It was some time between two and three AM when I finally arrived on the 10th floor. I remember several people telling me "welcome to 10G!" in cheerful voices, and I think I commented on how friendly everyone was. I was taken down the hall to an empty room and transferred, somewhat painfully, into a bed. Blood was taken, sheets were adjusted, pain meds were given, a bedpan was brought and finally, gratefully used. Since I was scheduled for the first available slot for surgery, I couldn't have anything to drink but more trusty ice chips were brought. Since I've been here, I've learned to appreciate chipped ice more than I thought possible. There's nothing like it when you're in the recovery room, slowly regaining thought and feeling and realizing that a sirocco has blown through your mouth, leaving nothing but a faint residue of camel dung. Ice chips are nothing short of miraculous.
My elder daughter Lena arrived around 3:30 in the morning and sat with me while I faded in and out of consciousness. My leg was bound tight in the temporary cast and all I could feel was a deep, dull, endless ache that was beyond anything I'd ever felt or could even begin to describe. I think they were giving me dilaudid, or maybe morphine, but whatever it was, it only took the slightest razor's edge off the pain. Lena got her little stickers out of her purse and put one on my hand, and one on my injured toe. We talked and she stayed a couple of hours. Then it was time to go to surgery. I called my husband and my mother to let them know I was going in.
In the pre-operating room, I signed forms giving permission for everything from blood transfusions to anesthesia. My surgeon came in to talk to me. His name is Dr. Tarkin, and he's quite the character. He oozes self-confidence, but he was very pragmatic with me at that time. He discussed some of the consequences of the surgery, early arthritis, knee replacement, mobility difficulties younger than usual. He described what he'd be doing, and told me not to worry, that it would all be okay and that I'd be almost as good as new when he was done. We were off to the OR, where they have the most beautiful bright green tiles all over the walls. Being wheeled into that room was like diving headfirst into a vat of seafoam gelatin salad. And that was mostly all I knew for a while.
When I woke up in recovery, I had no idea what had happened, and it took me several hours to find out the full extent. There had been complications, compartment syndrome, and the planned rebuild on my bone could not be done. What had been done was two emergency fasciotomies, deep incisions into the meat of my calf with suction and drainage put in to relieve the pressure. I had no idea that I was within hours of losing my leg, or even my life. I found that out later. I was also the proud recipient of an external fixator or x-fix, a device that kept my leg still and straight so there could be no further damage to the crumbled bone within. Two pins are fixed into my shin bone, and two into my thigh bone. The pins are connected to an apparatus that looks like a capital A. The whole thing is ungainly and awkward, and somewhat hard to look at.
In the following week, I went on to have three more surgeries, the final one on my birthday, nine days after the accident. But I've gone on enough today about pain, and sadness, and worry. 10G became my home, and the staff like my family, with all the quirks and dysfunctions and foibles of any family. The people on 10G, the orthopedic trauma ward, are a unique bunch. They deal with high patient turnover. People aren't usually here as long as they're on medical wards. They deal with severe pain, disfigurement, external fixators, and difficult families. They have, for the most part, great senses of humor and a great deal of compassion for their patients. I've been the recipient of more kindness here than I can describe.
The day after the inital surgery, Bob and my younger daughter Anna were visiting. The burly young folks from Physical Therapy had come by to get me out of bed and into a wheelchair. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Someone brought me lunch, and I tried to eat a little bit of my salad. I was sick to my stomach, and I was fading in and out of consciousness sitting propped up in the wheelchair. I looked over at Anna and she was crying. I asked her why she was crying and she said she wasn't. I began to figure out at that point that things had been more serious than I'd known.