For the next few days, I wake up every morning, genuinely surprised that the accident wasn’t a dream. It doesn’t disappoint me, or make me sad, it just surprises me. I open my eyes to look at the exact same spot I was studying on the ceiling before dozing off, and think to myself; oh, ok, so it actually happened.
I have a brace on my neck, which means I can’t move my head at all. I feel like a floating mind, out of context, and disconnected from my physical body. It’s strange not to know where I am, not to know what’s around me.
Mum and Mat spend a lot of time describing the room to me.
“The view from the window is beautiful Luce,” mum says. “It’s of the Oakland Hills. The sun is shining, and someone is walking into the building with a bunch of flowers”.
“Where are you sitting Mat?” I ask, trying to fit him into my image of the room.
“On a chair that turns into a bed,” he tells me. “It’s right next to you, and it’s where I sleep every night”.
“Oh,” I get the feeling he’s told me this before, but I don’t remember. “Is it comfortable?”
“It’s OK, yeah”.
There have been a surprising amount of laughs today. In fact, despite everything, I have found myself mostly happy for the last couple of days. I don’t know if it’s the Morphine, but I have a strange sense of acceptance; a sense of warmth, and intrigue; that Mat, Mum and I are a tenacious team on some kind of unpredictable and exciting adventure.
It’s definitely the morphine.
A nurse walks in. I can see her out of the corner of my eye. She walks towards me and I feel a dull pain in the general area my legs should be.
I lose it. “Oh God, please don’t. Please don’t touch me!”
“You need to tell her what you are going to do before you touch her,” Mat tells her in a calm patient voice, as if he’s already said this a hundred times. “She can’t see you, and she gets upset when she doesn’t know what’s going on”.
“OK,” the nurse says. She has yellow hair, I think. I try and focus my eyes but it’s difficult to see.
I follow her voice around the room, trying to place her in it.
“Hi Miss Lucy,” she says in a warm southern accent. “I’m going to put this pillow under your leg now. I think this will make you more comfortable”.
It doesn’t. Nothing does. I don’t think the pain is localised yet so my whole body hurts, an indiscriminate blur of intensity.
One benefit of not being able to see my body is that I still have very little idea of what’s wrong with it. I ask Mat and Mum about this on a regular basis, but I can never seem to hang on to a memory of their response, their words like a balloon on a string, floating just out of my reach.
My nose itches, but I can’t figure out how to scratch it.
“Scratch my nose, mum,” I command.
She appears in my field of vision and does as instructed.
“No. Harder,” I say, failing to mask a surge of frustration. It’s strange, being so out of control. Not being able to do anything for myself. But who is this whiny person I have become? God, this is hard.
Lunch arrives. It is Jello again. Mum feeds it to me with a spoon. It feels cold and unwelcome in my mouth, but I swallow it. They are trying to feed me this thick, gloopy drink that tastes like metal, but I‘m being a little bitch about it.
“It’s disgusting,” I moan.
“But it’s good for you,” mum protests.
I get distracted by a sensation I don’t recognise, and start to explore my body with my suddenly working right hand. I move it down my torso, making distorted faces as it is met with only numbness and swelling. But then, something else. A huge metal bar that seems to be sticking out of my pelvis. It is absolutely enormous.
“What’s this?!” I grope at it, panic coursing through my veins like a shot of adrenaline. “It’s, it’s pinning me to the bed. It’s pinning me to the bed!”
“It’s not Lucy”, Mum says calmly. “It’s your external fixator. It’s just keeping your hips in place, but it doesn’t go through you, don’t’ worry”.
I don’t believe her, continuing to grope around my swollen, numb torso. “It’s pinning me, mum. It’s pinning me.”
Mat goes to find a nurse to explain my injuries, and what they’ve done for me so far. Only fragments of memory stick; lots of words; becoming frustrated; a nurse storming out; a nurse apologising. I don’t know if these are real memories or shadows of a dream, but I still can’t seem to hold onto an explanation. Why has my tummy been opened up? And why are there staples all the way down it?
“Press your morphine button baby,” Mat says, sensing my discomfort. “The nurse keeps telling you, you need to use it more”.
Night falls, and I try to sleep, but the nurses wake me up every two hours to turn me over. It takes five of them to do it, and the whole charade is torturous. I sense what feels like twenty sets of hands working their way underneath my right-hand side and tense up, ready for the next round of pain.
“She prefers it when you go really slow, and talk her through what you’re doing,” I hear Mat’s voice, instructing the team of nurses in the middle of the night. His presence soothes me. When does he sleep? When does he eat?
They start to move and I scream in protest as the pain consumes my back, my neck, my shoulder, my hips.
“No, not like that, you’re hurting her”.
When I next wake up, I have been into surgery and my left arm is in a cast. I imagine I must have lost a day somewhere, but I finally remember what’s happened. My arm! It was broken, but they have fixed it, with pins! The memory makes me smile.
I look up at my usual view of the ceiling and see my arm has been elevated above me and is attached to some kind of makeshift hanger. The small stuffed fox from above our fridge is hanging there too, staring down at me. Cute little guy. How did he get there?
I look back at my arm, and notice my favourite ‘Dragons vs Unicorns’ sock has been pulled over my hand and up over my cast.
I glance towards Mat and raise an eyebrow.
He shrugs and smiles.
“We didn’t want your hand to get cold”.