Hey y’all. Huge apologies for my lack of posts. I blame it all on that very familiar phenomenon, that when you go back to work after a disabling accident? Everyday life ramps up full throttle, and there are very few moments in the day when you can take a quiet moment and *post*…as much as you’d love to. (Whyyyy didn’t I study writing??? It would have been so much…..better.) Imagine being paid to do something you love…what a concept.
I was returned to work on June the First, full-time, and… hooo boy..it’s been quite the journey. I plunged in, head first, and all my resolutions to ‘do things differently from now on’ have been challenged to the max.
I had had three months during my recuperation to review the quality of my life, and my lifestyle. For example, I swore I would take lunch breaks, regardless of the workload. I would stop and smell the proverbial roses , and not feel guilty about it. Haha. Reality sometimes trumps one’s utopian, gentle, and healthy resolutions.
I go to PT once a week, and every evening I devote 45 minutes to doing my knee rehab exercises. I had to laugh today…both the OT and the PTs at work complemented me on my ‘beautiful gait’ …They were all..”we were watching you walking down the hall, and omg you’re doing so great after such a horrible injury!” Thanks T and M and B. Also who knew one’s gait could be ‘beautiful’? I *did* get a giggle out of that one. I guess working hard at recovery and trying to get my knee back to a more functional status is paying off.
The pain unfortunately is real and I’m sad to say this might be my new normal. Ugh. Let’s just say Motrin and Tylenol are my new best friends…am so grateful for pharmacological interventions.
People are warning me that the knee may play up in cold or wet weather. Great. Now I’m feeling about 92 years old!
Meh. It’s all good though. I’m alive, I’m healthy, and there are many worse things than sore knees.
You guys..have a great weekend..more soon. xxx
Eventually I was transferred from the ER to the Med/Surg Floor. On the way to my room, the very same person who had asked about my patient’s disposition earlier in the day, ( before all the s**t went down,) sung out..”How come you’re getting the VIP treatment?” I smiled nervously. What in the hell was she talking about?
It turns out I was going to be admitted to a private room. Getting a private room in a hospital is as rare as hens’ teeth, and I know that the Charge Nurse did a lot of people and bed juggling to make *that* miracle happen. (Many thanks, T.)
I really appreciated the staff going out of their way to make this private room thing happen. Assigning beds to new inpatients is probably right up there at the top of a Charge Nurse’s list of things he/she would really rather not be doing. It seems to be Murphy’s law, that the number of beds available in a hospital is way less than the number of people who need them. Especially in a hospital on an Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
As thankful as I was for privacy, I quietly prayed that I was not going to room 222. Several years ago my dear friend and hospice nurse co-worker, B, died in that room after a very short, but, as it turns out, lethal go-round with cancer. Her death was, quite simply..shocking, and unexpected, and untimely. Cancer is a bitch, and in B’s case? Cancer was a bitch on steroids.
Because I work at the hospital every morning? Pretty much every time I pass room 222, or have a patient in there? I think of B., and remember her infectious laugh and how she loved to kid around. Oh, how she loved her a good joke! Her sense of humor was legend. After she died, her friends had a bumper sticker made: ‘What would B. do?”… Because B. knew the answer to freaking everything. She lived off the grid, grew her own food, and knitted her own damn multicolored socks…with toes in them. We all miss that girl.
I was assigned to room 222. OF COURSE I WAS!! Because this day simply refused to stop throwing me curve balls.
I had to do some pretty serious self-talk at this point. Cognitively, I knew that it was utterly ridiculous to feel a teensie bit un-raveled , but on the other hand, I knew that B? As many times she had made me laugh my ass completely off? Was also a class act prankster. If ever there was a prime chance for her to play some kind of ghostly practical joke on me, this was probably it.
I may or may not have asked my nurse at this point if the admitting doctor had prescribed anything for ‘nerves’..What with the stepping in the urine incident, finding myself in poor B’s hospital room, together with coming to terms with one totally useless leg and looming surgery, clearly a glass of wine to take the edge off was not going to happen…. because… Hospital. As delicious as the foods/drinks on the KCH menu are, alcohol is not an option.
I prayed that the good doctor had ordered… ‘something’.. (waving hands vaguely.) He had. Thank God. In about 30 minutes I was a somewhat more together human being. In B’s defense, she didn’t prank me, except there *was* that incident of the fire alarm going off in the Obstetrics Unit at 2am the night of my surgery. The alarm was REAL, (because usually it’s just a ‘drill’), and I was all…”how in the **** am I going to get out of here without working legs?” Meh. The fire was extinguished, (apparently), the Code Red (fire alarm) was called off…and B.. if that was you? Thank you for not freaking me completely out.
(Aside: I once worked on the obstetrics floor at a hospital in Denver. We had more than the usual full blown fire alarms on our floor. They were the,’this is not a drill, shut all the doors, get ready to evacuate patients alarms’. The best part (yes, there was a positive to having a Code Red), was the eye candy that we nurses were treated to. Oh my lord! Is it mandatory to be a gorgeous, strapping hulk if one wants to be a fire fighter in Colorado? Phew…. (fanning face)…talk about heat in the room. The fire fighters would come tearing in via the stairwell entrance and thunder down the hall, dressed in full fire fighting regalia, hauling all their equipment with them, including axes. Axes, for the love of god. (Be still, our collective nurse hearts.) And yes, extra coats of chap stick were layered on, and hair tidied up – well as much as it can be when you’re working under the assumption that there may be a fire in the building.
Pretty much every time, the culprit, more often than not? Would be some poor soul, with a deer in the headlights expression, found cringing in the bathroom with a cigarette, the smoke of which had triggered the alarm. I used to feel so badly for these poor, embarrassed women. I completely understood their desire for a cigarette, having just spent 27 hours trying to push someone with a head the size of a basketball from their nether regions.)
To be continued..
Sweet J. (my RN) handed me a pair of crutches, helped me into a wheelchair, and off we rolled to the ER’s bathroom.
Then came the hard part. I had to get out of the wheelchair, (not bending my leg,) and hobble toward the toilet which was old and very low to the ground. Did I mention I was barefooted? Per J’s instructions I was to walk with the crutches, without bending my knee, to the toilet. I was to take off my undies and lower myself on to the toilet. Yell, when I was done. Easy, right? Not so much.
For starters, there were large collections of yellow urine drops on the toilet seat, and a yellow, sticky substance (what was probably urine) on the floor. Fortunately, J. wiped the urine off the toilet seat. When J. exited, wishing me luck, and reminding me for the bazillionth time not to bend my leg, I made my way to the toilet, rested one crutch on the wall, used the other crutch for support on my right side , and dragged my undies down with my other hand, all the while trying to avoid the ‘what was probably urine’ on the floor at all costs. Because…bare feet. Then came the real challenge..the lowering of the butt onto the unusually low toilet, without bending the damn knee. Oh. My. God.
Add to this horrible equation, Mother Nature’s urgent need that she’d been signaling me about for literally hours, and her insistence that she was not to be ignored. Fun times.
Y’all. I stepped in the ‘what was probably urine.’ Yup. In all of its sticky, stinky, and generally very, very gross glory.
Let’s take a minute to collectively send a plea to all the Deities, and pray that the urine neither belonged to a chronic IV drug abuser, nor did it belong to some promiscuous someone, who was dead against the idea of using protected sex.
The way I saw it? I had two choices. I could go all Lady Macbeth, scrubbing my feet raw with a scalding bleach solution, shouting “out damned urine! Out I say!”… Or, I could just say ” ***k it”, and carry on. Fortunately for the nursing staff, and for every other poor soul in the ER, I chose option number two.
I ‘yelled’ for J. per his instructions, and somehow or other, we wove our way back through the chaos of the ER… wheelchair, crutches, leg immobilizer, and contaminated feet in tow, to my bed.
Here’s why I have such huge admiration for ER nurses. When I came back from the bathroom, they were prepping the bed/cubicle next to me (that the guy who needed morphine and a hot meal had recently vacated,) with equipment and meds. Three of them were going over, out loud, the protocol for peritoneal dialysis, together with the resuscitation protocol for a patient who was on her way to the hospital via ambulance, having just attempted suicide by overdosing. I’m thinking one of the nurses might have been in training, because the teaching element was pretty intense. No protocol ‘stone’ was left unturned.
And there *I* was, getting freaked out over pee on my feet? Wow. What a reality check.
I saw the new patient being rolled in, pale but awake. She said she “felt tired”, when questioned by the nurses. I fervently hope her outcome was OK, and that she didn’t need too much in the way of desperate medical measures. (I was transferred to my room soon after her arrival.) I do know this: she was in excellent hands. I have nothing but the highest of praises for the ER staff at Kona Community Hospital. (Thank you guys, if you ever happen to read this…especially you, J… I will not forget your going out of your way to bring a diet coke to this soda drinking junkie.
The other guy next to me, with the high blood pressure and the pounding headache? His scans showed no stroke or tumor, and he got to go home. Lucky, lucky boy. He promised to take his meds from now on.
To be continued….
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…..
Anne Lamott , quite simply, one of my favorite authors, has shared a lot about the process of writing and ‘shitty first drafts.’ I’ve read most of her work, and every now and then she’ll make my day and post a new gem on Facebook.
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” Anne Lamott
See why I love her?
Her words are profound, and I find myself reading them in quiet awe and astonishment. I immediately share her pieces on Facebook… because… Facebook! Where else to over-share and divulge oneself?
All of this to say, I’m starting a blog. So far? It is in the ‘shitty first stages’, and written in longhand on the remains of an old lined notebook that probably belonged to one of my kids in high school.
I want to write about the people who have brought me more happiness than anyone could possibly have rights to. I’ll also write about some of my life’s events – Those times, (oh, those times!), where decisions were made which were life-altering, and not always in a good way, but, for the most part made with the very best of intentions.
Someone near and dear to my heart once said, “Vision is 20/20 when you look through the retrospectoscope.” True dat. The ‘woulda, coulda, shouldas’ will always be there, but fortunately, and sometimes annoyingly, apparently, I have a tendency toward channeling Pollyanna, and I try to see the glass as half full.
Per Wikipedia: ‘Pollyanna is a popular term for someone with the same very optimistic outlook (as Pollyanna). Also, the subconscious bias towards the positive is often described as the ‘Pollyanna Principle.’
(Aside: ‘Pollyanna’ was the very first movie I ever saw, aged about three-ish..)
This blog won’t be morose, despite the narrating of some tricky of the trickiest times. Nor will it unfairly depict people, occasions or events. Y’all who might be feeling a teensie weensie prick of anxiety? It’s all good. No person will be harmed in the writing of this blog. So… yay? We good? I will be mindful of my language, (which tends toward the foul), because one of my kids said she would “show it to her own child when she got older,” and lord knows I don’t want her, or *any* child for that matter, thinking, “My god! Grammy had a nasty way with words!”
“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.” Anne Lamott
……’Life as it lurches by and tramps around..” The woman is genius!