When you are young and healthy, it never occurs to you in a single second that your whole life could change.
Annette’s statement is very true – I never realized how vulnerable I could be to injury and sickness. At the age of 29 I was finally getting myself to become healthier. I had taken up long-distance running and had completed over twenty 5k races and three half-marathon races. I was eating healthier by focusing my diet on fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. It never occurred to me that I could get sick or injured. However, the experiences I went through during the winter of 2013 changed my entire mindset.
On the night of November 12, 2013 I was driving home from work, just like I did on any other ordinary day. I was on the highway and was stopped in a line of traffic when all of a sudden my car was rear-ended from behind. My car was hit so hard that it pushed my Rav4 over 3 feet into the car in front of me and almost into the next lane of traffic. There was a total of 5 cars involved in the accident that night, with mine being the worst off. My car ended up having to be totaled and I walked away with a few bumps and bruises, or so I thought. As the days went by my lower back started to bother me more and more. I ended up going to see an orthopedic specialist who recommended me for physical therapy.
I was to start physical therapy in December when I woke up one morning at 4am in severe pain. It felt like a giant gas bubble was sitting under my rib cage and would not go away. I tried drinking ginger ale, doing jumping jacks, compressing and stretching, and even went to the grocery store at 6am to buy some gas relief medicine. Nothing helped. Finally at 9am I woke up my fiance and explained how much pain I was in. He drove me down to the firehouse where he volunteers to have the EMT workers look me over. The EMT’s recommended that I go to the hospital as the pain was getting worse and worse. We drove to the Yale walk-in clinic where I explained my symptoms. The nurse automatically took me in for an ultrasound where the technician announced my gallbladder was having a major attack. I asked if that meant they could just give me some medicine to calm it down and she laughed at me. Literally laughed at me and replied that I was going to need surgery and fast. I was rushed by ambulance to the surgical center where I stayed for over 12 hours waiting for my turn to go “under the knife”. At 3:30 in the morning (the next day) I finally went in for my surgery and by noon I was in my fiance’s truck to go home.
While I thank the nurses and doctors for being so attentive and helpful, it seems unrealistic that a gallbladder surgery should be considered an outpatient surgery. For almost a full week I could not sleep in my bed because I was unable to get in and out of it without hurting my incisions. Arnett, Fritz, and Bell (2009) tell us that “Responsiveness leads to communicative action that, when directed towards another, outlines the necessity of human care” (p.199). In this instance, it is frustrating that patients who undergo major surgery are forced to go home immediately in order to recover. It would have been nice for someone to ask me if going home right away would be ideal for me (in a utopian world this might have happened) because I can attest that having the adjustable bed in the hospital would have made my recovery less painful than sleeping sitting upright on the couch.
I was still lucky though because my friends, family, and coworkers helped me out in every way possible. My fiance sacrificed his meetings at the fire house to come and help me take care of myself. My parents made all of my meals for me and took me grocery shopping. Both my fiance and my parents drove me around to holiday parties (since my surgery happened right before Christmas). My coworkers went above and beyond by letting all of my volunteers know what had happened and took on the responsibility of helping them with their questions and concerns. It was a wonderful feeling to be so cared for by so many people!
I wish the story could end here, but sadly it does not. Although I have recovered from my surgery, my back problems from my car still linger. After the surgery I thought everything would be better, but it is not and it makes me feel vulnerable and useless. I currently have to go to physical therapy twice a week, have to wear a back brace, have a limited amount as to what I can safely lift, have a difficult time lying or sitting for more than 15 minutes, and can no longer run or do the strength training and high intensity interval training I had become accustomed to. It is frustrating to not be able to do the things that were once so common for me; I cannot even lift my nephew to play with him. But again, my friends and family help to keep me strong! They encourage me to keep positive spirits and help me carry bags and boxes to my car or my office. They help me maintain my sanity by reminding me that I will one day get back to where I was if I keep working hard during my struggle. Arnett, Fritz, and Bell (2009) state that “To climb back to health from a moment of inconvenience or a deep abyss as a patient [or as a caregiver] requires more than physical strength alone” (p.201) and in my case my friends and family illustrate this by their continued emotional support. Their strength and positivity gives me strength and positivity to keep working to make myself better. After all, “No matter what meets us -whether joy, sadness,or sorrow – the human being has one final freedom: our response” (Arnett, Fritz, & Bell, 2009, p.198).
Arnett, R., Harden Fritz, J., & Bell, L. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue and difference. Los Angeles, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.