A scar is born
On Wednesday, I was coming back from the vet with Judas in his carrier in the passenger seat. I was thinking of the least traffic-y way to get home and I had a song stuck in my head when wham! A truck hit me from the driver's side and my car skidded off to the side a bit, facing mostly the same direction (east), I think, and I was kind of looking directly at a Japanese restaurant. And many horrified bystanders who saw the whole thing. The driver's side window was shattered and I realized I'd been hit and they were talking to me so I'd stay alert and I kept talking about how my cat had to get home, how he was sick and needed to be home and couldn't get lost. They asked me all the questions that you ask to establish if people know who and where and when they are, and one man who had on a sweater and t-shirt took off the sweater and the t-shirt, put the t-shirt by my head and put his sweater back on. I don't know where his t-shirt is now but I know it's not white anymore; I was bleeding like a stuck hog. Apparently the glass severed my temporal artery, and I could feel blood running down the front and back of me. I was worried enough about Judas and I think that helped keep me from going into shock because I was indeed cognizant that I was losing a lot of blood.
Not only were there many people, but they all seemed to have cellphones. And business cards. I guess the cards are still in my car; I haven't seen it since Wednesday. One lady with an accent tried to reach Jeff, who was probably asleep with a migraine (Jeff stopped drinking pop last weekend and has been miserable ever since), one man called an ambulance, the police and firefighters and so on came, and they told me not to move, even though I wanted to know about the person in the other car, or people. I don't know how many were in the truck but Iím under the impression it was one man and he was ok. At least, I hope so. But mostly I was fixated on getting Judas to safety. I'll be danged if I'm going to spend all that money on getting him healthy just to have him terrified or lost or both! And I kept bleeding and they kept talking to me, and then they put a neck brace around my neck and a pressure brace around my head to slow the bleeding and I was still bleeding a lot. The ambulance people were able, I think, to open the door without special tools and rotated me out onto a backboard. Once I was in the ambulance they gave me an IV and I remember asking the EMT tech how the heck he gets an IV in people while in a shaky van? He said "sometimes, not very well" or something. About this point I started to shiver, probably from adrenaline, and I think I told him I was shivering because I seem to remember him telling me they'd get me warmed up. And sure enough, once I got in the ER they put warm, even hot blankets on me! That's a great idea! I want warmed blankets all the time! I'm always freezing when I try to sleep! ;) I remember being told that there were going to be lots of people in the ER. I guess people who are out of it don't know this and get freaked out. But I was pretty lucid and I was expecting it.
Anyway, the ER people have their act together. I guess this is standard procedure but they removed all my clothes (!!!) and in so doing, they said they might have to cut me out of my dress! You know me; my clothes are not easy to replace (vintage), so I implored them just to unzip the dress. I remember telling them "it zips right down the front"; it's a nylon jersey day dress and it's one of my favorite ones because it's comfortable and it has no buttons to lose. So they refrained from hacking up my dress. I figured it was soaked in blood but I also figured that since it's just nylon jersey, it might be salvageable. Anyway! So two ER surgeons were worrying over my head, which was gashed at the left temple, and trying to repair my temporal artery and possibly some other blood vessels. I hear them conferring and saying "another piece of glass...some more glass..." as they pick stuff out of my scalp. Oh! And they had to shave a little bit of the hair on the side of my head to access the wound properly. They assured me it would grow back. ;) They get the stitches in the artery and then they stitch the skin and then they notice it's STILL BLEEDING, so they have to remove the stitches and start over from square one. They're a bit exasperated and so am I; although they've injected the area with a numbing agent I can feel the stitches at either end and it is a) uncomfortable, and b) WEIRD. Finally they stop the bleeding. Meanwhile, I am lying on a stretcher in my own blood and it's gone from being warm to being sticky. I'm not in shock, just disbelief at the whole thing. Radiologists come in and somehow take an X-ray of me by putting an x-ray film underneath the stretcher and I tell them that my cousin Marjie was a radiologist, only she had to quit because she has narcolepsy. They were amused and I was able to stay lucid by telling them this. At some point I was given Demerol to ease the shaking. Also milling around the ER was a police officer, who I now know is called Officer Deland of the Northeast Precinct of the police department, and he issued me a ticket saying I ran a red light. I think I told him that I was trying to get people at the scene to tell me if I ran a red light or not because they were all saying they were witnesses, but they wouldn't tell me if I ran a red light or not! Maybe they were trying to calm me down. I just wanted to know right off the bat if my premiums were going up!
From the ER, I was wheeled to radiation. Here I was introduced to being lifted and rolled from stretcher to that sliding thing that takes you into the scanning tube. They were just doing an MRI so they only scanned my head. Iím sure I told them how novel this was; the whole thing was very strange and new and all. After the MRI they wheeled me back to the ER and parked me for a few minutes. At some point, I forget when, my cell phone was ringing (obviously, I was in no position to get it) and I'll never know who that was, and then I could hear someone telling Jeff that I was in the hospital. What I didn't know is that on Jeff's end, this is what the notification call sounded like: "We have your friend here at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital. Oh, I forgot to get her name." (Jeff gets put on hold and then the line disconnects)
The phone rings again. This time they tell him my name and they are 'finishing up bandaging her head'. Jeff is understandably rattled and either asks or is told that the cat has been taken to the fire department downtown. When the hospital lady asks if he's ok, he replies that she just left him hanging, and apparently she gets defensive with him: "I got back to you!" Jeff promptly calls his father, who promptly leaves work south of Portland (20 miles or so away), comes to pick up Jeff, and they make a beeline for the hospital.
Meanwhile, they put me in a room in the Trauma Ward and a nice nurse named Elizabeth and a youngish man whose name I don't remember get me situated, use a "bath in a bag" (heated warm wipey cloths) to wipe the blood off my back and stomach. While this is happening, the door opens and it's Jeff and his dad! I was totally surprised at how fast they got there, specially since I assume Jeff's dad went home to change into casual clothes and then picked him up. Apparently he was just working in a t-shirt and jeans. I have yet to see Jeff's dad in the corporate clothing I know he has to wear sometimes!
The rest is a jumble of IV's, blood draws, me being upset, me being in pain from my head wound, with a few notable highlights: *The first painkiller they give me, oxy-somethingorother, makes me nauseous. I know this because in a 24 hr. time period I throw up THREE times. This is more than in the last decade of my life.
*The time of my going home keeps getting pushed back as it becomes clear that something is stopping me from keeping food down. Also, my blood potassium levels were a little low when they admitted me. I am still not clear if this was cause for concern or not. *My stitches quickly get to where they feel stretched out and painful because my forehead is swelling. When Jeff first saw me he laughed and said that I had his hairline on that side of my head now, and then (and I knew this was coming) he said I looked like Frankenstein. Soon after he left, I saw the stitches; it was horrifying. Eventually we work out a system, the nurses and I, where they bring me little plastic zip bags of ice and wrap them in a towel and use a stretchy headband-thing so I donít have to hold the pack up constantly.
*Meanwhile, my pain medication is switched to something else, which makes me good and tired and a bit less nauseous, but nauseous nonetheless. Fortunately, the smell of cream of tomato soup turns my stomach but I manage to conquer reverse peristalsis and do NOT lose my lunch on Thursday. By Thursday evening I eat turkey and vegetables and even bland hospital food that it is, it's charming. Because it's FOOD. *Thursday during the day, I am visited by a surgical doctor, a team of doctors, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist. They are all evaluating different things (my stitches, my motor skills, my ability to perform tasks like brushing my teeth) but a couple of them realize that there are people on the ward who are in much more dire need of their services. I graduated occupational therapy in about five minutes. ;) *Thursday evening after Jeff visited me, I got word that I was going to be wheeled to radiology for an abdominal x-ray. I assume this is to do with my being nauseous. The being out of my room plus the amusement of being in a wheelchair plus the fact that I had just been reading funny stuff all made it hard for me not to laugh - and shiver, I guess from adrenaline - on the way to Radiology. Once Iím there, they put me in the big machine again, which isn't a tube like you see on the movies. It's more like a portal. At any given time, only about 6" of me is actually IN the scanning thing. When my head first goes in, I say it looks like a car wash. A bit further in, it reminds me of a dryer. I remember saying, "I feel like a cat!" Also, I knew I'd been around Jeff too long because the hallways of the hospital brought to mind any number of computer games or horror movies, only I saw no zombies. The kicker about this x-ray is that they told me they were going to inject me with something that would make me "feel really warm" AND like I was "going to wet my pants". Huh???? It was very strange, and I asked what it was after the scan was over, and the male attendant joked that it was 'a new form of methamphtamines.' I said "Huh???" and he said that no, it was just iodine. Iodine!??!? He informed me it was like three shots of some alcohol and I told him I had no frame of reference, not being a drinker, and then he said someone had told him they thought it would be the next street drug. I would not be surprised at all; people are retarded.
*Finally today they said I could take a shower AND wash my hair. It had been two days (WAY too long) and it took FOREVER to get the dried blood out of my hair. It took so long that a nurse knocked on my bathroom door to make sure I was ok. Thursday night I got so desperate to work on my hair that I requested a comb and used warm water to try to comb through my hair. I poured the water over parts of my hair that I COULD get wet and combed it out and used paper towels to absorb the water. The smell of the dried blood was pretty bad. Disgusting. So being able to use actual shampoo was a very good thing.