For every day that I get up, do my thing, accomplish a lot, there is another day that I can barely do anything. When the exhaustion hits, there ain’t no coffee drink that can keep me awake. I crash. I’m down. And I’m usually down for a day. Being someone who loves to check off a list, this is the most frustrating thing in the world. Sitting and doing nothing is maddening. I can’t do it.
I try to find the lesson in things. Maybe I think too much, maybe I give every experience in my life too much credit, but I’m always looking for the reason. I know God didn’t decide one day he wanted me to hit a tree and break a bunch of bones. I don’t really think that’s his style. I don’t think there is a good reason for me breaking my leg and being fairly immobile for 6 months. There’s certainly no reason anyone else could give me that would justify all this pain and frustration and strife and money down the tubes.
However…and I hate the “however”, too…there are day-to-day lessons I’m learning at a much faster rate than I would have had I two legs and all 24 ribs.
1. Money is STILL not something I can control. Even whittling my expenses down to nearly nothing after my divorce and starting my OWN savings account, I still can’t control it. For 5 months, in the money rolled. And with zero warning, away it went. I am still trying to figure out how to let go of my need to control money while still paying my rent.
2. The people in my day-to-day life are crazy in love with me, and that’s ok. Someone caring about me makes me nervous, probably because my subconscious assumes they’ll die soon since that was the repeating pattern of my childhood.
As an adult, most people in my life who cared about me eventually walked away because they were tired of my stone-cold inability to get vulnerable and love back (and who could blame them, I guess)…but here I am left with The Strong – the ones who see past my rough exterior and fear-filled layers and stick around to love me anyway. Friendships distilled, these are the people I want in my life.
3. I am inherently worthy. This is a real doozie. Each time I think I’ve overcome the need to PROVE myself worthy, I realize I’m doing it again. My worth typically comes from that check-list, that proof that I’ve done something with my day. Trouble is, all these broken bones flip that whole little trick on its head. I physically can’t do it all. I can’t climb to the top shelf and I can’t clean under the couch. I feel inherently UNworthy when I accomplish nothing. But as my dear friend said to me, “Surviving another day is never nothing.”
(I do want to acknowledge that my stubbornness, my need to DO is part of the reason I am healing so quickly. I’m not taking “no” for an answer. I’m not sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to get up and make myself dinner and no I don’t need you to help me because I need to prove I can do this. I take pride in that. But I also need to take pride in myself on the days I allow my body to rest and heal. I’m just as worthy on those days as I am the accomplished ones.)
4. I’m allowed to focus on myself. I spend most of my time moving the spotlight off of me, likely in an effort to keep people at arm’s length, but also to prove to myself I’m worthy. If I’m doing things for others I MUST be worthy, right? Again, I’m a valuable member of this Universe even when I focus on myself. In fact, I am far more capable of caring for others if I care for myself first. (I hate this lesson.)
5. I can say, “Yes.” I’m raised in a generation taught to say, “No.” We are reminded constantly that it’s ok to say, “No.” And it is. It’s so important! But I’m a perfectionist. So having learned that I have the right to say, “No,” I decided to take that to the extreme.
Then I find myself laid up on the couch for a month.
So, now I have to learn to say, “Yes.” Yes, you can get my water for me. Yes, you can fold my laundry. Yes, you can get me an ice pack. These are things I KNOW I could do for myself, but not only do I need the rest, but it brings the people in my life joy to be able to help me. When I find myself feeling guilty and saying, “No,” I flip the script. Would I want to get this person’s water for them if they had a broken leg? Of course, I would.
I can’t wrap my head around there being a reason the universe wanted me to break my leg, and thinking about it makes my head explode. But I can find lessons in the day-to-day goings-on since the accident. Learning those lessons, or even being aware of those lessons, are not the REASON this happened. But they’re here for the taking…so I guess I’ll take them.
If you’re interested in strengthening your body (and not just to look hot in a bikini, but because you’ll never know when you’ll need a “reason” of your own, check out The 21-Day Fix. It’s 30 minutes a day for 21 days. The first week sucks, so just deal with it.
Becoming a Beachbody Coach is an easy way to save money on the Beachbody products and also make extra cash. It’s been my second income for 5 years.
Email me if your head is spinning and you want me to fix it.
You know the things you need to do?
To paint, to sing, to hunt, to garden?
Well, I need to write.
And for many, many, many days
You were the reason I wrote.
Never once did it start with the conscious thought that it was for you.
Because of you.
Never once did I actually think you would read any of it.
(Except that I envisioned, dreamed you would.)
Never once did I write to emulate you, as if anyone could.
I write from my soul
Because you lived from yours
And I wanted to be just like you.
The poise with which you interlaced your fingers before a deep breath.
The knowing upturn at the corner of your mouth when you were about to speak the word of God without a hint of scripture and still blow all of our minds.
The simplicity with which you were gifted.
The force of the respect you commanded so subtly and with such honor, such that no one might choose a word of disrespect in your presence simply because it didn’t feel applicable to do so.
The freedom with which you laughed I understood,
But the freedom with which you allowed yourself to cry, that I covet.
That freedom doused my face in tears today, even though I fear tomorrow I might cover them up again.
You did all the things we think we can’t.
Rich and poor, self-invented and self-lost, a teen mother, a fry-cook, a calypso dancer, a wife more times than she was even willing to admit (“so as not to appear frivolous”), dancing through whatever music life played.
Not with shame or pride or with a conscious inventory of the disapproving eyes that undoubtedly loomed outside your windows and doors,
But simply by carrying out what you were, mistakes and all, as if each and every thread of the story was well-placed and just right.
Every thread was.
Just right. (It always is.)
There was a time when you unknowingly gave me the strength to be the woman I wanted to be.
You will continue teaching me throughout my life with each book I finish and each quote I read for the very first time.
The world’s gratitude can’t ever be measured, not by weight or even the sparkles in our eyes, knowing we are blessed with keeping so many of your words in order.
The childlike sparkle in your eyes somehow woven within every poem and story, ours for the taking. How lucky.
I will carry your teachings not by choosing to love myself or to work on myself or to get anything at all very right.
(Because as I imagine myself doing so, I see you flap your long, brown hand at me and scoff, “That’s too much work for a life really lived.”)
I will lift you up by being, everyday, the person I am.
I will simply be.
With no great agenda, and no master plan, I will be.
And as you so famously said, I will focus not on what I can say, or even what I can do, but I will focus on how I can make people feel. From now on.
All my love for you slips from the corners of my eyes today. I will so desperately miss the feeling of knowing both you and me occupy bodies on this Earth.
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’ I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
(This is the success story I’m submitting to Beachbody.com’s Beachbody Challenge. I thought I’d run it by all of you first.)
Mine is not a story of extreme weight loss. Mine is a story of strength.
I have been a Beachbody Coach for more than 5 years, trying many of Beachbody’s most popular work-outs at one time or another.
Secret? I hate working out.
But when there is a DVD player directly beneath the TV that I’d prefer to catatonically perch in front of, it’s hard to find excuses.
Last year I experienced a separation and divorce that left my body constantly bracing itself for the next painful, surprising punch to the gut. I lost most everything I knew to be mine, not to mention some weight that I had no business losing. My gaunt face and weak heart caused friends and family to delicately remark, “Sweetie, you’re looking very thin.”
“I know,” I would roll my eyes. “I’ll gain it back eventually.”
And I did gain it back. Life’s gut punches slowed down enough that my hips could fill out the pants that previously fell off without a safety pin. But I didn’t feel strong, inside or out. I felt small, shoulders down, arms across my chest. I’d been life’s victim for six months, and I was tired of it.
I ordered The 21-Day Fix. A determination rose inside of me that overwhelmed my hatred for exercise. I committed everyday. I was going to do this damn thing. I took my “before” pictures and I did my first 30-minute workout.
Secret? That first week was awful.
My body hurt so badly there were mornings that getting to the coffee pot almost made me cry. But I kept going. I followed the eating plan so strictly that my roommates began joking with me – “Hey, do you think this Snickers bar would fit into the red Tupperware? Peanuts are protein…”
The last morning of The 21-Day Fix, a Sunday, I took my last set of pictures. I have to say, I was pretty impressed with myself. Abs were forming. My arms were toned. That gorgeous line in the side of my thigh was becoming more visible. I was on my way to a rockin’ bod, and I was ready to start The Fix again the next morning. But before starting again, I was off to celebrate: a boat ride to my favorite little island for some celebratory drinks and showing off in that teeny, tiny bikini.
Where my story differs from most of these success stories is I never made it to that tiny little island, nor did I ever get a chance to celebrate. As we slowly navigated our boat through the narrow Florida creeks out onto the main waters, something caught the rudder (a gator? a vine? a floating log? We don’t know.) The wheel whipped to the right, no possible way to get the throttle down in time. A low-lying tree ripped off the front of our boat, the force ejecting me from a bench into the tree, which then forcefully pushed me back into the boat’s helm. The accident so fast, so powerful, that my 105lb body lifted the helm right up out of the floor.
I remember none of this.
What I do remember is waking up on the boat. I looked down and knew immediately my femur was broken as easily as you can tell a door is open or closed. All I had to do was see it to scream. But when I screamed, I felt my ribs. Broken. At least two, maybe more. I screamed again, almost testing to be sure I was alive. I knew shock would set in for at least 15 minutes. All I could do was pray the EMTs could get to me before the mind-bending pain set it.
The EMTs were amazing, but nothing quells this kind of agony. Never having had a broken bone in my life, I watched as they tried to straighten it on the boat before getting me into an ambulance. Neighbors on the creek heard me from miles away. I’ve given birth to a beautiful child…there is nothing like this pain.
The next 24 hours were full of x-rays, traction, surgeries, narcotics, and hurt. A titanium rod was now screwed into my femur bone, a permanent fixture in my 32-year-old body. My spirit broken, it felt like all was lost. An active, strong, newly chiseled body and I couldn’t move. Immobile. My newfound strength was gone in an instant.
It wasn’t until my surgeon came in to speak with me (after my anesthesia and pain medication haze had cleared) that I realized what The 21-Day Fix had done. “If you weren’t so strong, your leg would have shattered. You would be in a leg-cage. But your muscles protected your bone; the break was clean and you’ll make a full recovery. I’ll bet you’ll be back at it within 6 months.”
Secret? I cursed leg-day every time it came around.
But on this day I was overjoyed at what my strong and beautiful legs had done. They’d made it possible for me to have a second chance.
Determination renewed, I used the strength I’d built in other parts of my body over the past four weeks to do things that shocked the nurses and doctors. I alone pulled my body up using the bar above my bed to situate myself onto a bedpan. I used the strength in my triceps and shoulders to steady myself on crutches after only one day in the hospital. I summoned the might of my right leg and the balance of my abdominals to slowly walk all the way down the hospital hallway that day, shocking my physical therapist.
Two weeks later? I walked from the couch to the refrigerator, took out an orange, and walked back to the couch…without crutches. I was told it would be six weeks before I would even have the strength to attempt walking, but my body was shattering those estimations.
Everyone says it is my age that gives me the ability to heal so quickly, and I know youth helps. But without a doubt I am positive that the focus I gave to completing The 21-Day Fix and following the meal plan played a huge role in my recovery. My body wants to heal, and I continue to gain more mobility thanks to the rest of my body being so strong. I am so very grateful for the Beachbody programs, not to mention the fact that being a Beachbody Coach is helping to pay some of my outrageous medical bills. And as soon as I am able, you better believe I’m meeting Autumn on the mat for another 21 days.
If you want to strengthen your body, and not just for bikini-based reasons but because having a healthy body can make a huge difference in the quality of your life, check out The 21-Day Fix.
And if you want to take it a step further and earn some income (and you undoubtedly can if you share your before and after pictures from The 21-Day Fix), consider becoming a Beachbody Coach. It’s a small but meaningful amount of extra income for me every month even though I’m not salesy. I’m glad to answer any questions you may have.
Warning: Graphic pictures at the bottom so don’t scroll down if you don’t want to see!!
The morning after my near-spiral into the pits of hell, I was due at my surgeon’s office at 8:45am. It was a Thursday and I was excited to show him how well I was walking with the crutches and share with him that I was hardly using the pain pills and my temperature hadn’t spiked in several days (because when your bone breaks, the bone marrow leaks out into your body and floats around causing your body to get so mad it heats up…did you know that?).
I was NOT as excited about getting my staples out.
Dr. Henry had only cut me in three places, folding the skin over itself and stapling it shut. He then covered those three little incisions with enough gauze and tape to fill a mummy’s wardrobe. It was ridiculous. A sweet little nurse brought me to the the exam room and began unrolling my bandages, remarking, “Wow. All this for these three little incisions?!” I didn’t care for how surprised she was by this (shouldn’t she know how many incisions there are for a femur break repaired by the surgeon she works for?!), but I couldn’t make a face at her because I insisted on facing the wall so as not to accidentally see the staples in my leg. I couldn’t stand the idea that I was literally stapled together. Bear had driven me to the office and was standing behind the nurse repeating, “Oh, they look awesome. It looks so good. You’re going to be so impressed.” It had been 11 days since my accident and today felt like kindergarden graduation. First step in regaining my leg.
It wasn’t long after the cute little nurse took the bandages off that Dr. Henry walked in with his surgical assistant, his medical student, and the cute little nurse stood up. Bear was in the corner. I was sitting on a chair. Six of us. One grenade would get us all.
“That looks perfect,” Dr. Henry said. Anytime a doctor says his work looks perfect, and the work was done to MY LEG, my anxiety is relieved. “So who’s taking out the staples?” he asked.
The room was silent. Silent for WAY too long. Four medical professionals in the room and no one was volunteering. Anxiety renewed.
I laughed uncomfortably and looked around with a face that said, “Seriously, guys? Anyone? THIS IS YOUR JOB.”
It took forever for ANYONE to say a word, and finally someone did.
“I’ll do it,” Bear said, raising his hand.
This broke the tension and Dr. Henry chuckled. He pointed at the med student. “You can do it.”
NO SHE CAN’T! I screamed in my head.
Everyone else left the room, assumedly because they all had raging cases of diarrhea because why else would they leave me in a room with a brand new person to do a MEDICAL PROCEDURE TO MY BODY? She reluctantly approached my leg and I couldn’t believe what was happening to me right now. Are you FREAKING kidding me?! THE MED STUDENT IS RELUCTANTLY GOING TO PULL STAPLES FROM MY SKIN?! She stared, almost frightened, at my leg. Her hand reached for what literally looked like an office staple-remover and held it to the incision. I think she and I both held our breath at the same time. She pulled.
Good news, everybody. Getting staples removed doesn’t hurt. Even when they’re being removed by someone who has no idea what they’re doing.
The cute nurse walked back in a few minutes later and looked at my leg. “Good job,” she said to the med student. I let this one go.
“Hey, can I keep my staples?” I asked.
“Oh, um…I mean…they’re not sterile.”
“Well, I’m not planning on stapling any other parts of my body with them, sooo…..”
She giggled and put them in a urine sample cup for me to take home and show off.
Dr. Henry walked in again shortly thereafter to give me permission to shower normally, drive once I’d stopped taking pain meds, and to check back in within the month for an x-ray. “Your bone should show some growth by then and we can decide if you need physical therapy at that point. Any other questions?”
“So, I can drive?”
“If you haven’t take pain meds, yes.”
“Aaaaaand….is there any possibility that I could get one of those handicapped hangie things for my car? I mean, is that milking the system? I don’t want to take advantage. It would just be so much easier if I had…”
“Milking the system?” he snapped at me. “Your leg is broken.”
“Ah. Yes. Right,” I said, feeling scolded.
He returned with the paperwork I needed to get a handicapped hangie thingie and an appointment to get my next x-ray. It was now my mission to stop taking pain pills entirely so I could drive and to move my leg enough each day that I wouldn’t need physical therapy. Oh…and to shower. Because GOD knew I needed a real, full-body, shower. And I’m pretty sure that first shower lasted about an hour.
Below are pictures of the staples and incisions. Don’t look if it freaks you out!
The day after having needles stuck in my face, I woke up in far less pain. But my emotional pain was actually worse. That morning I didn’t get out of bed for my morning venture downstairs. I didn’t get up for lunch. I slept. I cried. I remained glued to my bed with zero hope for relief.
I hated the way everything smelled. And I hated the feeling of me sheets. But I couldn’t remove myself from them. I hated where I was and I hated where I was going and there was no escape from my pain, inside or out.
Bear, who still hadn’t left my side since the accident, made me homemade spaghetti sauce with gluten-free noodles. He watched an uplifting moving in bed next to me. He did everything he could to lift my spirits. I ignored all of his efforts, instead opting to be completely dedicated to sadness.
“I need to take a shower,” I finally announced around 2 o’clock. “Abe is coming to visit me and he can’t see me like this.”
A shower, of course, required a changing of the royal guard and an act of congress. Bear had to wrap my leg in a garbage bag, tape it up, get me onto the shower chair, and sit outside the tub handing me things as I needed them. By this point he knew my routine so well I didn’t even have to ask for the face wash after the conditioner. He knew as soon as I was finished shaving my left leg, he would shave my right with the razor and a washcloth hanging over the bathmat. We were a well-oiled machine. The first few showers we chuckled. This shower was silent.
I saw Abe for about 15 minutes that day before he went out of town on a trip with his dad. I stared at him and did my best to keep the tears in my eyes, but I couldn’t. I missed him so much. I missed being a mom. “Hey, why is that water coming out of your eye, mom?” he asked me.
“Mom’s a little sad, baby,” I responded.
He left shortly thereafter, and that was the end of me. I sat on the couch and wept. I asked why this would happen to me, I cried that I didn’t deserve this. I begged God to take it away, to show me the lesson, to give me ANY relief at all. Marybeth and Bear sat on either side of me as the “sorry” I’d been feeling for myself all day was now seeping out all over everything and everyone. I wanted to go back to bed.
“No. We’re not going back to bed. We’re going out,” Bear said.
“I can’t go out,” I snapped.
“Yes, you can. We are going to the store and to dinner. We are going to get out of the house.”
“I don’t want to do that. I can’t do that. I am in too much pain.”
“I’m getting your shoes.” He wouldn’t take no for an answer. He insisted. We were going to the store and then to dinner. I hated the idea, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have a choice in anything.
We finished up at the store, wherein Bear pushed me around in a wheelchair which was humiliating, and drove to sushi. My spirits weren’t much higher despite Bear’s best efforts to make jokes and observations on life happening around us.
And then. It happened.
We parked our car and as Bear got me out, a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a while happened to park in front of me. I got out and spoke his name.
He turned to see me. He smiled a big smile and immediately approached me, leaning in for a tight hug around my shoulders to avoid my crutches, ribs, or leg.
“I’ve been prayin’ for you, girl,” he said quietly in my ear.
We went on to chat for a few moments there on the sidewalk before he went his way and we went ours. And that was it. That simple little interaction, that ordinary run-in with a friend on the street reminded me that the world is still out there. My friendships still exist. The sun was shining, the world was spinning, my friends were out there, and I was still alive.
It was so simple. I was alive. And I was going to eat sushi.
We hobbled into the sushi restaurant and I sat very uncomfortably for the majority of our meal. I ate a roll and watched Bear eat his weight in everything he could possibly order from the “All You Can Eat” menu. We actually laughed. We told each other stories. I complained about my leg hurting, he remarked on how grateful he was that I was alive. A perfectly normal and completely out of the ordinary dinner, I was waking up.
This is the moral: I am prone to situational depression. My house-bound, pain-filled, narcotics-induced state was a perfect recipe for depression. It was winning that day and by the next morning, I truly would have been a goner. I would have been back on anti-depressants and anti-anxieties and all the rest. But because Bear got me out into the world (despite my strong objection) and I ran into a friend for a quick moment, my outlook completely changed. I cannot thank either of those men enough for quelling what would have been a compounded issue. And so to you, the person who might know someone lying in bed, thinking there is no end to the pain (whether it be inside or out), get them up. Get them out. Awaken them. They need you.
And thank you, Bear.
Everyday was pretty much the same after I got home from the hospital. Wake up, pills, eat, nap, wake up, pills, eat, nap, wake up, pills, eat, bedtime. I began to hate the smell of my room, the feeling of my sheets, the look of my walls. A cloak of frustration hung over my head each time I tried to stand, to move.
On Cinco de Mayo, Bear came home with a feast of groceries which he would then cook and share with my roommates and neighbors to try and lift my spirits. I hadn’t pooped in a week, I had barely slept through the pain since getting home, and there was no comfortable position in which to sit or stand. I’d only seen my son a few moments a day. I went to bed that night before Cinco de Mayo dinner even hit the table.
Bear checked on me several times, maxed out my pain med dose, and I was still in agony (both inside and out). I left my TV blaring but didn’t watch it. I didn’t sleep. I wasn’t comfortable. I was at my wit’s end. Tears streamed down my cheeks and into my hair while I stared at the ceiling.
“Do you want Patti to stick you with needles?” Bear asked during one of his check-ins.
My roommate’s new girlfriend had only begun hanging out with all of us a few weeks prior, but we all really dug her. She practices acupuncture and reiki (woo-woo) and offered to help me with the pain.
“I guess?” I really didn’t care.
Patti came upstairs with a box of needles and the whole house came into my room to watch. I’ve never experienced acupuncture before, so she described what was to come with each stick.
“This is going to feel like an electrical shock.”
And it did.
“This is going to feel like a deep soreness in your muscle.”
And it did.
“This is going to be a short lightening strike.”
And it did.
I wasn’t sure that what she was doing was helping but at least she knew what she was talking about when it came to the different feelings each needle created. She left about 10 needles in different places around my body and then told me to relax for 20 minutes. This is easier said than done when needles are sticking out of your face. It’s disconcerting to say the least.
She came back, removed the needles, and proceeded with the reiki. This is basically where a person moves their hands around your body without touching you and “manipulates your energy”.
I was about as skeptical as you, but I didn’t care if she poured hot wax on my toes if it helped relieve some of the pain. But what was weird was the way my leg felt when she placed her hands above the break. The muscles around my bone literally felt like they were attached to strings, being pulled up to the top of my thigh. I kept looking down at her to try and figure out what the hell she was doing.
“The rod is really in the way of this,” she said.
“The rod is?!”
“Yeah. I’m having trouble getting in here and doing the work because of the titanium.” Getting in there didn’t require her touching me at all so I had no idea what she was talking about or how she was “getting in there”, but whatever.
Bottom line? I woke up the next morning with 50% less pain than I had the day before. I was a believer.
She worked on me everyday, first sticking me with needles and then moving her hands around my leg. Within 24 hours of the third treatment, a huge hunk of dead blood surfaced under my thigh beneath the skin. I did begin to panic a bit, but my surgeon confirmed it was just the old blood moving away from the injury so new blood could flood through. It just happened to be pooling at an amazingly fast rate.
I began to see the light with regards to pain, but my mobility was so poor that my focus shifted. I could stand the pain, but I still couldn’t do anything for myself. And I was beginning to believe I’d never feel normal again…
(Don’t worry…the next post reveals that I was, in fact, wrong about that…)
If you live in my area and want to check Patti and her magic needles out, I’d highly recommend it.
My first night home, I arrived after bedtime with five medications. Bear set his phone alarm according to my medication schedule, which meant that we were up almost every hour taking one of the following:
1. A narcotic pain pill.
2. An allergy pill, because in the hospital I started scratching my skin so fervently that people were covering me with lotion once every few hours to try and calm down the reaction.
3. A prescription-strength headache pill. The headaches were yet another reaction to the narcotics, as well as to that total-body trauma I experienced 4 days prior.
4. Aspirin as a blood thinner.
5. A muscle relaxer.
It was reminiscent of two new parents’ first night home with their baby. Bear tripped all over the room in the dark every time the alarm went off, searching by phone-light for which medication he was supposed to administer. In my doped up state, I whined and rolled in every direction trying to find the least painful way to get myself up enough to swallow the pill. There’s something to be said for hospitals: people are paid to ensure you get your medication around the clock (and they’re awake when they do it), not to mention the beds electronically lift you up if you can’t sit up of your own accord. Oh, and my bed wasn’t at the top of a flight of stairs at the hospital.
The next morning, I woke up in so much pain that I just laid in bed and cried. I was so frustrated not just by the pain but by my complete inability to do anything. And I was so doped up that I didn’t feel like I could even think let alone communicate what I needed. I got all the way down the stairs just in time to stop and cry at the bottom step while Bear stood in front of me in case I fell. (He couldn’t even carry me because my ribs were broken.)
Once Bear got me to the bathroom, fed me breakfast, and got me back into bed, someone administered my muscle relaxer. This was a shining moment for me. Within about 20 minutes, I slurred my words and eventually just fell forward from a seated position. It was the only position that felt ok.
Every time I needed to walk, to sit, to eat, the stutter-pee…I needed Bear for all of it. His chest became a landing pad for my face anytime I needed to stand up. His arms under mine to lower me down onto the toilet. His hands behind my neck everytime I needed to sit up in bed, which was incredibly painful because I’d been using my neck muscles to sit up since my abs were currently out of business, attached to my ribs and all. There was absolutely nothing I could do without assistance except watch TV or sleep, and even then there was always someone coming in to check on me and ensure my leg was elevated and my ice packs were cold. It was depressing and humiliating. And I was so high. Not the fun high.
So high, in fact, that I began responding in song. That second night in sheer desperation for pain relief, I spread out all my arms and legs on the bed. Bear and Marybeth worked carefully to get my ready for bed while I laid there bemoaning my own pathetic-ness. Like a well-oiled machine they cleaned me and dressed me and tidied up the room, learning to tune out my whines and cries. That is, until, Bear (a sing-to-himself kind of guy) hummed this little favorite aloud:
(Click to hear it) Do-do doo-doo-doo
Without warning, and an event I have ZERO memory of, I responded.
(Click to hear it) Mana mana
(Click here to sing along!) Marybeth and Bear thought this was so funny that they apparently sang that song with me for the better part of 10 minutes while finishing the details of getting me to bed. I became a parrot, a party trick for their amusement and, full-disclosure, they said it appeared I was having a really good time, too.
Let’s be clear I was very glad to be home, but there were so many obstacles. For example, the toilets were all different heights. Marybeth had to go around the house collecting the proper-sized books to prop my foot up on while I stutter-peed (yes, I was still stutter-peeing). The Best Opera Librettos did the job in the downstairs bathroom and William Shakespeare’s Complete Works sufficed upstairs.
Showering required a plastic garbage bag taped around my leg, a shower chair, a new shower head (which Bear ran out and purchased/installed for me), and about 45 minutes. Oh, and a friend. Let’s keep the humiliation coming, shall we?
I couldn’t sleep on my side or stomach. Flat on my back with my leg us was the only option. Without the hospital bed, there were NO variations on this. My friend Robin donated a few big pillows to me so my bed turned into a giant marshmallow cloud, which you’d think would make up for it. It didn’t.
Also, when is the last time you got to bed and realized you forgot to brush your teeth? You begrudgingly get up and walk to the bathroom, right? Well, it took me 20 minutes just to get IN to the bed, let alone back out. So my mom bought me a bunch of these little throw-away toothbrushes, just in case.
It went on and on. Being home was hard. But if I was going to get better, all these obstacles were good for me. I had to learn how to function in the real world because without any form of independence, I couldn’t have my son. He’d been with my ex for almost a week and I desperately wanted him back. So that became my motivation. Operation: Be a Mom Again. Come hell or high water, I was going to give my son his mama back.
The last thing I wanted was someone else’s blood in a bag being dripped into my body, but the first thing I wanted was to go home. So, after I stared at Dr. Vanilla Smith for a few moments, I agreed to the blood transfusion.
I then texted and called every nurse, medical professional, and random person I accidentally copied on the text I knew. I asked, “Is blood clean? Am I going to get hepatitis? AIDS? How safe is this?”
Of course, everyone in the room with me was telling me that contracting something from hospital blood was incredibly rare and I would be fine. Still, I was terrified, like when they hung the bag of blood I was going to look up and SEE the hepatitis germs like little monsters in the bag running down the IV tube and into my arm before I could scream, “WANDA!!!”
That day I had a male nurse who I assumed to be gay until he mentioned his wife. I was very glad that in my inebriated state I didn’t shout, “No on Prop 8! RIGHT?!” or something very confusing for a straight-ish man. He carried in the bag of blood fairly late in the afternoon after I’d sputter-peed, eaten lunch, and walked. “We’re just going to put this right into the IV that’s in your right arm.”
“How long is this going to take?” I asked.
“Oh, only about 20 minutes.”
“Oh wow. That’s fast. I thought I’d be staring at someone else’s blood draining into my arm for hours.”
He hooked up the blood bag to my IV and put a small piece of tape over the IV on my arm and stepped out. I couldn’t look at it, the bag, my arm, none of it. It was so gross. It felt so unnatural. I couldn’t get the hepatitis germ monsters out of my mind.
“Oops,” Bear said.
“What? What oops?” I asked, terrified that he could see the hepatitis germ monsters, too.
“Well, I think it’s dripping.”
“Excuse me?” I turned and looked at my arm and blood was dripping to the back of my elbow. SOMEONE ELSE’S BLOOD WAS DRIPPING OUT OF MY BODY AND ONTO MY SKIN. ARE YOU UNDERSTANDING WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE? HEPATITIS GERM MONSTERS EVERYWHERE.
Bear hit the nurse call-button while I breathed and turned my head away from my arm. He came in quickly and asked, “What’s up?”
“Well, her IV is…um…dripping.”
“Oh. Hm. Something must be wrong with the IV. Let me start another one.”
Great, I thought. We get to start this process over again.
Not-Gay Nurse grabbed a whole new set of IV…stuff…and started jabbing at my arms. It was immediately very clear that while his bedside manner was exceptional, a phlebotomist he was not. To this day I still have a bruise on my arms from all the times he stuck me, trying to pour someone else’s blood into my body. The harder he tried, the more frustrated he got. He left in a flurry, perhaps to find another nurse or to get another set of IV…stuff.
The blood continued to drip down my arm…
When he returned, he took the tape off my arm and jimmied the IV already in my arm. “Oh. There we go. It just wasn’t plugged in correctly. No problem.”
“Yeah. No problem,” I muttered.
Of course, once the blood bag was finished it took HOURS to get discharged. I’m not sure what the process is for discharging a patient from the hospital, but I’m guessing it involves actually storyboarding a cartoon of my entire visit to the hospital in a small sketch book followed by a short video recording of all the nurses and doctors who worked with me giving their comments on my overall demeanor.
When they finally came in and set me loose, Bear got me down to the car. I don’t remember much leaving the hospital or the car ride home. I remember getting out of the car when I got home and seeing my home. My home. It had only been 4 days since I’d been home, but it felt like years. I stared at the big red door as I slowly approached with my crutches supporting me up the brick path. Home. It felt so good to be home.
If only I had known the hard part started now.
It was Monday (the day after my accident and surgery) and my mom had arrived. Having my mom at the hospital with me didn’t help the pain, but it did make me feel like I could breathe. She was calm and peaceful and attentive and helpful in any way she could be. It was the best.
What was not the best was the guy who got moved into the room next to mine. I’m not sure if he wasn’t all there or if he was very drugged up, but he was a screamer. Every hour or so, we would hear one of three words bellow through the hallways:
Wanda! (Wanda was the nurse.)
I’m not sure if he was aware of how the nurse call-button worked, or if perhaps he just chose not to use modern technology, but either way he yelled a lot.
Because the physical therapist got me up to walk shortly after my mom arrived (which impressed mom and that made me proud), I no longer had to employ my BedPan Engineers every time a peepee came. I could walk to the bathroom (not without Bear’s help and his very kind and gentle methods of pulling my hospital gown out of the way and lifting me up when I was finished). I was still having trouble peeing because of the catheter from surgery (it took a long time to get the pee going and when it finally did, it sputtered a lot. I felt like a garden hose with a kink in it), and you know with all the narcotics I hadn’t pooped yet. The bathroom was becoming my enemy.
A personality-less medical doctor we’ll call Dr. Vanilla Smith came in to check on me that afternoon. He took some blood and asked me a million questions in one tone. The last question he asked was if I smoke.
“I do socially, sometimes,” I replied.
“You need to stop.”
“Ok. Well. I mean, I’m not smoking here.”
“You’re going to stop.”
“It’s not really a habit, doc. I’m not a chain-smoker.”
“You need to stop.”
“Ok. I don’t…”
I trailed off in disbelief. I looked around at my friends who had recently gathered in the room for an afternoon visit to see if this was for real. I was laid up in a bed with a broken femur and three broken ribs and this guy was giving me a lecture about smoking. I hadn’t asked for a nicotine patch. I hadn’t complained about not smoking while in the hospital. I hadn’t even thought about it.
“That’s fine. I’m not a smoker.” He frowned.
I didn’t care for Dr. Vanilla Smith.
I’d been begging to see my son. My mom agreed to bring him from school to visit me, but until I was no longer all doped up on dilaudid, it wasn’t a good idea. So, later that day we decided to switch to LoriTabs instead of intravenous narcotics. The pain was intense, but it was manageable. “How’s your pain on a scale of 1-10?” the nurse would ask me before every dose of painkillers. I always lied and said 7 or 8 instead of 10. I’m not totally sure why I did that. Maybe I wanted to be a hero. Maybe I didn’t want to go back on dilaudid so I could see my son.
But the pain became unmanageable later in the day on Tuesday. I’d eaten breakfast and lunch, walked and tried to sputter-pee and poop, and got back into bed to rest. Every time the pain started creeping up in a big way, my teeth would chatter and my hands would shake. It seemed like a really smart way for my body to alert me that the pain was coming instead of just giving me straight up lightening-strikes in my thigh. But this time when the chattering started and the shaking commenced, the painkiller didn’t quell it. A nurse gave me a Xanax, thinking it may have been psychological. That didn’t help either. I shook and chattered for about 45 minutes before I simultaneously started feeling pain. I shook so hard that my muscles started cramping. Marybeth arrived shortly after the episode began and found Bear stroking my hair and trying to help me take deep breaths (as deep as I could with broken ribs) to calm down. Nothing was helping. It was getting worse.
As the shaking and the chattering got more violent, my jaw started seizing. My muscles began tensing in a way I couldn’t control, like full-body cramps. I started crying that I was going to have lock-jaw and that I couldn’t open my mouth. The pain in my neck was intense as I clenched my jaw, holding on to the bed rails, Marybeth’s hand, or the sheets. I shrieked and cried. Nothing was controlling this.
Bear paged a nurse several times, but when things weren’t happening fast enough, he put on his angry face and puffed up for a don’t-eff-with-me swagger down the hospital corridor. The moment a nurse caught the whites of his eyes, she put her hand up in acknowledgement. “I’m coming right now,” she said.
When she came in, she was shocked. “How long has she been like this?”
“It’s been getting progressively worse over the hour,” Marybeth said. “She needs dilaudid. Her body is not managing the pain.”
The nurse got permission from a doctor to give me a shot of dialudid, but by that point it still took almost another hour to stop shaking and clenching and crying. It was probably the worse 2 hours of my hospital stay. Luckily, my smart brain only chooses to remember about 5 minutes of it.
I woke up after a few hours later, close to dinner time, feeling like I’d been beat up. Dr. Vanilla Smith had previously suggested I could leave on Wednesday. This episode happening midday Tuesday made me think my fate was sealed and I’d be there at least another 2 days. But when he walked in Wednesday morning, he had some interesting information.
In one tone, he said, “Your hemoglobin is very low. You’re going to need a blood transfusion.”
“What? Eww. No.” I can’t say for certain this is verbatim what I said, but it’s verbatim what I thought.
“If you look here, your hemoglobin was 12 when you arrived Sunday, 10 on Monday, and 7 as of today. If you want to stay here another few days and we monitor your hemoglobin, you could regenerate enough to go home. This is why you were experiencing so much pain and lack of control yesterday. Your body is low on blood. But I can’t let you go with your levels this low.”
Do I stay another few days, racking up medical pills and dreaming of home, or do I allow a nurse to hook me up to a bag of someone else’s gross blood and then jet? I looked over at Bear for the answer. He simply nodded.
1 2 Next