At first, I was too weak to feel any sort of emotion. I didn’t really think about how this whole thing would impact my life just yet. My husband informed my parents back in Canada immediately when the accident happened and they were scheduled to fly to see me in a few days. I talked to them and my in-laws over the phone, extremely apologetic and weepy but I reassured them that both my husband and I were fine.
Not that it mattered, but my husband was able to retrieve all of our belongings from the accident (we were on a cross-country hiking and camping road trip and had a PACKED car). The car, however, was a total wreck. Judging from the wreckage, my uncle was surprised anyone even survived. Apparently the much of the inner cab was intact and maybe that, among other things, was what saved us.
Starting Day 3 at the hospital, my husband and I had to inform our travel insurance about the emergency and cancel everything for our honeymoon. I called my boss at work to tell him what happened and that I obviously couldn’t go back to work for now. I posted this on Facebook which garnered 200+ responses and several private messages. Actually, I dictated it to my husband and he posted it, since I could barely hold my phone.
Ministers from the hospital’s chapel came to us and we all prayed together (on a humorous note: they introduced themselves as Chaplain X and Chaplain Y, and I said, “Oh my God, both your names are Chaplain?!?” LOLOLOL We joke about it to this day). Physical therapy came to see me as well. Though we didn’t do laps around the hospital floor, I was able to get out of bed and take a few steps forward and back. AWESOME, I CAN ACTUALLY WALK (it’s arguably the most essential skill you need in life). I was moved out of the PCU into a regular shared room by the end of Day 3. Maybe they didn’t have space on the trauma floor, but I was transferred to the oncology floor for cancer patients. I think that’s when the reality of it all started to sink in.
Starting then, I was a mixed bag of emotions. I felt despair, hope, gratefulness, hopelessness, happiness, and everything in between. I cried a lot. I agonized about how it was all my fault. I feared that I would never be the same again or that it would, at least, take a very long time to go back to being the underground mining geologist, avid traveller and hiker, and exercise enthusiast that I was.
And it sucked that I could only consume liquids (broth for breakfast, anyone?).
I figured staying all day in bed wasn’t good for me, especially as I wrapped myself around these poisonous thoughts. I was advised to do breathing exercises on an incentive spirometer and wear these inflatable things on my legs because I was in bed for most of the day. My always-active self was like, screw that (okay, I still did them though). I couldn’t do much of anything, but I knew I could walk. I had to get out of my room. I began walking with physical therapy and my husband. Physical therapy released me after they were confident I could walk on my own, which was maybe after two days. Though my husband and I could only ever go around the small hospital floor and I walked EXTREMELY SLOWLY with the sheer weight of the halo brace, it was good to get some “fresh” (not room) air, see other people, and just escape my negative thinking while enjoying time with my husband. We eventually walked a few times a day, at least after every meal.
My parents arrived from Canada on April 29th. It was absolutely great to have them around. Once again my mother has proven that she is the most caring person in this world. My parents and my husband would take turns staying with me in my room at night. Beautiful flowers from my thoughtful friends and co-workers started to arrive. Heartwarming Facebook messages and emails continued to come.
I had to wait until the following Tuesday to get surgery on my neck. I walked more and more as the days went by, regaining my strength. However, every time I walked, I had to stop and return to my room when I would feel this sharp, shooting pain in my right shoulder. I told my doctors about it time and again and we just couldn’t figure it out. I would expect pain in my left arm where I had my wounds and fractures, but not my good arm with which I was trying to do everything (feeding myself, brushing my teeth, going to the bathroom, holding my phone, etc.). I had at least two X-rays done and they didn’t show anything. I couldn’t get an MRI because of the metal in my halo brace.
So I had to tolerate the pain as best as I could in order for me to get up and moving. Either I would take a Percocet 30 to 40 minutes before my planned walk or walk but rush to my room and demand some Dilaudid (apparently 3x as strong as morphine?) through my IV to ease the sharp pain in my right shoulder. The pain was getting more consistent with my movements and it was starting to travel further down my arm that I had to take my Percocet round the clock to help manage it. The only thing I could say about that was, hey, THOSE NARCOTICS WORKED. One minute I cried from the pain, and after a shot of Dilaudid it magically went away.
Up next: A hard week