It was lunch time for the kids, so DH had to leave. "I'll be fine" I said bravely. "After all, I am...." and I looked around, wondering where I was. "..in the emergency room", DH completed the sentence for me. For the first time that day, it occurred to me that I was hurt badly.
Nature seems to have a way of shielding us - truthfully, I was not in excruciating pain. Not inmuch pain, actually. Just overall weakness - extreme weakness. Some pain here and there, now and then.
I saw him leave and must have fallen asleep, since a bit later, a nurse came by to check my IV fluid level and my BP. When I opened my eyes, I felt my palms hurt - as if someone wearing hiking shoes had stepped over them. Some 15 years ago, I had once skidded while on my Kinetic Honda scooter, thanks to some sand on the road. My hands had taken the brunt of the fall and my palms had hurt badly. I remembered that and also remembered that in a few days, that pain had vanished. Maybe this time too it would, I told myself. The nurse went her merry way, leaving me to observe the staff at the ER. It seemed like any other ward (I could see just outside my room) - quiet. I wondered, briefly, how long I'd be here. The more important question was why I was here since morning, but that did not occur to me.
My legs felt a bit weird and I tried to find out why. I wriggled my toes - yes, I could do that.
I flexed my feet and tried to push the rim of the bed - yes, I could do that. And yet, I thought
something was amiss. Were they getting numb? Could be, I was not sure.
DH returned and I don't quite remember what we spoke. At some point, they took me to a lab to scan my brain. (didn't find much, eh?!). I don't remember it. Then a doctor came by and started off with: "What is your name?", then "Where are you now?". I was surprised with those questions and it still did not occur to my to wonder why I was being asked these basic questions.
She then proceeded to test my reflexes and took out that little hammer doctors use to gently strike on a patient's joints, to test the response. My arms were ok but legs were jumpy, as I stared, surprised.
Then she asked me to close my eyes and a few seconds later, asked, "What do you feel?". She had some small item in her hand and she had placed it on my leg and pulled it all along, until my foot. I could feel it but did not know what it was. A minute later, again she asked me the question and again, I could not tell what item it was.
I was puzzled. I was happy that I could at least feel something but what was it? She then performed the same test on my hands. The first time I felt ticklish - it was an ear bud that she had used! The second time, my response was "OUCH"!
It was a pin that she had tried running along my hand. It had not hurt when she ran it down my leg!
This did not seem ok at all, did it? Oh dear.....but as I recall, I felt no panic. Perhaps my energy level was so low that my body did not permit any such emotion. Or maybe I had just surrendered completely. I remember feeling serene and unperturbed. Perhaps I was totally naive!!
DH left again, as it was around 5.30 and he wanted to get dinner ready for the kids.
At 6.45 pm, I was told that in 10 minutes, I would be taken for an MRI. Immediately, I called up DH to tell him that he did not have to rush back after dinner and that he could come by at 8.00 or so. He was already on his way, so he continued but I had just been moved to the MRI lab. Two male nurses came by to shift me from my bed to the mobile one, so that I could be wheeled to the MRI lab. I was worried if my neck would be hurt during the shift, but then, I wondered - there was no pain, so why worry....When they shifted me, that is when I realized just how weak and floppy my body felt. My body felt very light (I would have, under normal conditions, felt elated about this!) and....almost not there! I tried desperately to question myself as to who was observing all this. Whose body was this?
The shift from my bed did not hurt my neck - they were very gentle and careful about it, of course. When I was being wheeled, I realized that a continuous view of the ceiling was unusual. The closed MRI machine felt like a coffin the moment they pushed my stretcher in. They were going to take images of my brain and my spinal cord. It took around 45 minutes or so, with several 8-10 minute cycles. It was loud in there but I dozed off each time a cycle started. And then they wheeled me back to the emergency room. Meantime, DH had caught a quick 30 minute nap.
At some point on the way back, I caught a fleeting glimpse of my face - oh wow, so much blood on it?! I had not even felt it! And no one had bothered to wipe what had now dried up. When I was back in the room, DH took some gauze, dipped it in warm water and wiped my face. It hurt slightly.
After that, he helped me eat some food that he had brought. I could not hold the spoon at all - my fingers were almost non-functional, I realized. So yes, he fed me and that was my first food in about 24 hours - I had had no breakfast or lunch, remember?! I think that by that my point, my hunger had sort of gone, my body resigned to this lack of food but still, I welcomed that bit of food. Then DH had to leave, to put the children to bed. He said he'd return after that but I told him he need not and asked him to get some sleep.
At about 11.00pm or so, another doctor came by. He said: "The disc between your C5-C6 vertebrae has herniated and is pushing on your spinal cord; also, we found that the disc itself has degenerated; so we are going to replace that disc with a synthetic one - and the surgery will also help relieve the pressure on your spinal cord; you will need an ACDF surgery", he concluded, in that rather matter-of-fact tone that seems to be common with doctors. (well, it is not his neck, so why would I expect any emotion at all?). He took out some forms for me to sign. I told him that I could barely hold a pen. He said I could give him verbal consent and that he would sign the paper for me. "My husband needs to be here" I said, quietly.
"Well, we will have to take you in to the operating room soon, in about 30 minutes", he said, slightly irritated (or so, I thought).
"We live really close by, he can be here in 5 minutes", I said and took out the phone at the head of my bed. It had those big buttons and so I managed to dial DH's number. For some reason, I could not reach his phone. Then I tried calling my brother, who said DH had just left home. I had barely placed the phone back when DH arrived. The doctor again explained to him about this surgery. This caught him by surprise.
"Please give us five minutes" he told the doctor. We really did not know what was going on and we had to go with the doctor's decision, which was ok. We called up my brother to brief him about this.
After that, I was wheeled to a different floor for the surgery. As we were going along, I noticed a sign that said, "No metal objects beyond this point" and alerted my nurses about my wedding ring and my gold ear-rings. My wedding ring was slightly snug and I could not help remove it as my fingers were limp. One nurse tied a string to it and slowly pried it out, while another one removed my ear-rings.
At the pre-op room, the anesthesiologist spoke to me about the procedure. She explained that since the injury was in my neck, they would not be able to insert a tube down my throat the usual way (after one round of anesthesia) and would instead have to do it when I was awake. I did not like that but did I have a choice? At this point, the surgeon, who had arrived, spoke to the anesthesiologist and told her she could administer the anesthesia the usual way, with a slight modification. I did not quite understand that but was relieved to know that I would not be awake for any of it. After this, I looked at DH and managed a weak smile. He smiled back and wished me well. I could see that he was putting on a brave face but was beginning to cry inside.
Then it was time for the anesthesia and I was gone to the no-memory land, just as I had done earlier that morning, during my bicycle ride.