I remember flying up and seeing the leaves of the trees and wondering what was going on. The lady driving the SUV hit me from behind so I had no clue what was happening in those first few seconds. It felt like slow-motion, just like in the movies. Up towards the trees I popped, then I landed down on the pavement of the road flat on my back. That part happened relatively quickly along with the pounding of my head on the pavement. Every time I think of that moment, I thank my lucky stars that I strapped my helmet on my head that day.
The back of my head was killing me and I was almost certain it was from the harness apparatus they had strapped around me to keep my spine from moving in case of head or spine injury.
“OK your mom and dad are on the way,” my boyfriend walked in and told me.
“What do you mean? I told you not to call them,” I bitched.
“They’re going to have to come and be notified anyway so I called them.”
He was right. Of course someone should have called them, but inside my heart broke at the thought of worrying them. They’ve been through enough. My parents had just begun the first day of their week-long vacation time together. They were at dinner looking over the water and my mom could sense something somewhere wasn’t right. Her mother’s intuition was justified, I was just sorry I didn’t listen to my own that day. Something felt off to me too, but it was a little late for that. Before I went riding I had a deep pit feeling in my stomach that I didn’t have any of the other days I went out riding. I questioned it, but I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I went through the motions of plans with friends.
Doctor after doctor stopped to screen me in the ER. Before I could beg them to take the brace off my neck and head, I was pushed through the halls into x-ray and cat scan rooms. Finally, I was rolled back into the ER where I found my parents standing. The doctors told us I needed to go into surgery immediately to begin cleaning the debris out of my wounds.
That first surgery was 8 hours long to which I woke up in a dark recovery room trying to ask for someone. The tubes in my throat during the long surgery left my throat so dry and hoarse, all I wanted was some water. Oh shit, and what about my injuries? I tried to lift my head slightly but all I could see were casts on my left leg and ankle.
Over the course of the next several days I was pumped with every pain medication and antibiotic known to man. I even had a morphine drip which meant anytime I was in too much pain, I could simply pushed a button to get a dose of that poison. Let’s just say, I pressed it often. The pain was excruciating and all I wanted was rest and sleep. Those two items on the top of my wish list weren’t fulfilled for months. I was in it for the long haul to which I wasn’t aware of at the time. Day after day, round the clock, I had a doctor or a nurse come in to either check vitals or give me a shot. Once I dozed off I was woken by someone else sticking me with a needle. I think it was in the middle of my first week in the hospital, and my parents were just waving off the friends visiting me, when an audiologist came in my room. She had white hair that was perfectly groomed and an all-white dress and matching sneakers. She explained how she needed to do some hearing tests as she set up some kind of board with several buttons and wires. My parents stepped out into the hallway to let her do her thing. She placed a couple plugs in my ears and asked me questions. I couldn’t hear a thing she said but for some reason she started yelling at me. I thought what the hell is she yelling at me for? I can’t hear a damn thing she’s saying. Once her finger waving accompanied her yelling, I had enough. I could barely reach it but I stretched through all the wires attached to me and grabbed my bedpan, throwing it as hard as I could at her. Damn, I missed. Someone just get her out of here please!Of course the crashing of the metal pan against the wall and floor alerted my parents who quickly walked back into my room.
“I guess that’s the last time we’re leaving the room,” my dad said. We laugh about it now, but in the end they think my hearing was slightly rattled from banging my head. I already had bad ears from years of ear infections as a baby and throughout my childhood. I had tubes in my ears twice, but nothing seemed to help.
Specialist doctors would come to see me often. The orthopedic surgeons and plastic surgeons met to decide what to do then reported back to me. My tibia and fibula where going to be an easy healing job because there was remaining muscle, tendon, and skin surrounding them. When you break a bone, the blood flow surrounding it heals the bones. But in my case, my ankle was screwed. The action of the SUV’s front tire stopping on top of my ankle, sitting on it, and then rolling off of it, had done extensive damage. There was basically a chunk taken out. Add in the removal of all the road rash, and I wasn’t left with a lot to easily put together.
The easiest solution? Amputate my left foot. Fuck no. The doctors presented this idea to me first to which I told them if they took my foot, I’d take my life. Pretty dramatic, but that’s how I felt. I told them that wasn’t an option for me and to think of something else to save it.
Over the next couple weeks I had 3 more operations to continue cleaning out road rash from my wounds. Although held together by a new cast, my toes peeked out the top where I had several stitches around my big toe from the burns. Before this accident I had never had stitches or a broken bone. But hey, whatever they could sew up or pull together was a good sign. Let me just tell you, when burn wounds are healing, it sucks. It itches like you’ve stepped in liquid poison ivy times a thousand. And guess what? You can’t itch them. They try to give you anti itch medication, which helps a 1/2 a percent. So cue in 100% sleepless days and nights and another pumping of medications to the list. The morphine was on overdrive for weeks now. Not good. I began to hallucinate big time and after the rats came marching through my room, we all agreed to removed that drip and rely on oral pain pills only.
My original surgeon left town for a few days and in walked his temporary replacement. God this guy looked a little familiar. His name did too. Sure enough he went to my high school and he wasn’t too much older than me. Not that it meant he was bad, but I preferred my original doctors through this complicated ordeal. After days into his rounds, he told my mom and I that they’d come up with an idea to try to save my foot. In short, they’d have to use another part of “body” to replace what was missing. This was all just to try it out too. Experimental surgeries were the next round of operations that laid ahead for me. He gave us the information and let us soak it in. I’m not certain but I have a feeling the long days and nights of zero sleep, trauma, and being pumped with a shit ton of meds lead to some goofier reactions to things. I started making jokes about using parts from a pig or something by reaction of thinking the doctors ideas were so far out. I couldn’t comprehend this idea happening to me. He finally had enough of us, which I can’t blame him for, and said he come would back tomorrow with the other doctors to talk about it again.
This was their plan. They wanted to take out my lower left abdominal muscles and place them in my injured ankle. Not to function but to have something to fill it with a source of continuous running blood. They would also use bone grafts since there was ample bone missing. Also, they’d take a large skin graft from my butt cheek to seal it off. “Oh fuck that you’re not taking it from my butt.” I mean how the hell would I recover while sitting on a major wound there too? Finally, the doctors said they could take the skin from my left hip and I agreed.
Cue in complication number 88. You have three main blood vessels in your foot. With the extensive damage I endured, we didn’t know how many of mine I had remaining, if any. My doctors told me for the surgery to have any hope of working, I’d need to have at least one of the three blood vessels. Awesome. Add it to the list. To test for this, they pumped a colored die into my blood and slid me into the MRI machine. Please, please have at least one good one. I prayed so hard. My mom and I stayed up late playing a few games of our favorite card game, Phase 10. I beat her every game until I made the smart remark bragging about being tired of winning. That jolted her and I haven’t won a game ever since. Talk about eating your own words.
The next day we got the news about my MRI results. I HAD one remaining blood vessel left in my foot like they needed to attempt this surgical experiment. Game plan made and the next surgery was scheduled a couple days later to take my abs to my ankle. This was super weird to say the least. We were taking big risks, and more unforeseen events were about to unfold…