Late in 2009, John underwent the much needed second hip replacement. The other hip had been replaced in 1997 and was followed by major blood clotting events that, at the time, threatened to derail our plans for retirement and long-term travel, and maybe even kill him.
Obviously, with that history, this time lots of precautions were taken – directed by a specialist “blood” professor. The operation went as planned and John’s recovery seemed speedy, compared to 1997, when exercise with the new hip was precluded by being in a hospital bed for a month. For a month after this surgery, he had to inject himself daily with Clexane, an anti-clotting drug.
All was well, for over two months. The man had even resumed bowls! On a morning in mid-February, John collapsed. He’d gone out to do something at the pool, quite normal and routine. I heard what sounded like a faint call, and found him collapsed, face down, on the ground, in a little pool of blood. Ambulance – off to Emergency at Box Hill Hospital with suspected complications of his type 2 diabetes. No – he was found to have blood clots in his lungs and assorted veins, including a solid clot from ankle to abdomen in the operated-upon leg. The fall onto the slate pavers had removed amounts of skin from his face, broken his nose, and his glasses, which had also cut the face – hence the pool of blood.
John was transferred across to Epworth Eastern Hospital and into the care of assorted specialists. Initially, he was not a pretty picture, but that was the least of the worries. The verdict was that he would have ongoing issues with poor circulation in the affected leg, and this time, his lungs would not fully recover. No one could explain why this had occurred, so long after the hip replacement, and with the anti-clotting precautions that had been taken.
I commenced a routine where a goodly part of each day was taken up with driving to Box Hill, visiting John, driving home again, avoiding the morning and afternoon traffic peaks. The Eastern Freeway certainly made it easier, but it could take half an hour to get onto the freeway, from home, depending on traffic. However, it was a breeze, compared to my daily visiting when John was in the private inner suburban surgical hospital, with the hip operation. No freeways to get there – and – hard to believe – no parking provided. The surrounding streets were not very parking friendly, either.
Whilst undergoing treatment at Epworth, John agreed to become part of a clinical trial of a new anti-clotting drug. This had already been approved for use overseas, but was going through the processes required in this country. It would be a vast improvement on the standard Warfarin treatment, with its frequent blood tests, seesawing INR readings, and dose adjustments – all very constraining of a normal life, as we knew from prior experience. John was a prime target for the trial, with his prior history.
After several weeks in hospital, and on the trial drug, John progressed from the initial daily blood tests, to weekly ones. All was going well, and he went onto monthly blood tests and checks. This would continue until the trial ended in late August. Unfortunately, it would then be back onto Warfarin with all its hassles and limitations. As it happened, by year’s end, he was – courtesy of a special arrangement with our lovely GP – back on the new drug, approved for use for a different condition, but not yet for anti-clotting.
All of the above severely limited our travel options, and John’s abilities to do so, through 2010.
Sadly, we cancelled our wonderful house sitters, who had been booked for a five month stay. They had no problems finding a replacement sit – someone else’s good fortune.
On a much more optimistic note, whilst John was in hospital, the prolonged Millenium Drought that had lasted for some thirteen years, finally broke, with massive storms hitting Melbourne. I knew, because I’d been driving the hospital run at the time of the first storms. Quite scary storms….
We had, last year, received some money back related to last year’s botched work on Truck and broken parts. Courtesy of a Land Rover owners’ forum, we’d also found a new mechanic – a Land Rover devotee of many years – who worked not too far away.
This had been precipitated sooner than intended, in January. John had been out somewhere, thought he smelled something strange in the vehicle, but was in a hurry to get home and get to bowls, so did not stop to investigate. When he pulled up into the car port at home, smoke erupted out from under the bonnet. Fortunately, son was visiting at the time, grabbed an appropriate fire extinguisher and put out the fire in the engine. Something had broken and brake fluid had ignited from the hot engine. All quite dramatic at the time, but it meant that a mechanic was rather urgently needed.
Over about three months – and at considerable cost – he re-did the botched work of a year previous, plus a lot more. Truck had done 350,000kms, some of it over challenging terrain, and over 100,000kms of it towing the van. It was in need of a major overhaul.
With John feeling more like himself, and with a month-long window of opportunity between drug trial checks, our thoughts turned to a trip away. Not too ambitious, but still a break from things medical. It would have to be a bit provisional, dependent on how John coped….
Friend M was at a loose end. We cast our eyes towards SA – the Gawler Ranges and Eyre Peninsula. Not too far away for the time available, and destinations where M had not yet visited.
The van had been off for its annual check up at Trakmaster and was back and packed. We hoped Truck was well readied, considering the multiple thousands of dollars outlaid upon it. M and her Troopy were ready……