🦿🦿

Hours later, back on the ward, a nurse checked my foot for what they call Pedal Pulses, which she recorded as felt and present. The pain worsened and worsened, and nobody would listen. One of those awkward patients, were the expressions and energy I picked up on. Finally, I shut up. What else was there to do?

🦿🦿🦿

More hours passed, and finally, at about six in the evening, when I cried from the horrific pain, the staff called the junior doctor, who felt my leg after loosening the pressure bandages, and he called the consultant—from home. I knew that wasn’t good. Not at all.

I’ll never forget the look on the consultant's face when he unwound the wrappings, felt my leg—cold and the colour of death—and then my pedal pulses, which weren’t present. Never had been. The nurse felt her own finger pulses ... a rookie mistake.

Pale and visibly shocked, he called in the radiography consultant, again from his home. The severity of the situation settled on me when the doctor ordered an IV of morphine and fluids. Heavier still was that pressure of dread when he himself pushed my trolley from the ward to the ultrasound suite.

I saw the screen clearly. Too clearly. On the left side, one blue flow for venous, and one red flow, for arterial. The right side showed only blue. No red. No artery. Above my anxious face, the two consultants shared a look, Oh Fuck.

Back on the ward, hushed and hurried conversations took place near me but out of earshot. A nurse brought me coffee and buttered toast, as I hadn’t eaten since the night before.

‘No!’ The consultant yelled and snatched the feast away. I’d taken a bite and a swallow already. He gave me and the nurse a look. ‘She’s going to have more surgery.’

I still can’t believe that nobody explained anything. They must have known how worried I felt. Perhaps it was self-preservation that kept them silent. I'll never know. At about midnight, an ambulance crew arrived and announced they were transferring me to another hospital, to a vascular specialist. One of the team asked the consultant, ‘Blue lights?’

He dropped his gaze, shook his head, and murmured, ‘No. Slow as you can. No bumps.’

The paramedics shared a look. That same, Oh Fuck.

The junior doctor joined me in the ambulance, with a vial of morphine in hand. Unfortunately, the ambulance had run out of the vital reversal agent, so the pain relief couldn’t be administered until we sat in the parking area outside Accident and Emergency.

The most wonderful specialist consultant greeted me on arrival, and he looked after me in every way. When the A&E staff were too busy to get me to x-ray, he grabbed a porter and pushed the trolley himself. ‘We have a tiny window to save this lady’s leg. Let’s get going,’ he declared.

In the x-ray room, they injected radioactive dye. The consultant explained to me what the imagery showed … no superficial femoral artery from the knee on down. He also told me that the artery wasn’t superficial, despite its name, but simply the smaller branch of the femoral artery, which descended from the Aortic artery. Any injury to the Aorta, and death can occur within minutes. Had I had any open wound in my lower leg, I would have long since bled out.

Gulp.

As it was, the whole limb had flooded with blood until the internal pressure equalised and prevented any further loss from the open end of the fragment of femoral remaining.

🦿🦿🦿

Five hours of emergency surgery.

My second anesthetic in mere hours.

To say I was terrified would be the understatement of the millenia. I used to be a nurse, so I knew how dangerous a second anesthetic in a few hours could be.

I was amazed to awake on the hospital ward, alive, if not so well.

🦿🦿🦿

They couldn’t do anything to replace or repair the artery because the previous surgeon had stripped the vessel in its entirety, believing it to be a long vein, even though during our consultations prior to surgery, I’d told him they had been stripped years ago. He insisted they could have grown back. What??? I should have asked for a second opinion then. But I didn’t.

To my eternal regret, I didn't.

I had no veins they could have attached to use as a pseudo artery, even had there been enough femoral left, which there wasn’t.

The blood which flooded my leg drowned the muscle and damaged the nerves. I spent ten weeks in hospital, eight of those in a bed with the cot sides up and a central IV line and lots of other lines into my body. I had chest x-rays and bloods daily, because I was so ill. Also, lots of nasty medication, which made me feel so much worse.

Week nine brought the relief of being allowed to transfer from bed to wheelchair … yay, freedom! Week ten saw me struggling to learn to walk between parallel bars and in agony. Finally, they sent me home, using two sticks, but mostly in a wheelchair. Oh, and a horrific-agony-inducing right-angled splint to force my shortened achilles tendon to stretch enough to plant my foot flat on the floor.

🦿🦿🦿

Three years later, the damage proved too much, and I went through a below-knee amputation. Due to late surgery, nil by mouth, and acid reflux, I had to stay awake while they sawed off my leg. That took some hard meditating, I can tell you! The spinal anesthetic worked, I’m happy to say; however, it sure was strange feeling my leg being tugged and pulled and manipulated. The worst was the whine of the bone saw. Yeah, enough said on that.

At some point on the ward, in the week following the amputation, the staff overdosed me on morphine, and I went into respiratory arrest. It was pure luck a nurse was in the six-bed bay when I crashed, and she heard my death rattle. Due to chronic understaffing, we could go hours without seeing any member of staff at all. The crash team came, intubated me, and injected a reversal agent. Waking up and being told what had happened was the scariest moment of a life full of scares.

I wonder how many lives I have left ... perhaps I'm a cat, really. Hopefully?

🦿🦿🦿

Over the years, I’ve learnt to adapt. My life has never been the same. And I believe that this trauma is what has led to the Fibromyalgia I now suffer. Still, if not for this disaster, I might never have moved to Cornwall, where I met the man who is now my husband.

You never see life coming at you, and you never know where you’ll find your silver lining.

🦿🦿🦿

[Author’s note: Over the ten years I’ve been publishing—my, how time flies!—lots of people have asked me to write my memoir. Until now, I’ve resisted. Who knows, perhaps this chapter may be the inspiration I need to get me going?

Thank you for reading, and I hope you haven’t found it too grueling. The thing is, even when things get so bad, life goes on, and there’s always hope.

Hugs to you all, Harmony 💕😊]

Memoir
53

About the Creator

Harmony Kent

The multi-genre author who gets write into your head

I began writing at 40 after a life-changing injury. An avid reader & writer, I love to review & support my fellow authors.

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Comments (38)

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  • L.C. Schäfer7 months ago

    Can I say FUCK 😮 You went through so much. YES you need to write a memoir. A thousand times Yes.

  • S. C. Almanzar8 months ago

    "You never see life coming at you, and you never know where you’ll find your silver lining." Isn't that the truth - I am so sorry you had to experience this, surgery itself is frightening. Having to survive unexpected complications afterwards is even worse. Yet, I am glad to hear that this ultimately led to your own silver lining!

  • Staci Troilo8 months ago

    I knew bits and pieces of this story, learned out of order and over a few years. Seeing all the details together, chronologically, and with some of your reactions takes this situation to a completely different level. I can’t adequately express my sorrow at all you’ve endured and my amazement at your resiliency. They say everything happens for a reason. I don’t know if I believe that, but I do know you’ve managed to find a silver lining amid a field of rust. It’s inspiring and humbling.

  • Beem Weeks8 months ago

    Wow! This is dark and shocking, Harmony. I am amazed by your will and strength!

  • Robbie Cheadle8 months ago

    This is a shocking story, Harmony. I currently have no words. I have seen medical mistakes with both my children but this is beyond belief.

  • Jacquie Biggar8 months ago

    Harmony, were you able to sue the doctors and nurses involved for gross negligence? I'm so, so sorry you had to go through this terrible ordeal, but as you say, it led you to your husband. {{hugs}}

  • Alexis Mundy8 months ago

    I began writing recently. Having RA, Fibromyalgia and OA prompted me to fulfil my dreams. I got a BA in Philosophy at 63 last year. Now it's my dream to write short stories and eventually a book. You were extremely brave in sharing your story. Thank you.

  • Cathy holmes8 months ago

    Wow. I don't know what to say. Thanks for your bravery in sharing your story. Congrats on the TS.

  • Mattie :)8 months ago

    Wow! That was a lot. Thank you so much for sharing this tho.

  • IvanaCh8 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your story, you are very brave :)

  • Mariann Carroll8 months ago

    I am so sorry you had to go through that nightmare. I hope you were compensated legally for that horrible ordeal ? I am glad you were able to write this . Sending hugs

  • Dana Stewart8 months ago

    Harmony, you are an inspiration. I am so sorry you’ve had to endure so much! You are right though, you’ve got a memoir. If and when you decide to write it, I definitely want to buy it. Congratulations on being alive and a freaking awesome writer!

  • Congratulations on your Top Story🦋✨💖🎉👌

  • Antoinette L Brey8 months ago

    I'd be scared to have surgery or even walk into a hospital. You are very brave

  • I am glad you published this part of your life. I always wondered since one of your previous pieces how you ended up debilitated but yet so strong. I can truly empathize with you in terms of traditional doctors not listening to you and many mistakes by medical staff. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Raihana H.8 months ago

    Well, I can only say this. You are a brave, strong person. I hope you sued the hell out of them! It is easier said than done.... I wish you all the best! :) I agree with you, perhaps you really are a cat with many lives! It wasn't your time!

  • So sorry to hear of all that trauma and it is still with you. Thank you for sharing, we are here for you

  • Leslie Writes8 months ago

    Oh my goodness! What an amazing story! I am so glad you made it through that harrowing ordeal! ❤️ Your telling of it is also superb!

  • Dana Crandell8 months ago

    What a horrific series of events. I am glad you're able to find a silver lining. I've started and stopped writing about my experiences with hospitals, doctors, nurses and surgeries more times than I like to think about. One of these days, maybe. You said it, though: "You never see life coming at you..."

  • Donna Renee8 months ago

    Omg that’s horrifying. I’m so, so sorry for the way you were treated ❤️❤️

  • Naomi Gold8 months ago

    Well fuck… I have no words, just anger. I’m sure you did the inner work to let go of that anger, because you didn’t write this as a hit piece. Though I would understand if you did! Memoirs are tricky. You have to emotionally process everything you went through, and accept it, before you can accurately write about it. If you are ever in a place to write that memoir, I will surely read it. I feel weird congratulating you on your Top Story. Like seriously, congrats on being alive, and finding a silver lining in this, and having the strength to share it, and being a great writer too. Cheers. 🥂

  • Test8 months ago

    OMG, how frightening! It's amazing you're alive. You are so strong.💙Anneliese

  • Judey Kalchik 8 months ago

    I do hope this propels you into writing the rest of your bio!

  • Oh my goodness! This was an absolute nightmare! So many human errors played with your life! I'm so happy you're alive and well now!

  • LC Minniti8 months ago

    Wow. I’m speechless. The way you described such an awful thing that happened to you in such a hopeful way. Thank you for sharing your life, and your hope. You’re amazing!

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