Monday, March 08, 2010

E.R.

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.

6 comments:

Courtney Maum said...

Venus Boots....there might be something here, no? A companion to the Magic Mitts, perhaps? Wonderful entry. You should ready yourself for a book offer- I can just see your memoir on the shelf, now. "Black Ice: Getting up from the pavement and on with your life".

DJ said...

Good day Jane!

I am so ashamed that I am getting such a chuckle out of your bad experience with your leg! But with the combination of you being a terrific writer, and obviously a funny person, I can't help myself. I do wish you a speedy recovery and hope you find time for more writing.

Wishing you well,
DJ

MFenske said...

Wow...I feel like I am reading a Danielle Steel novel...I start reading and do not want to put it down. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us. Your humor is refreshing during your time of adversity. I know I speak for everyone when I say... we wish you a healthy and speedy recovery!

Girly Tomboy Extraordinaire said...

I hope you're doing well and healing nicely! That's quite an ordeal to have to go through.
Be well!

donald said...

You are so remarkable, and your writing about this is just sensationally warm and witty and poignant. Jo, Nick and I wish you continued speedy recovery and hope that you will be Jane uncaned very soon. Happy almost birthday!

D J and N

Sylvia B. said...

My goodness! I certainly hope that things are going better for you now!

Please write more about how you're getting along!