Fibromyalgia & Surgery:

I have fibromyalgia, which means that I suffer from chronic pain. Over the years, I have had quite a few surgeries – 15 to be exact. In retrospect, there are some surgeries that I never should have had. Since my surgeries, I’ve come to learn that a lot of the pain was related to the fibromyalgia, and no surgery was going to fix it. This blog relates to the foot surgery nightmare I endured in 2009.

I had pain in my right foot when I walked a lot, so I went to an orthopedic surgeon to see what was wrong with it. He told me that I had a neuroma, and it was easy to fix with a simple surgery. That sounded great, so I scheduled the surgery. I was feeling pretty good after the surgery, and was looking forward to walking without pain.

About two weeks after surgery, my foot developed a hole where the incision was. I’d say the hole was about the size of the tip of an eraser at the end of a pencil. I asked the surgeon about it and he literally said, “Hmmm. I don’t know why the incision is opening up, but I can sew it closed again.” He didn’t bother to figure out why the hole was there. Fortunately, I had recently quit my job because I was struggling with health issues due to fibromyalgia and I no longer had the medical insurance coverage I had when I had the surgery. I only had coverage through my husband’s medical insurance, which meant that I had to go to a different medical group and hospital.

I went to the new medical group, where they tested the hole that had formed on my foot. The tests showed that I had MRSA, which is a staph infection that is difficult to treat. Thank goodness I had to use the new insurance, or the surgeon would’ve closed the hole with the MRSA in it! Apparently, I contracted the MRSA during surgery. I was referred to the wound clinic.

I went to the wound clinic and the doctor tried to treat the MRSA infection. He cleaned the wound out and man, that was painful! He stuck a long q-tip type stick in the wound and hit a nerve! Ouch! He put some kind of bacteria fighting cream in the hole and covered it. I was told not to put ANY weight on my right foot, so I used a wheelchair. This went on for a couple of weeks with no progress, so the doctor referred me to an Infectious Diseases doctor.

Getting treatment through the infectious diseases clinic was awful. The doctor said that I needed a strong antibiotic that I couldn’t take orally. I had to go to the hospital to have a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter put in. A PICC line is a long tube that was placed in my arm and positioned in a large vein near my heart for long-term medicine use. I had an IV in for weeks. My husband learned how to put the medicine in the IV every day and I had a home nurse who checked in on me a couple times a week to draw blood and check the IV and medication. I was still using a wheelchair to get around, but I had to lay on the couch with my leg up the rest of the time.

I finally had the PICC line removed and stopped the medication, because it didn’t work. I still had MRSA. I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who told me that he couldn’t do anything for me, because the infection was in the tissue. He recommended I see a plastic surgeon. Meanwhile, the Infectious Diseases doctor gave me a referral for hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Being locked in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber is no fun, at least not to me. I had to take a shower and not put ANYTHING on my skin afterwards. No lotion, no deodorant, no hair products, nothing. I had to change into a hospital gown and lie down in the chamber. I could not take a book or anything else into the chamber with me. The reason for all of these rules is that they do not want anything in the chamber that can possibly cause any type of spark. The chamber is full of oxygen and can ignite. If that were to happen, they couldn’t open the chamber until they brought the oxygen level back to normal, which takes time. Inside the chamber, they take the oxygen level to that similar to a submarine. Fortunately, they did let me watch movies through the glass, and I could hear through speakers in the chamber.

Being in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber gave me high anxiety. I had to take anti-anxiety medication to get in the chamber and I was afraid to move at all once I got in there, because I was afraid of causing a spark of any kind. I know I was going overboard with my thinking, but that’s how I felt.

During the time I was getting the oxygen therapy, I went to see a plastic surgeon. The surgeon said that she would perform surgery to clean out the MRSA. FINALLY! I had been jumping through hoops for months, all because the insurance company wanted me to try cheaper remedies, which in the end, cost them more. After five months of failed treatments and staying off of my foot, I had the surgery.

After surgery, the doctor told me that the MRSA had eaten through bone, nerves, and tendons, so she had to remove some of the bone to get all of the MRSA out. My foot healed and I was finally able to walk after eight weeks post surgery. Unfortunately, because the MRSA had eaten through bone, my toes were all leaning to the right, and continued to get worse. I ended up having a third surgery five years later, to straighten my foot and toes. I now have a steel plate and some screws on my big toe, and some screws in my second toe. I also have two big scars on my foot: one on top, one on the side. I recently got a tattoo of a peacock feather over the scars to draw attention away from them.

Guess what happened a few years ago? I started having pain in my left foot, just like the pain I had in my right foot. After learning more about fibromyalgia, I found that it’s very common for fibromyalgia patients to have foot pain. I went through that whole horrible ordeal with my foot for NOTHING! Not only do I have pain in my left foot now, I STILL have the pain in the right foot that I had surgery for. The only thing I got out of having the foot surgery is difficulty buying new shoes, because my foot is wider now.

Image by PhoenixSierra0 from Pixabay

I’ve had other surgeries that went awry, and will write about those in other blogs. The main thing I want to get across is that if you have fibromyalgia, make sure the surgeon knows about it! If you are contemplating surgery because something is causing you pain, your situation may need to be handled differently. It definitely should be handled carefully. Sometimes, fibromyalgia pain is the problem, and surgery won’t fix it.

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