MY BROKEN ANKLE - 12.09.06

I'm doing this for several reasons. First, I'm bored. Second, I'd like to keep a records of how things progress with this situation. Third, the information might be able to help someone else.

I broke my ankle 3 hours and 40 minutes into a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas. This is what happened to me.

If you have any questions please email me.

tammie at tammiehelmick dot com

(Click for a larger image)

Blaine and I had planned a Caribbean cruise for almost 8 months. We had planned what excursions we would go on and had saved enough money that we could by our friends and family some nice gifts. The trip started Saturday at 9:30am. We drove to my parents house because we had to pick up our swimsuits, then we were off to Miami. Blaine decided to take the Turnpike part way then get on 95 and take it the rest of the way to Miami. Things were going well, we had plenty of time. About down 95, traffic came to a dead stop. We figured it wouldn't be that long and we could be moving along. 45 minutes later we had only moved 1 mile. We were starting to panic a little thinking we might not make the boat, because we still had an hour drive ahead of us and it was nearing 3:30pm. We called Royal Caribbean to see if they knew anything about the traffic and to tell them we might be late incase there was anything they could do to hold the boat. I call my dad who found out there was a massive car fire and that is what was holding us up. At about 3:50pm, we finally passed the problem and we were moving again, but we only had an hour to make it to Miami and get on the boat. Blaine finally got to see how his car would handle over 100mph. We were supposed to get off at exit #5, except there was no exit #5, it went from 6 to 4. We had this same problem last time we tried to get to the Port of Miami using the directions from the Royal Caribbean website. We get off and the directions start to make sense again, but then they mess up again. So we called Royal Caribbean back again and got someone to help us drive to the port. We saw places in Miami that we shouldn't have. So we pull up at 4:55pm, and Blaine throws the bags to the curb and I jump out and start running inside to get the process going. I don't know the room number so they can't take my bags, they tell me I have to carry them to the boat myself. Blaine comes running behind me. After 2 security check points we finally get to the place where we check in. We give them our passports and credit cards and run to the boat. It's now 5:05pm. I can see the mustering drill going on as I run to the boat, so they are getting ready to leave. We finally make it on to the boat and breathe a sigh of relief. We've made it, now we can finally relax.

We got to our cabin and we both pretty much collapsed. After we relaxed for about 20 minute sitting on the balcony, I unpacked our stuff and we went out to see if we could find some food, as we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We also wanted to explore the boat, as we'd never been on a boat that large before. We got some food and wandered around the boat a little before heading back to the room to get some more rest and wait for dinner, which was supposed to be at 8:30pm. At around 8:15pm we got ready to go back downstairs for dinner. We got their early so we just hung around. At 8:30pm we all started to go into the dinning room when they told us dinner had been moved to 9:00pm, so Blaine and I decided to go look around some more until dinner. We went down to the area with a bunch of shops. Then as we were going down a set of stairs to the next level, about 6 steps before the end of the stairs I slipped and fell. My left leg went behind me and my right left went out in front of me and I just slid for about 4 steps.

I heard the crack and felt the pain within seconds. As I stood up on my right leg I told Blaine I just broke my ankle. 2 guys from the nearby bar ran over to help me immediately; they moved to a chair and brought me some water. I felt like I was going to pass out. They called for nurse to come with a wheelchair. It felt like it took hours for her to show up. She finally showed up and took me to the boat's hospital, where 2 doctors arrived and 2 other nurses. They took a bunch of x-rays immediately and then gave me some Demerol for the pain. The discovered that it was in fact broken. They put an air cast on me to stabilize the ankle. They told us we would have to get off the boat at the next port and seek medical attention. Blaine packed everything and came back to sleep in the hospital with me. I didn't sleep that night, and Blaine tossed and turned the whole night.

That morning we got up at 6 and Blaine brought down the bags and filled out the paperwork to allow us to enter the Bahamas. They took me off the boat and put me in an ambulance where the took me to Doctor's Hospital, a private hospital. The lady in the back of the ambulance informed us that we would be required to put a $600 cash deposit immediately and then the doctors would look at me, and they don't take insurance. Then they informed us that they needed to be paid in cash for the ambulance ride, $40. The ambulance dropped me off at Doctor's hospital and Blaine started to call the numbers they gave us on the boat to get in contact with the port agent. We were told he would be able to help us get around and get help us get tickets home or anything else we needed. Both numbers didn't work. So we called a few more numbers and they didn't work either. Finally Blaine asked the receptionist at the hospital if she had any numbers we could try. We finally got in contact with a guy named Julius, who said he would be at the hospital in about 25 minutes. About 30 minutes later the doctor came in and we informed him we did not have $600 in cash to pay him. Plus, we had just opened the "information envelope" that the nurse gave us on the boat, that was a $1550 bill from the hospital on the boat, and the had charged it directly to our credit card, so now we didn't even have that to rely on. He told us we could be moved to a public hospital but that it would take longer for me to be seen. The port agent showed up at that time and we told him what we wanted to do. I wanted to be put in a cast and fly back to the states to have the surgery I needed. He said he would have to get a hold of his supervisor to have a decision made. He was of no help.

About 20 minutes later they moved me to the public hospital where I was seen and had x-rays done in less then 20 minutes. We told them we didn't have any money, they said we only need to pay the $45, Blaine paid that, but told them we couldn't afford any more because we didn't bring a lot of cash because everything is supposed to be covered on the boat. In the next 45 minutes they had me in a cast and gave me a shot for the pain. With the port agent no where to be found and none of the numbers working for Royal Caribbean the doctor started calling airlines asking if they had any flights. When they found one, they called the ambulance to take me to the airport. When we got there the flight we were supposed to get on was already leaving, but thankfully we hadn't bought tickets yet. So Blaine got 2 tickets on the next flight to Miami on BahamasAirs. We had 1 hour to get on the plane, we had to go through 2 security check points and 1 customs agent, which is loads of fun when you can't go through the metal detector because you're in a wheelchair. We finally made it on the plane and it was less then full so I was able to get a row by myself so I could prop up my leg.

The flight was only 30 minutes to Miami. As soon as I got off the plane we grabbed the bags and got a taxi to take us to the hospital. I was brought into the ER within a few minutes and admitted to the hospital and put in a room within a few hours. They let Blaine sleep in the extra bed in my room, which was nice, because we didn't know where there were any hotels near by, plus I wanted him near me to help me get up and down. My surgery was set for the next day, Monday. I was so relieved to be back in the states and in a hospital; I finally started to feel better. I spent most of Monday sleeping and watching TV. My surgery was set to be at 6:30pm. The surgery took about 1 hours, 8 screws and 1 plate. I've never been in more pain in my life after the surgery. It hurt worse then the break and all the pain killers they gave me didn't help. After a while they were able to give me some other meds and it helped with the pain but didn't take it completely away. Tuesday they doctor and surgeon said I could go home that night after my second injection of the blood thinner, which is needed to stop me from getting clots. So around 7pm they released me from the hospital and after a quick stop get pick up the pain meds and some pillows to prop up my foot, we were on our way home. We got home around midnight. I was finally home.

I can't tell you what a nightmare this has been, but I wouldn't have been able to get though it without Blaine. He has been my point of strength the whole time.

I have to inject myself everyday with a blood thinner. It's to prevent DVT because I'm laying around to keep the swelling down. I don't want to get DVT so I take the injection, but nevertheless, IT HURTS. I have to give it in the stomach. I've also slowed down on the pain pills. They gave me 40 pills and said I could take up to 10 per day. At that rate it would last me 4 days and I'd be out before the end of Saturday. So I'm taking 1 every 6 hours. I get some pain at the 4 and 5 hour mark.

While I was in Miami I asked the surgeon if he could recommend someone in Orlando and he said he didn't know anyone in Orlando to recommend. He suggested calling my primary care physician and ask for a recommendation. Early on Tuesday I placed a called to my primary doctor and left a message with the Office manager. I've yet to hear anything. The surgeon said I have 5-7 days to get the staples out, so I'm not panicking yet.

Tomorrow is our company's Christmas party. My husband would like to go. I told him it all depends on how I'm feeling. We weren't supposed to go, we were supposed to be on the boat still.

The foot is still swelled up, and the pain when I go to stand up using crutches is unbelievable. I can feel the blood rushing back to the bottom of my foot and I just have to wait a few minutes until it stops. It takes anywhere from 3-8 minutes for the pain to go ways. The toes are still pinkish, which is good. They said at the hospital it's bad when they turn blue or black. I'd say my pain (on a scale of 1-10) runs anywhere from 2-8 right now. It all depends on when I took my last pain killer and how many I've taken.

I called my doctor again today and left a follow up message with the office manager, they didn't call me back again. Now I'm getting pissed. I don't know what to do if my pain meds run out, if she's not answering me now, what says she's going to renew my prescription for the meds. I decided to take things into my own hands and I called a local orthopedic center called Jewett Orthopedic Center. I spoke to a receptionist to ment well, but didn't really help. She said she didn't know if the doctor would want to take me as a patient because he didn't do the surgery and that he would have to see all my X-Rays and medical records from the surgery before she could make an appointment. I called Corel Gables hospital and asked how I get medical records. The woman, who spoke very poor English, told me that I had to go in to the hospital and request them. I informed the woman that I lived in Orlando, so she said the alternative was to fax the request form, and then I could fax back the completed request form and then they would mail the information.

We went to the office Christmas party. I was fun, I was glad to get out. I ended up taking an extra pain pill, which made me sleepy, so we only stayed for 2 1/2 hours. It was good to see everyone again though.

12.16.06 - 9:20pm (25 pain pills left)
My general doctor mailed the referral to me. I wasn't expecting that. I guess it's better then not responding at all. My father had called his doctor to see who they would refer and the recommended the same guy that my doctor recommended. The only problem is my mom went to him a while back and she didn't like him. So I'm going to see what happens with these other people at Jewett.

I'm having trouble sleeping at night. I sleep great during the day, but at night I can't seem to get a good night sleep. I take a diuretic for high blood pressure, so I try remember to take those earlier in the night and stop drinking fluids late at night, but I still end up waking up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I feel bad, because I have to wake my husband to help me get around. The pain also wakes me. I'm taking the meds now at 10am, 4pm, 10pm and 4am. It seems to keep the pain at a constant 4-5, plus allowing me to not blow through the pills. If I haven't gotten anywhere with these orthopedic doctors by Wednesday I'm going to request some more pain meds from my general doctor.

I'm finally getting really bored and my ass hurts from sitting around so much. The toes are still swollen, but pink and now I feel pressure in the ankle. It still hurts like crazy to get up to go to the bathroom. The morning is the peak of the pain. I lay in bed for 6-10 hours and when the leg gets blood after that it hurts to the point of making me cry. I don't cry a lot, especially not due to pain.