It was two years ago about this time of day that a highly competent surgical team finished working on my leg. I would like to tell them thank-you.
It happened on a weekend. I hurt myself on the Saturday and had surgery on the Sunday.
I had been living with a little old lady so that she could remain living in her house as long as possible. We really liked each other and got along well. She wasn’t doing very well on this day, had no energy and couldn’t keep food down. Her son was present and we talked about calling the ambulance for her. It was just a matter of when. We tried to put it off as long as possible because we both felt that this would be the last time she was in her home.
Finally, the old lady asked to go to the hospital, which was a big relief for us, because neither of us wanted to force her into anything. So she asked and we got busy. I called the ambulance and her son ensured that she had a bag packed with her favourite clothes, toiletries and all her medications.
I was trained as a lifeguard and was always taught to have someone greet the ambulance at the closest main road to ensure efficient travel. So I went down to the bottom of the driveway to wait for the ambulance. My slippers were not warm enough to keep my feet from getting cold. After the ambulance turned into the driveway and I started running behind it, I snapped my Achilles.
Now I have broken a bone before and when I broke the bone I recognized that I had hurt myself. Also other forms of injuries, cuts and such, triggered my internal mechanisms to register an injury. When I snapped my Achilles my thought was “What hit me?” I found out afterwards that the belief that something external to self had hit or struck self is very common with Achilles tendon injuries. I don’t know why.
Since my foot didn’t work correctly, though I kept trying to run - I was supposed to be helping the little old lady and her son after all - I fell on the next step with that foot and rolled under the trees. I was picturing a branch from one of the trees hitting my leg from behind and couldn’t figure out how it could fall and hit me like that. It would be so weird since tree limbs don’t just fall down for no reason.
Now if I had this happen on one of my 10km hikes that I often did, by myself, I’d have been alone for hours if not days either trying to get to help or waiting to be found. I was not alone for 10 seconds when this happened.
I live in a very small town and we have volunteer firefighters throughout the area. Turns out just as the ambulance was pulling into the drive, a volunteer firefighter was passing by on the highway and pulled in behind. The volunteer fire department always dispatches at least one vehicle for every ambulance call (except transfers and such) in case the ambulance attendants need assistance like crowd control or patient retrieval. So I’m running up the drive and the volunteer firefighter is driving up right behind me. When I fell he was right beside me, I wasn’t alone for 10 seconds. He was right there. I never knew his name but I am glad he helped.
So I’m rolling around on the ground, believing a tree branch hit me. This guy appears at my side and I ask him “What hit me?” He says, “Nothing hit you. You fell.” I knew the pain came before the fall and figured out I had ruptured my Achilles and needed surgery. Was I ever mad at myself. I was supposed to be helping the little old lady and her son who both were having a hard time emotionally because they knew this might be the last time the little old lady was at her house and here I was rolling around on the ground with the pine cones needing help myself. I was furious.
Now that I knew the source of the pain, I told the fire fighter beside me my assessment of my situation and he said he would move his car off the drive, tell the people at the house and then come back to me. So he left and I stayed kneeling in the pine needles and trying to figure out how this would work out. I knew I needed surgery. I had avoided it thus far in my life and was proud of that, I was angry that this had changed.
The firefighter returned with a first aid kit and by that time the fire chief and another fire fighter arrived. I had gone to school with the fire chief and talked to him about how stupid I felt which I am sure he is used to hearing when he helps people. I asked to borrow his phone to call my sister, a nurse, to tell her what happened and he gave me his phone. Thanks Doug, that meant a lot to me.
I left a message on my sister’s answering machine and then the four of us, me and the three fire fighters figured out what to do with me. We had to stabilize my leg and transport me. The ambulance was already on site (ironic huh?) so we considered putting me in the ambulance as second passenger. We sandwiched my leg, in the position of my choice, with a pillow and taped it in place. The old lady’s son came down to check on me and all I could say was sorry. We had been so worried that day for so long, all he could do was laugh. He wasn’t laughing at me, he was laughing at the absurdity of the situation. He suggested he take me to the hospital in his car, to which I agreed. The ambulance stopped on the way out the drive to offer me a lift but I told them it was more important that the little old lady get to the hospital fast, I said I would go with the son, which I did. Thank you volunteer fire fighters for helping me. I never really got to thank you that day.
At the hospital, wheeled in in a wheel chair, I was processed. I wasn’t an emergency. I wasn’t bleeding and I could breath fine I was just in a boatload of pain.
This hospital is kind of small and very friendly. They had an area with two beds and a curtain between them. The put me on one side and the little old lady was on the other side. This ended up being handy since she had a lot of short term memory loss and couldn’t answer the doctor’s questions. I answered them from my side of the curtain. I was given pain medication (yay opium) and put in a stable position and left for about 45 minutes for the pain meds to kick in. Then the doctor came in, splinted me and we discussed next steps. I asked if I had input into the location of my surgery (our county feeds into two main city hospitals) and he asked me my choice. After I selected he agreed with me, since he works the emergency department at that hospital and began the process of booking me an appointment.
Then a nurse came in to hand me the phone from the wall behind me, my sister was on the line (I do love small towns). We talked and she laughed at me and I told her how stupid I felt and we discussed next steps. While we were talking I was given a time for my day surgery the following day and my sister agreed to drive me.
The little old lady was being admitted and I was going home. The son drove me to the pharmacy and picked up my medication, thank you, and then drove me back to the house. Where we talked and he laughed at the day. We both needed to laugh.
I took the pain meds and quit the anti-inflammatory after the first one since they made my heart feel strange. I later talked to the pharmacist about this, another friend, and he said I made the right decision. I lay on the couch with cushions propping my injured leg in the air and went to sleep - if I remember correctly.
My appointment was for 9:30am on Sunday and I had to be at reception by 9:00am so I had to leave my place by 7:00am and be up around shortly after 6:00am, which was not a problem. The little old lady’s son would look after my dog and cat so I just got myself ready and waited for my sister. She arrived and loaded me up, I had to sit in the back to have my leg on the seat, and then we left. Thank-you to my sister for everything, driving me, supporting me and putting up with me.
We got to the hospital in good time and everything was very quiet. Yay Sunday. I checked into reception and shortly was taken to patient waiting where I changed and lay on a gurney. The nurse was trying to make me comfortable but couldn’t figure out why I didn’t want a pillow. Neither could I but I didn’t. No pillow. I got her to raise the foot of the gurney so I was on an incline, took my pain meds and went to sleep.
I think I slept about 2 hours before I woke up again. My surgery kept getting bumped because I was not a priority. The surgical team were the only orthopaedic team working on a Sunday and anything from the Emergency Room or elsewhere in the hospital came to them, so my appointment was pushed back. The nurse came to apologize but I was fine. I said that as long as they are ready for me when they get to me, I’m fine. The back of my knee was on fire again so I requested my pain meds from the nurse, none of my belongings were under my administration at the moment. The nurse came to explain to me that not enough time had elapsed since I took my last pills. I looked her in the eye and told her I could care less what the bottle said, I feel fire behind my knee. I am just fine sleeping while the surgical team does their thing but she and I are going to have a problem if I can’t sleep. I also told her that I don’t do drugs, drink or smoke so if she thought I was taking opium because it was fun, she was mistaken. She brought me pills and I went back to sleep. My sister was across the room reading her book.
At one o’clock I was told they were soon ready for me. That was good I thought since I was soon ready for some more pain meds. By 1:30pm, I had to negotiate for another pain pill. The nurse didn’t want to give it to me since my transfer was eminent but I realized that it might be and it might not be, we spoke and I got one more pill.
Somewhere in all of this the phlebotomist came around. Now I am not a fan of needles in my arms, nor of having blood drawn but I appreciate talent when I see it and this phlebotomist was terrific. I saw her for only about 5 minutes. I thank you.
So just before 2pm the nurse tells me the orderly is on his way to take me to the operating room. My sister stands up and tells me she is off to visit with a friend of hers now (I knew this was the plan all along) and that the recovery nurse will call my sister on her cell phone when I’m done. My sister heads out.
At this point I cry. I’m so scared that I cry. The nurse is gone, my sister is gone and I cry. Let me tell you why.
I’m frightened of this surgery. Not because of the procedure, but because I have had 12 years of post traumatic stress disorder and I don’t want any former symptoms to come back. I have heard about other people who after surgery have a re-occurrence of their symptoms and I have lost 12 years of my life to them and don’t want all the work I have done to be undone.
Also 2 months prior to my surgery, a friend sent me a news story about pelvic exams being done on anaesthetized women who are patients for non-pelvic related procedures, without patient consent. I am horrified of this possibility and do not want to be subject to this kind of treatment. So now, under pain meds, in a paper gown, horizontal on a wheeled bed, I have to stand up for myself.
In comes the orderly and he unlocks my bed and drives me feet first down the hall. He tells me that the team on duty is great. “They’re a really good team.” I’m told afterwards he didn’t have to volunteer this information and would only say it if it were true. Turns out, it is true.
He parks me next to a wall and stands a little ways away from me. I rarely ask anyone to touch me and would never ask a stranger. I ask him if he would mind holding my hand. He takes my offered hand and doesn’t ask any questions. He touch is undemanding, soft and kind. Thank you. I never saw him after that. Thank you for being kind to me, I had been frightened and was reassured by your actions. Thank you.
Then the male surgeon and a female nurse come out from a door behind my head and come to the side of the bed. They are energetic and chipper. The doctor asks if I have had an X-ray, which I hadn’t but didn’t figure was necessary. He cuts off my splint and looks at the back of my leg which should have lots of tension from the line of the Achilles and there is no tension. “I don’t think we need an X-ray.” he says. “Let’s mark that leg, shall we?” to which I agree. I have no qualms about a little ink on my skin to ensure the correct leg is addressed. He ensures I am informed that I don’t have to have surgery, they can splint the leg (3 months in a cast) and the tendon will heal but will always be longer than the other. I inform him that I choose to have surgery. He next makes sure I know the risks, such as infection (1% chance but it does exist). I am informed and still select the surgery. His bit is over and now it’s my turn. I tell them I have concerns about a re-occurrence of post traumatic stress disorder symptoms after the surgery. I ask the surgeon, if during the surgery he can address me and tell me what he is doing. I tell him I have a degree in Phys. Ed. so he doesn’t have to alter his language for me, I just need to feel like I am a part of what is happening. He listens to me. I never got an indication of whether or not he believed me and I don’t think it mattered. He agreed to talk to me during the surgery and tell me what was happening. Thank you, Doctor.
Then I addressed my concerns about having my body touched in ways that would make me uncomfortable (such as a pelvic exam). The doctor started to say something about usually taking samples but the female nurse cut him off and told me that they would honour my request. To be clear, I stated it again in full. I gave my permission for members of the team to touch my body in any way necessary as long as the purpose was directly related to the health of my leg. If the purpose for touching my body did not relate directly do the health of my leg, I did not give my permission. The doctor and the nurse heard my statements which were honoured.
Next I talked to the anaesthetist, a lovely doctor, whose name I forget who had recently returned from a yoga intensive in California. We talked about my concerns of post traumatic stress disorder symptoms and I appreciated the kindness with which he asked his questions.
I was wheeled into the operating room and told they like to play music while they operate. Casey Kasem was on the radio/iPod/whatever hardware they had, and I was asked if I like Casey Kasem, to which I emphatically replied “Yes.” I love his voice.
One small tube in my hand and I was asked to count to ten, I think I was gone at seven.
I woke up in the recovery room. Now if you have never had this happen, you won’t understand, but it feels like you are hungover but instead of the headache imagine a dry throat like you’ve been sand papered from the inside. I wasn’t very nice to the nurse in the first recovery room, sorry about that. She was very good at her job.
My heart was singing. My heart felt so big and happy it was like I had just left a party in my honour. My heart was bursting with joy. Writing this brings tears to my eyes. My heart felt clean and light and joyous when I woke up and it still does, every time I think of that surgery. I never imagined that having surgery would be one of the happiest memories of my life, but it is.
So with light and happy heart, and throat devoid of all moisture, I began to re-orient myself and find my way back though the fog that is the recovery process.
Right on schedule I was moved to second recovery (patient is lucid but still needs observation) and proceeded to get dressed. My sister arrived and away we went (as fast as someone who was in a soft cast could go).
Here is the point of this post. All of these people cared about me. They treated my kindly. Because of that, 2 years after the event I have not had one symptom of post traumatic stress disorder which is attributable to this experience. If anything this experience helped me very much. Now my leg was in a lot of pain for 3 months but that is relatively minor. The joy and kindness that these people bestowed upon me, especially in the operating room, have been recorded in my heart, whereever I go whatever I do. I am not in a hurry to have surgery again but this one time, it has made a huge difference to me and I just want to say thank you to everyone involved who helped me that day. You gave me more than you realize.
Since this is an astrology blog, I will point out that I have asteroid Achilles conjunct Vertex in my natal chart and transiting Saturn was conjunct them both on the weekend in which I injured myself and received surgery.
Blessings to you,