“Are you ready for some more go-go juice?” That was Laurie, flicking a hypodermic as she quickly updated the local hospital via radio. My father was in the front of the ambulance, having a very awkward conversation with the paramedic. Me, I was still strapped to the gurney, and I wasn’t singing anymore.
No, I was clutching the signs, stiff with pain as another spasm wracked my body. “You bet,” I hissed, looking up at my reflection in the vehicle’s ceiling. Pale and pathetic, with torn jeans and a tube extending from my hand.
“Breathe, Emily,” she told me, plugging me with the needle. I could feel the saline cleaner gushing over my hand as the ambulance slowly lumbered over the train tracks – slow to avoid jostling me. “Hoo hoo, hee hee. This is how you give birth.”
“Hoo hoo, hee hee…” I coughed out, my head swimming. “I feel like I’m hyperventilating.”
“That’s alright, you know you are. Just keep at it.”
We were, at long last, at the hospital. The doors were open and the gurney was up, and the spasms were coming harder now. “Hoo hoo, hee hee….I sound like an owl!” I sobbed as we came through the doors and slipped very quickly into the first available room. I caught sight of my father briefly as I went in, though no sign of my mother yet. “Papa, Papa!” The tears rolled as spasms rocked my shattered leg. I was stiff as a board. “Hoo hoo, hee hee.”
This time, being lowered on to the hospital bed hurt. The pain was getting worse, my whole body was become rigid with the pain. I kept trying to breathe as a new sea of faces surrounded me. Laurie was still there, her brow creased with the seriousness of her duty. A sweet blonde with a very sympathetic face was at my right. “She must be the nurse,” I thought; to my right, an equally concerned looking doctor; distinguished with a small build. I was too helpless with pain to do anything but trust them in a grateful and humble way. “Hoo hoo, hee hee…”
More questions. “Can you straighten your leg?”
“No, it hurts!” Mom had somehow gotten to my right side at the bed. I could see her hand holding the rails, but I dared not move to see the rest of her. I did make the mistake of looking at the grotesque shape of my knee, hideously wrenched to the side. “Looking at it makes it worse!”
“Don’t look at it,” the doctor quickly said, and I lay back, just staring at the many lights and machines hovering above me. “What happened?”
“I was taking a step down the stairs and-”
“Emily, why are you yelling?” my mother asked as another needle was jabbed into my hand tube. This time a muscle relaxer, to make the nervous system stop shocking me with pain.
“Because it hurts, Mother!” I could only yell. Every question was met with a yell, my eyes wide open, my teeth clenched. Slowly, the doctor began to lower my knee. “Make it stop, make it stop!” I yelled, referring to the pain. For while I was aware my leg must be going down, I could no longer feel it. The pain, however, I could still feel. I lay my head to the side, panting and helpless, letting my face rest next to the cool hand of my mother.
“…there.” My leg was down. The pain lingered for a moment, but with the knee back in place and me under the full force of several doses of heavy narcotics….it no longer hurt.
“…that’s it?” I asked, meagerly sitting up a bit. “It’s done?”
“It’s done!” the doctor smiled, quite nonchalant about the whole thing. “When this sort of thing happens, the best thing you can do is just pull the knee straight; it’ll pop back in!”
“He’s a doctor. Of course he can do it.” The nurse conquered, mentioning her daughter’s loose knees and the need for her to often re-adjust them.
“I couldn’t do it,” Mom shuddered.
“They’re going to x-ray you, and we’ll be back later!” the doctor smiled, and slipped away.
In a narcotic fog I sat, my parents talking quietly around me. “Hey, guys, look! I can move my knee again!”
The x-ray tech appeared. “Are you warm enough?”
“I would say I’m decently warm, but my toes are kind of cold.”
“It’s a yes or no question,” he snapped in a business-like tone. I made a face for my mother when his back was turned and she began to laugh. “We’re just going to take some pictures, should only take about ten minutes.”
X-rays were taken, information was taken, nurses came and went to check blood pressure – heart rate – everything. The IV tube still stuck from my hand like a bad souvenir, and we waited. I was still in pain and still too drugged to much care about the passing of time, though my parents were noticeably antsy.
“Dave said he heard you singing, Emily.”
“I didn’t think I was that loud.”
“I didn’t think so, either. I’m surprised more of the neighbors weren’t out.” She observed my father on the phone. “Who are you calling?”
“Are you going to call Lionel?” I asked, the park ranger that had recently spent time in the hospital from an attack on duty in a city park.
“Do you want me to call Lionel?” he asked, receiver pressed to his ear and various cousins and uncles and aunts were reached.
“You should,” I said, still leaning against my mother. “I visited him, he should visit me.”
“Okay!” the final nurse had appeared – this time to remove my IV and set me into a brace and wheelchair. “Let’s get you all set up.”
“I’m going to be able to walk, aren’t I?” It stood to reason (at least to me) that with the knee back in place, I should now be able to walk everything off and just go home.
“Eventually,” she said, ripping my jeans up through the thigh to make room for the brace. Poor old jeans; there would be no salvaging them now. “You’re going to want to take time off for a while, though.”
“But I have work next week!” Another thought: “And I need to go to the mall!” In my drug fueled state, making my holiday returns was of vital importance. If I was going to be stuck on the couch, I should at least be stuck with a Wii motion plus.
“You do that,” she said unsympathetically, strapping me in. “And when you get back and need drugs and ice, that’s fine, too.” I whimpered and whined, but submitted as I was moved slowly to the wheelchair. Laurie had disappeared. In the flurry I’d told her I’d send her a card, but she told me to just be careful in the future, and it would be payment enough. Everyone had disappeared. What had started out in such noise and fanfare was ending quietly and sadly – and with a long road of pain and discomfort ahead.
Even so, wheeled through the halls of the hospital to the waiting truck, I waved at the various workers who watched me go by, brows crossed and mouths pouting in a sympathetic gesture. “The world looks very different from a wheelchair,” I told one of the technicians pushing me.
“I suppose it does.” Outside the hospital, the night was cold, but I was too flushed from the experience to care as I was man-handled into the car. “Ice it,” they told my parents. “She may need Vicodin.”
I slumped against the window, listening in a torpid state. Vicodin…morphine…I didn’t play sports and I was twenty two. What was going on with my life?
“Let’s go home, Em…” Papa sighed as he climbed in and started the truck. Nearly ten now. A five hour ordeal and no dinner for any of us. “Let’s go home.”
Home was a much better place to be than alone with a knee like this. Even if I had been craving a long awaited independence. It was clear I was going to have to wait sometime longer, for I was now helpless.
- May 2014
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