Halfway There… Livin’ on a Prayer

Today my right leg is one inch longer, which means we’re halfway through with the lengthening phase! At this point I can feel and see the length I’ve gained over the past 27 days – and that is pretty cool!

There are three main things I battle day to day: pain, being uncomfortable and feeling nauseous. Although I do experience some level of each of those every day, they seem to be diminishing slowly. As time goes by, it’s also been easier for me to keep a positive attitude. I don’t think I’ve moped around at all in the past week or so!

(This is a 1 inch celebration cupcake!)

Now to the second part of the title of this entry! (I hope you get the Bon Jovi reference.) I know there are possibly thousands of people out there praying for me. Between family and friends and their churches and prayer groups, to FOX61 viewers and their churches and prayer groups – I believe I’m literally Livin’ on a Prayer! I hadn’t mentioned it until now, but the week before my surgery, (after I had announced my plans to everyone through social media) a real calming feeling came over me. For weeks and months I was having some real anxiety about the operation. I cried a lot, sometimes on the phone to family, other times in person to a friend and many times alone in my apartment. I was scared and nervous. I imagined I’d be a wreck my last week at work, but somehow I had the strength to get through. I could talk with co-workers about the procedure without crying, I planned and packed my bags with ease, I even felt good enough to talk about it on LIVE TV!

Check it out:

http://www.myfoxchattanooga.com/story/17241620/carly-flynn-morgan-on-leave-from-fox61-first-at-ten

I really feel in my heart that once I made the announcement about my plans, people started praying for me and their prayers were answered! I felt at peace in my mind and in my soul about my decision and that made the final days leading up to surgery much more pleasant. Of course, I know the prayers continue to this day and I can still feel them coming in! I could never begin to express how much that means to me, especially all of the sweet notes of support I’ve received from viewers who’ve never even met me in person.

While I am 50 percent through with the stretching part, I’m not quite halfway yet to healing and walking normally. (I anticipate walking without support to begin in August.) With that being said, I can already tell you that this procedure was absolutely worth it. In my very first blog entry, I wrote that I thought my 43-year-old self would be happy to my 27-year-old self for sacrificing and having this surgery now. I can already see the results and the bright future ahead. I don’t need 16 more years to be thankful. I can already tell the pain is worth the gain!

BONUS ENTRY:

Part of what keeps my spirits up is getting out of the house for a little. Of course, I need to be careful, but I’m capable of going out to eat or to a friend’s house on crutches. I can take a shopping trip in my wheelchair. On Sunday, I went to a very special dinner. My mother’s work, North Hills Community Outreach, was celebrating its 25th anniversary. My mom has been the Executive Director at the non-profit for 19 years. More than 300 people gathered at one of the nicest restaurants in Pittsburgh, The LeMont, to raise money and celebrate NHCO’s success.

(This is the view from the LeMont. I took this picture myself – from the dining room window.)

The organization has grown year after year to become one of the most successful non-profits in the city. It helps thousands of people in need in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, every year. So many people had such wonderful things to say about my mother and her leadership. It was special to be there and see how respected she is in our community and how much good she does for others.

(This is us at the end of the event. I like how the reflection of the chandeliers looks like fireworks.)

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Surgeon Knows Best

My last post was kind of a downer. I certainly don’t want to put negative energy out there, but this whole thing has been a rollercoaster and it helps me to write about the ups and downs. Although my first week at home was somewhat of a struggle, I’m happy to tell you my second week was much better. I think possibly five days passed where I didn’t cry! (This is a huge victory.) When I first got home, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself all day. Both of my parents work and I wasn’t even really “allowed” to go up or down stairs while home alone. This made for a very lonely and boring week. But after the first several days, I began making lists. I’m a pretty organized person and two of my favorite things are A.) making lists and B.) crossing things off of lists. I found ways to fill my day. I’ve been keeping up with my bills from Chattanooga, making sure my rent, cable, electric and car bills are all in order. (Remember how I said I’m organized? I wasn’t kidding. Paying bills is somewhat fun for me. Lame-o.) I’ve tried to keep up with e-mails from friends, family and viewers. I finally did pick up a book and am three quarters through with it. I am watching some TV. I’m on season four of 30 Rock which has kept me laughing. I’m whitening my teeth a lot. They should be blinding by the time I’m back on TV! One night, my mom and I did our nails while watching The Biggest Loser. I got a do-over with my friend who invited me over last weekend – when I was too depressed to go. She and I, her fiancee and another friend made dinner, caught up and watched Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It felt like a really normal, fun night and made me very happy. I have also learned how to go up and down stairs by myself, which means I can raid the fridge whenever I want!

Monday through Friday I go to physical therapy for a little over an hour. My therapist stretches my leg every which way and I do exercises to keep it strong and flexible. I don’t dread it. Everyone there is nice and it gets me out of the house. A woman from our old church has organized volunteers to pick me up and take me to and from PT. It’s such a gift and I am grateful for the sweet people who are willing to help our family in that way.

I am still lengthening my leg several times a day with the magnet, as well.

As I am feeling better and getting used to all this, the near future still looms over me. If you haven’t already realized, this leg lengthening process is different than other types of surgery. With many surgeries, you have the procedure and then heal for six to eight weeks. I did have surgery to implant the lengthening equipment into my leg, and that’s definitely the hardest part. But as I’m healing from that initial surgery, I’m pretty much still having a little bit of surgery every day as we lengthen little by little. Your body has some give and you can go about a half inch or an inch without straining your nerves, muscles and skin too badly. (I have just under an inch right now.) But there comes a time down the road, where things actually get harder, because your muscles and nerves don’t want to be stretched two inches or more. This more painful part could come at any time now.

Every two weeks, I have to go back to Baltimore for a checkup with my surgeon. He looks at x-rays, plays around with my leg and tells me how it’s going. Yesterday was our first meeting since I’ve been at home. I was pretty much ready for Dr. H to tell me how awesome I’m doing. I’ve been working very hard at keeping my leg flexible. I can bend my knee to 100 degrees (this is more than is expected) and my leg can still go completely straight. Those are two big things they look at. My pain has been moderate, but manageable.

  The picture on the right is from two weeks ago and the x-ray on the left was taken Monday. Can you see the difference?! The size of the gap is how much my leg has grown.

To my surprise, after looking at my x-rays, Dr. H said, “I think we should slow down your lengthening. Your bone isn’t filling in quite as fast as I’d like.”

“But I thought I was doing so good?” I whimpered.

“You are, but I would like to see some more bone growth in your gap and it’s just not there,” said the doctor. (Your bone is supposed to start regenerating a little bit in the gap. It will look gray or hazy if that’s happening. Mine has a little bit of that, but apparently not enough.)

My heart sunk. I’ve been eating Tums like candy to get my calcium. I add vitamin D to everything I drink. I’m working really hard at PT. This is MY life and I need to get back to normal as soon as possible which means going full speed ahead! I wanted to bargain with him, or beg him, or bat my eyelashes. “Please can’t I just keep going at the same rate, Doctor? (wink wink)” But I didn’t do any of that. Turns out, discussing the progress of a major life-changing operation with your surgeon… is not like asking your dad for $20. It’s actually pretty serious stuff.

So now I am lengthening on a slower scale. Instead of getting 1 millimeter a day, I will alternate growing .75 mm one day and .50 mm the next. This is just for two weeks, until I go back for another checkup. Then Dr. H will look at my x-rays again and determine the best rate for the following weeks. As many things are, going slower could really be a blessing in disguise, because that means my bone may start to heal as we go… and that means faster healing once we’re done lengthening. So it may not set back the process as a whole.

I guess I just need to realize I’m not in control. Besides doing my part at PT and getting all my vitamins, it’s out of my hands.

  (This is not a subliminal message for you to shop at Best Buy… just the only ruler I could find.)

With this new lengthening schedule, I will hit 1 inch of growth on April 30th. I think I will feel pretty accomplished on that day. Yet, if I look at an inch on a ruler – it seems so silly. I’m disrupting my life for that?! All of this discomfort, pain and strain on my family for a small fraction of my index finger?! (And I have tiny fingers!) But 1 inch is halfway to my goal – and my goal is not silly. My life will be better for decades if I can just get through this. And with nearly one inch and one month down… I’m pretty sure I can make it through to the other side.

Psalm 46 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

 

PS, I am getting around on crutches just fine, but it’s too tiring during long distances. Here is a pic from my first motorized cart experience at Trader Joe’s. Not gonna lie – it was pretty fun! I didn’t hit anyone or knock over anything. SUCCESS!

GUEST BLOGGER: Mom

Aren’t moms great? Mine sure is. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve already realized how much she is by my side – many times literally – through this ordeal. She’s also taught me many life lessons along the way, including: people are more important than things, the only person you can control is yourself, things almost always look brighter in the morning, and well, how to share.

Sharing is what I’ll do now. She has asked to grab a little piece of my blogosphere and that’s just fine with me. Here is what she wanted to share with you:

Hi Everyone, this is guest blogger Mom! Thanks to all of you for your prayers and good thoughts for a very wonderful daughter and your well wishes for me too.

 The day Carly was born.

Taking care of Carly after surgery is a 24/7 responsibility, but I’m happy to do it. It’s the price you pay for the wonderful privilege of being a parent. I remember when she was a newborn with colic; I made up this song to the tune of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” as I carried her around and around the dining room table for hours to comfort her:

There’s seven days in a week,

There’s seven days in a week,

There’s seven days in a week,

To love Baby Flynn.

Verse Two!  There’s 24 hours in a day…

Verse Three! There’s 12 months in a year…

Repeat!

 This is Carly at the age when she had colic.

Eventually she outgrew her colic, although it took several months, and this current challenge will resolve itself too. Until it does I’m so glad that I can be here to help. Conception takes a moment, gestation nine months, but parenting lasts a lifetime.

As I am fond of telling her, there has never been one day that I haven’t been proud to be Carly’s mother. I’m glad you think she’s special too!

Let’s Party!!!

Don’t get too excited. It wasn’t THAT kind of party. It was a pity party and I held one for myself all day this past Saturday. I woke up in a funk and just couldn’t or wouldn’t kick it. Part of the reason I’m sure is that I began trying to wean myself off of oxycodone. The combination of oxy, valium, vitamins and calcium I’m supposed to take really messes with me. After I got off of my IV in the hospital, I was taking up to two oxycodone every three hours – which is crazy to me now. I only weigh 100 pounds. Those kinds of drugs make me text things like this:

… and also make me super nauseous. I have felt vomitous everyday since I had my surgery. Hard drugs also make me very emotional and more likely to cry. So now that the pain’s getting more manageable, I’m trying to reduce my meds. Saturday, instead of waking up and downing my usual oxy, I slurped two good ol’ Tylenol with my Cheerios.

It pretty much was all downhill from there. Before I even got out of bed I had this overwhelming feeling of sorryness. (I realize vomitous and sorryness aren’t actual words, but I like them and I’m going to use them in my blog.) Tears welled up in my eyes before 9 a.m. Poor Carly Flynn. What do I have to look forward to today? Nothing. Maybe I could go downstairs and sit on the couch. Wow! That would certainly be a change of scenery. Or if I’m feeling really crazy, I could like start to read one of those books I bought preparing for this surgery. No, that’s all too hard. I think I’ll sit here and cry. And cry I did for a few hours. I eventually did put in a movie. A horrible movie. Cube Zero. And by horrible I mean horribly awesome. (Although still not enough to cheer me up.)

I watched some of Cube Zero in my bed and then fell asleep – for three or four hours. When I woke up in the late afternoon… still sad. My dad helped me downstairs to eat something and lengthen my leg. Once again, I had to hold back the tears. What a worthless day, what a worthless life. My old world and future world full of walks, dates, dinners, ease, shopping and trips just seemed too far away. Today my biggest accomplishment might be putting on my own socks… oh, and bonus points for getting my underwear up with no help. More tears.

I had moped so much of the day away that it became too late to do something I was looking forward to. One of my best friends had recently bought a house and a few people were going over to see it and have dinner. These were people who cared about me and invited me out of my everyday routine to do something different and get my mind off of things. I just couldn’t perk up in time, not to mention the fact that I had slept away my opportunity to shower and get ready. Back to bed, back to short leg land where everything’s a struggle and everyday’s the same.

By the time nearly 12 hours of the day had passed, I felt a twinge of change inside. What the heck is the matter with you? We prepared for this. We promised ourself we wouldn’t get like this. Tomorrow can not be like this.

I got up the strength to ask my mother to help me shower.  I figured if tomorrow was to be better, I would need to start fresh and clean. I took a bath and went to bed and prayed for the strength to have a better day.

Sunday came. I woke up and got ready for church. I curled my hair and put on some makeup. I looked nice. We went to church and I interacted with people and I felt better. I wanted to go out to lunch afterward, but getting ready for church really took a lot out of me. Everything takes at least twice as long when you have a bum leg. So instead we ate lunch at home and I took a nap. But it was a restoring nap. I then did some leg exercises and after dinner my mom took me over to my friend Kacey’s to tour her new house. It looked great and I was happy to see her and to get up and around.

This weekend reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from the Narnia books:

“Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”
― C.S. Lewis

Maybe it was me coming off high doses of serious drugs, maybe it was my first full weekend at home after surgery, maybe it was just a bad day. I’m going through some stuff and I suppose it’s okay to have a long cry. But is that really how I want to spend my hours? The answer is no. Sometimes you just have to cry, but I really don’t want to waste whole days of my life – not even in this state. I’m going to try to do better and hopefully all my parties from here on out will have no pity, but hopefully friends, cake and maybe some ice cream!

RANDOM NOTES:

Today is a milestone, because I believe we’ve reached a half inch of length today! That’s 12.5 millimeters and means we are almost 1/4 of the way there since I need a little more than 2 inches.

I feel like I’ve talked a lot about my mom in this blog, so I just wanted to make sure my dad gets his fair share of love, too. This is us in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor just a few days before we came back to Pittsburgh. He has been just wonderful. Before he leaves for work everyday, he brings me cereal and coffee in bed. He puts my dog out every morning and cleans up her messes when she goes in the house. Both my parents have been such a blessing and this life change would not be possible without them!

X-citing X-ray

As a journalist, I don’t just take someone’s word for it. Somebody tells me something – I need proof. Give me a source, add up the numbers, show me some pictures. When it came time to lengthen my leg, of course I trusted the doctors that their method would work. Although if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll realize all of the equipment helping to grow my leg is on the inside of my body. For seven days, three times a day, we entered the ‘Adjustment Room’ at the hospital where we stuck a magnet on top of my leg for one minute. Each time it was supposed to make my leg .25 millimeters longer. But I couldn’t see it happening. My leg still looked the same. There was no measurement that could be taken to prove to me that this whole system was working. It didn’t quite feel real, until about a week in right before we were released from the hospital when I saw the x-ray.

This is the inside of my right leg. You can see the rod and the nails. The empty gap is where my bone is getting separated by the magnet. The gap in this picture is about 6 millimeters and everyday with the magnet that gap is getting bigger which means my leg is getting longer. Proof! It’s really working! We are now allowed to lengthen .25 mm FOUR times a day which is a millimeter a day total. Going at this rate, my legs should be the same length by the very end of May or the beginning of June. When we finish pulling the bones apart, the bone will regenerate on its own and fill in the gap naturally. I think that will take anywhere from six to eight weeks after lengthening ends.

After all the thought and prayer that went into making this decision, then all of the anticipation and nervousness leading up to the surgery, it’s very strange to sit here and think “I’m doing this. It’s happening right now.”

Since being released from the hospital on Monday, living at home in Pittsburgh with my parents has been great. I get to have my dog with me, my mom and dad are very attentive and help me with anything I need, physical therapy is going well and several people have volunteered to drive me there since both of my parents work.

 Here is my sweet pup sleeping next to me while I watch some NetFlix!

I am getting around short distances just fine on crutches, but have a wheelchair just in case we need it for longer strolls like the grocery store or mall. (I have several friends who are seriously excited to escort me through Walmart in a motorized cart. I suppose I’ll let them have their fun! How many times in life do you get to do that?!) I also got some wonderful Welcome Home decorations from my friends.

I have lived at least 10 hours away from home since I started my career five years ago. Although this time at home will not always be comfortable and sometimes painful, I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to bond again with my parents and see my hometown friends more often.

“Just keep moving toward your goal, as long as you keep moving the obstacles will move out of your way.” My mom said that and it has proven true so far!

Pain, discomfort and my mood can fluctuate hourly and daily, and it certainly hasn’t been easy. Plus we still have a ways to go. But I am still happy with my decision. It’s a challenge to stay positive all the time, but I’m trying to find joy in everyday. I never want to forget all the things I have to be thankful for!

A Day in the Life

After today, my right leg is .75 mm longer! I’ll explain my day today, because this will basically be my routine until we leave Baltimore.

I woke up around 7 a.m. with moderate pain. My mom got up out of her bed to get me some medicine. I ate a saltine and drank some ginger ale to help protect my stomach before I took it. Then I had to go to the bathroom. For that, I have to unhook my legs from these specials cuffs designed to prevent blood clots. They’re plugged into the wall then attached to me. I have to wear them 20 hours a day. Once I unhook those, I scooch down to the end of the bed. I put my left leg on the ground then call my mom over to hold my right leg and ease it down gently to the floor. I then use my walker to get to the bathroom. If I feel like I can stand I will also brush my teeth standing up. Then I do the whole thing backward, get back in bed and hook myself back up to that machine.

 The white things at the bottom of my legs are the cuffs I was speaking about above.

My mom has to help me with so much. She brings me everything I need to eat and drink. She brings me a change of clothes and helps me get dressed. She gets me my medicine and pushes me in my wheelchair. She has been such a trooper. I know she’s tired, too. It can’t be easy helping your daughter through something like this. She has been so positive and calmed me down when I get upset.

At 8:45 a.m. I get into my wheelchair and my mother pushes me across the street to the hospital. We’re staying in a Ronald McDonald type house for people having surgery at this particular hospital.  She wheels me all the way over. Some cars stop for pedestrians/wheelchairs and some cars don’t. We have to be careful! We get up to the 2nd floor where we go into a back room with Martin. Martin gets out the magnet box. The magnet is programmed to lengthen my leg .25 mm. We set the magnet on my leg. It makes a noise like an electric can opener and after a minute we’re done.

 This is Martin at our first leg lengthening session. My mom had to stand far away, because the magnet can mess up phones, cameras and credit cards.

Then my mother and I head back to our room across the street. Today I took a nap. Then at 11:45 a.m. it’s back to the hospital again for another .25 mm lengthening. After that’s over, it’s time for lunch. Today we ate in the hospital cafeteria. NERD ALERT: I kind of felt like Katniss Everdeen in the Capitol. It was my first time in a place with a lot of people since surgery. All the doctors and nurses were moving around so fast and they looked nice – just going about their day. I’m in my wheelchair just trying not to get in anybody’s way. I had forgotten since last time, but you certainly can feel like an outcast in a wheelchair.

We didn’t have to go to Physical Therapy until 3 p.m. So we sat outside of the hospital’s cafeteria. My mom watched a movie on her iPhone and I began writing this blog. It was very nice out today, so that was great.

 This is the view from that courtyard where I sat this afternoon.

During PT, my therapist stretches out my right leg. My ankle and hip are pretty good to go, but my knee has become very stiff since surgery. Raj forces it to bend until I’m in pretty bad pain. I breathe like I’m in Lamaze class and sometimes yell stop, but he just keeps pushing me. It’s for the best, but it hurts.

After an hour at PT, we went back upstairs for our third and final lengthening of the day. After a minute or so, we were done and free to do whatever we please until tomorrow morning when we start all over again.

This evening I’ll probably continue watching a marathon of Arrested Development on Netflix. I have plenty of books, but they’re not going to be a big enough distraction yet. I’ll probably fall asleep around 9 anyway.

My days are definitely busier than I thought they’d be. Going to and from the hospital takes up several hours, but it also takes longer to use the restroom, change my clothes and shower. I feel like this is my job and I’m “working” about 8 hours a day.

This will pretty much be my routine until we leave Baltimore on Monday and continue lengthening at home in Pittsburgh.

I really enjoy passing the time, looking at nice comments on my Facebook page and posts to my blog. All that helps to keep me motivated. Thanks so much again and I’ll continue to keep you updated!

RANDOM PICTURES:

 This is me with George and Susan. I told you about them in one of my previous posts. George came to Baltimore from Pittsburgh to learn how to use the magnet thing, so we can lengthen at home.

 The man on the right is my surgeon, Dr. Herzenberg. The man on the left is the creator of the PRECISE Nail which is what is inside my leg. He came to watch several surgeries using the device, including mine. They came to my hospital room earlier this week to check on me.