Friday, September 28, 2007


I think it was during the last week of August that I got my brace. I was quite excited because once I had the brace, mobility couldn't be far behind! The brace is a semi-benign torture devive. At first it was almost sexy in a X-Men superhero kind of way, but I soon tired of the sensation of a 40 lb Cheshire cat sleeping on my chest. But I complain too soon!

In all other provinces than B.C., orthotic braces are covered under the provincial health plan. In B.C., patients must purchase their own. My prescribed brace was $1400. Luckily, my husband has Extended Health coverage through work. I can't imagine what people who don't have the money do - maybe they have to spend 6-8 weeks of recovery time flat in bed with family members turning them every two hours. We may be getting the 2010 Winter Olympics but that does NOT mean we have a more highly evolved government. Who wants health care when you can have a party instead?

Anyways, after I was strapped in to the hard plastic corset that goes from hip to chin, a physiotherapist arrived to help me try walking. After lying flat for 2 weeks I was thrilled to try moving in a different plane. I practically fainted just coming to a sitting position. My first steps with the support of a walker and the therapist were quite panic inducing. I wobbled arond like a rag doll and gratefully returned to my bed after just a few steps. But Ian helped me try later in the afternoon, and I managed a few more steps, and after a couple of days was moving slowly, but confidently. Another big plus of this freedom was being able to use the toilet!

It appeared I had met the basic requirements for release! Able to walk, feed myself and perform basic bodily fuctions and I was ready for the world! I left the hospital for home on September 3.

(While writing this I thought I would look for an appropriate illustration and innocently Googled "neck and head brace". OMFG!! I had no idea that there are people out there who are into "recreational" uses of orthopedic braces! What a sheltered life I have led! Ohmygoodnessgollygosh!!) The picture I chose is by no means representative of what's out there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Moving to the Royal Columbian

After a day and a half in Burnaby, they were glad to see my sorry ass shipped out the door and off to the only neurosurgical ward in the lower mainland, at the proudly named Royal Columbian Hospital. Two very kind and courteous EMT guys chauffeured me and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my cousin Lisa was part of the nursing staff on the ward. It makes such a difference to have a familiar face around!

At this point I was still only in a neck brace and not allowed to move. It took four nurses and much coordination to turn me, which had to be done regularly to prevent bedsores. And of course, still no food (although I wasn't hungry) but I was now allowed to sip water which was wonderful.

The next morning I met my specialist, and, although I'd be the first to say that no one should be judged on their hairdo, Dr. C. sported a very entertaining Beatlles mop-top do. His flamboyant hair made up for the fact that he barely speaks. After he left the nurse whispered to me that he was an absolutely brilliant neurosurgeon, just had no bedside manners.

I now entered a period of extended sleep and lots of meds. Put me into quite a fog, but I know I had many visitors and messages from friends. Thanks to you all - so kind and it really does help keep the mood positive. I did have an X-Ray that could qualify for a ride at Playland - I was strapped to a tilt table and raised to a 90 degree angle - sounds easy but I was just petrified. Hmmn, is it becoming obvious that I don't do well when I have no control over the situation?

Just Like Dad Had Always Predicted, My Helmet Saved My Life

Yup, without this geeky, hairdo mussing piece of plastic I would have passed on to other realms. My C1 vertabra was fractured but stable and my T6, 7, &8 were compressed but unlikely to require surgery. The next challenge would be to find a bed for me, somewhere within our glorious underfunded public healthcare system. I was told that I was lucky, a bed had been found at Royal Columbian Hospital that I could have by tomorow night. In the meantime, I could enjoy the accomodations of Burnaby ER. No water, no food, but pain meds on demand! Things were looking up. There was one moment of decided drama when I suddenly vomited the blackberries I had stopped to pick before the accident. To an unwarned medical type spewing partially digested blackberries look a lot like something....else and there was suddenly a great flurry of suction tubes and latex devices. Once they realized it was only blackberries they left it to harden in my hair for the next five days.

Anyone who has ever spent time in an ER when they really should be somewhere else knows that the units are just set up for triage, not for care. That being said, I had some of the sweetest nurses on the planet watch over me that night. The crew that arrived to replace them in the morning was another story. They took three tries to try and get me on a backboard before figuring out it was upside down and must have taken offence to my asking if they knew what they were doing. Obviously the pain meds were making me a smart ass, so my rations were arbitrarily cut. After my 4th denied request for pain meds I tried to sympathise with the nurse, saying I knew they were over worked and underpaid and the mInister of health was an ass but I was in really serious pain. She finally arrived with a needle, jabbed it in my arm and when I said thank you said "Just doing my job."

The Hovering Anvil

I have long held the theory that each of us has a 2000 pound anvil hovering just over our heads, suspended by Wile E. Coyote-esque sense of disbelief. This anvil hovers precariously, threatening to come crashing down when we least expect it. This cherished, well-honed construct of life proved itself to be true three weeks ago today, as I was riding my bicycle home from Mountain Equipment Co-op, having just purchased the last few things for our trip to Burning Man. My backpack was filled with an assortment of fake orchids, butterflies, birds, etc. for Ian's Tree God costume, so my MEC purchases - a pair of shorts and an new pezl headlamp - were in a cloth bag hanging from my handle bars.

Well, that anvil should have been in my peripheral vision by now, and indeed, I had only recently purchased and then returned a basket for my handlebars because it didn't fit. The issue of insufficient stowage space on my bike was evident. Yet I had accomplished many trips with a cloth bag hanging from my right handle bar, safely balanced by the principles of volume, mass and density of its contents.

Then, at the intersection of Skeena and Turner, brakes gently applied, no other traffic in sight, the anvil dropped. In a flash, the double A battery of the pezl lamp was sucked into the spokes of my front wheel. Inertia took command. I flipped, in a way that was later described by a witness as "spectacular" over my handle bars and hit the pavement in one smooth motion The sound was pretty much what you'd think bone connecting with pavement would be - a grey grinding crunch.

Blood filled my mouth and nose and my first thought was "I'm really fucked." I could wiggle fingers and toes and so stayed exactly where I was. No Movement Happening Here. Voices arrived and faces hovered, a comforting hand stroked my hip,calls were made - one to my husband, the only word I could manage was "Bad". Pain filled every crevice of my body and the space around it. Fire and EMT duly arrived. Suddenly I was being crushed from above. I could barely manage "You're hurting me" - the overly enthusastic EMT guy had apparently decided I needed stabilizing. After hundreds of the same questions being repeated over and over I became unable to speak and could only groan. Neck brace and back board applied, I was loaded into the ambulance.

I guess they keep asking questions to see if you're conscious, but it was so painful even to speak I couldn't verbalize. I just started groaning, to which the compassionate EMT guy said "Shut up!". And so it went, me groaning, him telling me to shut up. Then, finally "Oh fuck, I went to Burnaby." After a flurry of ungentlemanly language over whether I had been delivered to the right hospital, the process of being admitted began.

By now the pain was so great I would willingly die. My husband appeared and I told him I wanted to die. The EMT, having figured out that telling me to shut up wasn't working, gave me some oxygen, which gave me a thread to hang on to. A few more moments of eternity, and I was admitted, given a great whacking shot of morphine, slid onto a gurney, X-rayed and scanned.