For those of you who don’t know the story behind my injury, I have started this blog in an effort to document it, heal from it, and hopefully get others to gain an appreciation of the simple things as a result. June 22, 2016 will be a day I never forget, as it marks the start of the worst thing that has happened to me so far in life. A coworker and I decided to go on a basic hike to see a nearby waterfall. We both had never been there before and when we arrived, we weren’t sure exactly how to get to there. We found a path and talked our way along it. Eventually we heard water and knew we were close. We walked towards the sound of the water and actually ended up above it, instead of at the bottom. We started to look for ways to climb down but all I saw when I looked over the edge was a dropoff with rocks at the bottom. “Well we’re not going that way,” I laughed. I took a couple more steps in a different direction and next thing I know, I’m sliding on my back headfirst down the slope of the cliff. It’s crazy how your life really does flash before your eyes when you think you’re about to die. Working in a trauma ICU, I remember envisioning for a split second all our TBI patients. I told myself that’s how I would end up if I survived this fall. And all in probably the 5 seconds I was thinking this, my body was the calmest it’s ever been. I had accepted it. And I gazed happily into the white light that blinded my eyes.
The next thing I remember was that I was on the ground with my stomach facing down, and my right leg underneath my left. I couldn’t see. I wiped my eyes and blood covered my hands, and was splattered on the rock in front of me. I felt my head, “shoot, I must of hit my head.” Nothing hurt yet – I was still in shock that I was actually alive. I went to lift my right leg to straighten it out in front of me and my leg caved. Right away I screamed up to my coworker, “my legs broken, call 911!” I had to hold it in place with my two hands, one of which ended up with a broken wrist as well. Then the pain kicked in. I just remember screaming probably the loudest I ever have. And it was just me and my friend wailing back and forth unable to help each other, as she was standing on the cliff above me and couldn’t get down. She yelled that a helicopter was on its way to get me. Reality still hadn’t kicked in. After what seemed like 15 minutes of pure agony, two firefighters came down from the sky to get me. They started to move me and I refused to move without any pain medicine. He started an IV and gave me morphine before I was zipped up and lifted into the air.
As I stared at the ceiling of the helicopter, I knew we would be going to the hospital I work at, as I was in our area of trauma coverage. “Where are we going?” I asked. They replied with my hospital and I laughed. “Why are you laughing?”
“That’s where I work.”
“Oh really where?”
“The trauma ICU”
I remember thinking how funny the situation was even though I was in so much pain. I rolled out of the helicopter to be greeted by our chief of trauma. Cool. I said hi and remember giving him a report of what had happened and how much medicine I had received, even though I’m pretty sure he had already heard that from the firefighters HA. I told him how much pain I was having and last thing I remember in the trauma bay was “give her 4 of morphine, 2 of Ativan, and get her to CT.” The rest of that day was a blur until I woke up in external fixation.
I guess I was pretty funny while I waited for surgery. As they went to cut off my clothes I screamed “save the lulus!” and forced these poor people to struggle taking off my shorts with my very broken leg. I also apparently attempted to convince the anesthesiologist that it was my opposite leg that was injured until my roommate ripped the blanket off of me and showed him herself. Drugs man.
I spent 5 days in external fixation and those things are no joke. You feel the nails so sharp and deep, tugging inside your bones, muscle, and skin. No amount of pain medicine worked. I feel so bad for the nurses who took care of me. I was in pain nonstop and being a nurse, I was probably their worst patient. Actually, I know I was. I was so high on pain meds I had no problem telling them that they were late on this pill, their lines were overdue to be changed, and by the way, no I’m not a self turn as you have labeled me.
On day 6 I went back to surgery for an ORIF with hardware placement. My arm was wrapped in a cast and the 13 stitches above my black eye were starting to look a little better. The overwhelming pain continued and I was discharged on day 8.
Those 8 days were only the beginning for some of the worst days of my entire life that were spent at home. But what kept me going through that hospitalization was the overwhelming amount of love and support I received from my friends, family, and coworkers. You all know who you are. The friends who drove hours just to visit with me for one day. The friends who stayed the night with me in the hospital, getting up every hour to attempt to move my leg in a more comfortable position. The friends who made me feel like I was in a spa, washing my hair, massaging my legs and feet, and giving me a facial. The friends who stayed late giving me a bed bath because I didn’t trust anyone else. The coworkers that personally called pain pharmacy themselves and told them to get to my room because my pain wasn’t taken care of. And the coworkers that used their 15 minute break or lunch to come and spend time with me in my room, or sneak in supplies to make me more comfortable. You guys are amazing, you will never understand how much those little things meant to me.
I could go on about the course of events, but I’ll try and wrap this up. Let’s just say it was 6 months in a wheelchair, two hematomas that came out via my incision, a third surgery for an allergic reaction to the hardware, osteomyelitis and a PICC line for 6 weeks, a nonunion of the bone and possible bone graft, and 3 allergic reactions resulting in IM benadryl and prednisone in the ER.
While my leg is “healed,” I still struggle with pain, alignment issues, and missing out on activities I used to love. This accident has changed my entire life forever.
Thank you to all of you for reading and for your help and support along the way.