I didn’t know how to receive love and help from another person until I experienced helplessness. On any other Thursday afternoon, 9 weeks ago today; I was driving home from work trying to decide between two different exits to take. Exit 1 (not the real exit #, just humor me) leads directly home so I can walk my dog and go to the store later. I’ve been doing a lot more cooking and baking lately since going vegan, and I wanted to make some oatmeal raisin cookies. Exit 2 takes me right to Aldi that has what I need for the best price. I’m turning left on a stale green light, no other cars around when BAM! I get hit on my left side, glass breaks, airbag deploys, I’m thrown into the passenger seat, and can see a couple of drops of blood coming from my face. I immediately look at my hands to make sure all of my fingers are okay, as one of my worst fears is to not be able to play anymore. I move them, and they are fine. Phew! Move my feet, and they work too. I feel something crunchy in my mouth and assume my teeth have been knocked out. Oh God! Well, here goes nothing; I need to know. I spit it out and thank goodness it’s glass, not my teeth. I’m laying across the center console with my legs stuck between the floorboard and inside the driver’s door. The left side of my butt hurts so bad! I can see the car that hit me, a silver car bigger than mine. The driver, a middle aged woman is laughing?! What the fuck! Of course she’s not laughing, she may be crying, but is probably just hysterical as she asks me if I’m okay. “No,” I say with a normal voice though the sound barely comes out. “Call 911!” My chest hurts when I talk or breathe and I feel helpless and stuck. It just hurts. Next comes the lady’s boyfriend holding their toddler. He takes one look at me and says “oh God” and starts telling me that their kid is sick and they were just trying to get them to the hospital. Part of me feels sorry for them, but mostly I can barely pay attention to what he’s saying. All I can focus on is the pain, and trying not to pass out as I’m starting to get light-headed. I just look at him thinking, SO? Y’all hit me, and I need to go to the hospital. It fucking hurts. Why are you telling me this right now.
Thank God for the young black guy that comes to the passenger window next to help me. He asks if I’m okay, where do I hurt, and asks my name, age, what day is it? What street are you on? I know he’s checking to see if I’ve had a serious head injury and I’m thankful that answering the questions comes easily. I tell him I’m thirsty, and burning up. He grabs my water bottle for me and helps me drink, but tells me not to move. When a couple of cop cars get there, they keep asking me questions about the accident. Questions I really can’t and don’t care to answer right now, as I’m fucking hurting!!! Why does it matter if I was in the far left lane or if any other cars were beside me? Several people asked if I was wearing my seatbelt. My answer went from a solid ‘yes,’ (I know that’s the right answer, though I don’t know if it’s the true answer) to ‘I don’t know,’ to ‘I guess not then’ when someone asked how I got to the passenger side seat with my seatbelt on. Good point, random cop. You got me.
Next, the ambulance arrives, and two young ladies attempt to help me out of the car. At this point they won’t let me drink anymore water, which really sucks. They want me to wait to see if anything serious is wrong. These ladies are truly angels. Put the neck brace on me, and one notices that my car is still on. They ask one of the clean up crew men to turn it off; he tries very half-assed through the driver’s window, and says it’s jammed. I notice all of these ‘accident professionals’ talking to each other, and I’m just an observer because I’m helpless and hurt and they need to do their thing to help me. One of my angelic EMT chics reaches in and turns off the car a few minutes later, and they give each other a look. When they have to lift me onto the stretcher and carry me to the ambulance, I’m hurting so bad in my butt bone that I don’t want to move. I cringe and scream and bear it as they get me into the ambulance. I make sure they have my purse out of the car, then ask for my phone to call my fiance. ‘Hey baby, I’m okay. I was in an accident, but it wasn’t my fault.’ I felt pretty proud of the fact that I could not be blamed for this accident in the slightest, because I have certainly caused them before. The ride to the hospital is bumpy, and I don’t even get to have the sirens on! They stop for all the red lights! Super lame, but I figure this at least means I’m not in critical condition. I tell the girl riding in the back with me that keeps taking my blood pressure because she doesn’t know what my normal is that it hurts when I breathe, but it could just be my anxiety. They want to know every little detail about what hurts, so I am not shy about telling them. Another moment they talk to each other but not me is when one asks ‘what is that’ hanging off of my hand, and the other says ‘skin.’ Yuck. They also tried to get me into Wesley Long Hospital, but it somehow gets changed to Moses Cone which they profusely apologize for. I don’t know much about hospitals, and assume any of them will do. When they transfer me to the emergency room and tell me they’ll take care of me now, I tell them how wonderful they are and thank you for taking care of me.
Once in the emergency room, they hook me up to machines, put an IV in my arm and ask if I’ve ever had morphine before. I haven’t, and I’m slightly scared because I’m an addict, and although weed is a far cry from heroin; I’ve heard this story of how people get hooked before. But, I do want the hurting to stop, so I accept the morphine without hesitation. I didn’t feel anything except maybe a little less pain. A young doctor introduces himself and immediately gives me the ‘why weren’t you wearing your seatbelt’ lecture. I know he’s right, but now’s not the time. Come on, man. Jon, my amazing fiance, showed up as soon as he could and looked stressed as hell. I guess I didn’t realize how bad it was; I know I’ll live, so what else matters? I was probably also in shock, as nurses and doctors kept coming in and taking care of me. That first move from the comfortable(ish) hospital bed to the X-ray table was HORRIBLE. It hurt like hell, every time I had to move. They ended up taking me to the X-ray room on 4 separate occasions. I don’t understand why they couldn’t get them all done at once, but they didn’t. The young doctor delivered the results of my first X-ray as if it was good news. ‘You have a fractured pelvis, and there’s nothing we can do for ya! We’re gonna let you go home tonight since we really are running out of rooms what with the flu epidemic.’ Oh, the things you probably shouldn’t say to your patient! When a physical therapy nurse came into my room to show me how to use crutches, I attempted to sit up from a lying down position, and nearly passed out because it hurt so bad. After that, they found a room for me!
As boring as it was in the hospital, it was pretty nice to have help at the push of a button. Someone to bring me more pain meds, water, help me go to the bathroom. That was not fun at all. A nurse who had never seen a ‘female urinal’ used before tried to show me how to use one… and I pretty much peed on myself. Having strangers push plastic things up to your genitals to help you relieve yourself is pretty humbling. Not something I would like to experience again!
Doctors and nurses have an extremely special job of taking care of people at their weakest, scariest moments. I realized this through my ordeal, and now have the utmost respect for them. I told most of the beautiful, sweet strangers that helped me through that they have a really hard job, and I don’t know how they do it, but thank you. Some joked with me, others were sweet and caring. Only two of them throughout my 2 night stay had shitty attitudes. The rest were truly life savers. Being in the hospital is boring, scary, and lonely. It meant the world to me when they would joke with me, talk with me like I’m a human instead of their job, and empathize with me. (If you can’t do this, you probably shouldn’t be a nurse.)
Two days later, after learning I also had a fractured 8th rib, they released me and I felt the pain was manageable enough to go home. I left on an extremely cold and rainy late Saturday afternoon. I was finally able to maneuver from the hospital bed to the wheelchair, with someone’s help. Shitty nurse tech #2 was taking care of me that day and it was very obvious she didn’t want to be. I hadn’t had a shower in two days; I knew I stunk but couldn’t do anything about it. She helped me to the toilet for the 2nd time that day and told me to sit there awhile to get all the pee out. What a bitch! Sorry to inconvenience you, get another fucking job hate-my-life-Betty. I washed up the best I could that day in the sink. She wouldn’t let me shower, as you have to ‘have an order.’ When Jon busted me out of the hospital; I was glad to be leaving, but also scared as I didn’t know if someone would be there to take care of me. For the weekend, yes, and my mom was supposed to on Monday. But how good of care would they take? There’s no button to push for people doing their job to come help their patient. This is asking for help from family, from friends. And I hated doing it. I’m a very independent person; always have been. I sat there cold in my wheelchair while Jon drove the car around. A nice man asked if I wanted to move away from the door so the wind wouldn’t keep blowing on me. My ride’s here now so no, but thank you. We had to wait 45 minutes at the pharmacy to get my pain meds refilled. As I sat in the car, I could feel something in my eye and kept trying to get it out. It turned out to be a tiny piece of glass. A couple of nurses that had helped me back in bed from my last X-ray run had picked some glass out of my hair the night before, and here’s more.
I stayed with my sister that first night, and for several more after that because I wouldn’t have to deal with crazy dogs jumping on me, or stairs. When me and Jon made it to her condo, she wasn’t there, so I could take my time getting to her door without an audience. I had to pee by this time, but had a long way to go using crutches up to her door. She had a couple of stairs outside her front door, so riding in the wheelchair wasn’t possible. Jon encouraged me every step of the way, reminding me of what the physical therapist said about using the good leg forward with the crutches, then stepping up the bad leg to where the good one was. Then going up steps was opposite. Once we finally made it inside the house 40 minutes later, I was so relieved. So relieved I almost didn’t make it to the toilet, and did pee on myself a little. You know someone loves you when they clean you up after you wet yourself. Those first couple of nights, I had to have the bedside toilet by the couch. It was extremely difficult to sit up from laying down, to stand or push myself onto the toilet, then have to get back up after.It made me not want to drink anything. Jon helped me take a real shower for the first time on Sunday. He had to help lift my legs over the bathtub wall, and once I got in there, I couldn’t turn around or bend. He had to wash me, which seemed to take forever. I finally said I’m done when I started to feel faint, and it took awhile still to get out of the shower. Thank God, the wheelchair fit in the bathroom, so I could get right into it.
Progress in the beginning was slow but noticeable. Tuesday I showered without help, but my mom had to help me get dressed. Each day it seemed like I could do a little more, even if it was just to stand up without using crutches, or dress myself. Getting in and out of a car continued to be the most painful activity once I settled in at home. From using both crutches, to one crutch; I’ve had a lot of learning experiences. Like when I tried to feel beautiful and shave my hairy legs about 3 weeks in. I sat on the side of the tub, but somehow just the motion of bending forward to shave caused me extreme pain. I could barely move my right leg or bend afterwards, and got stuck in one position and had to call Jon to come home and help me get into bed.
I’m writing about all of this now, because my life was put on hold. I’ve been stuck at home, at the mercy of finding rides until I got a car almost two weeks ago. I was an emotional mess some days, and just bored to death on others. Today, I got the okay from my orthopedist to go back to work next week. I can’t believe it took this long, but here I am on the other side. I’m going to physical therapy twice a week, and the chiropractor three times a week. I’m not supposed to lift anything heavy at work for a month, so I’m easing back in on 3rd shift. I got so used to being alone that once when I went to my AA home group meeting, I felt very anxious just being around people. Isolating is not good for me, and although I’ll be happy to get back to normal, a part of me was really sad today that I don’t need the Oxycodone anymore, and that I don’t need to rest at home alone anymore. It was kind of a nice break from my overly busy life; just to watch tv, work jigsaw puzzles, practice piano and read books. A painful staycation where I hopefully learned how to do things like ask for help and depend on other people.