My leg has a new geography, inside and out. I explore the new contours of my left knee, as well as I can through the boot and around the bandages. I wonder what the scars will look like. I can feel my muscles object when I try to move them. The pierced places are stigmata, but with pain and resistance instead of blood.
It needs time. The hurt is deep, and it's not just in my knee, it's in my head and in my heart too. The nice people from physical therapy assure me that it will hurt when I bend it. At first, it will be very bad. But it will get better. I fear that pain. I don't have strength for pain. I'm a wimp, I admit it. Stubborn resistance, I'm a fearless expert. Smoking? Quit it. Beat the hell out of it. Never met a substance I couldn't conquer. But pain is something else again.
My hand feels around my knee, nervously. I wonder what has happened in there beyond the injury to the bone. I felt things like rubber bands snapping when I fell. I can't help but wonder what ligaments and tendons I've destroyed, never to find again.
I talk to my knee sometimes. I have to be conscious to speak nicely to it, so that it will understand that I'm not upset with it, I still love it, it's still a welcome and treasured part of my body. My new favorite curse is "BASTARD! Not you." The "not you" part is directed to the nurse, the therapist, myself, my knee. The bastard part is for the pain. Misbegotten unwanted slug of agony burning inside my skin and bones. But it's there because it needs to be there. Can I learn to accept it, to even embrace it, to help it move on? Where does pain go when it dies?
Today, I can move my knee joint about an inch before it hurts enough to make me cry. Yesterday it was half an inch. Maybe tomorrow it'll be two inches. Maybe not. The PT folks aren't here on the weekend, so any progress will be made on my own initiative. I feel weak. I feel afraid. I feel paralyzed. I have to move past that, but I don't know how.
I will have a rich terrain of scars on my left leg when this is all through. Two long incisions from the fasciotomies. An incision from the bone reconstruction. Holes where the pins for the external fixator pierced my thigh and shin bones. Holes where the drains came out of my flesh. I joke that my stocking-modeling days are past, but the truth is I've always been vain about my shapely calves and nice ankles. The left one will be shapely in a whole new way now.
How I wish I knew where to begin. I want my life and movement back. Two more months of contemplation upon the proposal of walking before I can begin again.
Flakes of dead skin fall away from my leg, a fatality from the stretching of the swelled flesh and the dryness of the hospital. A hideous dandruff, I wonder what it will feel like on some distant day when I can get into a shower, or better still, bathtub, again. Showers are still pretty frightening, even with all the security of the hospital staff and the safety bars and such. And of course, the injured leg can't be washed yet.
An aide washed the foot on my injured leg the other night. It was the first time it had been washed since the accident. It was covered in flaky, corroded layers of betadine and dead skin and who knows what else. As she washed the foot, ever so gently and patiently, I nearly cried. I was sorry that someone else had to wash my foot, I still can't reach it, but it felt so nice. Such a simple thing. I will learn to enjoy and appreciate such simple things from now on, I promise. Things like wearing shoes, and being able to walk. Things like standing on two good legs.
The swellings on and just above my knee are rather frightening. I remind myself that they were much worse, not so long ago. It's a small comfort. Tentative touching and probing of the knee yields weird sensations, like warning lights. Fear. I must get past the fear. When I had my second daughter, I read a lot about fear and the connection with pain. Maybe if I understood the processes of what was happening inside my leg, I'd be more willing to face the pain without the fear.
I am trying to allow myself to feel hopeful. So many people wish me well. So much love. I allow that love to move into my knee and my leg bone and the right leg and foot too, mustn't forget that one, it's doing double duty. I don't fear scooting around on one foot. I don't fear falling, I am confident in my balance. I scoff at people who think they should deflate the bed to let me out. My right toe touches the ground and I'm safe, that's all it takes. I must stop fearing the pain. I must take that fearless ferocity that I've bandied about for so many years and put it to this task, to this work, now that it really matters.
And all the while, the geography will change, evolve, and flow into recovery. Or so I can hope. So I can choose to believe.