Tag Archives: Healing from injury

A Love Letter to My Sweetie for Being AWESOME!!!

This is a love letter to my sweetie, my amazing partner Andrew. During this trying time, while working 10-12 hour days, he has also been my full time caregiver. In addition to being loving, compassionate, and kind, he is incredibly inventive. Because of the balance issues caused by my eye surgery, knee immobilization, and crutches, I am not especially coordinated (I see everything in 2 dimensions and as if one eye is under water, so I end up feeling off balance, dizzy, and nauseous most of the time, whether my eye is open or closed.), I can’t do many things for myself at the moment. So Andrew finds solutions to help me be as independent as possible.

He got a lift for the toilet seat so I could save my good knee. He concocted a shower strategy that involved a storage tub, a pillow in a garbage bag, sleeved in a t-shirt that I can, with help, sit on in the bath. Because my favorite way to relax is to take baths (and we tried a strategy the other night that was a little scary), he went to the store and purchased a precisely cut oak plank to sit across the back of the tub so I could more easily and safely lift myself in and out of the water. It was genius.

He helps me get dressed. He brings me what I need to wash my face, brush my teeth, get ready for my day or for bed. He prepares my office chair or the couch (doubling seat cushions so I sit higher and can more easily get up and down) so I don’t have to spend all my time in bed.

He also cooks almost all our meals, from 3 meat tacos to Fattoush salad to hummus, veggies and zatar chips, he regularly makes creative and delicious dishes that feed my soul and my body. He brings me Starbucks beverages, chocolate, and flowers to lift my spirits.

I’m getting more mobile, or at least more used to viewing the world in 2 dimensions. My knee hurts less (a sign that I may have strained or pulled rather than seriously damaging things – fingers crossed). I’ve been able to sleep a bit more. The first two weeks pain woke me (and as a result, Andrew, every 2 hours). Last night I slept 5 hours, then 3 more. Andrew got 7 hours total. Two days in the last week, I got up by myself, washed my face and brushed my teeth.

I have to be honest, I have not always handled this situation with the grace I’d like. I cry regularly. I am bored and sometimes frustrated. But through it all, I am grateful.

Ten years ago Andrew was Stefan’s backup when I broke both my wrists in a dancing accident. I was unable to do anything for 3 months, then had to learn how to use my hands again and rebuild my strength. With love and compassion, Andrew helped care for me. He made me feel safe to need care and support. He nurtured and protected me. Now, 10 years later, Andrew is my full time caregiver as I get through this strange moment. I could not ask for a better, more loving partner. I am grateful for you. I am grateful to you, my love!

Adventures in aging: Part 3 – Seriously?! There’s more?!

Apparently the universe was not done giving me the “slow down” messages with simply a detached retina and sore knee that can’t be assessed, let alone fixed, until after my retina heals. So, … at least eight weeks.

The night of my surgery, I stumbled in the bathroom twice in succession, heard a loud pop both times in my right knee (the sore one), felt excruciating pain, and to cut to the chase, had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. I feel oddly embarrassed by this. I think prior to this week I’ve been in the ER only a handful of times in my life, usually for someone else, but only once before in an ambulance.

The 911 response team was wonderful. They immediately gave me IV pain meds that took the edge off. “They won’t stop the pain”, the paramedic said. “They’ll just make you care less.” The EMTs apologized for the fact that they actually had to get me on the gurney and into the ambulance and to the hospital. And all this was going to hurt… A lot… It did.

Ambulance maintenance clearly does not include shocks. I felt every bump along the way. The EMT gave me a little more pain medication in route.

Apparently fentanyl derivatives make me very talkative. The EMT kept asking me questions and I kept answering them. I babbled the whole way. It only occurred to me later that this was a distraction strategy – keeping my mind on something other than the pain. He asked about my career – directing forensics at St. Olaf College immediately after earning my PhD, helping create the precursors to what become the School of Public Health at UNR, serving as the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication and starting the Wichita State University Hunger Awareness Initiative, teaching judges around the world, traveling with my children, my amazing partner Andrew, and on and on. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone so much of the story of my life in one 20 minute moment. And through it all, I reaffirmed for myself how wonderful my life is except for this weird moment… and, you know, some other weird moments,… but those are different stories. Apparently even when I’m on drugs I recognize how privileged and blessed I am.

We picked the hospital we did because it was in my insurance network and I’d had a very positive experience there earlier in the week when my retina partially detached (see parts 1&2 in this series). Andrew also called in advance to make sure they had people available to address my injuries. They told us they had people on call who could take care of me, if necessary.

We and the hospital staff differed vastly in our understandings of what “care” meant. For us that meant figure out what’s going on with my knee and get a plan to fix it. For them it meant “If it ain’t broke we don’t fix it”, a literal quotation from my attending physician. They did, however give me great IV pain meds, so I was able to relax a bit.

Andrew followed the ambulance in his car. At the hospital the ambulance went in one entrance and the EMTs directed Andrew to park in a nearby lot. “They’ll let you in back as soon as you get in. Don’t worry we’ll take good care of her.” And they did. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ to the 911 response team. The ER staff were a mixed bag. I asked for Andrew from the time I got into a bed in the ER. They made him wait an hour and a half in the waiting room until they allowed him back with me.

When we got to the hospital Andrew called my daughter Alyssa. I hadn’t been able to reach her. Alyssa came immediately and they let her back with me.

They did a really nifty set of x-rays in the bed. I didn’t have to move my sore knee much or turn my head. It was pretty snappy. I knew that I hadn’t broken anything. I hadn’t actually fallen. So it had to be soft tissue damage. But x-rays are the ER go to.

What I should have remembered from Alyssa’s experience shredding her knee was that emergency rooms, although they tell you they have orthopedic specialists and surgeons on call, don’t call them to the ER except to set bones. When I say I should have remembered that ERs don’t treat soft tissue injuries, what I mean is that 10 years ago when Alyssa destroyed her knee, severing her ACL, MCL, tore meniscus, and severely bruised her knee, they sent her home with no wrap, no brace, and no crutches because her leg wasn’t broken. When we went to the doctor the next day and found out the extent of her injuries, I was livid. I assumed Alyssa’s experience was just bad care. I didn’t realize it was ER practice not to do anything with soft tissue injuries.

With Alyssa’s insistence, they did finally decide to give me pain meds, the sling that I wear from my thigh to my ankle, and a pair of crutches. They then wished me the best of luck in finding a referral as they didn’t have one to give me. Not sure how any of that means orthopedic surgeons on call… or care… But there you go…

Reflections:

1. I’m really not sure what I should have done when I hurt myself that badly at night. The pain was unbearable. I definitely needed some serious pain meds and I am not clear what the alternative to the ER might have been.

2. I need a clear understanding of what services are provided in the ER. Maybe we all do. It’s important to know that they don’t deal with soft tissue injuries, no matter how painful they are. In the words of my attending physician “We treat blood and bones.” Neither were my issue. In the ER, they x-ray. Because the same ER had done CT scans with and without contrast and ultrasounds earlier in the week, I expected more.

3. It’s very important to have an advocate. My daughter made things happen quickly once she arrived.

4. In all situations, assertiveness and perseverance are important in getting your needs met. It was very difficult to get the health providers to come down to my level so I could actually see them. Since having had my retina reattachment surgery earlier that day I could not lift my head nor could I lie anywhere but on my right side, eyes parallel to the floor. I repeatedly asked the same doctor and nurse to sit down so I could see them when they talked to me. That actually helped them stop treating me like I wasn’t really a person and facilitated communication. I’m glad I was assertive about that.

5. It helps to have a professional that you can call for back up support. I am incredibly grateful to one of my ex students who is a well respected doctor and has worked in the Las Vegas medical community. She talked with me on the phone while I was in the ER, clarified my expectations, and helped me strategize.

6. Even though I didn’t get what I hoped for, a diagnosis and a plan for treatment for my knee, I did get what I actually needed in that moment. I got pain medication, a brace, and crutches. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Sidelined by broken wrists – Part 2 OR Why I LOVE Frontier Airlines! – October 14, 2012:

For background to this point, please read Sidelined by broken wrists – Part 1 I became aware that my friends were whispering to one another in the van to the airport and wondered vaguely why, but at this point, my pain meds (second dose) were kicking in, and I felt pleasantly fuzzy, so I really didn’t care about anything much. When we got to the airport, Frontier Airlines had a wheel chair waiting for me. They took care of my luggage, gathered my boarding passes, and we headed to security. At security, the TSA agent asked me if I could take my arms out of my slings for pat down. I laughed hysterically. My friend said, “Are you kidding? How could she take them off? Both arms are in slings! Her wrists are broken!”. The TSA agent stepped back abashed and called her supervisor, clueless about how to proceed. Even though it was their wheelchair, I and the entire chair were swabbed for bio-hazardous materials. Then the Frontier agent and my friend wheeled me to my gate. I finally noticed that my graduate students were nowhere in sight.  I asked my friend if she’d seen them. “No, no one has been able to find them or even talk with them since last night. We’ve left about 30 messages with no response. We have no idea where they are.” “Don’t worry”, I said, “They’ll be here”. The Kindness (and weirdness) of Strangers: As time to board the plane approached, it became clear that my students would not make the plane. My friend started to panic. She didn’t want to leave me alone on the plane. I told her not to worry that Frontier would take care of me and that I’d ask for help if I needed it. That wasn’t good enough for her. I had noticed a woman in the boarding gate who kept staring at me. My friend approached her and told her I was flying to Wichita. She was as well and promised to keep an eye on me. Fortunately, as will become clear later, the airline moved me to the first row of the plane just behind the bulkhead, so they could keep an eye on me, and she was seated elsewhere. The flight attendants, and my seatmates, were very attentive from the outset. The flight attendant asked the gentleman in the aisle seat if he would be willing to help me during the flight if I needed it. He agreed and asked from some water for me, holding the glass while I sipped through a straw. I leaned into the plane wall to sleep. As the plane door was about to close, a final passenger entered and claimed the seat in the middle of our row. The gentleman on the aisle quickly explained my condition and asked the newcomer if he was prepared to help me. He said “certainly” and settled in. He looked to me as the plane was taking off and asked if I needed anything. “No”, I said. He looked at me quizzically and said, “You don’t look comfortable”. I then asked if he’d take the hair tie out of my hair. He said he had 3 daughters and would be pleased to help. After the plane lifted off, he helped me put my seat back and I fell asleep. He woke me gently as we landed and asked me if I would like my hair back up. I said yes, and he put it back up. I was the last person off the plane and we weren’t at a gate, so they had to figure out how to get me off the plane. The airline found this cool wheelchair that fit into the guardrail down from the plane. At the bottom of the stairs was the woman my friend had asked to assist me. I didn’t know why, but she made me nervous. The flight attendant rolled me into the terminal and to a spot by a window to await my next flight, placed my carryon luggage around me, asked me if I needed anything, and then left me. The woman from the plane approached me with a cup of coffee. “You don’t like cream, do you”, she asked. “I don’t (drink coffee)”, I started to say, but without waiting for me to finish, she shoved the coffee cup against my mouth and my choice was to drink (it was scalding) or have her dump it all over me. After the first gulp, I coughed and she pushed it on me again. “It’s hot isn’t it”, she asked, pressing her face into mine. “No more, please”, I managed to say. She pushed the coffee into my mouth again. Thankfully, at that point, a Frontier representative walked up and asked me if I knew this woman. I said “No!” and he said “excuse me” while pushing past her, collected my luggage and wheeled me to a Frontier gate counter where a number of Frontier representatives were preparing for flights. “Can you watch her”, he asked. “She can’t do anything and I watched this woman pour coffee down her throat.” One Frontier employee walked up to me and asked how I got my hair up. I shared the story about the gentleman on the plane. She laughed and asked if she could help me. “That bad”, I asked. She raised her eyebrows and nodded, so I invited her to brush my hair and put it back up. She stayed with me until my second flight. On the second plane, the flight attendants again seated me by the window in the bulkhead. They explained the situation to the young woman who was my seatmate and asked if she would be willing to help me. She said yes, but appeared apprehensive. Her parents were with her and she was on a recruitment trip to Wichita State for basketball. Immediately after takeoff, the flight attendant told her it was almost time for me to take my next dose of pain pills, but that I needed to eat first. She paused to let this sink in. “You want me to feed her?”, the young woman asked. “If you’d be willing, if not, I’ll do it”, the flight attendant replied. “No, I can do it”, the young woman replied. The flight attendant brought her hummus, crackers, almonds and olives. She made me tiny crackers topped with hummus and maybe an olive or an almond and fed them slowly to me, offering me water in between bites. I ate a bit as we talked, and then she gave me my pain pill and reclined my seat for me. I fell instantly asleep, but at one point heard the flight attendant ask the young woman how I was doing. “Sleeping peacefully. She ate, drank some water, and took her pill”, she replied. “Thank you for taking care of her” the flight attendant replied. “No problem”, the young woman said. I felt myself smile and slept until they woke me when the plane landed. I was again last off the plane, my friend waiting for me in the terminal.  I sighed with relief, happy to be home.

Sidelined by Broken Wrists – Part 1

Sidelined by broken wrists – Part 1

October 13, 2012:

I was at the annual Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender Conference in Tacoma, WA, October 13, 2012. Earlier that day, I had been awarded the OSCLG Teacher/Mentor Award (to be honest, an award I had coveted my entire professional career). The evening event for our conference was a dance and karaoke party on the University of Puget Sound’s campus. I had purchased and shipped glass for family and friends that day at the glass museum and had dinner with wonderful friends.

At the dance party, I was in line to sing karaoke and dancing to a Madonna song with some friends. A friend came up and decided to spin me. At the height of the spin when I was backwards, she pulled her hand from mine and I went sailing backward, off the small dance floor, went airborne and put my hands behind me to catch myself as I fell. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

When I landed, it hurt, a lot, but I wasn’t thinking about my wrists. My first comment to my friend as she apologized and pulled me up by my hands from the floor was “Oh my God! I fell on my ass in front of the Foss sisters!” (top scholars in my discipline). Then I realized that I was really hurt. I turned white and my friend helped me to a chair. I had never felt pain like the pain that was emanating from my hands (that was how I identified it at that point).

I laid my head on the table and asked for ice. My friend got me a large pack of ice and I rested my wrists and hands on it. The pain was getting worse. I asked for more ice to put on top of my hands.  She brought me a smaller bag and I cried as she put it on my hands. It was excruciating. She knelt down next to me and asked, “Do we need to get you to the emergency room?”  I nodded yes and said “But there’s no way I can walk”.

Another friend got a van and 4 friends lifted the chair I was in to carry me to the van. I adopted what was to become a familiar pose over the next several months, my hands pointing upward and across my chest. At the hospital, the nurse who met our van at the emergency room asked, “Was there alcohol involved?” I quipped, “Clearly not enough”. She said, “Good, you have a sense of humor.”

As we sat in the waiting room, my two friends and I, I kept joking about hurting my wrists dancing. That became a pretty popular story that evening in the ER. Through the pain, there was a lot of laughter. When we were finally led back to the examination room, I realized that my fingers were swelling. “Oh my gosh! We have to get my rings off”, I exclaimed. “I’ll cry if they have to cut them off”. All of my rings have stories and are very meaningful to me. My friend took them off and put them in her purse. It was an evening full of waiting, but I was fully present. My friends and I talked and laughed and then one of them would disappear for a while to call and update our friends at the conference about my progress. I don’t know why, but I kept making people laugh. I don’t normally think I’m especially funny, but that night, I guess I was. One of my friends told me the next year at the conference that the nurses told her: “Your mom is a hoot!” She thought I might be offended the nurse thought I was her mom. I’m wasn’t, of course, she’s tall, gorgeous and looks like a model.  I was far from offended. 🙂

We spent from roughly 9:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. in the emergency room. The verdict, a bilateral fracture of my left wrist, a trilateral fracture of my right wrist. After they gave me major pain pills, which they held off on doing until they were sure I didn’t need surgery, they splinted my wrists and put me in slings, my arms across my chest. We went back to the hotel so I could rest a bit before my flight.

My friends tried to get ahold of my graduate students. I was at the conference with 2 of them. We were to leave the next morning for home and had to be at the airport by 6 a.m. for our flight. My friend wanted me to stay with her in Tacoma, but I knew I’d rest better at home, so I declined. After all, I had 2 students with me to assist. What could go wrong?!

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