Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rose #7 - Shallow Progress

Finally home, and suddenly realizing that home wasn't nearly as handicap friendly as the hospital, I found myself yelling inappropriate things at tables and chairs and any other inconsiderate pieces of furniture that dared to get in my way.

For every effort I made to roll my walker smoothly from one room to the next, I'd find that each entry was inevitably buffered with some sort of inclining door jam or carpeting.

I also couldn't ignore that doing something as historically un-time-consuming as getting myself a glass of chocolate milk now took up a truly decent chunk of real estate on the clock. Activities like returning the milk to the refrigerator became entire projects of their own with the maneuvering of my bulky walker and bum leg. My brain signals weren't getting to their destination, so on top of the incision in my knee keeping me from bending, I also couldn't lift my leg from the hip.

Getting in and out of the car became a two-man process until my occupational therapist gave me a contraption that looked a lot like an invisible dog leash meant to stick my foot in for swinging my leg in and out of the car at will.

Trying to put on underwear in the morning - fugettaboutit - it would have been hilarious if not for how frustrating it actually was.

Once I'd practiced enough physical therapy to be able to bend my knee I still wasn't getting those brain signals, so in addition to not being able to lift my leg from the hip I also couldn't kick forward from the knee. My physical therapist kept telling me to stop throwing my leg while I walked.

I couldn't help it.

Each morning Jade and I would get up, throw on a Youtube of Eye of the Tiger, and start our physical therapy. Things for her were difficult because she was stuck in a back brace and couldn't bend forward. She was also still in a considerable amount of pain.

Mine was reserved mostly for the first hour after I woke in the morning. The physical therapy helped it to go away, which was nice since it felt a lot like I'd been hit by a car...........

Jason and my mom (who stayed with us for an entire week after Jade and I finally got home) did what they could to make life easier. The shower doors were taken down, meals were cooked, much of Jade's immediate needs were tended to (especially those which required the climbing of stairs).

They did what they could but I was still frustrated. I felt like my body was betraying me. My physical therapist trying to get me to lift my leg from the knee, one day without thinking said to me, "You just really don't want to lift that leg, huh?"

I replied by crying.

I thought I was permanently partially paralyzed.

Feeling defeated, as if progress was so slow it might not come at all, I finally got a new physical therapist who I pleaded with that I was only 33 - I needed to be able to walk again.

"Well, keep throwing your leg like that, and you will. You'll just look weird doing it."

Should I admit at this moment how shallow I am?

Hell, why not? Three weeks into having that physical therapist remind me of the inevitable weirdness that would be my gait if I kept up doing it wrong, this here is what I could do:

A rose...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rose #6 - The Kindness of Strangers

Days whizzing by like they don't exist, my doctors tracking me down while I'm visiting in Jade's room to tell me I'm ready to be discharged (code for 'hey lady you're off the IV, so your insurance thought it would be a good time to stop paying for around the clock care'). I ask politely if I'm allowed to stay in Jade's room with her - they tell me, of course I can.

Lucky for me Jade's nurses have an in with the cafeteria, so I'm set up for meal deliveries. Good thing because when I tried strolling down to the caf with my walker in tow it took me almost 20 minutes to make a round trip just for a coffee and donut.

I remember watching people walk by me and feeling jealous that they could hustle to their next destination. I didn't want to feel jealous but I did. Of course, jealous though I may have been, I also recall feeling proud as hell of my walker (or my Ferrari as I liked to call it). 

The first walker I'd been issued from the hospital was a standard silver model with legs that came to a rubber stopper on the end like a cane. The one I ended up with by virtue of Jason's late Grammy, however, made me feel like the debutante of the hospital halls. This thing was fancy - metallic red with a built-in seat, an attached cup holder, 2 sets of wheels, and best of all, a set of hand brakes to keep me from rolling down the handicap ramp.

Thing was sick.

The fuzzy haze of Dilaudid that helped me find the glee in a stylish walker didn't last forever though, and before I knew it I was writing depressing poetry about whose fault I felt the crash was and the frustration of Jade's tennis match recovery and changing discharge date:

I'm mad, I'm sad, I'm happy, I'm fine, I'm sick of this roller coaster ride. We're here to stay, we're going home, she ate enough, she's skin and bones. "It's not your fault, it's just bad luck," I feel like a stupid, idiot fuck. I want to go back, I want to rewind, take the wheel, and not be blind. This sucks, I hate it, I ruined her life, it's stabbing me inside out like a knife. Look on the bright side, don't be sad, it won't forever be this bad. Okay, I get it, it's totally mistake...and so my bad.

After several false starts, being told we'd be going home the next day only to be told she'd lost too much weight and would need to continue to stay I began to lose hope and any desire to take a stab at literary device apparently...

Hope was waning thin.

All I could see was pain and what ifs. It's not like Jason didn't say he was tired. He woke me to tell me, actually. My reply: 

"If you need me to drive let me know."

This is the type of sentence that will get stuck on repeat in the mind. This is the type of sentence that did get stuck on repeat - it got stuck on repeat and it sucked the faith I had in myself right out the window. With it my faith in others dwindled too - how can you have faith in others if not in yourself?

But then, a knock on the door:

"Hi there, are you Sass?"

Seeing me nod with a look of confusion the woman at the door explained that she was Ethan's aunt, Lori.

I had to rack my brain..who the hell was Ethan??

And then it came - Jason's sister's boyfriend.

"Oh, yea, hi! Ethan seems like a really nice guy - what can I do for you?" I asked still slightly confused.

"I'm a nurse. Have been for 20 years. Ethan told me about what happened to your family, so I just wanted to come by to let you know that it does get better."

With that she handed me a small pewter angel, a box of chocolates and a gift bag for Jade.

She didn't stay - her message was clear:

It gets better.

The kindness of strangers...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rose #5 - A New Friend

"What do you mean she needs surgery? She just got to eat today for the first time since the accident!"

These were the words that careened out of my mouth fervently trying to deny the news - Jade needed surgery...again.

It had been a little more than a week and a half since the accident. Jason, despite multiple broken ribs and permanent nerve damage in his leg, and Mackenzie despite her cumbersome collection of internal injuries were both already discharged, and I, although still admitted, was actually beginning to get around without a wheelchair. No doubt I had to use a walker for balance since my surgeon had stressed how important it was I didn't bend my leg and risk reopening my incision. Of course, in truth, I couldn't bend it anyway, that little joy wouldn't become available to me until after weeks of intensive physical therapy at home.

But this - I couldn't believe it. I'd spent the last evening in my room talking to Jade on the phone about all the things she wanted to eat when she was finally allowed to the next day (because of severe abdominal swelling from the impact she was receiving nutrients through IV since the accident and had finally started to feel hungry as the swelling faded).

She wanted soup. Badly.

In a haze of IV drugs I was beginning to become accustomed to, I swallowed the news harder than in moments prior.

The doctors explained to me that Jade had an aggressive intestinal infection called Clostridium Difficile and that her blood was beginning to become toxic due to a leak in the intestinal stitching from her first surgery. They needed to open her up to explore the damage.

"She's not going to need a colostomy bag, is she?"

"99% chance yes, she will, though it will be an ileostomy not a colostomy. Can you sign here?"


Guilt - I couldn't let her see me crying. She needed to be brave.

I spent the next hour or so going back and forth between hyperventilating and listening to my mom on the phone tell me to ask the nurse for a tranquilizer.

I finally gave in.

Nothing made the time move quicker. The doctors told me the surgery was virtually risk proof, when I asked what the likelihood of death was I remember the surgeon said 0%. This did not sit well with me since I like to think of myself as an honorary physician with all my years as medical mumma to qualify me, and in any surgery I'm well aware that there's at least some risk.

Wishing I could pace I watched every second of every hour pass on the clock in front of my hospital bed. An ileostomy? Was she really going to be shitting into a bag at 10 years old? I could barely wrap my brain around it - the only saving grace to the thought came when the doctors explained that the bag was only meant to be temporary to give her colon a chance to rest and heal.

With Jason by my side (he'd come to the hospital to be a support for me and for Jade when she woke from surgery) I waited and waited.

Finally, the phone rang. She was done and surgery a success.


Should this be the rose? You'd think so but this time I have something even better (as if there's anything better than my daughter surviving surgery - but seriously, want to hear it? Here it go:)

Upon discussing the bag with Jade a day or two later, me clearly still shaken by the whole thing, she turned to me and said, "Mom, look at the bag as a friend, if it weren't for that I wouldn't be alive."

A rose? I think so...

For more information on ostomy solutions please visit: The United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rose #4 - No Need to Roll

Still high off the family visit and steady drip of morphine pumping through my veins, I was starting to feel settled in. It had been three days since a surgeon I still can't recall the look of cut my belly in half and cauterized my liver and spleen; three days since my youngest daughter, Jade (my 10-year-old) survived the same cut as my own - straight down the belly. Unlike myself, however, she also survived a fractured vertebrae, the "theft" (as she sees it) of her appendix and sigmoid colon, and a cut to her side meant to repair the hernia that had popped through her hip muscles when she slammed against the seat belt she was thankfully wearing.

My oldest, Mackenzie (16-years-old at the time) was lucky in that she didn't end up going under the knife, though lucky I'm guessing isn't what she'd call it. Certainly not too lucky anyway; she'd broken her sternum against her knee when she instinctively lifted her leg to kick against the front seat on impact. The force also lacerated her spleen to the fifth degree, sprained her foot and broke her collar bone. It's a wonder she didn't break her leg.

The doctors thinking she might bleed out decided instead of opening her up to put her into Intensive Care to monitor her while her organs rested and regenerated.

Finding this information out while under a haze of intravenous pain killers was probably the best way to receive it since the very retelling of it now still shakes me to my mom core.

Either one of my girls could have been dead right then. If not for modern medical technology they would be. Actually, we all most likely would be. This is a thought I am happy to say was already beginning to brew on this third day, and let me tell you, there's nothing quite like gratitude to push you through fearful happenings.

This day though one of slight anxiety also prompted excitement in the journey of my healing - this was the day my surgeon would perform the second out of an estimated three more needed debris cleanings of my knee. This procedure though I knew would be painful was bringing me ever closer to getting the vacuum pump holding my knee together removed, which would finally enable my wound to be sewn shut.


I wanted to walk to see my kids, I was sick of being rolled to them - though that, of course, didn't stop me. Couldn't have paid to stop me actually; seeing my kids was the absolute highlight of each day I spent in the hospital.

The only thing that could have made it sweeter would have been the presence of my husband and perhaps a racing flag attached to my wheelchair.

I remember waking up from my knee procedure hours later confused. Confused because the pain that was crawling up my leg from my knee was unfamiliar - and excruciating.

"Can I have some Morphine?"

"We already gave you as much as we can, Hun. Calling the Doctor now to see about a different cocktail."


"How many more of these do I have to do?" I wailed,"I don't want any more."

"I can't imagine any, Hun, look at your knee. They closed you up."

A rose...