There is nothing else I can do

I am a living miracle. I broke over twenty bones in the accident., including my face and teeth. I lacerated my spleen and GI tract, bladder and punctured a lung. I was put back together in a trauma hospital. The surgeries began on the night  the helicopter arrived on the roof  of the hospital and continued for days afterward. The medical file was Bible thick.

The next series of surgeries were performed by the orthopedists. They reconstructed my back and pelvis and placed an external fixation device into and around my hips. I had seen similar contraptions around people’s head and neck called a halo. This was a hip halo of gigantic proportions. It held my broken china bones in place in hopes that I would fuse together.

Took three of them to get me out of bed

A team from Rehab, my own people, came one day to get me out of bed. It took three of them. They lowered the bed rail and inch by inch, like a glacier, I swiveled toward the edge. I did my best to push through my elbows to keep my upper body lined up with my legs. But it was hard with broken ribs, a feeding tube, a catheter and a bag hanging out of my lung. We moved together as a team, every inch was hard won. We were almost to the edge of the bed, my legs were diagonal and not yet squared up to a sitting position.

One of the therapists got impatient and grabbed the bed pad and yanked

One of the therapists got impatient and grabbed the bed pad and yanked, twisting my lower body all the way to the edge, my torso turned in the opposite direction. I screamed in pain, I almost blacked out. What I didn’t know was that the twisting motion had destroyed the surgery.  My first attempts out of bed were excruciating, but I knew I had to walk.

Once discharged from the rehab unit, my medical care was transferred to an Orthopedist at the hospital where I worked. He was a skier too and he had heard about my accident. He walked into the exam room and took in the spectacle of me: an emaciated woman at 5′ 9”, 115 pounds, in a hip halo using a platform walker for a casted wrist. He grunted, shook his head sympathetically and turned to the X-rays on the light board.

I heard phrases like, “Totally displaced, painful ambulation, pubic bone dislodged…”

At first glance, he recoiled and then tried to compose himself. His arms hung at his sides, I heard him exhale in huffs. He just kept looking at the images, leaning in or pulling away, saying nothing. He turned, his face was grim, “I’ll be right back.” He returned with another Orthopedist and they muttered in front of the X-Rays for several minutes. I heard phrases like, “Totally displaced, painful ambulation, pubic bone dislodged, is it poking into the bladder? A fall would be lethal.” At last, they turned to me. The second surgeon averted his eyes. He looked at his colleague, his lips in a thin line, put a hand on his shoulder and walked out of the room.

He placed his head in his hands

My Orthopedist sat down hard on a small black stool in the corner of the room. He placed his head in his hands for several seconds. When he looked up, his eyes were red and shiny. “It’s ruined. The surgery is ruined. Your right side is an inch and a half higher than your left, there is torsion at your spine, your pubic bones are out of place.” He paused, his face set in purpose. “There are only two of us in the United States who would ever go back into your pelvis.” He thought some more and shuddered.

The outcomes could be worse

“The outcomes could be worse.” He stared into my eyes, “You are going to live with a great deal of discomfort. Your life will be limited. You can never fall. No one will fix you.” We sat in silence. Then he continued, “Did you fall in the hospital? Do you remember twisting somehow?”

I told him about the twisting bed blanket incident in the hospital. “I assumed that I would be in pain anytime I tried to move.”

How much will it hurt to take them out?”

Still seated on the stool, he bent his head and raked his nails through his scalp, then he sat up suddenly, angry. “That’s not doing you any good,” he waved his long arm at my hip halo. He stood up and walked over to the exam table. “I can schedule a surgery, give you a little sedation and pull those rods out.”

“How much will it hurt to take them out?”

“What kind of pain are you already in?”

I shrugged, “I don’t think that pain scale really applies to me anymore if it did, I’d never be up walking.”

“I can take them out right here, right now.”

“Do it.”

There is nothing else I can do.

I laid back on the table. He dismantled the cross bars then met my eyes, “I’ll start on your so-called good side.” With a few turns, he unscrewed the first of four. It felt like he was pulling out my bone marrow. It made a squishy sucking sound. “OK?”

I nodded.

He quickly removed the next three seven inch rods. It felt like the part of my soul was clinging to the rods and left my body. I lay panting, looking at the ceiling tile.

The doctor walked back to the stool, rolled to the desk and got out a prescription pad, “I want you to see one of your fellow PT’s for a while,” he turned and looked at me, he looked traumatized.

“There is nothing else I can do.”

Four months after the accident, I was still in an arm cast.

Four months after the accident, I was still in an arm cast. I had begun walking slowly in my own around the house and using the walker for short trips out of the house. Then two things happened that moved life forward very quickly. First, I received a letter stating that my medical insurance would be canceled if I did not return to work in thirty days. Second, my lawyers informed me that in Oregon, a mandatory minimum prison  sentence was inevitable. It was just a matter of how long I would serve. Like the scene from Forrest Gump where he runs out of his leg braces, I ditched the walker and ramped up my rehab. I got busy training for prison.

There is nothing else I can do

There is nothing else I can do