It was Friday evening, and I had left the grocery store after buying snacks and food for a relaxing weekend. I had already said goodbye to my boyfriend, who was catching a train out of town. I had crossed one lane of traffic and was standing on a tram platform, waiting at the crosswalk to continue the rest of the way across the street. I looked to my left, the route was clear. To my right, a car stopped and gestured for me to cross. As I took my first step, WHACK. I was violently knocked by a car speeding by. My immediate thought was “this is how I die, of internal bleeding on the street.” I don’t remember how I fell or any pain, just incredible disbelief and shock. I remember hearing people cry out in shock as well. I rolled over, with my knees bent in front of me, and placed my feet on the ground as if to stand. Immediately my right leg buckled and flopped to either side in a VERY unhealthy way. At this point, people had gathered, they were asking me if I was ok. I repeated over and over “call for help. call for help.” I quickly felt very calm. I assessed my body. I had a broken leg. The rest of me was ok. Surprising ok. I held my thigh with both hands and supported my wobbly right foot with my left foot under the heel. I started shaking aggressively. A man asked me if my head hurt, if I felt like vomiting, if I had lost consciousness. I thanked everyone for helping me. A woman named Vera was holding my hand, stroking my head, supporting my back as I sat. Someone handed me my phone, which had flown out of my pocket. It wasn’t broken, only the back came off and the battery was out. I put the battery in and turned it on and called my boyfriend. “I’ve been hit by a car.” He said later I sounded so calm he thought at first I was fine. I told him my leg was broken. He got off the train 30 seconds before it left the station and started coming to the scene. The police arrived, and after 15 minutes in total, the ambulance as well. It felt like a looong time, and my leg was starting to hurt in a way that felt unbearable except I was bearing it because there was no other option.
The ambulance men asked me if he could cut my pant leg and I said yes, of course. He cut the leg up the front from ankle to knee. I heard people gasp in disgust, or shock, I looked away. I saw a glimpse of my ankle, saw the strange blotchy purple color it had become. The ambulance men were very kind, efficiently moving my leg to the air splint. They pressurized it, my pain was slightly reduced. They put a neck brace on me and loaded me on the stretcher. I thanked everyone again, especially Vera. She kissed my forehead and wished me good luck. In the ambulance the pain started intensifying once again, expanding.. my leg felt too small to contain so much pain, it felt like it was a vortex. I wanted to physically move away from the pain but it was attached to me. I understood why injured animals seek solitude. I continued to shake violently as an IV was put in my arm. I asked what it was; it was hydration. I didn’t know I could have asked for pain medicine, so I didn’t. I was quiet and focusing on calm.
The police came onboard and asked me what happened. I couldn’t really explain much. I was crossing. I was hit. I still don’t understand.
My boyfriend came in the ambulance. My stoicism cracked. The pain felt horrific, burning, hot, pressurized. Expanding infinitely beyond the confines of the leg, the stretcher, and the ambulance. I didn’t want to cry, I needed to be calm or else everything would fall apart. The ambulance men told my boyfriend he couldn’t ride with us, so he said goodbye and headed to the hospital separately. The ambulance finally started to drive, siren on. Every bump magnified in my broken leg. The ride was short and soon I was whisked inside. I was aware that there were a lot of eyes on me as I was wheeled by the waiting area, still shaking hard with shock. I imagined how my crisis looked to strangers.
I met the doctor briefly. He was comforting. They decided to remove my shoes. The pain was incredible, awesome, sizzling with heat. My leg clonked gruesomely as they slowly inched the unlaced shoe off my broken leg. I saw how much blood had soaked into my sock and both shoes. I was surprised, I wondered how much I was bleeding in the plastic air cast. For some reason, I kept imagining the blood beading on the plastic material.
I was quickly taken to a CT scan and then x-ray. I was impressed by the kindness of the technicians, of everyone. I was returned to the triage area and the waiting began. They put a catheter in, removing my underwear (beloved underwear with watermelons printed on them!) with two quick snips. The catheter insertion was a miserable experience enhanced by them needing three tries to get it right. I felt violated, I shook harder. They apologized and told me not to worry. They had removed my shirt, I can’t remember why, maybe for an EKG. I was naked under my blankets. They held up my bloody, cut, and ripped clothing, asking if they could throw it away. I lost a whole outfit, only my jacket mysteriously survived without much damage although the shirt underneath was shredded. The technician started measuring material against my good leg; I recognized that he was measuring for a cast. A cast, from my foot to my hip. I struggled to control my rising upset.. a hip cast?? no.
I waited 2.5 hours, a lot of time to stare at the ceiling where the words "don't be afraid" were printed while I tried to wrap my head around this surreal experience. They wouldn’t let me have my phone, I was irritated. I wanted to text my boyfriend, who wasn’t allowed in the triage area. I tried to reach for the wheeled table where my phone lay.. my leg popped, and the pain roared. Bad! Dumb idea. I lay still and breathed. The doctor returned with the x-ray. He told me they were going to temporarily set my leg, and that I was scheduled for surgery at 22:00. I wasn’t concerned with his statement “this type of fracture is at a very high risk of infection” due to my bone's contact with the street; I was already on antibiotics, two IVs in my arms. I asked him what cast I’d have after surgery. (please no hip cast) He told me I wouldn’t have a cast. I was so relieved but confused. He told me it’s an open compound fracture, explained the distance the bones were displaced. I was fascinated, how modern is our medicine that this is just fixed with a surgery, right away, no cast needed.
He asked if I wanted to see the x-ray. I told him no, I didn’t want to visually enhance my crippling (lol) pain right before they set the leg. They injected morphine into one of my IVs; I felt dizzy and floaty. I though for a brief moment, perhaps this won’t be so bad.. and then they lifted my leg. Disgusting knocking noises from my broken bones. Whizzing, popping pain. I said “wow” because the pain was truly incredible to observe. My muscles were tense, I could not relax and I was shaking harder. And then it was over. And my leg felt much better, finally set after 3+ hours. Someone gave me my phone and the room emptied. I texted my boyfriend. I called my parents. I felt better.
Then things happened very quickly. I was wheeled to the trauma ward, finally I saw my boyfriend. Another doctor came to inspect me again, same questions: are you pregnant, do you abuse alcohol/drugs, etc. I was happy I talked with both my parents before the surgery. I was afraid I might never wake up.
I was wheeled to the operating wing, and my boyfriend had to leave. I was alone for the night now. I had to move myself from the stretcher through a small slot. It was hard to slide over with my massive cast, but I forbid the technicians from touching my leg. In the operating room, Adele was playing.. “never miiiiind, I’ll find someone like youuuuu" I felt uncomfortable, there were so many people in the room, clinking around with objects, the lights were both bright and cold, and I was chilled and naked under some dumb tiny sheet. They put oxygen on me, and the anesthesiologist talked me through the procedure. I was knocked out quickly after another shot of morphine.
I woke up. The surgeon was telling me I’m fine, it went fine. I reached up and patted his shoulder, thank you. I started shaking again, super hard. I was taken out of the operating room, slowly realizing how cold and how much pain I was in as my body woke up.
I was taken to the room. I told them I have pain, and they gave me medicine. I told them my throat hurts, and they said it’s from the intubation. You need to wait two more hours before you can drink. I felt uncomfortable, aware that I was disturbing two other patients in the room. I tried to shake more quietly, but my breath rushed out in shivery gasps. Eventually I warmed and the pain meds kicked in. I felt weirdly extremely optimistic because I was happy I didn't die. I couldn't sleep, and so I waited for morning.