It was just like any other Monday morning in the history of forever. Alarm going off at six, coffee, clean up, dress, *do* the dogs, aka give them breakfast/meds/water etc. Into the car for the 1.25 hour drive to the hospital, find an unused computer at the nurse’s station, (challenging at the best of times), set to work.
All very normal. No feelings of impending doom. No sense of anything ‘off’. Certainly wishing I had bought some more coffee on the way to work, because of the boatloads of inpatients listed on my computer. Hear about a patient who should have been transferred to another facility before the weekend… But it didn’t happen, and what was I going to do about it? Feel irrationally pissed off, because…sorry Charlie..not my fault. I had everything planned out ‘just so’ for this patient’s discharge on Friday and wtf happened? Also not in the mood for people with hot, fiery dragon flames coming out of their mouths, demanding to know what the next step for this patient will be, and I’m all, (in my head, of course).. “effed if I know, guys, and why in god’s name didn’t he get transferred out on Friday like we all planned he would??? Whyyyyyy?”. Instead I say, “I’ll definitely work on this issue”, and decide to get a paper towel from the sink area to wipe my nose. I need time to think this out. God I hate Monday mornings with less than stellar coffee titers on board.
In retrospect I sometimes wonder if Karma had anything to do with what happened next. (All those mean thoughts directed to the practitioners about that poor patient’s disposition were a bit uncharitable.)
On my way to the sink, I sensed that I was slipping on something wet with my left foot, and two seconds later? I was splayed out on the floor, feeling wetness seeping through my dress and under my right arm. My first thought was, ” wow, that hurt.” Actually it was, “expletive!!! that hurt” but I’m trying to keep it clean here. My second thought was “eew, I’m on a wet hospital floor.” Because hospital floors y’all.. The filthiest, most germ-ridden part of the building. If you can imagine a mop, that has been dragged over every square inch of a hospital’s floors, you can’t even begin to imagine what nastiness it has come in to contact with. I quickly tried to get up, because..well.. embarrassing. Curiously , my right leg simply refused to straighten out. My upper and lower leg were set in an immovable 45 degree angle. Tried again and, nope. I looked at my knee. There was a largish concave area where the kneecap should have been. Oh, calamity.
Honestly, there are no words to explain that moment when you realize that something really, really bad has just happened. You’re thinking “OK this can’t be.. let’s just rewind the past 60 seconds and not slip on a wet floor m’kay?” Suddenly there were a ton of people around me ALL saying “OH MY GOD”!!! My knee looked repulsive and alien. I asked the PT who showed up what it might me. After saying OH MY GOD, he kind of threw up his hands and said he’d never seen anything like it. Great.
I was helped into a wheelchair, asked someone to log me off my computer and hand me my work bag, and off to the ER it was. It was surreal.”Maybe your kneecap is dislocated?” someone opined hopefully. Man, I clung to that opine. … Yeah of course! It’s displaced.. that’s it! Why didn’t I think of that?! Easy peasy to fix!
Ha. Denial is a wonderful thing in a bit of a crisis.
The x ray showed that, together with torn tendons, my kneecap, or patella if we’re going to be anatomically correct, had decided to part ways.. two tidy and fairly equal pieces of knee bone were nestled into the tissues of my leg, about 4 inches apart from each other. Sort of like an unfortunate divorce. The doctor drew a picture of what had happened on a paper napkin, and honestly? I just couldn’t get my head around such…gruesomeness. There was the femur, there were the tibia and fibula, and hoooo boy, there were two pieces of patella with the ‘no speaks.’ One had moved north, one had moved south, and as far as they were concerned? Each other could go straight to hell.
After the threat of being sent to Honolulu for surgery, which would have involved a helicopter, crossing over vast seas, and probably me having to be hog-tied for maximum control, it was decided that I would stay and have the surgery done right there at the hospital. (That being said? I know two nurses who work on those medical choppers, and they are, by far, the most kick-ass nurses I know. Hi L and Hi L! I would feel totally safe in their care. It was just the helicopter part that was worrying me.) There ensued a flurry of chest x rays, blood work, EKG etc. The usual pre-surgery tests. I was told who my surgeon was going to be and how that surgeon had the reputation of being the absolute best on the Island, and how ‘lucky’ I was. It really helped that about 5 different people sung the surgeon’s praises, because I could feel my old buddy, anxiety, starting to hover.
Anxiety and I are old friends, and I knew that in order to handle this whole ordeal, I needed to start documenting my ‘journey.’ Don’t you hate that descriptive? ‘Journey’… it sounds so meaningful and spiritual, yet there was nothing about this mess that was spiritual, let me assure you. I picked up some paper napkins,(excellent replacement for paper,) and set to work. I knew if I didn’t start writing, I might, quite possibly, lose my shit. That would have been really awkward, right there in the ER.
Somehow or other, in all the cheos, I kept those paper napkins, and here are some of my notes in italics.
“11am. The poor bloke in the next bed got beat up on Friday night. He hurts. He’s dying for a beer. Sorry, Charlie. They’ll bring you some pain meds soon. Things will seem better. He’s also starving and wants morphine and hot food. Emphasis on the ‘hot’. Again, no. Ain’t happening till the tests are all done. He’s says he’s been coughing up blood. Nice. Please don’t let him have TB.”
“12:15pm. I really need to pee, but how? One leg? She won’t work. I’ve been put in a leg brace with strict instructions not to bend my knee. So far, I’ve been told no less than five times not to bend my knee. I made myself NPO (nothing by mouth) this morning at 8.30am in case the surgery can be done today. Because…optimist. There is a new guy in the other bed next to me. He hasn’t been able to pick up his BP meds, and boy howdy, does he have a high blood pressure. 220/120. No wonder he has a headache. My sweet nurse, J. , asked me if I wanted lunch. Nope. But a diet coke? Yes please, and thank you! (Surgery definitely tomorrow.) J. got me a coke from the vending machine. What an amazing thing to do. J. also took my work backpack out to my car and locked it up. I almost wept with his kindness.”
“3pm. Dr ‘…’ is going to be my admitting doctor. I am so grateful….he’s the best in the house, and funny to boot. Dr ‘…’ will be my anesthesiologist. Dr ‘…’ has put me under before for some minor procedures, and is amazing. How lucky am I? I have the perfect trifecta of physicians. Omg..still have to use the bathroom. Dear god in heaven. The knee immobilizer actually feels pretty good, but my knee is getting bigger and bigger. Can they even operate on such a thing? Concave no more. Must ask for some ice to put on it. Still waiting for a bed upstairs on the med/surg floor. Holding pattern I guess. I wish I’d done my roots over the weekend…the gray is real. The guy who got beat up finally got some morphine, and after eating lunch is sleeping. He was disapointed that his lunch was cold sandwiches. High blood pressure guy is off for a brain scan.”
Finally, I could hold it no more and *had* to go to the bathroom. The thought of using a bedside commode or bed pan was just… no. Nuh uh. Sweet J. handed me a pair of crutches, helped me into a wheelchair and off we rolled to the ER’s bathroom.
To be continued…..