If there’s one thing my mister and I have learned in our 7.5 years of marriage, it’s that very thing: Expect the Unexpected. Life in the LaRosa household is rarely predictable, and when it becomes calm and smooth sailing, we normally know that is the calm before a very large storm. This time was no different.
Things have been going pretty smoothly for Eddie and myself. We are both working, bills are paid and we still have money to have fun, we are planning to start a family in the very near future… this calm never lasts for long. On Friday March 10, I stopped by Eddie’s work to see him, and he asked if I thought he should go to the hospital, as he shoved his finger in my face. Now one thing you need to know about my mister is that he never EVER suggests going to the hospital, unless it’s serious. The only other time, in fact, that he’s suggested going, he ended up having a life threatening condition called Necrotizing Fasciitis. He could have died had he not gone. He knows his body.
So as I’m looking at his finger, I’m seeing that it’s discolored and looking bluish/purple, and when I very lightly touched it, he nearly screamed in pain. He had complained about a week prior that his last two fingers were kind of cold and tingly, but that’s not honestly out of the ordinary, considering he has some neuropathy issues from his cervical fusion a few years back. But when it started changing color, he knew it wasn’t just normal. So out to the local ER we went. As we waited to be examined and see the doctor, the color began to get darker and more “dusky” as they called it. They ran labs and a few other tests, listened to his pulse on a doppler, and determined he likely needed someone more specialized in hand surgery. They weren’t sure, but believed he had a blockage of some sort. The nearest hand surgery team was in Springfield, about 80 miles away, and we were given permission to drive ourselves there and had already been accepted by the plastic surgery/hand team, led by Dr. Nada Berry. Once we got to the ER at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, we were examined by a regular physician and his residents, and then someone from Dr. Berry’s team came to do an examination. Her preliminary assessment was that he had all the symptoms of something called Hypothenar Hammer Syndrome. It occurs sometimes in people who do a lot of work with their hands, such as mechanics, construction workers, etc. and can be caused by excessive banging with the hand, that then leads to a blockage. The only catch is that typically this happens to someone in their 40s-50s, and even then, only rarely. In fact, this was such a rare thing that pretty much every resident in the ER was coming in to his room to learn about him. In fact, he even was asked by the head resident if he could present a case study about him for teaching purposes. Kinda cool… I guess!
So the plastics physician was pretty confident that he had a blockage due to what his symptoms were, but they were unsure if it was due to an aneurysm or a clot, but at any rate, surgery was in his future and we were being admitted. Ironically, we were admitted to the Ortho floor, because that is where they had an available bed, which is normally why Eddie is in the hospital in the first place! Once settled in his room, we met with the vascular team, who would be doing an angiogram later that evening to get a clear picture of the blockage and see if there were any others. For this, they go in through the groin and send a little catheter/wire up through the body, through the heart, and then down his arm… and they found exactly what they expected: a blockage. Basically, you have an ulnar and a radial artery that sends blood down your arms and to your hand. His ulnar artery was completely blocked and no blood flow was getting through. He also had a couple small clots by his fingers in his hand, all of which would need to be removed. They likely would need to use part of an artery from his leg to graft into the affected area of the hand/wrist. Surgery was scheduled for Sunday March 12.
After about 6 hours, start to finish, Eddie was out of surgery! Dr. Berry met with me and shared that he had a huge blockage in his ulnar artery, around 3″ in length, total, was pulled from the wrist. Additionally, he had two smaller clots by the fingers that they removed too. As planned, they did the graft from the leg. Her main concern right now was making sure he didn’t have vascular disease elsewhere in his body, since he is so young for the hammer syndrome to happen. She would be ordering tests to look at his legs and heart for additional blockages.
Thankfully, all testing for clots elsewhere came back negative, but meanwhile, Eddie’s leg began to hurt quite a bit where they took the graft. It became super swollen, so much so that his wound began opening because of the pressure. It was determined that he had developed a hematoma (collection of fluid/blood under the surface) and the only way to get rid of one that large would be to go in for another surgery. Eddie didn’t mind though, as he was in so much pain because of it, that he wanted that thing out of there! It likely developed because he was on blood thinners for his wrist problem, but then they allowed that other gunk to pool and collect under the skin from the other wound. So, on Thursday March 16, Eddie went in for his second surgery this hospital stay (Surgery 17 total!). Thankfully this surgery was much quicker and they placed two drains to hopefully help with the fluid.
Our remaining days in the hospital were spent simply waiting. Eddie had to have frequent checks of his hand right after that surgery, to be sure the blood flow was restored and continued to be, and all was well there. Before he could go home, they wanted his INR (how thick/thin his blood is) to be between 2-3. This can be a lengthy process to bridge from IV blood thinner to oral blood thinner, and it was taking forEVER. We also found out that his hemoglobin was low, so over the weekend of the 18-19 (can’t remember which day!), he had to get two units of blood. Because of this, it made his INR drop lower than it had been, and we were getting frustrated! I had to return to work on Monday March 20, and I hated to leave Springfield without Eddie (I had stayed there since he was admitted).
Ultimately, I headed home alone on Sunday March 19, but thankfully not for long! On Tuesday March 21, Eddie was able to discharge! His INR didn’t quite get to the level they wanted it to, but they were willing to send him home on injection thinners and the oral thinners until he was bridged over and at the therapeutic level for his INR.
Recovery for him has been rough this go-round though. Having a bum hand on one side and a bum leg on the other makes caring for yourself a little difficult! He’s also been in a lot of pain, which obviously makes things worse. But there is certainly no place like home! On Thursday March 23, we had a little scare though, as Eddie was feeling lightheaded, dizzy, off-balance, double vision, and pounding headache. His mom took him to the ER just in case, to make sure nothing was wrong. Being on the blood thinner and with his symptoms, of course they want to rule out a brain bleed. But happily, everything was totally normal–even the INR finally!
It will be a slow road to recovery, and we will be following up with Anticoagulation Management Services (AMS) for at least a year, as they monitor his progress with the blood thinners and check him out to see if he has any kind of clotting disorder that we don’t know about. But we will get there… we always do!
Many people have asked if they can do anything to help. And I know a lot of times people say “let me know if I can help” but then so often, you never ask them for help because you don’t want to be burden on other people. But the best thing that can be done to help us is one of three things (because Eddie will have missed a full month of work without pay): Food (meals or gift cards for groceries would be the most helpful. Eddie’s not able to lift anything with his hand, so he’s stuck with only using his non-dominant hand. Finger foods/snacks are easiest for him, as he’s not super coordinated with his right hand!); Gas (in the form of cards or PayPal would be super helpful. He will have to travel back and forth from Springfield for several months as he heals, in addition to the transportation to Urbana to see the blood doctor for at least a year); Donations (I realize I just recently was posting about wanting to raise money for our IVF journey. That can wait if we need it to–right now we need to just meet our basic needs financially, until Eddie is able to go back to work and we have steady income rolling in again. The easiest way to donate would be to send through paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org I realize some may think it’s tacky to ask for these things, but as I mentioned, so many have asked how they could help; Honestly THIS is how you can help).
Thank you to everyone for all your love and prayers of the past couple of weeks. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride, but as long as my mister is next to me, the ride is always a little more bearable.