A mop of lively dark hair walks into my room wheeling a screen.
“OK Lucy,” says the enthusiastic young doctor, “I have the CT scan I promised I would share with you”. Of course I have zero memory of this, but flash him a big grin, excited to be looking at something other than a slowly expanding patch of ceiling.
Doctor Brandon sits at the end of my bed, beckoning Mat and mum closer to the machine. He messes around with the cables for a while, trying to get it to work, before…
… the screen boots into action and a monochrome image is revealed. The smudge is indistinguishable to me, but I presume Mat and mum can make it all out because they are smiling, nodding, and releasing timely ‘ooo’s and ‘ahh’s.
Ten minutes later, Doctor B clears up, satisfied, and leaves the room. The door closes and I turn to mum.
“Was that useful then?” I ask.
Mum turns to Mat, and “did you have any idea what we were looking at?” she asks him.
“Not a clue,” he says.
It’s been a week since the accident, and we still have little idea of how I am going to heal. The realisation that everything will be different now conflicts with a fear of projecting myself too far ahead, so I choose to stay in the moment as much as possible. Trauma is a strange beast, a rush of information to accept as your new normal, with no slow decline, no time to accept each phase of a situation before it worsens. Everything happens at once, so all there is to say is, ‘OK, I guess this is me now. What’s next?’
Of course, you can feel sorry for yourself – and I do, much more than I am proud of – but nothing changes, and you are still left with the same situation after the crying and the ranting, only worse because now your nose is blocked and your cheeks are all itchy.
The good news is, I have recently discovered I can move both of my legs and the toes on my right foot. High five to that. The left foot, however, feels like it’s not there, and I have a throbbing pain in my left butt cheek that is only made bearable by regular doses of morphine.
“Move your right toes for me again”, the nurse asks me for the third time today.
It takes a while for me to focus, but sure enough, after a few seconds of effort, they start to wiggle. They don’t feel like my toes anymore though, they feel somehow further away. It’s as if I have woken up inside a new vessel, an avatar I haven’t learned to communicate with yet. I sigh.
The oxygen monitor goes off again. A piece of tape attached to my finger connects me to a machine that screams when my stats go below 90%, adding to the symphony of beeps produced by most of the other pieces of equipment in my room.
“Don’t forget to breathe,” the nurse says to me.
For a split-second I panic that I have actually forgotten how to do it. Why does suddenly becoming conscious of something make it so much more difficult? The expanding blood pressure sleeve on my arm distracts me and the beeping finally stops. Bliss. A thermometer slides over my forehead, and the nurse studies the magical numbers that appear at its base.
“98.9 degrees Lucy,” she says. “Good job!”
I feel irrationally proud of myself.
My nurses each work 12-hour shifts, watching over me day and night like angels. I think they might actually be angels, what with all the beeping.
This afternoon I spend a lot of time trying to visualise the accident, to try and work out how all of the injuries happened. Could I have done anything differently? Was I partly to blame for all this? Mat tells me the lady who hit me, a young mother with her baby in the car, had swerved across from the opposite side of the road for no apparent reason. He says it wasn’t my fault, that there was nothing I could have done differently. I can’t decide whether or not to believe him.
My ruminating is disturbed by a knock on my door. A young surgeon in green scrubs walks in and introduces himself.
“Hi Lucy, I’m Doctor Curzen,” he smiles and leans on the edge of my bed. I picture him wearing his fraternity sweatpants, drinking beer and watching the game on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
He is here to talk us through his plan of attack for tomorrow, when he will spend four hours embedding yet more metal into my pelvis, snapping me back together again like Ikea Furniture.
“… then we will turn you on to your tummy and open up your back so we can access your sacrum”.
It makes me feel like a carcass in an abattoir. I can hear the sound my flesh makes, pounding on the table as they flip me. Thud.
I shake the unwelcome image from my mind and re-enter the conversation. They are talking about the successes of my first surgery, one of which was the repair of my ‘gaping perennial laceration’.
“They did a great job on your vagina,” he says.
My oxygen stats reveal my discomfort. I turn my gaze to Mat, and then to my mum. A knowing look of silent agreement passes between us; British politeness is always best.
We smile and nod in unison; “well that’s wonderful news”.
“See you in surgery Lucy,” he says, giving me the thumbs up.
I look at my mum as soon as he leaves the room, knowing exactly what she is going to say.
“Well, he was dishy wasn’t he?!”