When my dreams gave way to reality and my messenger’s words sunk in, I slowly, gradually became aware of how serious, how devastating my injuries were. It was a sentence handed to me and I didn’t know what I had done to make me guilty.
I had never broken anything. Not even so much as a sprained ankle. I had, only a few weeks ago, been grumbling about my foot bothering me when I ran. I had gone to a walk-in clinic to find out what was going on. Running was something I did regularly because I could. I loved the rhythm of it and how my mind would keep pace with my feet. I was told I had plantar fasciitis. I was told to wait it out. It might go away on its own.
Rest and waiting it out weren’t going to heal me now.
My parents didn’t have the luxury of a choice when it came time to have my right leg amputated. They signed off in submission to the doctors’ decision that had been made for my own good. A necessity to save me. My leg was a liability and, so, it had to go.
Fire had snaked its way to my feet and legs as I hung upside down in my car suspended by my seat belt. Fire crept and crawled until it covered 52% of my body. That was the statistic I was given. Just over half of my body burnt. What percent would be erased completely I wondered? 13%, 18% of a body I could no longer lay claim to.
I was unconscious as a shaky signature sealed the inevitable, unconscious as surgeons forced their way though muscle and bone to set in motion my new life.
My left leg wasn’t faring much better. When the nurses came in to change the dressings they would warn me, “Don’t look, Heidi. It’s better for you if you don’t look.”
I had to look. I had to see what remained. What could I still hold on to and hope for? They unwound the white gauze from me gingerly, carefully. My toes were black and red, red and black. The pain rolled off my foot in waves. I gritted my teeth trying to lock up my face. Don’t cry. Breathe in and out to manage my pain. But, it wouldn’t be managed. I cried in pain and disbelief. Not grief, though. Grief would come later. My leg couldn’t be salvaged. This couldn’t hold me anymore.
We carried on the charade of saving my left leg for a few more weeks. I think everyone at the burn unit was rooting for my leg. I imagined the staff saying, one leg at a time. She’s lost her right. Let’s give her more time. She’s young. She runs. She’s young. Like it was too much for all of us to take in. I could do without one, but not both. Not the left leg, too.
The resident doctor broke the news to me even though this wasn’t really news. It should have come as no surprise, but the finality of it shocked me. Whatever shred of hope I had, no matter how unfounded, was buried. No eleventh hour victory. No last minute miracle. It was over. Both legs. Both feet. Gone.