It’s Been A Really Long Road

From my knee injury to surviving Covid as an ER nurse, it’s been a very long road.  I stopped writing in 2019.  This is the draft I found when I logged back in – 3 years later:

It wasn’t until my 5th month of treatment and a near-tear meltdown that my ortho doc was frank about my injuries. We’d discussed significance.  We’d discussed patience, time, and self-healing. We talked about the frustration of yo-yo healing.  As an ER nurse, I’m well-versed in medical vernacular. At 5 months, I was ready to go back to work.  I was ready to hit the ski slope. I was more than ready to be everything that I had been prior to my injury.  I was patient. I followed the advice.  It was time to go back to the me I had been before I got hurt.

He said no. He offered a second opinion. He looked me in the eye and said, “Amy, I think you tried really hard to dislocate your knee.” The words didn’t register. I said, “Well, my kneecap was on the side of my leg…” He looked at me and repeated himself. “We know you dislocated your patella. I think you nearly dislocated your whole knee.”

“Oh. That makes me sick to my stomach.”

It did. Trauma nurses can stomach just about anything, but this was part of my own body and the idea made me queasy. We changed the subject and joked about how his once ER Trauma nurse wife passed out giving blood. Suddenly, “significant” took on a new meaning to me. I always assumed being a non-surgical candidate meant I had dodged a bullet. It didn’t mean that at all. It meant that there wasn’t a surgical fix available. Total knee dislocations are more than significant. Many result in lower leg amputations. As high as 88%, in fact.

Phew. Okay. I went from frustrated to immensely grateful and relieved all at the same time. I still had my leg. Losing it would have been a crappy way to lose weight. Suddenly those extra 12 pounds I’d gained meant a heck of a lot less. He wrote me another work note, another order for physical therapy and a letter to the mountain, just in case I needed it to try to transfer my ski pass over to someone that could actually use it.

Snow was flying, the hospital was sending out “RN NEEDED” texts and the mountain had a lift opening date posted on social media. I was grateful for my leg but heartbroken all at the same time. I think I cried off and on for a week. When I was done feeling sorry for myself, I got my sh** together and moved forward.

Yep, it hurt. Yes, there were moments that felt futile. I limped like a WWII vet (and appreciated their sacrifice on an even deeper level). Anything over 3000 steps and fluid began to accumulate under my kneecap setting limits that neither my body nor brain were very good at tolerating. We extended my physical therapy and maxed out my visits per week. My job was to get better and I was determined to succeed.

It took nearly 8 months to get back to working my ER shifts. I did get to use my ski pass but I was more of a spectator on the sidelines than a skier. My knee barely bent – and with tape, a wrap and a brace in place, it really didn’t bend at all. Three steps forward, two steps back. It took over a year for me to roll over in bed. It was 16 months before I could kneel down. It still swells when I do too much. I use kinesiology tape to keep my ligaments aligned. I have accepted that it will never be the same as it was but at the same time, I refuse to believe this will be as good as it gets.

I don’t know if it was the very mild head injury or the constant knee pain but writing was a struggle. Words would be at the tip of my tongue but may as well have been buried. I couldn’t get them out the way they had flowed in the past. It was too frustrating to sit and try to write. So I didn’t.

And then the dreaded Covid hit…

I have to giggle a little.  I found this draft about my leg injury on the computer and at the time, I believed it was a life-altering event.  I had no idea what waited just around the corner.

The first email I received from hospital administration about Covid was from the legal team literally threatening legal action against any employee that discussed anything about Covid or hospital operations.  The second notification was that all PPE (personal protective equipment, like masks, etc.) was going to be locked up and distributed on a need basis only.  So, essentially, we were stripped of our protective gear and put on a gag order.

I honestly quit writing because I had nothing nice to say.

Three years have passed and I don’t think any of us will ever be the people we were prior to the pandemic.  The innocence is lost; the naivety is gone.  The pandemic was terrible enough on its own, but it also exploited some detrimental weaknesses in the systems we have grown to depend on and trust – like healthcare.  It’s a freaking dumpster fire.  When leaders can go home and “work from home” for nearly 36 months and pocket million-dollar salaries with bonuses in the hundreds of thousands of dollar range and claim to not be able to afford or find caregivers to provide healthcare providers for patients, there is a bigger problem on the horizon.  But I digress…

There’s not a lot I will share with people about the past 3 years on a public platform.  I’m simply too tired and too heartbroken over all of it.  What I will share is that I’ve watched amazing hospital staff rise to the occasion and take care of people in need while most of the rest of the world had the luxury of tucking their tails and retreating to the safety of their homes until the worst passed.

Most people won’t get it.  It’s kind of one of those “had to be there” things.  More accurately, “had to be afraid of bringing something home that might literally kill your entire family” things.

My coworkers all showed up, all of them.  Doctors, nurses, lab staff, RAD techs, housekeeping, admit staff, security, the kitchen, and the people that keep the equipment fixed and running; they all showed up.  They may have stripped in the driveway and lived in a tent in their garage for a few months, but no one quit, no one freaked out and everyone showed up.  That level of commitment to care for others can’t be dismissed or ignored and they essentially did it for strangers that needed help on their worst day simply because it’s what they committed to when they accepted the job.  So there is that.

There is more good in the world than bad.

And in the great words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

My knee has mostly healed, my soul is in a deep recovery process and I’m beginning to find beauty in the things that I see.  I might have some nice things to say again.  They aren’t all nice.  Let’s get real.  But I think I’m ready to stop being mad and move forward.  Life is beautiful and we only get one shot.  Let’s live it.