Author’s Note: This post is not me whining. Or stating my pain was worse than anyone else’s. It wasn’t and isn’t. I’ve stood at the bed sides of others whose pain I cannot comprehend. This not a comparison competition. This post is simply me sharing this part of my journey because it’s part of the legacy that is my life.
Me & Conner – You can see I’m not quite me in this pic, but isn’t he darling?!
Eight years ago, on Jon’s 50th birthday, I rode in the back of an ambulance. I had no idea a slip on a wet restaurant floor would change our lives the way it did.
We’d gone out to eat with close friends to celebrate. We enjoyed our food, talked a lot (we’re all really good at that!), and laughed out loud. A movie was next on our agenda. They followed the ambulance instead. Because when I stepped onto the beautiful granite floor, I slipped and fell. The shiny stone was wet, and there was no yellow warning sign to warn me.
On the way down I remembered reading about a girl who had died when she hit her head on a similar floor. I tried to catch myself and thrust myself forward hoping to catch myself. That sort of worked until I landed. My foot slipped again in the water. I felt something give and my leg looked funny laying on the floor completely unresponsive to my brain’s command to move. It was then that I knew I was broken.
I needed to get out of the way, so I slid my way across the floor on my bottom to a wall. When I got there, I was soaking wet. The floor wasn’t just wet; it was one big puddle.
Jon wanted to help me up, but I asked him to have someone call 911 instead. The tone of my voice was calm but certain. Someone from the restaurant asked me why I wanted them to call 911. I told her to look at my leg. She stepped back and dialed her cell phone. A stranger leaned down and said, “I told them someone was going to get hurt on that wet floor. In a few minutes, you are going to be in more pain than you can imagine.”
He wasn’t kidding.
So much of that night is crystal clear. My husband and friends guarding my leg so no one would accidently bump it. The other customers raised eyebrows. The manager finally putting out the yellow sign. And silently worrying about my soaking wet bottom because I didn’t want those who were coming to help me think I’d wet myself.
They didn’t. The floor hadn’t been wiped up, and when they stepped in, they looked at me, then the floor, and walked carefully. When they looked closer at my leg, they knew.
In the ambulance, I watched Jon following in his car, and I prayed for an excellent doctor. For me and for him. The paramedic worried I was in shock because I wasn’t responding to the pain the way he expected. He said, “You have an extremely high pain tolerance.” Since I’ve always considered myself a bit of a wimp, his words surprised me. I felt the pain (it was brutal), and my insides were shaking, but I was gifted with something greater; calm in the chaos surrounding me. It came and went because I’m human and broken bones hurt, but that night I was mostly good.
After x-rays that required morphine, I met my doctor. Michael Torchia and his team. They would attempt to set it, but were sorry because I’d eaten they couldn’t give me enough meds to knock me out. The leg was too damaged to set after the attempt besides morphine I was introduced to the oxy-drugs.
All the bones in my ankle were broken, and my shin bone was split up the front. When I saw the x-rays, I almost threw up. All I could ask was, “Am I going to walk again? And could I please just get a cast and go home?”
The answers were yes and no. Walking would happen, but going home was out of the question. I was in the hospital for two weeks. My surgical team told me my recovery would take a while. It took almost eleven months.
Here are a few of the things I learned:
- Some surgeons believe in miracles. Mine said so every day. God has said yes. Dr. Torchia was the best.
- Bone pain is bad, and sometimes you can’t hide that.
- Prayer comforts like nothing else.
- Bones are amazing, and it’s true – we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Most of the time bones heal and are stronger than before.
- Morphine and the oxy-drugs were not my friends. Instead of the anticipated high, I hallucinated on the first and dropped into the depths of despair on the other two. I ended up on Advil, preferring pain to that.
- Gratitude fills my heart when I remember how our parents and friends were there for us. And that my brother is a man of prayer and the way five-year-old Gracie still wanted to be around me.
- Physical therapy works, but man it hurts. Do it anyway. Pre-medication is wise. Because I did what the doctor and the therapists said, I have greater recovery. I did what he told me too because he knew bones and all the inner stuff better than me, so when he told me I could do something, I could.
- God sent me a roommate I needed. She had broken her hip and said on our first night sharing the space, “I sometimes sing myself to sleep – I love hymns. Will that bother you?” She was a blessing every minute we were together. She went home long before me, and I missed her greatly. After she left, after a very different replacement, I had the room to myself, and I sang hymns in the night because singing helps.
- When you’re in the hospital, it’s okay to have a stuffed animal to sleep with no matter how old you are. And at home when you’re alone, and you just need someone to hold close and to catch your tears. Stuffed critters can be trusted with everything. And you can hug them hard, and it’s okay.
- Healing takes time. Often, a lot of time. Waiting to heal takes the kind of patience, and I had to choose to trust the One who was once again knitting my body together. The first time was in the creation of me, and this time was in the healing. He did a great job both times.
- When I thought I couldn’t, I could. Despair is a nasty enemy that I had to banish intentionally. Daily. Sometimes moment by moment. Until near the end of my recovery.
- I learned to let my husband help me when being independent wasn’t wise or possible. I was a burden, and that’s just the way it was. Not wanting to be one or worrying it about it made it worse for both of us. So I surrendered to the truth of it, and we did much better.
- Crying when I was alone helped. So did sleep. Sobbing was okay too – I didn’t do this a lot, but when I got home, I did it some in loud, quick jags holding on to my stuffed dog. But that was the first thing that passed as I healed.
- Pain caused me fear and anxiety. I wondered what kind of person I’d become if I didn’t heal. Prayer was essential. In the deepest days of pain, I muttered, “Please, God,” a lot.
- Praying for others helped.
- We were in the process of moving 2 months after the break. I packed with Jon’s help. Moving is hard. That move was harder, but we did it without divorce. Jon is a very good man.
- Being in a wheelchair is hard even when you know it’s temporary. People treat you differently – sometimes they ignore you, and even talk about you in front of you as if you aren’t there.
- I was non-weight bearing for several months. That meant when I was alone, I needed a commode beside the bed. It doesn’t take long for a house – even when it’s clean to smell like a nursing home. Ugh. But it was temporary – a fact I still thank God for when those memories cross my mind.
- Riding in the backseat with pillows behind me and under my leg was good for me even when getting there was rugged. So was the coffee Jon always stopped to get me.
- Wheelchairs can be fun. In time, they meant trips to Target, Barnes & Noble, and Red Lobster. Going out was hard, but not going was harder. I got good at managing mine while Jon pushed the cart. Once, in an aisle by myself, I did some spins. For fun. Because I could. It was almost like twirling.
- You can take showers sitting in a lawn chair, using a garden hose, in the garage. And these showers feel amazing.
- Walkers aren’t just for old people. They can, in fact, become a bit of security that is hard to let release. Pink is a nice color for them.
- My boot-cast was another thing I had to let go of. When the doctor told me to take it off and walk to the car without it, I shook all the way. Then we had a coffee and celebrated. That was also my last appointment with him for several months. He was part of my security detail, and it was hard not to see him. I still hated the x-rays, but progress reports were good.
- PTSD is real. And it happens to people who get hurt badly for the first time when they are 49. And it requires medical help. TV and music (other than my own almost whispered singing) created a static like chaos in my brain. The nightmares were horrible. I heard things that weren’t there. I was hyper-vigilant months later when I walked – afraid I’d fall again. If anything looked wet, I was terrified. It was rugged, and I felt shame. My phycologist and physiatrist were the best. The medications did the same thing here – instead of lifting me out of the place I was, they made it worse. So, I used SamE, and it helped. And I talked to my doctors about the hard stuff, learning to cope, and slowly recovered. Mostly.
- I still do my physical therapy exercises because they still help.
- Having a place to go where you feel peace is important. Jon would push me in my wheelchair to this spot between the pine trees. I spent hours praying, reading, and writing in my journal here.
I found God’s tender comfort between these straight trucks and gentle boughs.
- The greatest (and most beautiful) lesson of all was, the absolute certainty that God was with me every second in the valley of brokenness. He assured me in His Word, the tender care of my husband (I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt when I got home and saw our bed freshly made in the dining room or how wonderful it felt to rest there in his arms!). He showed me in the words of my miracle believing doctor and his dream team, the faithful prayers of our parents, in the tears of my mom as she sat beside me and asked God to heal me, in the kisses my dad gave me on the top of my head (that’s his way), the lavish care of our friends, and even in the tear-absorbing stuffed dog my mom gave me.
Where am I eight years later? I have several pieces of metal in my ankle, but over 90% recovery of the ankle. Although osteoarthritis is in many of my other joints, that one isn’t involved yet. The only loss I experience is going down our steps, and that may be partly fear although I didn’t fall on stairs. I’d like to gain more use of it, but the ankle doesn’t bend quite the way I want it to on the way down. I still find myself watching where I’m walking, and a wet floor can cause severe anxiety, but mostly I’m good and always I’m grateful. Even in the stress of putting one foot in front of another on freshly washed floors, I realize again how very good things are and whisper prayers of thanksgiving.
Not because I’m great, but because He is!
Until Next Time,