Tuesday, March 23, 2010


January 28, 2010
Dear Diary:

Even given hospital routine, there seems to be an unusual number of people taking blood from my arm. They only have one to choose from because the other one is already taken. It’s siphoning off something from a bag way above my head. Just to increase the interest, the nurse who put in the original port placed it right in the crook of my elbow so every time I remotely bend my arm, such as scratching, it sets off an alarm bell which is only satisfied by a bustling body. To avoid giving the already over-worked staff so much trouble, I lie with my arm rigid and immobile. This matches my left leg.

I don’t concern myself with the numerous vials of blood until white coats enter the room with glum expressions on their faces. “You look very pale.” “No blush,” I say. “Are you always this pale?” “I haven’t looked at myself and I don’t want to. I’ve never gone this long without bronzer.” “We’re concerned about your blood levels.” “Oh!” “They’re dropping quite alarmingly.” “Oh.” “You’ll feel a lot better if we give you a transfusion.”

Transfusion! Arthur Ashe! Hepatitis! Rare blood disease! Someone else’s blood in my body!

“You know, the screening processes now are so thorough. There’s a one in a million chance of anything getting through.” I know that. We have the Blood Mobile come to our company. I’ve been through the screening process and in my view it was too thorough. However, I still don’t like the odds of one in a million. I’m finally convinced when I collapse trying to make it to the commode. Blood it is.

Not so fast. The insurance company has to approve it first. I wait breathlessly. Then finally, it’s a go. A nameless, faceless person somewhere in the ether has checked the box.

I expect the transfusion to be a half-hour job. In fact, it takes sixteen hours – eight hours for each bag. Whoever you are who donated two pints of A+ blood to Berkshire Medical Center, thank you because I do feel a lot better afterwards. That is until Bob repeats his idea of beaming me into the conference. YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!

I double my efforts with my home-grown nutrition program, mixing together concoctions that baffle the nurses. They tend to congregate in my room to smell the flowers and to read the labels in my health food store. They assure me that it won’t be long before I can put one foot in front of the other again. I tentatively ask them that if I had to shoot some video, is there a space they could recommend. I tell them that I don’t want grey walls – something flesh toned. One suggests the chapel with the stained glass window behind me. Perhaps we should have organ music for some background ambience!

I don’t know how this crazy idea can possibly work. It certainly can’t be live because who knows what would happen. I mean, I might even cry. The only possibility is if it’s taped and edited to cut out any embarrassing bits. But how am I going to do my hair? My makeup? I can’t even sit in a chair yet. Oh, just forget the whole thing!

I lie in bed and look at the white/grey wall in front of me with its boxes of Latex gloves and the bulletin board with the daily schedule. My eyes drift right to take in the flower arrangements on the shelves by the door. I feel better. They lift my mood. And then, as if in a wave, I see all the spas I’ve visited over the years, all those caring people who work there, all the beautiful rooms, the fragrance, the candles, the music, and I understand in a way I’ve never understood before that this is what our bodies want and need. This is the way they heal surrounded by things that nurture our spirits, that make us feel more positive, that drive away negativity.

I begin to fantasize an experiment. What if this hospital, instead of putting Latex gloves and a bulletin board on the wall, showed a mural of a garden in full bloom or a beach with coconuts washing up on shore? I wonder if patients would heal faster and be released sooner. I bet the insurance companies would love that. I bet they’d even pay for the murals.

Wait, here comes that familiar sound. “Just checking your vitals. Which is your bad leg?” I start to answer and catch myself. “It isn’t my bad leg; it’s my injured leg. And soon it’s going to be running a mile again – in high heels.”

Monday, March 08, 2010


January 24, 2010
Dear Diary:

As my stretcher is rolled into the emergency waiting area, it’s clear that it’s a busy night. Our small quiet country hospital has been transformed into what looks like a frantic scene from a television pilot – Black Ice Blues. Amid the chaos, I have absolutely no recollection of losing my exercise clothes for a hospital gown and so the anticipated embarrassment of being caught wearing no underwear is a non-event. See, mum, I told you that you worry too much.

And I still don’t really know what the injury is. I know I’ve broken something but what? The x-rays are withheld from me partly because the pain killers have left me so out of it that I couldn’t make a decision anyway and partly because I don’t want to see them. Eventually, I’m told that I’ve shattered my femur and that I’m to be transferred to another hospital for surgery the next morning. The sooner one repairs this kind of break, the better the result one can expect – expert that I am. (It’s six weeks before I eventually see the x-rays and understand what I really did to myself. I wish I’d never known.)

The 45-minute journey by ambulance to the next hospital ends with a bout of motion sickness performed for the amusement of the milling throng in the waiting room. It’s amazing how fast those little pink trays appear.

The next morning while I’m answering some e-mails, a delegation enters to tell me that surgery will be at 2:00 pm. I feel remarkably calm and I can’t understand why. All the things I’ve dreaded for so long – serious injury, major surgery, anesthesia, drugs, confinement, loss of independence – should conspire to render me a nervous wreck… but I’m not. I feel calm and lucid with a sense of acceptance that surprises me. Let’s just get this done.

An interesting conversation with the anesthesiologist completes my morning. He lays out some choices for me – general anesthesia or epidural. Actually, I’m the one who asks about the epidural. “We could do that,” he says, “but there’ll be a lot of sawing and drilling going on and you’ll be lying on a stainless steel table for three hours which isn’t that comfortable.” “Give me the general. I’ll live with the consequences.” As I’m wheeled into surgery, he puts a mask over my face and says, “Just some oxygen.” You can’t fool me! In my last act of independence, I take the mask off my face and say: “This isn’t oxygen.”

And that’s it – gone. Then, “Jane! Jane! Jane! Wake-up!” It’s over. I have 16” of titanium and four bolts holding my femur together. Actually, that isn’t all but I don’t know about that yet.

The surgeon reports an excellent result and that he expects full recovery. I suppose I should be enormously relieved to hear this, but honestly it didn’t occur to me that there wouldn’t be full recovery. Perhaps if it had, I wouldn’t have been so calm.

Since hospital routine is new to me, I’m quite impressed by the number of people who are in and out of my room wheeling in all kinds of contraptions. “Just getting some blood.” “Just getting blood pressure and temperature.” “Did you fill out the menu for meal service?” “Bed pan or commode?” “Give me the one where I don’t have to move.” “You have to move. The sooner you move, the faster you’ll heal.” At the moment moving seems like such a remote possibility that I just lie back and listen to the Code Blue announcements. Wait; here comes someone else, “Just checking your dressings.” On go another pair of Latex gloves – the eleventh pair this afternoon that have been removed from the dispenser on the wall opposite me. It’s unfathomable how many gloves a hospital must use every day. Do they get recycled? Do they biodegrade? I make a note to find out when I’m back in the real world.

And then in comes the first floral arrangement. Its beauty against the starkness of the hospital room quite overwhelms me. I lie staring at it marveling at the shapes, colors and delicacy of this fragrant visitor. I feel my spirits rising. I will get over this. And then Bob arrives with my supplements and grocery order. He stacks packages around the room – hemp milk, almonds, sprouted soy, raisins, cooked salmon, home-made soup, probiotics, colostrom, omega-3 capsules. So much stuff that the nurses wheel in another table for me. It isn’t long before my room looks like a cross between a florist and a health food store.

The beauty of the flowers, the touching messages, the sense of taking charge of my healing help me to face what I know has to come next. Everyone’s leaving to go to the conference and I’m not. My whole support team is going to be two thousand miles away hosting our national sales team, our international distributors and our world-wide educators. I can’t bring myself to think about it. One hurdle at a time. Let’s conquer the commode first.

Before Bob leaves for the night, he mentions something about videoing me into the conference. I dismiss the idea as ludicrous. No one’s going to see me like this.

I’m not alone that night. I have unexpected companions called Venus Boots. These white cuffs wrap around my lower legs and vibrate up and down them all night long. This electronic massage is designed to lessen the risk of blood clots. (Another wonderful gadget.) I don’t just feel massage though, I feel something else from the Venus Boots; I feel less alone. With every cupping and uncupping of my legs, I hear Venus saying, “It’s OK. I’ve got you.” When I tell the nurse the next morning that I’m so enchanted by my night visitors that I’ve dubbed them angel hands, she gives me one of those looks that says: Let me know if you’re still saying that a week from now.

So the journey begins. Tomorrow, I learn how to make my bed go up and down.