distraction (pain management)

The doctors and their students were next. They would make their rounds at the burn unit checking in with each of their patients. I was in Room 1, the isolation room. I was usually seen last. Sometimes I would wield my patient seniority and request they see me first. I wanted to have seven pairs of eyes of seven strangers seeing me naked and hardly at my best over with quickly.

“How are you doing today, Heidi? What’s your pain like on a scale of 1 to 10?” I was asked this each day. I gave it a beat of thought before I measured my pain and doled out my answer. Seven was my standard answer. Not too high, not too low. For the first three months I was in considerable pain even with my friend morphine, so, I stood by seven, my go-to number.

I was inspected and checked off, prodded and whispered about. I only spoke if I had a question. I tuned their white coats out and willed them away, staring longingly at my TV. They were good to me, doing their job, but I was reeling from the small army of nurses. I was still catching my breath. And I was naked. My injuries couldn’t be guessed at and the precarious skin grafts weren’t a hypothetical. They needed to get close. I was told that when I was given showers while anesthetized the nurses would strategically place cloths over me as they washed me. I laughed when Catherine, one of my nurses, relayed the conversation had with a doctor present at the shower. He was puzzled as to why they were doing this. Her response was defensive saying, “Heidi is very modest. We’re trying to give her some dignity.” Personal space was a luxury one didn’t have at a hospital and I quickly gave in to the fact that I would be seen without a stitch of clothing on regularly and not over a glass of wine.

Once everyone filed out and I wasn’t slotted in for surgery I filled my day with distraction.

Books were brought, but I was too weak to hold a book most of the time and too fragile to read some of what was sent my way. I suppose Christian literature and Christian fiction were meant to cheer me up, but I couldn’t take happy endings and girls with heavy hearts weighing their options only to always come to the right decision after seeking the Lord, their problems simply sliding off their shoulders as soon as they gave them up to Jesus. I counted myself among those who believed, but syrupy, spoon fed Christianity wasn’t going to cure what was ailing me.

I had TV to look forward to. I used to be too busy to watch TV and now I had more time than anyone needed. I hadn’t watched Young and the Restless since I was a girl with my mom. The characters were still here years later. Victor, Nicky, the Abbotts. I picked up where I left off eight years ago. Nothing had really changed in Genoa City. I caught up on Seinfeld and Friends. I watched a travel show religiously. It was on each morning at ten. I never missed an episode. I traveled to India, Israel, Morocco, Thailand… I stayed in out of the way bed and breakfasts, rode on gondolas and tried the local food. TV was my solace, my reprieve. I didn’t have to think. I avoided anything that made me feel too much. I didn’t want sappy or anything emotionally charged.

The resident psychologist popped into my room from time to time. It was mandatory that he be there, but I had nothing to say to him. What could I say? Well, dude, I’ve lost my feet and what I knew to be my life and my twenty three year old self is nothing short of a disaster. Clearly, this sucks. He asked the obligatory questions met with my obligatory answers until time was up.

My goal each day was not to make sense of what happened or even mourn my losses. My goal was to make it through each hour, each day, each month and reach the other side. It was to get through. My goal was survival.

Sorry the posts are few and far between. It might continue this way for a little while, for this month anyway. Christmas is barreling towards me and I have a LOT to do.

To add to this: I know these posts end rather abruptly and not all neat and tidy. I pick up where I leave off each time I submit a post, so what I’m trying to say is it’s best to look at these posts as part of a whole. Every post should pretty much end with a ‘to be continued…’

11 thoughts on “distraction (pain management)

  1. Anna See

    wow. i can see why you wanted to get those exams over with quickly. this post reminds me that your quest for survival was physical AND mental. bless you.

  2. Intense Guy

    I'm glad that travel show was available. It sounds like it was just the perfect thing.

    I think the nurses had the right idea… that Doctor may have been practical – but his bedside manner was … a bit rough.

  3. amisare waswerebeen

    I like the abrupt format. It relays a sense of uncertainty and unease, maybe a very small sense of what you were going through. It also keeps us looking forward to reading more and feeling each emotion for a while before the next segment.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  4. bernthis

    ok, the last thing you should be doing is apologizing for anything. I'll be here for every post.


  5. sugarlens

    I know I have said it before, but I will say it again, you are so brave! I can't imagine the pain you were in….and here I am, worrying about my upcoming labor and delivery pains!

  6. Kate Coveny Hood

    I like the flow of this. I don't find it abrupt at all. It feels like life. When is anything ever neatly tied up and tidied up?

    And I know what you mean about infrequent posting…While I have a new post every day – they're pretty much only for the giveaways or a repost. Not feeling very inspired….

  7. Linda Sue

    your writing puts me SO THERE- I have read this post about a dozen times and thought about if distraction from pain is even possible…For me the answer is NO!Don't think so…Heidi, my hero- Super Heidi!!!

  8. kendalee

    I agree with the others – I actually find the format really effective. Memory is like that too isn't it, a number of snapshots or video clips rather than a continuous, uninterrupted movie of every thing we've ever seen, done, said, felt…? These excerpts put me right in the moment and whether it's sad or painful or just incredibly, awe inspiringly brave (or all three at once), I can't help but be touched by it. That's great writing Heidi!

  9. Cookie

    Again… Wow! What an amazing story… I know that at 23, I too didn't feel comfortable in front of anyone naked, especially 7 strangers. I was terrified to even go to the OBGYN then.

  10. Dorkys Ramos

    I know what you mean about wanting to numb yourself with something – anything – to not have to deal with the present pain. It buys us some time; we can deal with a bit of it before retreating for a while and mustering strength to fight a tiny bit more. Trying to process it all at once would just wipe us out.

  11. you gotta wonder

    Since I've been doing my reading in bursts I'm not getting any sense of disjointedness or disconnect. I'm so glad you're sharing this with us.

    I am curious, though…is there travel to exotic places in your future? I'm wondering if some seeds were planted there.

    I did 3 weeks of bed rest in 2004 and the hours of home-improvement shows that I watched (i.e. Clean Sweep and Curb Appeal) changed my life.

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