Monday, December 13, 2010

When It Happened. . .

***I feel like I should post a warning here.  A couple of people have mentioned that this is very . . . raw.  I don't mean for it to be, but then I'm on an enormous amount of painkillers and maybe a tad bit desensitized from all of it.  So proceed with caution. . . ***

More from the saga about my ankle.

We live seconds from a firehouse that also houses EMS and an Ambulance.  You can see the roof of my house from the driveway of the fire station.  This has always served me as a great comfort that they are there watching over our neighborhood as silent guardians.  On the night that I smashed my tibia to bits, the knowledge that Emergency Medical Service-members were literally seconds from storming my home to rescue me from my pain, fear and the watchful eyes of my horrified children and husband gave me the strength to not cry out.  It reminded me that I had indeed been in equal or almost worse pain and that relaxing, cleansing breathes were all that separated me from the present terrible moment and an ambulance ride where I could weep, be afraid, and likely receive some relief in the form of an i.v. analgesic.

Please note:  I am no martyr.  It is not that I am some great self-controlled stoic.  There are only two things I know for certain about crisis (which is most certainly where I had landed):

  1. panic makes everything worse 
  2. children do not need nightmares to come to life
In as measured tones possible, I sent E. (3) to fetch her father with the words, "Baby, go get Daddy.  Mama has broken her leg" and M. (9) to fetch her sister and brothers from the neighbor's yard with the command, "Run, M., fetch everyone.  Tell them they must come home.  I'm going to the hospital."  I still can't believe they departed: no questions, no arguments, no hesitations.  Of course, they had witnessed the fall and could see the injury that was hidden from my view.  It's not that they normally argue, but neither were they frozen with fear.  For me Fear and Panic were just over the horizon of my next breath.

I dialed 911.  
The voice on the other end of the line began to speak.  
"Stop talking.  I have a compound fracture and I need an ambulance."
The voice stopped talking.  Registered the information and asked where to send the ambulance.
In the same moment Mr. Flavius was descending the stairs in a jovial, reassuring way and calling out, "Honey, stop!  Stop, you're not broken! "
He rounded the kitchen sink and looked stricken.  Shock replaced Reassurance.  
"You're bleeding!"
"Honey!  You're bone is coming out of---"
"Stop talking!" Panic was overtaking my efforts to breathe deeply as I calculated how long I might have to stay upright speaking to the emergency operator.  
"Come tell her what she wants to know!"  The commands were furious and rapid.  I was afraid now.  I swooned with fear.  I knew I had to move.  I was bleeding and sitting upright.  Gravity was my enemy.  I had to protect myself and the baby.  I could not afford to faint and hit my head or risk injury to the child inside me.  I began to lay myself down. 

Hands and arms reached out, cradled me, and lowered me to the floor.  My leg was still twisted around the the felled chair.  The leg did not move as it ought.  The wound gaped and ground, the flesh burned, and the white hot pain sent terrible waves up through my body.  I exhaled the pain forcibly.  Lord Jesus, help me.  I closed my eyes. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy. I filled my lungs with air through my nose and pushed out the breath again in a slow, even breath, willing myself to lean into the pain- relax into the tension.  Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and save me.  The last time I had done anything like this was 87 weeks before, when I pushed my infant son into the world.  Pain and Fear and Terror must have something to press upon, to cut into-- something to fight.  When you give over to panic, you become rigid, giving the Hellions purchase from which to torment you.  When you relax and respire, they have no hook into you, no hold to grapple upon.  It takes focus, but it can be done.

All of this was mere moments, heartbeats, from the time of my fall to the the phone call to emergency services was less than a minute.  The time it took EMS to arrive was less than three minutes, but as I was to discover, having EMS practically in your front yard does not always pan out.  Their ambulance was not there.  It had been called away.  My rescue team needed rescue and MedStar was not nearby.  

I spent the next 15 minutes laying on the floor praying, breathing, shaking as the pain pushed over my threshold (pain without fear).  The EMS team asked me questions about the accident, recorded my breathing, fussed over my foot which could not be propped up due to its lack of integrity.  They remarked on my pain tolerance (which was well overcome at this point, as I continued with my slow, ragged breaths).  I said as little as possible.  Theotokos, save me.  Holy Svetlana, save me.  Saints and martyrs, come to my aid.

When MedStar arrived, they fitted me with an I.V. and gave me 4 mg of morphine.  It dulled the panic that had rallied when I realized I would be put on a gurney.   That I am a large woman and now I was going to be moved, terrified me.  For the first time ever, I truly despised my body size.  Holy One, heal my infirmities for Thy name's sake.  The baby began to kick inside my womb.  Just breathe. 

They eventually loaded me into the truck and strapped me in.  They increased the dose of morphine, but as before it could not dent the throbbing in my leg.  I looked at the gentleman, who was to be my companion for the next 40 minutes as the driver navigated peak rush hour traffic for the 16.1 miles between our home and the nearest trauma center.  

"God's will is at work in this."

My whole life had turned upside down in fewer than 30 seconds while I had practically been standing still.  Car wrecks and armed robbery have left people less injured.  Without seeing, I knew the injury was beyond serious.  And yet I felt calm and peaceful.  It wasn't the morphine.  My sense of peace came from an assurance outside of myself that God is with me.  His hand is on me and had been from the before that chair tipped, before I even knew Who was, is, and ever shall be.




Matushka Anna said...

I'm shaking just reading this.

I think you're right - there is an instinct to protect your children from the nightmare.

Thank God you were sustained through this.

elizabeth said...

Lord have mercy. I am so glad for all the mercy in it but what a very hard and physically painful thing to happen.

Praying that you can heal well and that all will be well.

GretchenJoanna said...

Well! This trial certainly started with a bang :-( and a lot of opportunity for prayer. God was with's really a blessing to hear the story of that. Without a doubt you will be dealing with attendant difficulties for quite a while, and you will be in my prayers.
Thank you for writing.

Marcella said...

Oh that just made me sick to my stomach. I canNOT imgaine. I hope your leg heals quickly and you can put all of this behind you soon.

Rita said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes. In the same situation, I don't know I would have acted with such grace. Truly it is a testimony to prayer and faith. May God grant you renewed health in the weeks ahead.

Matushka Anna said...

(I should note that I've been a nurse for 13 years, it was the mental anguish that got to me, not the blood. (c; )

Svetlana said...

You know, mentally, I knew I had it in me to conquer this. I think that was from God. My children's tears are precious to me and I did not want to frighten them,, but you know, this was scary!

I'll never forget when I was four my mother cut off her long auburn locks and I was so undone by it! So to have them see me fall and get so hurt, I just was so sensitive to their needs. And to have it happen on her birthday!

Anyway, it was a struggle to focus. I wanted to just snap and I probably did a few times, so that no one would talk to me. But you know, God is with us! and while he didn't say we wouldn't suffer, he did say : BE NOT AFRAID! so I tried to hold to that.

Fear is the weapon of a defeated foe and I just kept on breathing and calling on the saints for help.