Art Yockel

Here's a classic! January 1, 1994, we (my wife and I) were leaving friends that we grew up with. No one was drunk or anything. I was putting on my coat when one of the little revelers ran down the hall right into me. I bumped my elbow on the wall and felt a tiny sharp pain. Thinking nothing of it we left. New Years Day I went to visit my parents and noticed that my arm had a little lump at the elbow. I went home after a few hours and showed it to my wife. It wasn't big but it was becoming a nuisance. Elbow getting stiff, bumping it on everything. You know that feeling. My wife suggested that I go check it out at the hospital. I drove there after stopping at one that was closer to my house but had a waiting room full of patients. When I entered, they did the usual blood pressure, temperature, etc. They put me in a room with a gentleman and his family. He had fallen off a ladder knocking down the icicles and broken both heels. Man did I feel sorry for him. I had a friend that broke one heel, he has never walked painless since. This guy had both broke both. Wow! After they took me to X-ray, a nurse came in and told me I could leave that I punctured my bursa sac. In case you don't know every joint in your body has a little sac with fluid in it. It acts as a shock absorber putting it into layman's terms. You'll understand the swelling if you've jammed your fingers and they swell up and get stiff. This is the fluid in the bursa sac. Well back to the story. I went home and told my wife what they said. We went to sleep. Now I'm kind of a workaholic. I've missed something like 5 days in 15 years of work and those were to play hooky. My wife tried to wake me I told her I was tired and asked if she would she call me in sick. I slept all day and she was constantly coming and waking me. Boy all I needed was a good night's rest! That's all I thought. About 5pm, she comes in and told me I have to get up. She pulled back the covers and noticed that my arm was slightly enlarged. It was hotter than hell and had started oozing. She called her parents they came over. We covered me with an afghan (because I couldn't get a shirt over my arm). My two kids now home with Nana and Papa were just 6 and 8. Well here we go again - they started taking my vitals. When the nurse tried to take my blood pressure she said something must be wrong with it - it read 38/0. She went and got another one, funny that read the same! She asked me to walk to another room. I did then she said we have to go somewhere else. I followed her into a room and the next thing I know there's about ten people around poking and prodding. This doctor held my face to the side while someone was poking at my neck. Later I found out they were trying to put a line directly into my heart. I heard one of the nurses say that "I got one"! Then I heard her say "rats it collapsed". Then one said "I got one in his ankle". The doctor said sew it in. I looked up at the doctor and asked if we are having trouble. He looked puzzled at me! Later he told me he couldn't believe I was talking or breathing. I said to him "why don't we all take five we'll go get a beer and try this again!" He just shook his head. They were cutting clothes off and scrambling all around. I finally said to him that my ass hurt in this position can I move a little? He reminded me of this and was amazed we carried on a conversation about sports while they worked.Well my wife tells me she's out in the waiting room and about 2 hrs after they took me in a doctor came out and told her that she should go home there is nothing they can do for me. That I probably wouldn't make it through the night. She had to go home and tell her parents and my kids that Dad might not come home. I'm in the ICU knocked out. Along comes a Doctor Alan Goldstein, who looks at my chart. He realizes we are the same age our kids are the same age. He decides he has to try something. He gets on the phone and starts waking other doctors. Finally he calls Dr. Joe Serletti who surprisingly says get an operating room ready and call Dr. Herrera (the chief plastic surgeon at another Hospital). They meet at 4 am and I'm in the hall ready to have surgery. They are just about ready to put me under when I get this tell Joe, I can't breathe! He's stunned. He looks at me and I reach and grab his hand "I CAN'T BREATHE!!" He orders a emergency trachea kit. I wake up about 25 days later. I'm laying in a hospital bed. My wife tells me I've had surgery almost every day. I don't know where I am! Or why! This doctor comes in and says let's take a look. He starts unwrapping my arm. Woah! What the hell happened. He starts removing staples. Two of those 8 oz. coffee cups later he says I'll be back. Come to find out I've had 5 skin grafts. My parents, my wife arrive and I'm sitting up talking. What a surprise that was to them. In walks Joe. He introduces himself and then asks me how the arm looks? I said "you know when you walk into an Italian Deli and there is salami hanging from the ceiling? It looks like one of those nice imported ones." My father got up and ran to the bathroom. Joe said "let's take a look." Everyone out only no one had to say anything. They ran. He went out and got them and told everyone that everything looked good. I'd probably be able to go home in a couple months. Sometime around April. I said "wait a second. What do I have to do to get out of here? I have to see my kids!" He explained that I had major surgery and that I'd have to walk, and digest food (translation - I had to have a bowel movement) and vitals had to be good. He left and the rest of us just talked for a few minutes. They left me alone. I rang for the nurse. Mind you I am in the burn unit hooked up to about 50 things. Hose wires and all kinds of gadgets everywhere. She politely comes in and asked what could she get me? I said I want to go for a walk! Well talk about chicken legs. There was a set of them coming out of my gown! We started to get up - man was I woozzyy. "Let's go" I said. As we went around the edge of my bed, I hit the TV with my IV pump. I turned to her and said "I'm an excellent driver!" We made it to the door and back. Every 2 hours I'd call her! "Let's walk!" By the next day I was going down to the elevator and back when my wife came in. The nurse told her they were transferring me downstairs. They couldn't take me anymore. I wanted out. Joe comes walking in to check on me and I'm walking into my room behind him. He's not thrilled with me, I should be patient he says. My ass, I've got to go home and see my kids! He suggested to my wife that they come see Daddy. It wasn't going to matter I'm getting out. January 28, 1994, I walked out of the hospital. Several skin grafts, relief incisions (from 4 inches to 18 inches long) all down the right side of my body (with the plastic surgery wires all over) and a donor site 10x10 on my leg. As anyone can tell you that donor site wow! Is it painful. For anyone that doesn't understand how painful. If you think back to when you were a child and you got raspberries on you rear from falling. If you can remember that pain multiply it by 10 and then think about it happening every time you breathe or move, or move and breathe. Don't sneeze man-o-man! Well I've had surgery on my eyes because the medicine they gave me screwed up the motor that aligns them. It was like being drunk all the time. Double vision all the time. The elbow still hasn't completely healed and Joe said it probably won't because they couldn't do one more shin graf over my elbow . They thought I had had enough. All the tendons in my body have shrunk and it's hard to walk for any period of time. But hey I'm alive I'm working and starting a business. My daughter is going into college and I coach a travel soccer team that my son plays on. I don't do much of that running thing but I do have a lot of fun! I'm always here to talk with someone about the trials and tribulations of NF. Don't hesitate to contact me. I've been talking with people around the world from as far away as South Africa to England to California and Ole Miss, helping members of our select group. I have a friend who lost the front part of his foot in an accident. He kept on asking why? Why Me? I told him "God had to put a little dent in us so everyone else wasn't intimidated by our perfection!" I'm from beautiful Downtown Rochester, New York. The year I contracted NF there were no reported cases in my county. When I contacted the health department about this they told me they were right. No cases in Monroe County. I told them that these scars must be a figment of my imagination. I went down and showed them. I know a lot of people who have come down with different variations of NF and most go unreported.