• James E Aarons DVM

Doctor Heal Thyself: Fear of Failure, Chapter 35


Mary arrived in a half hour. I was agitated, pacing the room back and forth. A nurse gave me an injection to slow me down and stay on the bed. The surgeon came in. He was called from home and was still wearing a brown leather jacket. He appeared to be a world war two airplane pilot. He introduced himself to Mary and me as a hand specialist. Once he left the room, Mary remarked the staff probably makes up these specialties just to help the patients feel better, opining yesterday he had come in to help someone as a foot specialist. But she was wrong. He had proper credentials to perform the meticulous surgery which lay ahead. The surgeon returned sans the jacket checked out the x-ray and told me to leave the thumb alone. I was inhibiting any circulation left by pushing too hard trying to keep it in its normal position.


I changed into the latest style of hospital clothing. They put a catheter in my arm. As the preop sedation started to work, and I sank deeper into the bed they transferred me to a gurney and wheeled me into the surgical suite where I came together with the anesthesiologist and the hand surgeon. Another table was wheeled up. It had a surgical microscope sitting on top. The anesthesiologist added more meds to my catheter until I could no longer feel or move my arm. I was still awake as the operation began.

The first part of the process was soft tissue reconstruction. The surgeon first reattached some blood vessels because without nourishment and oxygen any further repair was doomed to fail. This was true microscopic surgery; the doc peered through a binocular microscope pointing at my thumb to carefully sew things together using sutures the size of a hair. Once the vessels were sutured the fellow stitched the soft tissue components together, he said were mainly ligaments. That made sense, ligaments are the puppet strings attaching bone to another bone, and so they move together.

I talked with the fellows during this time, yammering on about myself, and don’t recall asking many questions about my two new best friends in the world. I just kept talking and talking. After two hours into the surgery, the nurse came in to tell me Mary was going home. I told the nurse to let her know I love her (Mary). Soon afterward the fellows must have decided I was talking too much, and I lost consciousness as the anesthesiologist added more drugs to my sleeping cocktail. It was time to drive a stainless steel pin through my thumb to make the repair job stay together. This part hurts like hell, and they needed me way out.

I awoke the next morning with my entire left arm below the elbow hidden in a cumbersome bandage extending to the top of my thumb. But I could see the tips of four fingers. I wiggled them; they waved back. I hoped my thumb would be doing that soon too.

I spent all day and night Wednesday recovering. By Thursday I was tired of lying in bed. I called Mary and arranged for her to bring me my computer and printer so I could get some work done. I was anticipating I would be released Friday, but it was not to be. I started to run a fever. I had gotten cat bite fever from the tiger. A bacterium, Pasteurella multocida, infected the wound and was multiplying in my bloodstream. The surgeon called up an infectious disease specialist, and they outlined a treatment plan where I was to be given an antibiotic in the vein every eight hours.

It was Friday, and I was under the weather because of the 104-degree fever, but by Saturday I was ready to go, insisting the nurse call the surgeon for my release. Every time I saw a nurse I asked if they had talked to the doctor. When told the doctor was out of town, I resigned myself to looking out at freedom through a four by four-foot window. 'Out of town' in Templeton can mean a lot of things. Templeton is only a small town about seven miles square so that the doctor may have been lurking just on the other side of the city limits. Nonetheless, I resigned myself to my new jail cell.

When Monday morning came, a pretty nurse brought a handful of paraphernalia and sat it on the table next to my bed. She started tapping and feeling around my upper arm, but needed a better vantage point. She pulled her nurse dress up a bit, exposing more of her white stockings. Then she climbed onto the bed with me and manipulated my arm more. Evidently, she still wasn’t happy with her point of view, and she straddled me.

Positioning my arm a certain way she unsheathed a large catheter, placing it high up on my arm. I think it looked bigger because she was still sitting on top of me, and the catheter was right at eye level with me. Next, she put tape around it to keep it in place. I remember thinking I was glad she was so beautiful.

Florence, my new nickname for her, came back with a small bag of sterile IV solution and a vial containing an orange-yellow powdery antibiotic, appearing very similar to Naxcel, a cephalosporin antibiotic I used on cattle for pneumonia. Showing me how she reconstituted the drug, which I had already done hundreds of time like when I need to give most vaccinations she injected it into the bag of fluids and started an IV drip through my new sturdier catheter.

As we watched the antibiotic solution drip into me, she asked if I felt comfortable doing this procedure at home. I told her I didn’t see any problem with this because I do it all the time at my clinic.

Shortly after that, a sequence of events unfolded which ultimately led to my early release from Twin Cities Hospital. They trusted another doctor to doctor himself the right way. Well, they were somewhat correct.

Once I came home, I was diligent about my intravenous therapy. Every eight hours at the kitchen table I made up another bag of antibiotic, hooking the IV set to my catheter. I needed to sit near the table for thirty minutes, doing this religiously for about four times before I began wondering how I could speed up the medication process. A half hour four times a day dings me two hours from my schedule. I went out to my vet truck and brought back a large 60cc syringe. The hospital bag of fluids contained 250 ml of the antibiotic solution so that I could pull the solution out of the bag into four syringes. Each time after the syringe was full I pushed the liquid into the catheter at a faster rate than waiting for it to slow drip over the next thirty plus minutes, allowing me to save twenty minutes of downtime during each session.

After making sure I didn’t feel woozy or nauseous from the increased rate of injection I felt this was the best way to finish off the meds over the next four days.

Last Chapter: Cat Bite Fever Next Chapter: Chiquita



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