Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fixing me

What if I fall and hurt myself
Would you know how to fix me?
What if I went and lost myself
Would you know where to find me?
If I forgot who I am
Would you please remind me?
Oh, cause without you things go hazy.
-Rosi Golan

I've been home from the hospital for more than a week now. That's a week farther away from the days I want to forget. It's hard being in a hospital for any length of time - but 18 days? Right now, it seems like a bad dream. I spent many nights in my stiff hospital bed wearing headphones, listening to my Pandora radio and trying to tune out the institutional noise and my own sadness. The lyrics above are from a song I could have listened to on repeat all day, every day. Because I did fall. And I needed to be fixed.

The first few days after my accident are a blur. I had surgery on my broken right leg that first night and all seemed well. They put a titanium rod and screws in to fix my tibia and fibula. We were talking about discharge and going to a rehabilitation center. But then, 24 hours later, the surgeon came to my room and told me we needed to go now.

"There aren't many true emergencies in orthopaedics," I remember him saying. "This, however, is a real emergency. Do you understand what I'm saying? We have to go now."

I had developed what is known as compartment syndrome, where the pressure in the legs after a trauma becomes so great that it could kill the muscles and nerves, even result in amputation of the limb itself. The only way to relieve the pressure was to cut large incisions down either side of my leg. I remember the surgeon and his residents literally wheeling my bed out of my hospital room and down into the operating room seven floors below. He was reassuring, holding my hand and telling me it was going to be OK. I squeezed his hand as tight as a could after the anesthesia team had to wake me up, a tube still in my throat, and put me to sleep again because I wasn't positioned correctly on the table. 

Then I slept.

I would stay in the hospital 16 more days and through four more surgeries - six in all - to avoid infection in my open wounds and undergo a skin graft to close the larger of the two incisions. I got to know, even like, a lot of the young nurses who were caring for me. One walked in on me crying one day and quickly bent down and gave me a hug, telling me everything was going to be OK.

Through the course of my stay, I had three different roommates - one an elderly woman with broken ribs who drank coffee by the bucketful, a mother to grown children who had been in a car accident and, lastly, an elderly woman who had fallen at her nursing home. The latter was there the longest, unable to communicate or move. Though a curtain divided us in our small, sterile room, I could hear her moans when the nurses had to move her. I could hear her labored breathing and coughing. And from time to time, I could hear silence. That worried me the most. I didn't know this woman's face and only picked up bits and pieces of her medical history from doctors and nurses that came in and out, but I worried she would die there next to me, alone. Well, alone except for me. 

Thankfully, that didn't happen. She recovered well enough to return to her nursing home and I was left with the room to myself for the remainder of my days in the hospital.  

Time seemed to crawl. I had lots of visitors during the day, but nights and weekends were lonely and long. TV didn't interest me. Reading wasn't enjoyable. I just wanted to be home and with my family. I missed my kids and husband, longed for my mom and dad to be by my side. I received stacks of get-well cards, flowers and gifts in the mail. Friends sent texts and came by with chocolates and real food from the real world. And it was wonderful and made my heart swell. 

Still, at night, I'd put on my headphones, listen to the music, and often cry. Sometimes I couldn't tell if they were tears of sadness or joy - or maybe a little of both. 

And all because I fell. And needed to be fixed.  

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