22 July 2007

Internal Data Reporting

I was involved in a rather serious cycling accident last Sunday afternoon. I've been in the Surgical ICU at the Nyack Hospital and returned home Friday afternoon. Another cyclist ran into me between Piermont and Nyack on 9W. I have multiple fractures on 5 or 6 of my ribs and had a partially collapsed lung which also had a small tear (it's now re-inflated but still bruised).

The collision itself and immediate aftermath were terrifying experiences. I maintained consciousness throughout. After being struck I was knocked to the ground and lay there with tremendous pain in the right side of my torso. My breathing was wheezy and shallow and I was spitting out a copious amount of blood. The rider who struck me was with a group and they were very helpful in keeping me calm. A nurse also appeared out of nowhere and was also comforting. Because we were only a couple miles away from Nyack, there was an ambulance on the scene very shortly. After a small amount of trouble getting me into the back of it, we were off to the Trauma Ward in the ER.

By this point I was having a great deal of difficulty breathing and people kept asking me for my name, address, etc. I remember giving part of my address with my fingers. The ride was brief and I soon found myself staring at hallway lights as I was rushed into the hospital. A huge team of people surrounded me, poking, prodding, asking questions. It was quickly determined that I had multiple rib fractures and a partailly collpased lung due to a small tear. I was also having to sign and fill out paperwork while all this was taking place. Dr. Slidell, the attending physician, explained that he was going to have to make an incision between my ribs and insert a tube to drain the blood off of my lungs. Painful and awkard, but the results were immediate: I could breathe again.

Rachel arrived at some point shortly after the tube had been inserted and I had been "stabilized". It was an immense comfort to see a familiar face, particularily hers. I even couldn't help from clowning around a little bit. You'll notice in the picture taken in the Trauma Ward (I'm still wearing my jersey) that I have a big "school portrait" grin on my face. I couldn't stop thinking about how ridiculous I must have looked with the O2 mask on my face with my glasses and all those wires and tubes coming off and out of me.

After a series of CAT Scans and x-rays, I was taken to my room in the SICU. All of the nurses there were amazing, kind, professional and caring people. When I think back to being in there my first thoughts are of kindness and compassion, not of injury and pain. Eileen, Sarah, Jackie, Laura, Bonnie. . .all amazing. Laura and I had the most fun together as it was my last full day when I had her, I was her only patient and we were both pretty bored. And she's a classic born-in-Queens kind of gal and we had fun breaking each other's balls.

I did not get out of bed for my first 2 days there. Sponge baths in bed, roll me over to change the sheets. Psychologically difficult, but I didn't feel much like moving anyhow. Arriving at the SICU is when the real wires and tubes came out and attached themselves to me. Saline drip, morphine drip with a "trigger", EKG (5 wires/sensors), O2 mask, nurse call button, TV control. And of course they all exceeded at getting tangled.

I was never alone in my room for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. It was always time to do something: meds, x-ray, draw blood, clean me up, change the sheets, change my drip bags, give me a nebulizer treatment, eat. I got used to a pretty bizarre sleeping schedule.

The food, as would be expected, was generally awful. The low was a cheese omelette that involved a microwaved egg with a bit of American cheese thrown in before folding it over. Oddly enough, eggs in general were the rock bottom of the food. I blame it on the microwave prep method, it creates an inedible rubber texture. I did eat some fish while there which was generally ok, and I had a decent baked ziti. Even with my eating fish, an otherwise vegeatrain diet posed some challenges to the kitchen which I found a bit surprising, given that it's 2007 and we were only a few miles from NYC.

The tube came out on the third day and after that I was able to get up and around a bit better. The pain in my side also noticably decreased. I still was connected to a host of wires, so my time in bed was long. I watched a lot of movies (thanks, AMC) including all 3 Godfathers, Goodfellas, some Steve Martin flicks and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Suffice it to say that my recovery continued at a good pace and by Friday I was free to go. Corey came and got me and escorted me out to my first outdoor experience since about 11:30 AM last Sunday.

I am feeling quite a lot better now although I am still in a pretty high amount of physical pain because of my ribs. I'm having to do a lot of breathing exercises and am on percoset and an antibiotic. Thankfully the damage was all very localized and I did not sustain any serious injuries anywhere else on my body. My friends have been amazing and indescribably helpful. I am in good spirits and my recovery goes well. I am taking this week off to build my strength back up and continue healing, one of the upshots being that I will be off on my birthday this year.

Soooo, there's the newspaper version. Below are some only somewhat lucid notes I made when thinking about how to try to write about this experience.

-now in this place of feeling a line from me to every living thing. a connection to what many would label god. so much larger than myself, impossible to realize, no choice but to be pounded over and over again by this tsunami that defies emotional categorization b/c it embraces every feeling i could possibly think to put a label on.

-we're still human beings, we hurt each other, people run into you on their bicycles.

-the love and selflessness of my friends, the kindness and compassion of jorge in particular making me truly believe that i am family. the kindness and compassion of the nurses in the sicu. my feelings for my biological family. my kitty friends.

-what goes off inside of me when i see rachel. what i think about when i hear her breathing next to me.

-i know this a journal entry of a 20 year old, but here i am.

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