In the Merde

Yes, in deep and desperately needing escape. I/we cannot get out from under the  ominous, all-encompassing black cloud which has bombarded us with one disaster after another.  What did we do to deserve this merde?  Did someone put a hex on us, cast a black magic spell of evil?

The current calamity ranks as the worst, yet those preceding were far more than minor photo.hexmishaps. (see previous posts: “Prisoners in an Airbnb Apartment” and “China II: The Fall”).

More merde followed those catastrophes but let’s start with the present which began the afternoon of April 10.

I was typing away at my computer when a frantic husband ran in screaming.  “I need some ice. I need some ice quick.” Too hot?  He needs a cool drink?  No such luck. He related that he had fallen from a ladder while trimming a tall bush.

I was not terribly sympathetic.  At his age, he has no business on ladders.  Last summer he fell out of a tree when trying to trim.  He has fallen off the wall in front of our property when cutting shrubbery.  He relishes climbing a wobbly ladder into our attic. ladder - CopyClimbing must have been one of his favorite boyhood exploits.  But, he is a boy no more.

He had an enormous lump on his calf.  We iced it down.  He was in pain, but he could walk/move with no problem.  Nonetheless that evening we went to the emergency room at the Manosque hospital, about a half hour away.

And, there we spent 3 ½ hours.  Leg was x-rayed.  Nothing broken.  We were told to wait and see the doctor again.  We waited and waited. Many of those who arrived after us had seen doctors and left.  My patience and nerves were shattered. I had a killer migraine.  Bob was getting antsy.  We learned our doctor was on the telephone dealing with a very urgent case. Bob’s leg injury was obviously not urgent.  Who knows how much longer the wait would be?  We  left.

Next day he saw his local doctor.  The lump was a gigantic hematoma, now red, purple, pink and horrific.  His foot had also ballooned – too fat for his shoes. The doctor ordered a Doppler ultrasound to check for blood clots, and he arranged for the test with a nearby doctor that evening.   All clear – no clots.

There had been a half-dollar sized blister on the surface of the hematoma. At some point it burst and a large scab formed. But, the swelling was increasing. The grotesque colors on his leg now engulfed the fat foot, too.

We decided this required another look by a medical professional.  His doctor was off that day, so we trekked back to emergency where this time we only to had to wait a few minutes. A doctor checked it out, said it was infected, gave us a prescription for antibiotics and another one for daily at-home nurse visits to change the bandage (a wonderful plus of French medical care).  He turned us over to a nurse who we assume followed his instructions and cut delicately around the scab which immediately began oozing thick, black blood (the hematoma contents).  She covered it with a large bandage and sent us on our way.

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Nurse Vero cleans the hole.

Back home the next day nurse Aurelie I appeared, removed the bandage and was horrified.  “They did this at Manosque?”  She began pressing the hematoma, again and again and again, draining it of the ancient blood. I watched, incredulous.  Would it ever stop?  It did, but left a gargantuan cavity in his leg.  It is this cavity which the nurses came to clean out and stuff with treated gauze every day.  In the beginning it took a meter-length piece of gauze to fill the cavity.  The mountainous lump was/is still there, but getting smaller.

Several days passed and a  new nurse arrived, Aurelie II. She was shocked.  “This does not look good….How long has it been like this?”  She urged us to go the emergency department at the hospital in Aix en Provence.  We learned from her, and others, that the Manosque hospital does not have a good reputation.

Afternoon plans were canceled and we set off to Aix, about an hour and 15 minutes away.   A two-and a one half hour wait merited an examination by a very patient and thorough doctor.  He carefully cleaned the “hole,” stuffed it, patched it, wrapped it and sent us on our way with a prescription for a different antibiotic and a new at-home nurse prescription.  He also sent a swab of the cavity to the lab. The results later indicated the infection was resistant to the first antibiotic, but the second, the one he had prescribed, was on target.merde.7

Meanwhile, our lives have been in turmoil since the fall.  My Easter dinner party canceled.  A hotel overnight in Aix canceled. A weekend in Italy canceled. My doctor’s appointment canceled.  No time for my activities:  photo club and French writing group.  The real tragedy, the month-long trip to Germany, out the window. We had planned to see some friends, but the trip was primarily a research trip for me.  I write for the magazine German Life and planned to gather material for future articles.  It was a time-consuming, complicated trip to arrange – reservations, appointments, calculating driving distances and times.  All for naught.  Merde!

Nurses continued to come daily for the cleaning-stuffing wound ritual, warning us that full recovery would be long.  Aurelie I suggested we see a “specialist des pansements” (bandage specialist) at the Manosque hospital, a woman (Hungarian) whom she had great regard for.   I made an appointment, but we had to wait 2 weeks to see her.

When the bandage specialist saw the dreadful wound and learned that we had been to the hospital emergency room way back at the beginning of the sorry saga, five weeks prior, she was angry.  “Why didn’t they call me?  They know this is my specialty?”  She said if she had started treatment initially, by now Bob would be recovered.

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Supplies delivered from hospital for at-home care, all covered by national French health insurance.

She advised Bob be hospitalized for a week to start treatment with a machine which would suction all the bad stuff lodged in the cavity.  The process would take about a month, as opposed to three to four months if he continued with the nurses at-home

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Bob and his talking purse.

treatments.  He would need to spend about a week in the hospital, and then go home with machine.

The machine can hang from his shoulder, like a purse, and can operate on batteries, so he can be mobile.  He was given permission to go home for the weekend. We were elated.

On Sunday we were about to depart for lunch at the home of friends in a nearby town.

Telephone rang.  Hospital.   They had taken a blood sample during his stay.  Results indicated “a very dangerous infection.” Get back to the hospital immediately so treatment can be started, they urged. That ended lunch with friends.  More merde!

I did some research on the bacteria he had contracted – both common hospital infections, multi-antibiotic resistant. Of course, the hospital insists he did not get the infections from contamination there, even though he had been infection free when entering the hospital.

So, now in addition to the machine, he was/is on a drip of a very strong antibiotic for 10 days.   This was the last straw, too much. We were both at rock bottom, very nervous about the gravity of these infections, sick of the hospital, depressed, despondent.the-last-straw

Our sanity was saved, again by the fabulous visiting nurses.  After four days back in the hospital, “hospitalisation a domicile” (home hospitalization) was arranged.  A nurse comes  three times per day, at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.,  to hook him up to the drip which lasts about 1/2 hour each time.   The 10 days will end tomorrow, but he will still have the machine, however it only requires a nurse’s attention every three days.

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Nurse Aurelie I and the drip hook up.

Nurses may call it a miracle machine, praising its medical prowess, but we call it Farting Freddy.  It is noisy, emitting sounds identical to farts all too often. We are ready for a return to the world, a meal in a restaurant, but dare we?

On top of this tragedy, and the others previously mentioned, my China fall still haunts me.  The broken collar bone did not heal correctly, the bones did not realign (non-union). It is still painful at times.  I am (was) a devoted lap swimmer, but the crawl, my stroke, is difficult. Double merde!

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My hand splint.

Another complication: somehow nerves in my upper arm, below the damaged collar bone, became compressed.  My left hand movement is limited, namely the two little fingers which are basically frozen. At first I was told recovery could take a year.  Now they say two years.  I have learned to type with one good hand, and one finger of the left hand.  Many kitchen/cooking tasks remain challenging.

And yet another whopper: basal cell skin cancer. I had a tiny bump on my nose, cancer caused by the sun and not usually dangerous. Removing the mini lump would be a piece of cake, so I thought.  Not quite – underneath the skin the lump was not so tiny.  Removal left me with 26 stitches on the side of my nose and face.  Fortunately I had a skilled plastic surgeon.  The scar is easily hidden with makeup.  But, after all that, he did not get all the cancer.  One cell remains. More merde!

Perhaps there is light at the end of this tunnel of merde. Since Freddy attacked the wound, it is slowly shrinking.   While these troubles have been – and still are – annoying, I realize it all could have been far worse.  But, we need a break from bad luck. If anyone can offer a hex of happiness and good health, a magic spell of good fortune to chase away the merde, please send our way.

In between all of the merde, we did have a lovely trip to Sri Lanka. See previous post, “Wonders of Sri Lanka.”    More on that coming soon. Don’t miss it.  If not already a Tales and Travel follower, sign up (upper right). Your address is kept private and never shared. 

Please feel free to comment.  Click below, scroll down to Leave a Reply and add your thoughts

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38 thoughts on “In the Merde”

  1. Sorry to learn about all these setbacks! Who would have ever thought a tumble off a ladder could lead to such a serious medical condition? Wishing Bob a smooth road to full recovery and may your own aches soon diminish too. Sorry you were unable to attend the Stripes anniversary dinner as I’d been looking forward to seeing you there.

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    1. Hi Karen and thanks for good wishes, It has to get better. I am very sorry we missed the Stripes anniversary festivities. That was to have been the first stop on the ill-fated German trip
      .

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  2. Oh, Leah. I don’t know any hexes, but I will include you and Bob in my prayers. What an ordeal you’ve been through.

    I had wondered why you didn’t show up in any of the reunion photos, now I know.

    Best wishes for continued recovery. Betty

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    1. Thank you Betty. Good times must be around the corner. We hope so, and plan a restaurant meal this eveing to celebrate the end of the daily drip. Hope Bob’s purse behaves.

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  3. Wow, so sorry Leah. That story makes me feel healthy or lucky, or both. I’d send you some grass but I don’t get to Colorado much. Doesn’t your brother live there? It molds nicely into native bowls with food coloring painted figures.

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      1. I would be happy to set you up. We’re surrounded by dispensaries. The weird thing is my 20 year old son has no interest. Last summer he and I were at an outdoor concert by the remaining members of the Grateful Dead. The kind, counterculture baby boomers behind us passed us joints just like the old days. My son waved them off until I intervened and told him to pass the joints to me.

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  4. Prayers for both of you. We had a really bad year a couple times. 1992 especially. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say. See you down the road….

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  5. Holy cow, but I did think you were talking about the 43rd when I started reading. That’s probably it! Ugh. And I too was looking for you in the Stripes photos! Lastly, be glad you have health insurance there and not here!

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    1. We are very grateful we have French health insurance. Home hospitalization is amazing. It has saved us. We wish we had been in those S&S photos…This has not been fun, but all is improving.

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  6. Dear Leah,
    I am so sorry to hear of your and Bob’s medical problems. What awful luck. You must be finding it hard to ” bounce back” and be optimistic. I hope it will soon be better for both of you and that you and Bob will be able to then continue your fascinating world journeys. I was interested in your comments on the hospital in Manosque. I have a young America woman friend who is a nurse and has her degree from one of the finest University schools of nursing in USA. She is a French citizen but Apt hospital would not hire her because she didn’t have a French nursing degree. She then got a nursing job in Switzerland and after working there has finally been hired in Manosque as the family wanted to move back to the Viens area which is their home. All this to say that my friend is very knowledgeable about doctors and medical care in the area and very nice about sharing information. If you need any additional contacts let me know and I can ask her. I will be back in LA Pourraque on 14 June. Meanwhile I hope all will soon be better for you and Bob.
    Yours,
    Sandra Eddy

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    1. Thank you, Sandra. All is under control. The “bandage specialist” from the Manosque hospital is a gift from heaven. She called yesterday to see how Bob is doing (rare for a dr.) Her machine does seem to be magic. The hole is shrinking.

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  7. Dear Leah, I believe that there comes a time in our lives when merde hits unexpectedly and relentlessly. I know this from my own experience and from those of others, generally when one has reached their 70’s–and mostly to those who are athletic and adventurous. And merde is known to hit the fan repeatedly. The why is obvious–we enjoy our lifestyle and don’t want to make changes due to age or illness. But the time comes when we have to face the reality and listen to our bodies. Belonging to a senior ski club one sees this all too often. Of course, we all cheer each other on to recover and move on back to the slopes. Nobody wants to admit defeat or give into age. My last ski accident involved a femur an a wrist breakage, Nine months previously I broke the upper humorous on the same arm. The hardest part of healing after the wrist break was losing the feelings in that hand. Turns out that, in my case, there was nerve damage that caused the restriction. Apparently this is common after such infuries. Even physical therapy couldn’t fix it. Amazingly one shot of cortozone did the trick. In your case I’d check out the nerve damage theory. Having had the experience of losing the use of a hand, I know how it can impair one’s quality of life. Worth a shot. Wishing you and Bob speedy recoveries and no more merde attacks!

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    1. Thanks for the words of wisdom, Barbara, You are right. Accepting the limitations that go with old age old age is difficult for all, but probably more so for those of us who have been active and adventurous all our lives. You are an inspiration — still hitting the slopes after all your injuries, I am determined to ski again next winter.– but unfortunately no senior ski club here. Apparently my arm nerves (which control finger movement) are compressed. I am living with it.

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  8. Wow. What a horrible series of disasters but now your husband is finally recovering. Very scary time.
    Your issues seem worse .Keep on swimming . It’s not too much fun getting older. I’m working hard at staying fit but anything can happen any time to screw that up. I’m staying my house. Take care. Really
    Elizabeth

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    1. Old age is no fun, but we can’t give up. And, I will keep swimming…. next winter I intend to get back on the ski slopes. I am not ready for a rocking chair, and I know you feel the same. Bon Courage for us both.

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  9. So sorry for these woes! But excuse me – melanoma is not a dangerous form of cancer? Since it’s the very form that killed Don in the short span of six months, I have to disagree. You are so lucky it was on the surface and quickly found. Otherwise, Don’s medical experiences – and he had access to the very best the US has to offer – sadly mirrored Bob’s, only with a most unhappy outcome. I hope this is the last of such woes and that all resolves most positively!

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  10. Yes, merde happens! A serious of unfortunate mishaps, but not disasters, for you and Bob are still bouncing back, and will soon be back in the saddle. Stay positive (as you are)!

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    1. PS Believe me, I do understand how difficult it’s been, but I know you have right attitude and are already looking forward to brighter days and more travels.

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  11. Dear Leah and Bob, this is indeed the merde….I am soooo sorry to hear; sometimes there doesn’t look like there is any light at the end of the tunnel….but, you’ve got great medical care and Bob is healing. I don’t want to be a Pollyanna about this–it’s frightening and debilitating and overwhelming–it takes over your life. I completely sympathize/empathize. Fingers crossed things will turn around.

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    1. Thank you Pat,. We have to accept the good and the bad. You and Gary have had your share of bad.. The earthquake damage to your house must have been devastating. We all move on. Hope the house repairs are progressinmg and that you are enjoying bella Italia..

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  12. Dear Leah and Bob, Oh my goodness!  We are so dismayed about your recent misfortunes, and we hope you will recover very quickly. Your positive attitude will help;we admire you for it. Paul and I are currently in Germany, returning home soon. We wish we could stay here for the next 4 years – if you know what I mean.It is all so horrible!  But when you are ill nothing else matters.  So we wish Bob a speedy recovery and both of you all the good luck in theworld which nice folks like you deserve. Thank you as always for including us in your news bulletins. Gute Besserung und alles Gute Euch beiden! Eva and Paul

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    1. Thank you Eva., Recovery is underway. We are very happy to be in France, especially after Trump’s latest outrageous decision. Enjoy Germany. We miss it. Viel Spass und liebe, liebe Gruesse..

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  13. Leah,
    Here’s hoping and praying that only good things happen to you both from here on out. Libby and I know very well that bad things can and do happen to even the best of people: i.e. her sister dying at 23 in a car crash.

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  14. Oh Leah, what a terrible time you have had. But you are such good souls to have taken so much time to help him. I hope that you can resuscitate some of your vacation plans and take some time for yourselves. Sending you lots of good cheer! Jane.

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    1. Thanks Jane. I am feeling about guilty having dumped all my woes on my readers, but writing about it was somehow therapeutic.. And, the comments have been gratifying.

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  15. This is your brother one more time. I’m so sorry. I really feel for Bob. He must be so tired of this. The antibiotic resistant bacteria is a nightmare. I’m really sorry about your summer plans. I know how much you both were looking forward to the Germany trip. Finally, I hope you are tending to your health as well.

    Yoshie and I just returned from a brief Memorial Day trip to Bears Ears National monument in Utah, the one Obama designated just before leaving office, and one of the ones (along with the adjacent Grand Staircase Escalante) that our current Real Estate Developer in Chief is determined to de-designate. Like all of southern Utah, its an amazing place – gulches leading to little canyons that then connect to bigger canyons.

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    1. It was a bummer having to bail out of the 18-day China trip on day 3 after the bridge broke from under me. We did not even make it to Germany. But we won’t give up and become couch potatoes. Bob is recovering. We will march on.

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  16. IMG, Leah! I finally had a chance to read your merde saga and can’t believe the daily horrors! Poor Bob and poor you!! I send you the biggest hug possible via the internet!!
    Gloria

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  17. Sorry to hear this Leah , we have also had a shit time with serious illness and I have had 4 spine ops as well . Hope you can continue your travels soon xxxxxxx

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    1. Sorry to hear about your troubles, Sue’ and I hope the worst is over. We have to move on with determination to conquer this merde. We are trying, and hope is in the air. Love to you and Keith.

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