A year and a half ago, I broke my leg. It's not that uncommon for people to do it, but in my case, it was fairly humiliating as well as being a major ouchie; my last words before the accident were,
"What could go wrong?"
One bad thing about having no fear and demonstrating a fast cornering maneuver on your bicycle, is that when you slide out and bend your leg sideways the way it doesn't bend, after that you will have fear and will always have fear, instead of the feeling of exhilaration and invulnerability you used to have. I used to take a certain corner as tight and fast as possible, to see how far I would coast afterward, compared to my previous attempt. At 60 years old, I suppose it was inevitable that I would screw up eventually.
Well, I wiped out while giving a triumphant demonstration on one of my practice courses, while my wife was watching. Then I was lying on my back, aware that things in my hip area were not in their usual places. I figured by the feel of things, that I had dislocated my hip joint, and I pushed my leg back into place as well as I could.
"Should I call 911?" asked my slightly horrified wife.
"Call 911," I told her. That's the first time I've ever said that, but I had a good reason. I had tried to move my leg, and it had just flopped over; a really bad feeling to know.
Lying helpless on my back, staying as motionless as I could; ambulance coming, being shifted to a stretcher, to a gurney, a receiving room, down long cold corridors to an x-ray room.
"No," I was finally told by a nurse, who had a sympathetic smile, "No, you're not going home tonight. You better forget about that idea." Where I was going, was surgery; which finally happened about 30 hours after the accident.
The good surgeon went in there, bound up and trussed my snapped thigh bone using metal rods and cords, and at last I was put in a recovery ward. I found myself among old people who had broken their hip, doing things like turning around a little too fast while standing in the kitchen when the phone rang, and losing their balance. Well, these are my people now. My body breaks just the same as theirs does.
But soon I found out that most of these people here were in this place because they had come in for elective surgery, not because of an emergency; most of the patients were people who had made plans to be here. Consequently, the place was set up like some grotesque vacation resort.
I've got to give the staff credit for trying to keep the mood cheerful for people in pain. But I wish the social worker who bustled into my room a day after my arrival, would at least have read my chart before she chided me that morning; she said she hadn't seen me much in the social room at the activity sessions! Tut, tut! Well, what I knew and she didn't know, is that I had been in pure survival mode for the past several days; not really in a partying mood at all. Having to use a walker to painfully make my way to the bathroom, hadn't been in my wildest imaginings a few days earlier. Biking, running, doing my comedy shows (which I had to cancel), hopping, juggling: these were the things I had planned.
Two weeks I was in that ward: needles at 6:30 in the morning; no privacy; loud voices perpetually discussing medical issues around the adjacent bed in my room; TV's blaring everywhere; a stoic attempt at cheerfulness on my part. On the morning of my discharge the social worker bustled in again, and gave me a pen with a big pom-pom on the end of it, and a parti-colored guest book to sign. She asked me brightly, "Had I enjoyed my stay?"
This was an unexpected and dumbfounding question. Considering that this had been the most grueling two-week-long nightmare of my entire life; that I was eternally grateful that I was finally leaving here and going back to my home; the answer would have to be: not that much.
But I replied, "I'm truly grateful for the compassion and skill of all the wonderful staff here. I couldn't have done it without their care." Her face fell a little, in confusion; she left the book with me and bustled out. I read some of the entries in the guest book; they were all very upbeat, and I wrote something like, "Keep up the good work!" Then I laid the pom-pom down on the ribbon-bedecked book, and got ready to leave.
I got back on the bike in a little over two months, before I could walk very well yet. I had just gotten off crutches and I could hobble for short distances with a cane. I really missed biking, so I tried it, carefully, and I found I could go a few miles the first time out. It really felt great, though I couldn't push much with the injured leg, and I didn't do any extreme cornering (ha ha). I felt like I was flying.
Flying slowly, with the immediate possibility of crashing and burning, but still, back in the saddle again.
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