I would first like to extend my deep appreciation for all of those who reached out to me with advice, support and love, after I posted my last blog. Since then, I have changed medications, returned to therapy, tried Chinese tea for sleep, anxiety, and my gallbladder, and exercised many self-help tricks to aid my sleep and calm my anxiety. Although I have not had a miracle happen, I would like to let those know who gave advice and asked about the tea, that after 6 days of drinking the tea I noticed some success! While my anxiety is still evident daily, and at times it feels like the world is going to end, I started to be able to relax my mind enough so I could doze off some nights. However, I am an individual who needs to learn how to slow down, as my mind races every second, analyzing several things and unable to focus on just one at a time (like sleep). After the 10 days, I was able to get a few hours in every night, and I had to celebrate this as I was not sleeping at all before. Last week, after visiting my sleep therapist, I was told to begin what is called “sleep restriction” therapy. It is excruciatingly difficult, as you are attempting to only be in bed for a specific amount of hours per night. However, I am overjoyed to say that I have had more success. While everyday I attempt to maintain my focus on taking care of myself before anything else, it is extremely difficult some days. Anxiety, stress, depression, it all makes my body feel sore, slow, tired, hot, and unfamiliar. The injuries where the scars are that I am focusing on today have been distressed from these illnesses in the past two months. However, those days that I decide, “I’m going to stay home”, or, “I need to do something for myself”, have a positive impact. With the utter chaos from the final days of classes, and teaching only six days away, I am taking this time for myself to write.
I have spoken about the mental image of my two arms when I woke from the initial impact before; however, today I would like to further extend that story, as it is not the only horrific memory of my arms that I have. While my left arm seemed to be the most damaged from what I saw in the vehicle due to the severe breaks in the forearm, I was extremely lucky to receive the best care on that forearm from a terrific surgeon at Foothills Hospital. My right forearm and wrist were not so lucky. After I woke from the coma, I was informed my left arm had been fixed, but that my body could not go through any more trauma, and therefore I still have a broken right wrist and forearm. I do not remember the moment I went in for surgery, but I do remember the moment I woke up. I was in intense and severe pain, and when I informed the nurses of this I was told that I had just had a serious surgery and that it was bound to be painful. I couldn’t fathom how I was experiencing so much arm pain, when I was broken everywhere else. My father stood by my side as the pain began to grow by the minute. Finally, after hours of crying and yelling for help that was not there, my father looked at my hand for me. I wish I had a photograph of it, the immense swelling that made my hand well over double the regular size, and the dark shade of purple taking over. Both my father and I recognized a serious issue, and within a few minutes he had a new doctor in the room with me. The doctor stated he could not help, not even touch me, because I was not his patient. However, when my dad removed the blanket so the doctor could see, he immediately took out a pair of scissors and cut off the fresh cast.
It was revealed that I had blood poisoning from the tightness of the cast, and if we had waited another hour or so, I would have lost my arm from the elbow down. I recognize that putting on a cast too tight is a mistake that occurs in hospitals, but I also understand that if I had not continued to speak up, if I had not had the support of my father, I most likely would not have a right arm to type this post today. The power of speech (and constant complaining) saved my arm that day, and it saved that same arm once again just two short months after. It was a few weeks after that doctor had removed the cast that I noticed something still was not right. I had limited mobility of my fingers, and was slowly beginning to lose the feeling in them. It quickly turned into no mobility, a claw hand, and no feeling in the top of my hand, my thumb, index and middle finger. I began to ask to see the doctor who performed the surgery, and when I was finally visited by him (weeks after), I was told that I was still healing. It was a different doctor than the man who fixed my left arm and majority of other fractures, and after that day I never saw him again, even with my constant complaints. At this point my left arm was functioning, and while it too had quite a bit of nerve damage, I was able to lift light objects and use the fingers. I had to train myself to use the left arm for signing legal papers, feeding myself, drinking, anything that needed a hand. I never realized until I lost function of both of my hands for over a month just how much we depend on them.
After some time, the incredible surgeon heard my cries for help and began to work closely with a plastic surgeon to fix my hand. We had discovered that during the first surgery, the doctor had cut the nerves and tendons, removing both the sensation and the ability to use and stretch my fingers. The surgeons were able repair the damage; however, even with the eight months of hand therapy and constant check ups, my hand has not returned to its full potential, and most likely never will. It has made hand writing and holding a pencil for more than a few minutes painful, and writing an exam the traditional way is just not doable. Lifting objects will be an ongoing issue, because even though I have gained strength and am able to lift weights, the slightest wrong movement will cause unbelievable nerve pain.
On one of the first few days that I was in the induced coma, my father was asked by a surgeon if he gave permission to allow them to perform an exploratory surgery in my intestinal area. While I was in a CT scan, they noticed an off shade of grey. I was extremely lucky to have been in that scan, on that day, on that hour, because the impact of the seat belt had cut a piece of my intestine. After some time, this had caused blood poisoning. The surgeons were able to remove the section of my intestine, and after four weeks I was allowed to begin to eat very soft foods. In time I graduated to normal food; however, after every meal I would be in pain and get ill. Close to a year after surgery, I spoke to the surgeon about this issue. I was informed that they removed a piece of my bowel, and that in a few more months I would be back to normal. He failed to mention that a part of that section of bowel they removed was the ileum, a section that absorbs Vitamin B12, crucial enzymes for digestion, and, if removed, causes severe dehydration. I discovered all this information this summer, four years after the surgery. I was not informed of the piece they removed, nor the issues that the removal may cause. Not only did I not feel “healed” after the six months had passed since seeing the surgeon, I was ill after every meal, had constant discomfort, extreme dehydration, and an extreme B12 deficiency. For so long I was not taking care of myself the way I should have. That area is so sensitive that those nights of insomnia, days of chronic pain flare ups, and days of anxiety and depression cause nausea, aches, and shooting pain. It is incredible, and at times a bother, how connected each part of our body is to one another.
I cannot change the past surgeries I have had, nor can I stop my body from having a bad flare up. All I can do, in this moment, is remind myself, to take care of myself.