Friday, September 30, 2011

The Fall...

I started writing this the day after I got injured. It is now three weeks later and I am ok...

Before I start this post, I want to say that I am ok.

Yesterday (as in three weeks ago when I started writing this) I went to my room to eat lunch. After lunch I grabbed my umbrella and headed back to work. It had just started raining. I opened my umbrella and started down my steps. Crocs on, umbrella open, carrying my water bottle and empty bowls. I made it down the first set of stairs then turned the landing and as I started down the second set of stairs my feet went out from under me and I proceeded to hit every step on my way down. Cement stairs covered with tile. My left flank and left elbow hit every step on the way down.

When I got to the bottom I could only swear. I could move and feel my legs but I knew I couldn’t get up. Luckily I had my phone in my pocket and I called Jude, my boss. I told her I was hurt and told her where I was. My umbrella landed right over the top of me so I was able to stay mostly dry. She came quickly. I couldn’t get up. Dr John and Maggie and Simon and everyone else showed up out of nowhere. I was told they were going to get the stretcher but I kept saying that if I just sit for a few minutes I would be ok. Deep down I knew that wasn’t true. Any movement and I started crying. The decision was made that Simon would pick me up from behind and someone else get my legs like a fireman hold and get me in a chair. From there they would carry me up the stairs to an empty room. The pain was unbearable and only got so much worse when they tried to put me in the chair. I couldn’t sit. The stretcher showed up and I was laid on it. When my tears came they couldn’t stop. The pain, the embarrassment, everything that started running through my head about being in Sierra Leone and what could go wrong.

They carried me on the stretcher to Orange Ward which was empty. I told them to just put me on the bed on the stretcher but they wanted to get me off it. Profanities ran like a river out of my mouth. I could only lay on my right side. Esther showed up and I realized that things that are said that annoy me so much, annoy so much more when I am hurt. I really dislike it when I am told not to cry when you know that crying helps so much to get the emotion and even pain out. To tell someone that you will be fine or that Jesus will heal me so I don’t need to cry or worry about anything. You don’t know if I will be fine. You don’t know if I will be ok, will need surgery, or if I broke something. You don’t know. Jesus does heal. Miracles happen. God can deliver you from your pain. Does He do it for everyone? No. That is His choice, not mine. I know I shouldn’t worry because God does have a plan, but don’t tell me that God will heal me and I won’t need surgery and I shouldn’t cry. I know she was trying to help and just doing her best to comfort me. A clash of cultures which wouldn’t be the only one of the day.

Jude and Dr John decided pretty quick that I needed X-rays. The ship has a machine but they wouldn’t be able to be read until a day later. I looked up and Dr Lewis came in and told me I was going to Emergency Hospital. I cracked a smile, thinking she was joking. Emergency Hospital is the hospital we send our VVF patients to if they have an RVF. A local hospital which is run by the Italians. When I heard I was headed to Emergency, I have to admit, I got scared. I would have preferred the comfort of the ship where I know people. Where I have friends. Dr Lewis’ husband works at Emergency as a surgeon. She was confident that this was the best place to be seen. There is an orthopedic surgeon there and she was certain this was the place for me to go.

Back onto the stretcher. More tears. More language. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. I was loaded into the back of an Aberdeen Women’s Centre car. All the long ones were out so when I was put in the shorter one, the doors wouldn’t close fully. The back doors were tied closed with wire.

The trip to Emergency was unbelievably painful. Every pothole and every bump was felt and received with tears. Dr John was sitting next to me and held my hand the way there. It was comforting. I felt like a little kid continually asking if we were there yet. I could tell where we were at times. I knew we were on the long stretch of road that passes right in front of the ocean when it felt like we were driving over a cheese grater. We were in Lumley when I saw the colorful umbrellas from the sellers in the market. Laying down in the back I could see full taxis and busses passing. Babies carried on backs and women with large baskets on their heads.

When we arrived at Emergency I was taken out of the AWC vehicle on the stretcher and I felt like I was dumped onto the Emergency stretcher. They wanted me to lie on my back and straighten my legs. Ow. No fun. It’s a very vulnerable position to be in when all you can see are the people pushing you into the emergency room and the white ceiling.

Although the pain in my back was excruciating, the pain from my full bladder was increasing. HR 106, BP 140/80. Yes, I do remember this. I don’t remember when I so aware of what was going on. Needing to know what was happening. I was laying against the wall with the air conditioning unit right above me, dripping water from the unit collected in a bucket below and every now and then I would get a drop on my face or arm.

The doctors were Italian and the nurses were from Sierra Leone. They were all so good to me. After the doctor examined me I was finally given diclofenac IM. That helped with some of the pain. The worst was yet to come though. X-rays were needed. I was wheeled into the hallway and parked there to wait my turn. The pain was already returning. I was crying as I pounded my hand against the wall. At this point I think it finally hit me that this wasn’t a good situation to be in. If something was broken, what were my options? Would I have surgery here or be evacuated? Why the heck did I fall? How ridiculous was this?! I knew it wasn’t good. Every small move brought forth a pain I couldn’t stand to bear. It was finally my turn in radiology. The men were very nice but to turn onto the hard boards was not something I enjoyed doing. This was the worst pain yet. After it was finished, about an hour later, more x-rays were needed to back in I went and more pain had. After the x-rays were done, I was taken back into the emergency room, the large open room, and my wet x-rays were brought and hung on the IV pole at the end of my bed with the chemicals dripping down onto me.

While I laid there waiting for the results, some interesting patients were brought in. Like I said, this was an open room. No curtains. Nothing to separate you from the patient next to you who broke his wrist. Three doctors surrounded this calm looking man and as two pulled traction and the other casted, the man screamed and screamed and screamed. I couldn’t help but watch. My stretcher was the table for the bandages. When that was done another man was wheeled in. His mud house fell in on him the day before. He was unable to move his arms or legs since. He was taken to a local healer who poured boiling water down his back in an attempt to heal him. This is not uncommon here. I looked over when he was rolled onto his side and the skin was all burned off his back. A woman came in who had fibroids which needed to be removed. I guess they can do them at Emergency. I wish I would have known that earlier. I was always told no where in Sierra Leone could this be done. We get so many women here in Aberdeen with this and no where to send them.

The docs finally came to look at my X-rays after giving me a shot of tramadol. That is great stuff! They finally said I had a broken iliac wing. Three Italian docs looking at my many films all decided this. Dr John and Jude were finally allowed back in to see me and we decided I would head to the Africa Mercy to recoup there.

When I got to the ship there was a good amount of people waiting for me. The tramadol stayed in my system for hours it felt so the ride there wasn’t bad. It took just over an hour or so to get there with the traffic. When I arrived, the side door opened and I saw Jane, a wonderful friend there who worked to get things situated for me to arrive. When the back door opened there were four big Ukrainian guys ready to carry me up the gangway on the stretcher. I will say this many times, but this was the most humbling experience of my life.

To speed up the story now...

When I got to the deck 3 hospital, I was taken to C ward where my friends had made me up a bed with a bright green apple comforter. I was taken first to get new x-rays of my pelvis and left elbow which had a great tunnel formed in it. My films from the ship were sent to the orthopedic doc who comes to do the ortho surgeries on the ship and to another radiologist in Canada. The ortho surgeon said I had broken my pelvis and I had a funny looking SI joint which I would need a CT scan to fully see if it was broken, and the radiologist in Canada said everything looked fine. All I knew was that any movement and I was in excruciating pain. The iliac wing fracture which was my diagnosis at Emergency Hospital turned out to be a smudge on the films. Kind of funny to look at now and see this smudge which brought me so much anxiety a few hours earlier...

For seven days I was on bed rest on board the Africa Mercy. If the ship was not here I would have been airlifted to Europe somewhere for scans and treatment. Finally on the seventh day I had a CT which showed nothing was broken. Seven days later it still hurt so much to bend or move certain ways but the pain was improving. Those seven days in the hospital I was shown such love. The friends I have here are incredible. I never ate a meal alone. We had picnics for lunch and dinner where friends would bring me food from the dining hall. We celebrated two friend’s birthdays while I was there with cake and watching Planet Earth. Documented my bruise which grew and changed to the prettiest blues and purples. They came and watched movies with me. Brought me a fake plant to brighten the room. Talked. We figured out how I could turn a bit so they could wash my hair. They listened to me and advocated for me and listened more to my frustration as I knew I was going to have to cancel my flight home for my brother’s wedding. All such amazing women.

On day seven, after the CT results, physical therapy came to get me out of bed. Jane helped as well as I first stood and walked with a walker then crutches. After I could do this, I moved to a guest cabin and saw rain and sunlight for the first time in seven days. I spent another week in that cabin sleeping mostly and moving more.

I’m now back in Aberdeen. It’s amazing to hear all that has happened in the last three weeks. The week before I fell I had to fire two nurses. Esther hired two more while I was away. I wasn’t expecting this at all. She told me the questions she asked and reasons for not hiring certain nurses who interviewed. I am very impressed with her and proud.

Now it is slowly getting back into work. On the 8th we will be launching a hotline for VVF throughout Sierra Leone. A toll free number where people can call if they think they know someone with VVF. It should be a wonderful day. Please pray for this opening that it goes smoothly and women hear about this centre who need to.