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The Accident

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									The Accident

By Lynn E. MacKinnon “What do you mean my foot is broken in five places?! It's just a twisted ankle.” I was perched on the examination table at my podiatrist’s office. My husband sat in a chair observing my terror. I trembled with fright while my right foot throbbed with pain. I was exhausted from the Mount Everest climb on my crutches to his office. “I'm afraid x-rays don't lie. You have multiple fractures,” the doctor explained. “How did this happen?” I felt a lump of panic rising in my throat. I'd never had more than a broken little toe, which healed by itself. “What happened and when?” the doctor impatiently repeated. “Last night about 10 pm, I was putting my shoes away in my walk-up closet. I had climbed up about 1-1/2 feet standing on the return air conditioning duct. I went to step down to the carpeted floor in our bedroom. As I started to lower my left foot, I felt my right foot give way and twist inward. I lost my balance and landed BANG onto the floor.” “Were you alone?” he asked, as he wrote notes into my chart. “No, my family was in the kitchen. I screamed, rolled around on the floor and cried in pain. My daughter and husband dashed to my rescue with ice, which brought the swelling down.”

“Did you go to the emergency room?” “No way! I'd just sit there all night in pain waiting for an x-ray. I knew you were the doctor I needed to see.” “Well,” he continued, “the breaks are most peculiar.” Three painful x-rays had been made of my foot from different angles. The doctor snapped the photos onto the lighted screen and referred to them as he explained, “You have several fractures running in different directions, and the bones aren't aligned. It looks like the outside of your right foot hit something to shatter so many times. I recommend surgery in three days.” “Surgery! So soon?” “Your fifth metatarsal is broken. It needs to be leveled and all the broken pieces put back together, like a jigsaw puzzle. I recommend a titanium plate with screws to hold it together.” Brow furrowed, I looked at my husband who had very serious expression on his face. “This is unbelievable!” was all I could choke out. “You will have to keep the weight off your foot for at least six weeks. We ordered you a wheel chair and portable potty which will be delivered to your house this afternoon.” I nodded, afraid to speak. Thoughts raced through my head like a speeding car zooming by utility poles. Six weeks! My life was booked solid with activities. I would miss singing in the church choir every Sunday morning. I would miss our Book Fair that was in mid November in busy downtown Miami. How would I steer around the crowds? I couldn't volunteer on Monday mornings at South Miami Hospital. I wouldn't be able to fix meals, go grocery shopping, do laundry, clean the house or carpool the kids. How was I going to stay in bed and navigate with a wheel chair and crutches to the bathroom? Depression took over making my limbs heavy. My throat constricted like I might vomit. Tears were dripping down my cheeks like a leaky faucet. Suddenly, I became aware that the doctor was firing orders. “My nurse is booking you into Baptist Hospital. You need to see your primary physician for surgery approval. Then, return to my office and we will give you pre-op instructions.” The doctor's assistant shoved a pile of papers towards my husband. “Right now you have to go to Baptist Hospital for several tests. They're expecting you.”

My husband, Ken and I had sailed out of the house that morning to make our appointment with the podiatrist. We barely ate, and I had no water bottle. I wore no makeup or earrings. I was dressed in ugly shorts and a baggy shirt. We had numerous errands to do, and I felt like a centenarian. Thursday morning, Ken and I drove to my primary physician's office. The doctor meticulously followed the instructions that the podiatrist faxed. We trudged back to the podiatrist. Again, it meant going by crutches and wheelchair from doctor to doctor. It was up the steps, down the steps, up the steps. It gave me a new meaning to fatigue. Surgery was scheduled for Friday at 2:30 pm, but we were to arrive at 12 noon. The procedure could take from two to three hours. The doctor wanted to keep me over night for observation, which turned out to be the worst night of my life. Arriving at Baptist Friday afternoon, pre-op took several hours. I was wide awake and agitated. My stomach churned with nausea, and my head pounded from caffeine withdrawal. Originally, I was to be in twilight sleep with a local on my foot, but the anesthesiologist changed his mind and opted to put me out. It was closer to 4 pm before I was finally pushed into surgery. Everything seemed surreal. People moved in slow motion. I squirmed on the table, and lights glared into my eyes. The next thing I remember was waking up, my tongue thick and my throat sore from the tube that had been down it. It took me several minutes to realize where I was and why. My first thought was that I was in my own bed in the morning. As my vision cleared, I saw a familiar face looking down at me with a concerned expression. I reached up with both arms and felt the cheeks of the dear sweet face that I saw every day for the last 26 years. I longed to communicate with Ken, but when I opened by mouth, my speech was slurred. I tried using my right hand to form sign language, but Ken looked confused. Giving up, I laid my head back down on the pillow and looked around. I was in the recovery room with beds lined up full of other patients like an army barracks. We all laid there resembling mannequins—limp, lifeless and still. At 7:30 pm, I was wheeled to a room. It became apparent that I wasn't going to get any sleep. My roommate had a crowd of six people with her chatting away. I embarked on a party. Though visiting hours were over at 9 pm, they allowed my husband and son to visit me for fifteen minutes. After hugs and telling me that they loved me, they went home. I felt abandoned. By 11 pm, I was grouchy beyond reproach from no sleep and worrying the night before. I had no food, a throbbing headache and now excruciating pain

in my foot. That didn't stop my roommates from discussing the world's problems. I asked one of the techs why the woman's husband and daughter were still with her. She informed me that they were going to spend the night. Damn it! What rotten luck. I immediately asked a supervisor to switch me to another room. “All the rooms are completely full,” the charge nurse told me in her hospital-trained voice. I wept behind my curtained bed. What else could go wrong? I sank into my self-pity pot. Then at 11:30 pm, I said out loud through gritted teeth, “I haven't slept in two days. I'm in pain. When are you all going to stop talking?” The conversation abruptly terminated, and then the lights were finally turned off. It got quiet. I dozed. However, I was awakened at 1:30 am for a blood pressure check. Then at 4:30 am, bright lights blinded me as they took two vials of blood from my arm. Was it morning? Was I getting breakfast? I pondered. Apparently not, but it was time for my roommates to start another conversation. I longed for uninterrupted sleep. At last at 7:30 am, I was given my first food. The nurse ordered an enormous breakfast for me. Though I couldn't eat it all, I was thrilled to have anything to put into my growling stomach. Of course, my roommates started yakking again. I turned on the little portable TV to try to drown out their noise, but it didn't work. Also, every time a staff person entered our twin cubicle room, they would turn on the light and leave the exit door wide open. My bed was right in front of that door, so I had no quiet or privacy. Procedures to check me out commenced at 10 am on Saturday morning when my podiatrist visited me to sign me out. However, due to a sick person appearing who needed immediate attention, it was not until 4 pm on Saturday before Ken drove me home. I seethed. I felt like an old sofa that had been set outside for garbage pickup—ripped, mangled and worn out. Finally, I was home. Our house had one step in front and two in back. There had been no time to erect a ramp. My husband maneuvered me up and down, tilting the wheel chair back. I felt like I was going to fall off a carnival ride backwards. Of course, I was demanding and difficult. I depended on others for everything from using the potty to making my meals. Whatever room I was in, whatever I needed was in a different room. I bellowed orders like a Marine sergeant. A home-care nurse came by daily to jab a blood thinner through my belly. I had several days of those lovely injections, each leaving a bruise where I had been pricked. My belly resembled a road map.

Being an independent person, I was determined to do as much for myself when I returned home as possible. I hadn't counted on how weary I'd feel from the anesthesia and faint from having to take pain pills. I had little appetite from no exercise. I missed petting my cats, chatting with my birds and whiffing in the smells of grass and flowers. I gazed out the window with longing. The sun shined brightly, and it was torture not to walk outside feeling the warmth on my skin. Luckily, I had crutches. Hobbling around on the long metal sticks with rubber suction cups was challenging. Several times I almost plummeted sideways. My arm muscles ached. The cast added fatigue from dragging around the extra weight. My other leg muscles burned and protested from the workload. I thought if I'm this worn out after only a few days, how will I make it through the entire six weeks wearing this monster cast? I felt like giving up and lying in my bed. One day I'd have energy, and the next I just wanted to “veg.” Each day that passed, I grew stronger and more mobile. I lessened the pain pills and finally, stop them all together. The podiatrist emphasized no weight on my foot for six weeks. Still, I was determined to get around coordinating the wheel chair with the crutches. Sometimes, I hopped holding onto any object anchored nearby. I longed for friends. Having my computer at hand kept me in touch with people by e-mail. Many friends and acquaintances called and visited. Having a support system like that was such a blessing for my mental outlook. That and faith that my Higher Power was along side me got me through the long ordeal. It was important to stay busy. I was able to revise my numerous manuscripts. I caught up on my gigantic pile of filing. I read lots of books, enjoyed watching movies on TV and appreciated not having to do chores. I felt like Christopher Reeve, the actor who starred in Superman. In a split second, he had an accident that changed his life. He wished he could turn time back and not fall from his jumping horse which left him a quadriplegic. Fortunately, my situation was only a temporary broken foot from a fall in my step-up closet. I knew I had to accept my situation with grace and dignity, which Christopher had. I used the anger churning inside me to give me the motivation to do what I had to do to recover. I did that beyond my highest expectations.

Lynn MacKinnon Stay-at-home Mom and native Miamian.


								
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