The surgeries went over well. I had a cast on my right leg, and my left arm. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move. I had a hard time talking because my face was so swollen. I had IVs and patches all over my body. My catheter was the most horrifying experience of the whole ordeal. I was given a button to press, in order to self-administer a pain killer. The button would administer dilaudid, an opiate which is thought to be 3-4 times stronger than morphine. While I obviously needed the pain medication, I found myself hallucinating violently, in an intense episode of confusion and panic. Had my mother not been right by my side all night, I don’t know how I would have made it. Eventually, we made the connection that it was the dilaudid that was bringing on these symptoms, so we rationed the doses out to every hour, calming me down after a night of hell.
The next day, I had a back brace put on, and I was helped to sit up in my bed. With the help of a physical therapist, I stood on my feet. My balance wavering, my swollen feet throbbing, and my head spinning, I managed to take four steps, turn around, and sit back on my bed. It was the most exhausting steps I’ve ever taken. But it got me. I knew I could do more.
I was being fed through a tube; I could only drink a tablespoon of water (I’m used to drinking a gallon a day).
The next day, I took more steps, with less assistance, out into the hall of the UCLA ICU.
The whole staff was impressed. I was put on a liquid diet. I could have juice, water, broth. The drink of water I had was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I had lost twenty pounds. In retrospect, though it felt like years, the next five days went by rather quickly. Doctors and nurses and surgeons were coming in and out, checking this and that on my body, taking my blood and blood pressure, checking my dressings from the surgery. I could finally watch TV and zone out, my roommates brought me my glasses, and my book, Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins. Interestingly, the book’s topic was immortality.
I was put on a normal diet; tubes were taken out, replaced; I could eat normal food. Instead of the dilaudid, I was put on Vicodin – actual pain pills. I was eventually moved from the ICU to another floor, where I had a nicer room with a view. My recovery was happening swiftly; I could now get out of my bed, and with a cane, walk the entire distance of the hall and back. I was finally released, eight days after I had been admitted for the car accident.
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