Ken opted to drive to Minnesota for Michael’s memorial. Several people kindly offered to help with the cost of air or train tickets, but Ken felt more comfortable driving. It seemed appropriate, given all the road trips he and Michael had taken over the years, and it would give him some quiet time to think. He’s a push-on-through kind of driver when he’s on his own, so he left early Thursday morning, planning to be in the Cities Friday evening.
Friday afternoon, he called me at work–earlier than I expected to hear from him, since we’d talked that morning. I said I couldn’t talk much, being at my desk, but could listen. “You’re going to want to talk,” he said. Uh-oh. I moved to a quieter location and asked what was up.
His left foot had been hurting him, and when he took off his shoe to check it, he found it enormously swollen–too big to get his shoe back on. He found an urgent care clinic in Bismarck, ND, that could see him right away. He’d had a problem callus, caused by his favorite shoes, for some time. The thing had split, and seemed to heal over, and now it was badly infected. They gave him a double dose of major antibiotics, wrapped the foot, and told him to have it looked at again within 72 hours. The swelling and pain subsided as the medicine took effect, and it seemed like the problem was handled.
Sunday afternoon, Ken went to a clinic for follow-up, and they recommended he get to an emergency room, immediately. The wound appeared to have necrotic tissue in it, which needed cleansing and testing ASAP. Right over to Hennepin County Medical Center, then, where they confirmed the severity of the situation and started running blood tests. Given an overweight man in his mid-40s with an infected foot injury, what’s the first word that comes to your mind? Yep, that’s the one. The ER doc gave him a preliminary diagnosis of diabetes and told Ken they were admitting him for treatment–possibly surgery–the next day.
To elide a lot of boring/terrifying medical stuff, the wound ended up being not as bad as first thought–the thickness of the callus misled the doctors about how deeply the ulcer had penetrated his foot. This meant a “power-washing” of the wound was sufficient, and “dremeling” would be unnecessary (to use Ken’s metaphors.) No ‘pathways’ were found at the joint covering–i.e., the rot hadn’t penetrated to the bone. Good news all around, given the nightmares I was picturing. No removal of foot structure. No amputation. Not, then, the beginning of the slow dismemberment I’ve seen others suffer through.
Ken was discharged the Wednesday following his Sunday night admission, with an assortment of prescription meds, a bag full of wound care supplies, a referral to a podiatrist in Portland to check in with, and a glucose-testing kit. He had the doctors’ approval to drive himself home–and again, caring friends had stepped up to offer a variety of other options to get him back to Portland, should driving himself not be feasible. He also had admonitions from all quarters to take it easy, to stop for stretching breaks frequently, and to sleep in actual hotels, darn it, rather than in the car. He did all that, and reached home late Friday night, June 22nd. Only two days later than his original plan, although it seemed so much longer. Over the years, I’ve welcomed him home from many trips, but never before from one I wasn’t sure he was coming back from, or in what condition he would arrive. But there he was, home and whole; everything else could wait until tomorrow.