Lockdown and Fear of Losing my Leg.

How to stay sane in the hospital.

Starting off the new blog with a bang. I had a bit of bad luck and was hit by a car while skateboarding to the supermarket. The driver was on her phone which resulted in me being dragged under the car and pinned by the wheel. This was my first bad accident at 33 (the day before my birthday) which is surprising as I’ve done a lot of risky stupid things. Although this time it wasn’t my fault – wrong place, wrong time and loooong recovery.

I didn’t think it was that bad and was prepared to hobble home. Adrenaline is the best pain killer. Lucky I didn’t and waited for the ambulance. My ankle was broken and needed a few screws to put me back together. I was in the hospital and ready for surgery the next day, great! I’d be home in no time. Unfortunately the news the next morning wasn’t good. My flesh wounds from the road/board/car tyre were pretty gruesome and the risk of infection after surgery was too high. They wanted to keep me in hospital for another week. Umm no thanks, one night was enough and I hadn’t slept at all (I have sound sensitivity and even with earplugs could hear the gurgling, snoring, crying of other patients in the ward. Along with all the regular hospital noises of nurses bustling down the hallways, machines beeping, torches shining in my face and random blood pressure checks throughout the night). So I played the birthday card and convinced the doc to let me go home. He agreed if I promised to take a bunch of drugs and stay in bed for the week. It was more challenging than I expected, the pain of lying around with an untreated fracture was intense and exhausting. I got through the week and went back for surgery.

Nope, still too risky. I was put on intravenous antibiotics for two weeks and tried really hard not to crack under the mental and physical pressure of being stuck in a ward with other patients in pain, some who handle it better than others. Hearing people begging God to put them out of their misery or threaten to kill themselves because of their immense discomfort is not something I could ever get used to. I have a newfound respect for the nurses and hospital staff who deal with this behaviour on a daily basis. I guess it’s a bit different when you haven’t slept in a week and are struggling with your own pain. My stupid veins also kept collapsing making injections painful and needing to replace the IV line most days. I’m not going to beat myself up for breaking down a bit. I had a few visitors which was greatly appreciated but most of my support crew was sick and my immune system was already compromised so I didn’t have a lot of distractions from my negative thoughts. How did I cope? Well initially I didn’t and needed a little help from medication but the side effects meant I had zero focus. I couldn’t read or draw or be lucid enough to be productive. This was a huge learning curve for me as my go to response when I’m anxious is to jump on my bike or board and feed on exercise endorphins. Instead I was stuck in my broken body and stuck inside my head. So I wrote. I wrote about how I was feeling, my daily struggles and creeping depression. I expelled all these negative thoughts on paper, even though a lot of what I was saying was irrational, incomprehensible and fuelled by fear and pain. I also attempted to meditate and blasted relaxing music through my headphones to drown out external noise.

Around week 4 the surgeon came to see me and said we were running out of time to set the bones. They brought in another specialist who advised cutting around the wound and left me with a vague “we will see what we can do” comment. This was right after a doctor had explained to me that rushing surgery could result in me losing my leg from the knee down. I went into my first surgery alone and terrified. I woke up alone and confused with my leg back in a cast. Eventually the doctor came to see me. Finally some good luck – the surgery was successful and I could go home…and straight into Covid-19 Lockdown. I wasn’t out of the woods yet as my wound required multiple special dressings to prevent serious infection. It did get a bit worse before it got better but it helps that I was healthy before the accident and my body seems to be fighting off any minor infections. I’ve got a couple more weeks left before I find out if there are further complications or if I can learn to walk again. It’s been a rough road but I’m grateful for my housemates assistance when I got out, standing in long police controlled lines at the supermarket to get us food and taking on my share of household chores. I miss my friends and my family but at least I’m not in lockdown alone. I’m also tremendously grateful to New Zealand’s health professionals, policemen and essential staff for their care and support. I picked a great time to break something as we are all in the same (bubble) boat. Looking forward to getting my creative mojo back and sharing my work here…watch this space!

A couple of paintings I did manage to create in hospital. “Jellyfish” (because it felt like one was living under my cast) and “Hospital Curtains” (which I hope never to see again).

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