So, after our beach rescue and ambulance ride, we finally made it to the hospital, maybe an hour and 15 minutes after the actual breaking of the leg, per text messages I was sending around the same time. Jay was taken in the special way and I walked in front to wait for him to get a room.
To back up just a minute, you’ll remember that no one “could” advise us on which hospital to choose, and we were all kinds of baffled because we were from out of town and obviously don’t know things about hospitals when we travel. There was some kind of discussion on the ability to find a pulse in the foot on the injured leg: if they could find one we’d go to a close hospital, if not we’d go to a far hospital better equipped to deal with trauma. As luck would have it the ambulance EMT workers FOUND A PULSE and we got to go to the close hospital. A stranger watching the scene at the marina said that he’d had great experiences at this particular facility and the EMT told Jay the same thing, even though she wasn’t technically supposed to say anything.
In addition to coming highly recommended, the ER (and hospital in general, we later discovered) was DEAD. Now, this can be a good or a bad thing when it comes to a hospital. On the one hand, empty means staff dedicated to you. On the other hand, empty can mean not enough staff dedicated to the patients that ARE in the hospital. In the case of East Cooper Medical Center, a quiet hospital was a wonderful thing, and we both received care and attention that we were very happy with.
I got to go back with Jay in the ER maybe 5 minutes after we got to the hospital, and he was in a room all “hey babe!” and grimacing but trying to be funny. Vitals were taken, x-rays were ordered, then a doctor came in all in very short succession. The x-ray machine was mobile, so Tim the Tech came and shot Jay’s leg right in the room, which was excellent given how painful it was to move him. I sat outside and awkwardly asked the charge nurse if I could have some water because of all things I didn’t want to pass out in the middle of all this. We were at the beach. It was hot. While all this was happening, Jay asked every. single. person that attended to him if they were going to set his leg without telling him, like, be in the middle of a sentence and jerk the thing back into place. We kind of had it in our minds that this was a simple fracture because there wasn’t a ton of swelling and there was a pulse in his foot – both good things. And, if we were right, they’d set the leg, give him a rainbow cast (he later told me that he really wanted one if there was an option), and we’d be back to our daydrinking by that afternoon. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
But, in that moment, Jay was really worried about the thought of someone jerking his poor bones back into alignment with one another. The x-rays were read really quickly, and the nurse came back in and said “whooooooboy you really messed yourself up.” She mentioned two, maybe three breaks, and the ER doc came in and said he’d already called the orthopedist, who was heading in. Great. People having to come in is never a good thing. At that point we started to hear the word surgery being thrown around, so we started to wrap our heads around the fact that this might not be a 3 hour ordeal. Jay let the “you’ll tell me before you set it?” fear go and moved on to “I’ve never had surgery ever” anxiety, which was pitiful and heartbreaking to see. By this point the doctor HAD put in an order for painkillers, so Jay was starting to feel slightly loopy, albeit the drugs weren’t touching the pain at all. He was also parched, and couldn’t have anything to drink because of the possibility of surgery.
When the orthopedist got there, he’d already reviewed the films and had a recommendation for us. He also had weirdly smooth skin for his age (42, which Jay asked after the guy asked Jay how old HE was) and probably the fanciest scrubs I’ve ever seen. Keep in mind that I spend a lot of time with people in scrubs from varying price points, but isn’t it still funny the things we retain in moments of crisis? Fancy scrubs. Only in blue or navy over the course of 2 days, and Jay says Dr. Geier looks like Paul Rudd but I disagreed. Homeboy gave us a quick rundown of who he was (award-winning sports medicine orthopedist, so I told him to go see Trainwreck. Doc, have you seen it yet?) and the procedure he recommended based on the injuries. Basically, Jay had snapped his tibia (big bone in front of the shin) about 4 inches above the ankle, which is what we saw sticking up out of his leg. He also broke is fibula (smaller bone that runs outside of the tibia and behind it) near his knee, so we had 2 breaks to contend with in 2 different places. The procedure involved “placing (sounds gentle, doesn’t it?)” a titanium rod inside the tibia to line the two pieces up, then screwing it into place with 3 screws. Because of Jay’s age, Dr. Geier was willing to put him in a boot and see if the leg would heal itself, but he didn’t have a ton of faith that the leg would heal properly, if at all, and didn’t want Jay to wander around worried that his leg would snap at any moment moving forward.
So, of course, we said yes to the surgery. Barring any OB complications (and yes, it occurred to me that I could become an OB complication at any moment), the OR was free and they’d do the surgery as soon as the team was assembled.
During all this, we had probably 3-5 minutes in between each of these visits from practitioners to ourselves. With each break, we had more information to process together. First it was the break, then it was the surgery, then it was OMG THIS WEEK, and so we just kind of worked through it bit by bit, using more and more information each time. I also used these breaks to text Jay’s and my families so folks would know what was happening. The period between the diagnosis/plan and surgery was probably the worst for Jay. Shock had set in, and even though there was LOTS of Dilauded (7x stronger than morphine), the pain wasn’t touched at all and anxiety about the surgery was high. Jay is healthy and young and everyone said we had nothing to worry about, but there’s still the “here, sign this in case you die, don’t be pissed at us,” that just makes you think, amirite? I think it was worse that there was no planning, either. We had funny and serious conversations – how long should I date before employing another baby daddy? Can we play Hell In A Bucket at the funeral? Can I sign something that says no religion that I don’t believe in is forced on a service for me? Will my penis still work after this? This is also where Jay put on a very disappointed face and lamented that he’d likely never get to be a leg model now. Poor guy, all these dreams crushed to the ground. We also discussed this week: if Jay wasn’t able to come home he’d be missing the baby gender ultrasound, our big concert downtown, and closing on the house refinance. Nothing life-threatening, all can be rescheduled but the concert, but still. To say we were disappointed in the timing of things would be an understatement.
Luckily I was able to remind Jay that legally I’m in charge of him even without POA papers or a living will (which, don’t worry, is in the works), so there would be no afterlife stuff that he didn’t want, and that I’d wait at least a year before dating anyone but even then I’d be pretty banged up with a newborn, so he suggested I start sooner (a real chicken or egg question). We left the fate of his nether-regions be since at least in that scenario he’d still be alive. Morbid? Yes. But, even though it sounds funny to recount, I think people think about these things almost always before they have a major procedure, whether or not they say it out loud or not. And, in those moments that feel close to death even though they’re not, some of the sweetest, most heartfelt things are said. Also, they are said thanks to narcotics. About this time Jay apologized too, which was ridiculous because it was an accident and there was just nothing that could be done about it whatsoever.
Once we decided that surgery was happening, the anesthesiologist had to be called in. These poor people on their Saturday. Making a million dollars. Wahhhhhhh. We loved him, and he suggested that he use a spinal anesthetic in addition to some snoozy stuff for Jay. It’d be like a smaller epidural that would numb him from the waist down and in it he’d inject some morphine so there would be a slow fade of the pain medication directly in the leg itself. The benefit of this type of anesthesia is that there is no intubation necessary, which reduces risks of nausea and requires less heavy stuff to put the patient to sleep. So, we had our sleepy plan, we had our surgical plan. We also had a patient covered in sand because, um, hello, he broke his leg in the ocean. He also was wearing wet undies and a bathing suit. Covered in sand. And, since I was there it was my happy task to cut his clothes off of him. JUST that morning Jay had been telling our brother-in-law Joe that he owns exactly one bathing suit and he’s had it since high school. That’s kind of…impressive?…for a 34-year old, so there was a moment of silence before I hacked the thing off of his now-shaking-from-shock body.
So, we’d been in a boat-bulance, an ambulance, had seen a nurse, gotten x-rays, seen an ER doctor, been referred to the orthopedist, made a plan for surgery, met the anesthesiologist, cut off clothes, and were ready. For what, we weren’t entirely sure, but we signed the shit and smiled bravely and texted the right people and just did the damn thing. I got to walk with the stretcher to the surgery prep and recovery area, which was dark and dead except for our little team. The hospital is used almost exclusively for elective surgery, with the odd emergency on weekends, so we had the place to ourselves. There was a house nursing manager assigned to me, who I got to call throughout the day for updates. Jay was getting more and more drugs, which was wonderful, and I was told that depending on how fast the prep and washing and sleeping went he’d be out in 1-2.5 hours. I got his glasses and ring, which felt so weirdly final and sad, and was escorted out. As soon as he went into surgery I made some calls and had my sister-in-law come and get me so I could shower and change and eat before settling in for whatever was next. I took maybe the fastest shower of my entire life, Elizabeth (one of Jay’s two wonderful sisters) made me some food (it felt like a lot and then I ate it in 10 minutes so…) to take with me, I grabbed my book and some clothes for Jay, and was out the door in five minutes. I rushed because I was thinking that the surgery could actually take near the 1 hour mark, and I DID NOT want to miss the surgeon coming out of surgery to talk to me or my husband waking up. No sir. So I rushed. And then I called the nurse to tell her I was back and she had no update. And then an hour passed. And then another. And I ate all my food and texted everyone who needed to be answered and then after FOUR HOURS from the start of surgery the surgeon came out and told me everything was fine.
Longest four hours of my life, and I know I’m lucky that this is one of the first of those moments that I’ve had. I mainly blame it on watching way too much Grey’s Anatomy, but after a certain number of “they’re still in there” updates I just started to assume that they’d killed my spouse and I would need to get it together really quickly and move on with my life. This is the problem with me and down time. I have an incredibly vivid imagination, and so rather than thinking “this could be bad” and becoming slightly tearful I’m having full blown conversations with the surgeon in my mind and reworking my entire life as a widow with a baby on the way. VIVID. Not ok. Painful. Also, side note, but as I was pacing the waiting room and planning my husband’s death I thought to myself “Well, I definitely love him,” like…I had been concerned I didn’t? I don’t know why, but I remember that moment really clearly and it makes me laugh. Luckily, I’m a crazy person and Jay was fine, the surgery was delayed because the ER was missing a part, like a mechanic, and they had to wait on it. I didn’t ask if this was like….something to do the surgery correctly or a part of Jay’s new leg, and the surgeon did apologize for not having anyone come tell me that he had indeed not let my beloved perish. I’m still a little mad at him for that tiny oversight because I almost lost my actual mind. Dr. Geier made up for it by me bringing the beach towel that Jay had used as a pillow on the stretcher and the life vest that after all these hours had still been used to prop his poor leg up until he went to surgery. Jay, before he was put under, asked them to save it because it came from a rental boat and he didn’t want his sister to get charged for it. I mean, of all the adorable and funny things to be concerned about. The ER staff cleaned the life vest off for us, too.
Finally I was taken back to recovery to see the kid, where we had a tearful reunion and he was all “There’s my pretty girl, you smell better!” and I was all “you stink.” and they took new x-rays and now there was a pin in his leg and THEN we got to the business of getting to a room, releasing the family members for visits, and figuring out the coming weeks.
But right now we need a break from all this. Final installment and current status comin’ atcha next. I might say the word penis again. At this point in the story all of the bits and pieces are fully numb and still covered in sand. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m already pregnant, amirite?