Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On limited mobility

This is the first time, save when a broke my ankle at age 2, that i have been immobilized; this reason is the left tibia has two fractures, and i cannot bear any weight on the leg for 5 more weeks (total of 6 weeks of estimated healing time). There are metal pins and plates now inside, at knee and shin, keeping the bones level while they heal. Surgery was much less scary than i anticipated, but the pain is oh so much more. Not only do i feel the ache and throbbing at the site of said cutting and metal, but an almost constant cramping of the calf muscle. When i move from a horizontal t vertical position, there is several minutes of pain from rapid circulation, i guess.

Pain management was one of the two most difficult parts of my hospitalization. There were times i felt like Frida, waking from nightmares, screaming in pain, only to be stilled by in injection of strong analgesic. Never have i seen my body tremble so violently from a negative experience. The other terrible part was being alone. I never imagined i would come to need and enjoy the company of others, until this past 15 months of experiences in the peace corps. Especially in such a difficuly time, as being hospitalized, having surgery, and enduring so much pain. I did bond with the peace corps driver who picked me up from kuruman, took me and Jackei to our respective villages, then drove me to pretoria. He agreed to pick up a fellow volunteer so she could accompany me to the hospital. She also came to see me the next day, with another volunteer, and they brought me stuff to read, candy and a really nice card. The following day, a different volunteer came to see me. There aren't people i know all that well, or people i even see very often, but when you're in the peace corps, your bonds with fellow volunteers are very strong. You share this unique experience, and also don't know anybody else. Jackei couldn't leave work to come right away, and i was so grateful for the way these friends quickly accommodated time for me. Without them, i seriously don't think i would have been able to handle this situation. Last weekend, 5 or 6 of my friends were in town to celebrate their birthdays, and stopped by with mimosas to chat for awhile. People have been calling, texting and facebooking me every couple days. I am definately feeling the love.

Since i left the hospital, i have been staying in a private, en suite room with a double bed at this guest house in Pretoria. The peace corps uses this one for all africa volunteers who are in town for medical reasons. Currently, there are 4 other pcvs staying here. Having the company, albeit limited, is really great. One day, they helped me go grocery shopping. Let me describe that experience, just to give you an idea just how limited i really am.

Each morning, the peace corps sends a driver with a minivan (we call them kombis) to the guest house between half past 8 and 9. From here, people are taken to doctors appointments, the peace corps office, or on other errands. On this particular day, i went to the office for a check up with the peace corps doctor. I didn't have an appointed time, as things mostly organically evolve around here rather than adhering to a rigid schedule. I had time to use a computer for about half an hour before i checked in. Hobbled my way, on uneven cobblestones, and up four gigantic steps into the medical building. Up two more steps and down a hallway, to the exam room, and i am dripping with sweat and breathing heavily. By the time i fill out and file some paperwork and finish with my checkup, it is 11 and i am tired. A driver is available, and other volunteers are running errands, so i go so they can help me. The driver pulls right up to the entrance of the shopping plaza, but i must still walk a short distance to the grocery store. Mind you, one week out of surgery, on crutches, tendonitis in the left arm, i am moving at a turtle's pace and sweating again. Trying to remember what i need, my helpers pick and weigh my produce, accompany me to block other idiot shoppers from my hurt leg (people have come dangerously close!) And to make sure i don't fall. What normally takes 10 minutes took me (us) almost 45. I kid you not, i was so weak and shaky and positively soaked in sweat by the time it was over, that i wasn't sure i could make it.

Cooking regales a similar experience. Everything takes twice or 3 times as long, and i can't carry anything. I must put it in a backpack, or a bag that can hook on my crutches. I have carried beer in my pockets and pushed coffee on the tile floor with my crutches. I wash my hair in the sink with my drinking cup while i precariously balance on my good leg. My daily routine involves a distance of less than 1k, no doubt. I am doing seated and lying calisthenics for muscle strength, tone and rehab.

Mentally, it has been tough. Just knowing i can't go anywhere, run for stress relief, do my old yoga routine, almost anything i am used to, is tough. Not knowing if a can go back to my site while i recover or if i will get medically separated and be forced to recover in the states is kind of stressful. I am in the middle of visa applications, community projects, and leaving right now sort of mucks up all my plans. I am supposed to just concentrate on getting well, but when my near future fate is frightfully unknown, it is distracting. Almost as much as the constant charlie horses.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Jenn, my heart goes out to you. I know exactly what you mean by the pain upon the horizontal to vertical positions. I had a crush injury to my foot once (broke all of my metasaral bones) and the first time I put my foot in a verticle position, I fainted from the pain. I was immobilised to crutches and a wheelchair. You are so right about the ridiculous way PC handles visits for people with broken limbs. It's an obstacle course. The friends at Rose House are great though. Angie is still my friend (she works there). If you are still at the Rose, I will be there in Dec. and again in Jan. We can visit. Take it one day at a time. B