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Cross-Country Move

Posted Aug 25 2008 2:44pm

Note to my readers - the following post and all others prior to 02/15/2008 are creations from my memory of events and represent what actually happened at that time:

When Susan told me she wanted us to “move back home”, I thought she meant moving back to Victoria which we had left 7 years ago. My first reaction was that we couldn’t afford it – the cost of housing is at least 50% higher there than in a small town like Ladysmith.

Then she really threw me when she said “Oh no! I want to move back to Ontario.”

For those with a hazy knowledge of Canadian geography, we lived in Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, about 100 miles due north of Seattle, Washington. When we were born, Susan and I lived in Windsor, Ontario, 1 mile due south (look it up in an atlas if you don’t believe me) of Detroit, Michigan and a few thousand miles east of Vancouver Island.

For 29 years, Susan had been homesick for her family. We (and she) had made visits back every few years and once in a while, a family member had dropped in on us in British Columbia for a few days. However, now that both of us were on medical disability and were looking at futures of decreasing abilities, she thought it would be wise to be closer to the people we love. I had chosen to move to B.C. when we left school in an attempt to live in Canada’s best climate and avail ourselves of the ocean and forests. However I agreed that we were no longer able to do much in the great outdoors and between the heating and air conditioning, the outside climate has little effect on how we now live. I said that since I had picked where we lived for the first 30 years, she could have the next 30!

My mom, aunts, uncles and cousins all are in the Windsor area and Susan’s family is scattered in an area between Windsor and Toronto, 250 miles to the north-east.

We began researching our next city to live in.

Windsor is a depressed (and depressing) city. The economy is centered on the North American automobile manufacturing industry (much like Detroit) and has a declining future. Doctors are in short supply (a major concern to both of us), and there is no home hemo dialysis available.

At the other end, Toronto is too big. Neither of us wanted to live in a city with millions of other people and high housing prices. Centered between the two is London.

A close look at London showed it to be perfect. Housing prices were lower than Ladysmith, so we could expect to move to a comparable house, pay for the moving expenses and still have a bit left over to put into the bank. London, population 300,000, is the major center for health services in Canada with an advanced teaching hospital, a full MS Clinic with advanced clinical trials of new medicines, a well-established home hemo dialysis program and a reputation as a beautiful city.

After making arrangements with our dialysis team at the clinic to book 4 dialysis runs at the London Hospital, we flew to London to look over the city and search for a new home. On the third day there I became unable to walk and went to Emergency. They X-rayed my left ankle and told me that the bones had “exploded” into small pieces due to a condition called Charcot’s Joint. They put the leg in a cast and suggested having a surgeon look at it when we got home. Needles to say, the rest of the trip was downbeat.

Back in B.C., an Orthopedic Surgeon said he wouldn’t tough my ankle because of the severity of the problem and the fact that as a diabetic, chances are the ankle would never heal. It would then need to be amputated. He did refer me to another surgeon for a second opinion.

The second surgeon was only a bit more positive. In his opinion, I could do nothing for my leg and remain in a wheelchair for the rest of my life or have corrective surgery. If the surgery failed, I would either be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life or the leg could be amputated. If it worked, I would have at least some use of my leg. He gave me 50/50 odds. He also said that regardless of what happened, expect the other ankle to have the same problem some day in the future.

I took the chance and had surgery. He inserted 29 screws into the bones and anchored them into place. A month later, although the incisions had healed properly, X-rays showed that the screws had loosened and would soon fail.

I then had a different surgery where he implanted a foot-long steel rod up through my heel into the leg bone and glued the small ankle bones to it. This surgery worked! The incisions healed, the bones fused and the leg was saved. Today, I walk on it without concern, although I am worried about the other one.

While I was in the hospital for the second surgery, our house sold. Susan and our older daughter, Laura, flew to London and bought a house. Moving day was arranged for 1 month later.

My Nephrologist, Dr. H. called a doctor she had gone to medical school with and who was practicing in London. She gave us the name of the Doctor in London who was in charge of the home hemo dialysis program. It turns out that he is Canada’s leading authority on home dialysis and was running a study on behalf of the provincial medical servuce to use as a guide for other regional hospital areas. Dr. L. is a Professor of Medicine at the London University Hospital.

Once again, the nurses at my local clinic made arrangements for me to have dialysis at the hospital in London while we got things organized for home dialysis after the move.

On moving day, Susan dropped me at the airport in my wheelchair (I couldn’t walk after the operation for at least 3 months), then returned home to supervise the moving van crew who were loading the contents of our house. She and my younger daughter, Linda, left on the 3 day drive to London late that evening. Laura stayed in Nanaimo as she had just a few months left before graduating from University and did not want to transfer.

After arriving in London I took a cab to the new house and between the driver and our Realtor, they were able to lift my wheelchair up the steps. I slept that night on an air mattress delivered by the kindly manager of a local store. The next day I had a construction company come by and build a ramp in the garage so I could get in and out of the house on my own. Dialysis was that evening at 6 pm.

I was getting pretty tired of listening to a portable radio 3 days into the process when Susan and Linda showed up. They had pulled a U-Haul trailer with the essential furniture, so now I could sleep in a bed and had a TV to watch. I had dialysis again that evening.

Within 2 weeks I was beginning to suffer. Of course I had to restrict my fluid and food intake again. My blood pressure began to rise. My color worsened and I felt generally crappy. When I started to vomit in the morning after waking, I knew that I needed my daily dialysis.

A call to the doctor and a conversation with the new nurses I had to work with produced a promise for a home visit by a site inspection team later that week. 2 days later they had been and gone, the electrician and plumber were booked for the next day and things were in the fast lane at last!

Four weeks to the day after arriving in London I had my first night-time dialysis run. I have a different brand of machine this time, a Fresenius 2008K. Instead of the water purifier being under the dialysis machine like my last setup, this one is separate and fits into the closet where we can close the door and keep the night-time noise to a minimum. Susan took 3 morning sessions to feel comfortable with the differences in the equipment (and I’m sure for the staff to feel comfortable with her).

My Nephrologist made a few calls to his fellow professors and within 2 weeks I had appointments with the finest General Practitioner, Ophthalmologist, Endocrinologist, and Orthopedic Surgeon in town. Susan was accepted into a clinical trial for a new MS drug and has a raft of doctors looking after her through the MS Clinic.

From the day Susan told me she wanted to move, to the day it was all done and we were able to get on with our next adventure, a whole year had passed. It was one of the most eventful years ever, but everything has turned out just fine.

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