It can happen to you, when you least expect it…
and in this case, it did
One minute I am swooshing down the hill, the last run of the day, at a fairly slow and steady pace, watching for my children to safely pass by. And the next, I am tumbling out of control.
I hear it then… the sound of bones breaking and shattering! As it was my first time breaking anything, I can tell you this. There is something to be said of that sound. It is an undeniable, surreal sound. When you hear it you can almost see it. Like being transported inside your body to the very place the break occurs.
The experience had me stunned. I remember hyperventilating for 30 seconds, my son screaming and crying beside me.
His voice crackling, “Mom! are you okay? MOM?!?!”
I snapped in to maternal mode, calming him down as people came to my side. My husband waved down a Snow patrollman, not knowing if I had twisted or broken anything. And before I knew what was happening, I saw another gentleman hiking up the hill towards me.
I was calm now, 5 first aid attendant in tow, my son safely down below with friends, humour in the air and slow yoga breaths with the occasional trucker-style swears from my mouth every time they moved my leg just a little too far.
All I could think about was Recovery.How long and what kind of physio routine was I in for?
When could I get back to my busy life. Running after my boys, my volunteer work, my Horticulture therapy Internship. Managing our home, my landscape design firm and my husband’s marketing department. How long would I have to watch life pass me by…..
My right leg carefully splinted; I was taken down the hill on a toboggan-style gurney guided by a first aid attendant and two skiers at the back with straps to slow the speed and keep me straight and bounce free. Once we arrived at the bottom, I was transported to the First Aid room where i was told I would meet with a doctor.
The pain was excruciating!
I consider myself to me fairly tough. Though my mother would tell you I couldn’t look at a scratch as a child, with out screaming myself in to hysterics. My breathing quickened and my teeth began to chatter, signalling that the adrenaline was wearing off and the shock was setting in. My snow pants and boots were carefully removed and I waved so long to my husband’s favourite “stretch pants” as they sliced them open at the seams. Before too long I have a shot of Morphine in my arm and the doctor was confirming the break. How bad the break was, no one knew. But it was bad enough that I would be transported down to St. Joseph’s hospital in Comox.
I can tell you, the snow patrol crew that cared for me were wonderful, and the Doctor was fantastic (missing a dinner party and risking a rant from his wife by staying on until I was in the ambulance). The second splint was fashioned with foam and cardboard which I would later proclaim thanks for when faced with taking it off for my CT scan and Xrays. My leg could not be moved. A simple flinch of a muscle would send me in to pain that trumped that of child labor, and trust me I know that pain.
St. Joe’s was a bit of a blur. It seemed like seconds before I was in Xrays, being told they may have to remove my splint. I laughed and told the technician to watch out for my good leg; I couldn’t be held accountable for it’s “swift kicking” action.
Back in the room I was met by two male nurses, whom politely tried to find a vein for my drip and helped me in to my very first bed pan experience. What a bizarre experience that is!
Not soon after did my Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Woods, arrive. The look on his face was enough to tell me my break was bad. My tibia was shattered, and front of the tibia was fractured all of the way down. I needed surgery immediately!
You see, legs are not meant to bend sideways at the knee. But when they do, the femur can and will dig, or in my case shatter, anything in it’s way.
I remember receiving another shot of morphine, being rolled in to the OR area while they prepared the room for surgery. I remember the anesthesiologist speaking to me shortly and then I fell into a drug induced sleep. I woke screaming in pain. My muscles had flinched as my body was falling in its sleep mode. Every nerve in my body filled with agony and I began to sob. I heard the sound of a few compassionate low voices and two woman came to my side, wheeled me in to the surgical room and before I knew it, I was under anesthetics.
I had sent my husband and sons home before I went in to surgery, it was a long drive to Victoria and the boys had scheduled events to attend. I woke throughout the night to ask for pain relief from a very lovely nurse and when I finally came to, I found my dad sitting beside my bed with a warm loving look on his face.
The morning proceeded as most morning-after-the-surgeries usually do. Not soon after I woke, I was getting sick from the morphine and Percocet, unable to eat the “food” that was brought to me, and talking about how I could get out of there.
I was visited by the Dr. Woods, who relayed to me that my break was one of the worst he’d seen. He had repaired the leg by replacing all of the sherds, using some composite bone materials and fastening my bones together with plates and pins. I would not be on my feet again for 3 weeks to a month and would not be able to bend or put weight on my right leg for 3 months; later I would be told by my Victoria surgeon it was more likely going to be 6 months. I threw up again, shocked by what I had just heard. Everyone, including me laughed.
After an hour of intensive work with the Occupational therapist at St. Joseph’s, I was ready to roll. I had mastered the art of crutches (not perfected, but I could use them), I could get up a few stairs and down, get in and out of a wheelchair, sit on a toilet, and learned how to use a special hook to move my leg with out beding it.
My leg was wrapped in a tensor bandage and encased in a neoprene splint. I was given a triplicate form for Endocet (now on Hydromorphone), a highly addictive pain killer, and told to check out when ready. If I wanted to transfer to a hospital in Victoria I could do so.
After discussing this with my dad, I was told my husband was rearranging a space for me at home. The mear thought of hospital food and the inconvenience on the family helped me decide to go home. We checked out and headed home.
The ride home was roughly tow and a half hours. My dad had lowered all the rear seats and fashioned a bed from cushions, blankets and pillows. My own transport coach! Anyone who knows the Vancouver Island stretch of the TransCanada highway and Malahat will know that I had to hang on to the handle over the door to keep myself from rolling on to my leg. We stopped for a bagel briefly and made it home in good time.
I was met by my children and husband, my mom and my dogs once we pulled in to the driveway. We carefully made our way to the entrance of my home and I slowly made my way up the staircase. Kevin, my husband, showed me to my recovery room.
The sweet man hat he is, had hired a moving company to move our bedroom furniture down in to our “Smoking room” (never used for smoking, only it’s title), on the main floor. The room is just off our kitchen and there is an entrance that takes you to my favourite reading room in the house. There is a little bathroom off the smoking room that worked out perfectly for my recovery. Already outfitted with bars for lifting and lowering myself off the toilet.
A tv was set up with our Xbox, for movies and documentaries, a rolling cart with my Horticultural therapy text, binders and resource materials. My computer, some magazines and a caddy for pens, medicine, salves or lotions, controllers, etc was placed beside the bed for easy access.
I would come to know this as my Recovery Den.
Easing into my bed, I lay still.
Staring out the window…. still in a state of awe.
The first day of my 6 month sentence.
I fell into a deep sleep while my mind raced on.
“How will my family make it through this, how will I complete my Internship, what will my children do with out me at the helm, will my husband be able to balance his responsibilities at the shop in our home with the kids, what will happen to my marriage, when will I be able to dance, to ski, to walk….”
I could hear my thoughts quicken. And when I felt my anxiety begin to take over, I breathed deep and repeated the word “ACCEPTANCE, acceptance, acceptance…..“