52 Percent

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.

11 thoughts on “52 Percent

  1. Christy

    Oh Heidi. I'm in awe of your ability to put this tragedy into such an elegantly written story. I so wish the ending had been different for you, but am so glad you pulled through and here, here and now. I can't imagine how difficult this must have been, and my words seem inadequate. Big hug, my friend. Thank you again for sharing. And hope writing this is helping you.

  2. Linda Sue

    I'm not sure where that "what have i done to deserve this" thing stems from. Perhaps it is the christian tendency to blame, judge, reward/ punishment …pissing god off so take that, sort of thing. Happenings happen…I do not think however that I would be as elegant as you nor as brave. You are such a shining example for all and we are so lucky that you also can write! And have a memory! Just amazing. I am so eager for your next post, and the next and the next- LOVE love love!

  3. Lynne

    I am so knocked out by this last post of yours. What can I say? Except that you seem to be an amazing person.

  4. sugarlens

    oh wow. I just want to say I am really enjoying your story. Can't imagine the thoughts that went through your head while all this happened.

  5. Jillian Livingston

    Hello Heidi,

    I think that writing your story will bring to you more friends than you could ever imagine.

    I am so sorry for your pain but we are all here with you on your road to an emotional recovery!

  6. Anna See

    Wow. I can't imagine the pain, both external and internal.I am so sorry you have gone through this. You are telling this story eloquently. I am riveted.

  7. Heidi

    cookie, thank you! the little control i had was one of the toughest things to face.

    christy, i keep saying this, but you are just so sweet. you have the biggest heart…thank you…a giant hug right back.

    linda sue, i get what you're saying. i think i was trying for creative with that sentence, but i don't know that i ever believed i was being punished or being taught a lesson or anything like that. you're right, bad things just happen. thank you for your kindness. you are so good to me.

    lynne, thank you. truly. thank you.

    sugarlens, it's been difficult piecing some of my memory together. some things are very clear and others are blurry and take some effort to uncover. and thank you…i'm glad you're enjoying it. 🙂

    jillian, thank you so much for stopping by and thank you for your words. hope to see you again!

    anna see, coming from you that is quite a compliment. i so enjoy your blog and your writing, so thank you.

  8. bernthis

    I have tears running down my face. Heidi, your bravery, your glass half full point of view is inspirational. Your story, incredible.


  9. Intense Guy

    May I ask if you could… expand on what your parents … went through? for the sake of completing this?

    I don't mean to sound like a ghoul or anything – I just cannot imagine what your parents went through when they signed those papers.

    I think I see where your strength comes from – your parents were very strong too.

  10. Heidi

    jessica, thank you…with all my heart.

    intense guy, i just wrote a post and mentioned you in it. your answer to your question will be coming. 🙂

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