Chapter Eight – Admitting
My mother was waiting at the hospital entrance as we arrived at the portico.
She was a tall, slim woman with blonde hair transitioning to pre-mature grey. She worked at Mercy Hospital on the Cardiovascular floor three days a week. My arrival was timed perfectly with the end of her shift.
One thing about having a nurse as a mother – there are rarely histrionics when injuries occur. She was cool as a cucumber when I broke my arm in 4th grade. She was in the room reading a magazine when the doctor laid me face down on the examining table, hung my damaged arm over the side of the table, and attached a7.5-pound weight to my middle finger. They knew the bones were positioned properly when I stopped screaming. I later wondered why a 7.5-pound weight was required to set my arm. Wouldn’t a 7- or 8-pound weight have done the job equally well.
12 Stitches in my foot in 8th grade didn’t warrant so much as an extra kiss at bedtime.
I stepped on a nail while we were vacationing at the beach two years ago. I got a tetanus shot and was admonished not to get blood on the rental house white shag carpet.
And the lack of emotion over injuries would continue with my leg. Mom came out to the ambulance as Tommy and Andrea began to unload me. She asked me how I felt and examined my leg with no show of emotion. Instead of breaking into tears at the site of her crippled daughter she shrugged impassively as if wondering how she could be the mother of a child who was such a Klutz.
As we entered the hospital foyer, we were greeted by Sister Mary Agnes. Mom had apparently handled the check in paper work already. Sister Mary Agnes was a small woman of indeterminate age. She wore a white habit (American term for what a Catholic nun wears) and sensible black shoes. She had a red face and appeared to have some Irish heritage. She was funny and down to earth.
After a cursory examination of what used to my functioning leg, Sister Mary Agnes told me not to worry. “This place has wonderful doctors and nurses.” She said. And touching the crucifix which hung from her neck she said “And you God on your side in this place. He will look after you.”
My leg hurt like shit. The tile in the lobby was uneven and my leg was bouncing around again. I thought about God for a second. If he created the world in 7 days, surely he could get a simple broken leg fixed in a few minutes. Right?
The massive rosary beads hanging from Sister Mary Agnes’s waist made a loud clicking sound as she walked next to my stretcher.
Sister Mary Agnes escorted us to a small, sterile examining room. It was here that I would spend the better part of next two hours. The clock on the wall read 5:30.
This brought us to the first challenge of the evening in the hospital. I would have to be moved from the gurney to the hospital bed in the examining room. Mom helped Tommy and Andrea with the transfer. Andrea insisted that she support my broken leg during the transfer. Tommy would handle my shoulders and upper torso while mom supported my rear end.
Andrea counted down for the transfer team. “One, two, three!” And on ‘three I was lifted up and moved to the hospital bed. When I was moved, I felt my leg sag in spite of the death grip Andrea had on my leg. Bone ends dug into muscle and my leg was on fire. I screamed loudly. For some damned reason, the pain worsened when my leg was settled onto the bed. I was consumed with pain. I felt bile in my throat. I screamed again. As I was secured on the bed, my screams turned to moans and then silence. I had tears in my eyes.
“Honey you did great.” Andrea said stroking my blonde hair which was now soaking wet.
“Really great.” Tommy reinforced.
My mother smiled at me, patted me on the hip, and departed the examining room without a word.
Andrea’s walkie talkie came to life. The two were needed at an auto accident near the Park Rd. Shopping Center.
We said our goodbyes and Andrea promised she would drop by for a visit tomorrow if they decided to keep me over night.
And with that, I was alone in the examining room for the first time.
What followed was a slow but steady stream of hospital staff each with seemingly different capabilities and responsibilities. My temperature and blood pressure were taken by a young nurse. The shoe and sock were removed from my good foot by an older nurse. An elderly dietician dropped in to check on my diet preferences in the event I had to have a meal in the hospital. A black nurse hooked me up to a heart and pulse monitoring device. The first nurse returned to show me how to work the call bell and to make sure I was reasonably comfortable. She offered me a warm blanket which I declined.
I began to lose hope that someone would soon fix my frigging leg when a young doctor materialized. He checked the pulse in my feet and examined my leg with the splint intact.
He ran his finger along my shin and frowned when he felt the tibia pressing against the skin.
“Wiggle your toes.” He said. I tried but sensed there was little movement down there.
“Hurt much?” He asked. He had sandy hair and an athletic build. His name tag read “Dr. William Benson.”
I nodded. “A lot. They gave me a pill on the field, but it didn’t do anything.”
He nodded again. “We’ll give you something a little stronger. Things will get more manageable.” He took my chart and began making notes. “We’re going to replace that IV with one that’s a little more stable. And then get you down for x-rays.”
I was not sure what down meant. I later learned that the radiology department was in the basement of the hospital.
“Will I need surgery?” I asked. Dr. Benson shrugged. “Maybe. Dr. Reading is on his way here. He’s an orthopedic specialist. He’ll look at the x-rays and then talk with you and your mom about treatment options.” He patted me on my shoulder. “In the meantime, relax. Time moves slowly in hospitals.”
30 minutes later, a new nurse materialized. She had red hair and no personality. She removed the catheter the EMT’s had put in place and put a larger model in my other hand. Two drip bags of liquid soon flowed into my circulatory system. I prayed that one had the good drugs in it.
Mary Betterment showed up 30 minutes later. Apparently, the soccer game had ended and her medical services were no longer needed. “You look great.” She said obviously lying. “How do you feel?”
“Like a piece of shit.” I said closing my eyes. My leg was beginning to spasm again. Mary and I had known each other all our lives. Our relationship was not built on the need for conversation. Mary took the hint and excused herself to work on some non-existent homework.
Mom dropped in at 7:30. She said she had been catching up on paperwork. She had talked to dad who was out of town and he was worried about me. Dad was a salesman for an office supply company. He spent most weekday evenings in Holiday Inns across the Carolinas.
Whichever drip bag held the good drugs was not working properly. I asked mom to check it and she said the flow was fine. The pain was getting worse with every passing minute.
And then Dr. Reading showed up. He was a handsome middle-aged guy and was accompanied by the young nurse. Together, they loosened my splint and examined my leg. Their examination was much more thorough and painful than the one performed by Dr. Benson.
Mom stood in the corner arms folded and watching. I was beginning to realize that her modus operandi was to let the ER staff do what they needed to do without interference from her. I appreciated her style. The last thing I needed now was a mother who was falling to pieces over a daughter who was about to lose her leg.
Examination complete, Dr. Reading looked at me. “Well, as you probably know already, your leg is broken. The tibia is broken at mid shaft and I suspect the fibula – that’s the smaller bone in your lower leg – is broken near the knee. That’s the reason you thought you had blown out your knee. Dr. Reading made some notes on my chart. We’re going to take you down to x-ray and then talk about what treatment options you have.”
Reading smiled and patted my shoulder. “I know you’re in a lot of pain. You’ll get through this, Lynne. I treat a dozen leg fractures a week and I haven’t lost a patient yet.”