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Emily_V : Hospital stay and first month at home
Diary entry posted Tue 11:29am 6 November 2018

Saturday morning approached with me still completely awake. I was still feeling really great, very optimistic. One up side of getting hit by a speeding car in a crosswalk is there's nothing you can really regret. I didn't make the choice to climb some broken ladder, or decide to go hiking in bad weather. I was happy to see that I was not at all focusing on wishing that the accident didn't happen. I had this strange feeling that I was somehow different now, and that the experience I had the previous day was a new and very important part of being me.
I ended up spending 4 days in the hospital, while my leg oozed a lot of blood and lymphy stuff that required many of fresh bandages. I was given intravenous antibiotics 3x per day. Each day felt worse, and my biggest complaint was how dirty I felt after the second day. I could see dried blood caked all over my foot, my foot to thigh was still painted in brown iodine, at some point one of my IVs malfunctioned and spurted blood on my flimsy hospital gown, and my hair was plastered to my head in a greasy helmet. By the second day, my optimism faded as the more minor aches and pains started appearing- severely bruised ribs on my left side, where the car mirror had broken off, and a smashed pinky from either the car or the fall. Sitting up, coughing, sneezing, laughing etc became massively painful, and I had to tilt myself far to my left and swing my body up, trying to use the momentum of the swing rather than the muscles in my right side. I remember trying hard not to let my pain grimace show as I hoisted myself up, trying to project an air of serenity so I would be let go as soon as possible. Whenever they changed my sheets I pulled myself as high as I could on the little handle dangling over my bed, see how strong and fit I am, 'tis but a flesh wound. I felt stifled by constantly being in public; I really wanted a private space so I could just release all the pent up emotion that was welling inside of me since the accident. In the hospital, I felt the need to be stoic, to be a model patient.
In the end I was released on Tuesday morning. I was distressed at how difficult it is to get doctors' attention long enough to ask questions. Every morning on their rounds they barely paused to hear if everything was fine or not. They would inspect my leg, which was a weird, gray green color and about double it's usual girth, stitched up all around the ankle and knee, and proclaim it beautiful. So I left pretty unsure what was going on, except it was nothing really bad, but with an appointment to return that Friday. My leg was wrapped from heel to knee is gauze bandages, but there was nothing stiff or protective over that. It was a bizarre feeling. I was wheeled out in a little chair, but then had to hobble to the car on my crutches. My leg felt extra heavy, and the blood flowing into the wounds felt like stingy needles, along with the usual deep ache. Not pleasant. By the time I settled in the car, I felt I had used up my energy for the day. The ride itself was equally unpleasant- every bump felt like a punch in my broken bones. My hip flexor protested massively, unused to holding the leg up constantly. Surprisingly, it only took a few days for my crutching muscles to adjust to the new workload- now I can hold my leg up for long stretches of time, brushing my teeth, making food, etc, my palms no longer hurt after lots of crutching, and my triceps are completely at ease with carrying my body weight.
My first week at home was miserable. I was very feverish, a result of the inflammation in my leg and the body's reaction to the metal. I was sweating through my bedding at night, the doctor's statement "this injury is at a high risk for infection" echoing in my head as I imagined the worst- gangrene. I have an uncle who had to have his leg amputated from the thigh down when he was 17 after botched knee surgery that developed gangrene. Having such stories to draw on was deeply unhelpful. I never had a broken bone before, let alone a traumatic injury, so I had no idea what to expect.
My fevers were, however, totally normal and expected, and after about two weeks dissipated.
Sleeping was horrible. I was stuck sleeping on my back, which made me rage, and any small adjustment in position was a huge production as I slowly inched my unhappy leg to the right or left. the top of my foot was numb as a result of nerve damage, along with a large area on the side of my knee, and I hated the dull sensation when anything touched that skin. I desperately wanted to stretch and bend my leg, but after a slight flex of the knee, it felt like my kneecap was about to pop off from pressure underneath it. Stretching was a lost cause (even now at 7 weeks I still can't stretch the leg satisfyingly in the mornings without lots of pain). My major disaster came about a week in, when I tripped, dropped my crutch, and touched down on my injured leg. I had no idea if I had messed up or not, and could not relax. So, a fun evening trip to the hospital to get an x ray, which showed all was fine. I learned the word "crepitation," however.
To sum it up, my first month was crappy and unstable. I was seriously irritated at people around me telling me "it's only gonna get better" because it did not. This attitude that I would be able to resume normal life shortly, albeit on crutches, irritated me incredibly, and made me not want to speak with people besides my family and boyfriend. Most people are deeply uncomfortable with despair, so I understand the reaction to dwell only on happy ideas, but the expectation that I be cheery and "stay positive" made me want to punch people. My fevers got worse after leaving the hospital, and without the opiate injections, the pain intensified as well. I was on serious antibiotics, which not only ruined my appetite, but also nauseated me. I had to inject myself in the stomach every evening at 19:30 with fraxiparine, a blood thinner. I was proud of conquering the squeamishness of sticking a needle in my own flesh but would have preferred to not. My foot and ankle swelled even more as I had to move around more, and I was unable to bathe alone, or do anything independently. I relied entirely on my boyfriend for everything except using the toilet. Thankfully he is an incredibly empathetic and understanding person, and has taken care of me happily. I was very weepy, struggling to adjust to my new state. I usually walked miles per day, and now I was sitting in bed watching my thigh shrink, unable to flex my ankle even to 90 degrees, and forget about wiggling my toes. As each week ticked by I wondered when it would get to a stable point.

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 Tue 11:29am 6 November 2018
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