I woke up with new purpose, new energy, a new outlook, and the same damn problems.
I made my usual deposit in Monsieur Urinal, and ate a nice, un-hospital breakfast. My dad came down to the basement with a little surprise for me.
"Hey kid, I decided to go out and buy a laptop computer... I figured it was about time I bought one, and maybe you can use it when I'm not busy with it." The obvious attempt to play down his own generosity was completely endearing.
"Thanks dad." She was a beaut. Intel processor, 64 MB of RAM and the newest, fastest dial-up modem money could buy (all top of the line at the time).
"I'll let you know when I need to use it." He never did. He also gave me the great news that most of my stuff had survived the crash (unbelievable) with the exception of a few crystal bowls that were given to me and my ex wife as a wedding present. They were expensive, but no big emotional loss. He marveled at the rope that I had used to tie everything down, saying...
"This was some damn good rope boy." Coleman brand, 3 twist triple nylon, green rope. If you find some, buy it... It held down at least 800 lbs worth of crap in what amounted to be a 110 mph crash. He also filled me in on what I had initially suspected: The origin of accident was due to the fact that the young man who hit me had illegal drugs in the car. He had seen the Sheriff driving in front of me and immediately hit his brakes because he knew he was speeding. The sudden braking caused him to hydroplane on the wet pavement, causing his car to drift uncontrollably into my path. What a ridiculous culmination of circumstances.
I took in all this information, thankfully distracted by the new computer's rocket fast dial-up connection, and asked him if my Dremmel tool had survived(it had been in the back of the truck) as I glanced over at Ol' Blue.
"Yeah, I think so...", he seemed a bit taken aback by the odd question. I had not forgotten the promise I had made to Ol' Blue the night before, and, unbeknownst to him, had been formulating some independence and alone time with my new girl.
"Good... Do you think you could grab it for me?" It was really the first time I had played the "I'm an invalid now so don't ask too many questions" card, but it wouldn't be the last. He complied and came back with the little plastic case that held the tool.
"Plug it in for me?" Again he complied, obviously resisting the urge to ask what the hell I needed a rotary tool for. I sifted through the contents of the box, looking for a small diameter saw blade and quickly found one. I put the blade into the tool and turned it on.
You should have seen his face as I immediately took the blade to the cast on my right hand, white dust flying everywhere. That cast was doing me no good. The bone that was broken was on the far, outer edge of my hand, but the entire appendage was covered. It wasn't easy to control the tool with my left hand, but somehow I got it done. I cut off the portion of the cast that wrapped my thumb, index, and middle finger.
"What are you doing son?!" My dad wanted to yank the tool from my hand, but knew it was a dangerous proposition as it hovered only millimeters from my skin.
"Getting some independence back." I said defiantly. Once the tool was switched off, he took it back quickly, giving me the "dad look". I didn't care. I pulled out Slick and made my way into Ol' Blue to give my handy-work a try. For the first time I reached down and felt the wheel rings on both sides of my girl, first giving them a tender stroke up and down. Go time. I gripped them both and pushed. I was free. I was moving under my own power for the first time in almost a week, and it felt damn good. My dad quietly put away the Dremmel and showed no more doubt or disapproval towards my decision.
I spend a while testing Ol' Blue out in the hallway. It was harder than I thought it would be. Pushing the wheels was tiring, even more so on soft, cushy carpet, and trying to hold up heavily casted legs straight out in front. I messed around for a while, doing a lot of "back and forth", and made an obligatory visit to creepy uncle Frankentoilet. Even that was satisfying, as it was the first time since the wreck I didn't have to announce my intentions to take a "number two" to someone. The little excursion probably lasted no more than a half hour, but it was a good start.
The next couple of days were spent trying to get used to the cycle of Lumpy, Monsieur Urinal, Slick, Ol' Blue, Frankentoilet, Drips, Ol' Blue, Slick, Lumpy. A boring cycle to say the least, but it was good to be "doing" something. On day four after my homecoming, it was time to head out into the world. I had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon who was to try and fix my issues. Getting out of the house was a ridiculous chore, but we managed. Being more aware than I had been on the trip home from the initial stay at the hospital, riding in the car was very nerve-wracking, and I was a bit worried that I would forever suffer angst when riding in or operating a vehicle.
The surgeon was a very nice man and, of all things, had actually coached me in little league one year. He was previously acquainted with my parents and really seemed like more of a friend than a doctor. The first thing he did was to look disapprovingly at the unwieldy, monster casts on both of my legs.
"The first thing we're doing is taking those off." Hallelujah! A couple of nurses carefully did the removal while he explained my injuries to me.
"The Whore House Disease..." he said with a smile. I gave him a blank look, my mother scowled, and my dad looked at me like I had done something evil. "...That's what they call this. In the old days, it was not uncommon for men visiting a house of ill repute to jump out of second story windows to avoid detection in the event that the business was raided by law enforcement. A lot of them ended up with two broken heels. Now we see it most in roofers." I laughed, my mom was relieved, and my dad looked ashamed that he had assumed I did something evil.
"The good news is that I can repair this and you should walk again. The bad news is that there is a lot of damage, especially to your right heel, and I can not guarantee that pain and limited motion will not be with you for good." All I heard was the "I can repair this and you should walk again". It was a relief, although I was not looking forward to surgeries. He went on to describe his plan of action which involved two plates, about 37 screws, and a possible drilling into my hip to fuse my ankle joint if the repair of the right heel would not hold. All scary, but again, I was glad to hear a plan. Then the final good news... no casts. He simply stated that the damage was done, and since they were not trying to mend anything for the time being, that it was silly to have my feet encased in this way. Instead the nurses wrapped both feet tightly with ACE bandage material and put on the next in my long line of new apparatus. "Space Boots" AKA "Cam Walker Boots". They were like big, padded ski boots, and once I had them on, I was amazed at how much lighter they were than the casts. This was going to help immensely. Finally, he stated that the swelling would need to go down before the surgeries as the skin on your feet is the hardest on the body to knit back together after being opened. Since the incisions would be very long, and open for a lengthy surgery, he had to make sure that the skin was in a good condition to mend successfully. I was also informed that I was to keep my legs elevated as much as possible, but it was not necessary for short jaunts in Ol' Blue. Two weeks until surgery.
We then made our way across the office to a partner who specialized in hands and arms. He was also very nice. When he saw my "modifications" to the cast on my hand, he laughed.
"Doing some work on this I see...", I was worried that he would scold me, "Well, we're going to take it off and give you one that lets you work the chair, OK?" They removed the cast, then an unwelcome surprise. He grabbed on to my bare had and said, "This is gonna hurt." He yanked on my pinky finger and squeezed my hand with superhuman strength. "There... OK, lets get that cast on you." For anyone who has not had this done, he was simply resetting the bone so that it matched up properly. Necessary, but it hurts worse than the initial break. The new cast was on, it was comfortable, and more importantly my thumb, index finger, and my middle finger were free.
"Look at that!" I said, holding up my middle finger at him. He laughed.
"I suppose I deserved that.", he said with a smile, "Hope the surgeries go well, and I'll see you in six weeks or so."
We were on our way back home... Light feet, the ability to grip with my right hand, and two weeks to mess around... my freedom was coming back.
I spent that two weeks thanking those who had sent me care packages, "surfing the web" on the awesome, seven pound laptop, working on some hobbies I could still accomplish in my state, and spending as much time as possible in Ol' Blue. Now, just rolling around was obviously not enough for a semi-crazy, twenty-something-year-old guy, so as my upper body strength and control over the chair increased I decided to try a few "tricks".
I learned the "wheelie", the "about face", the "one wheel about face", and as a byproduct of the attempts to master the "one wheel about face", I also learned how to fall out of the chair. I know, I know, I shouldn't have been screwing around like that, but I just couldn't help myself. Actually, the "fall out of the chair" trick turned out to be the most exciting stunt in my repertoire, and I used it frequently(big Chevy Chase fan). I guess I'm the kind of guy who would never be a jerk to anyone... unless it's really funny. I never did put on a performance for my mother, father, or anyone who it would really worry, but I used it on every one of my equally jerky friends who happened to visit.
I also used the laptop to make my first two online purchases. A guitar and a Speedo. The two items were unrelated, but turned out to be very complimentary when used together. The guitar was something I was already decent at, but all I had was an electric that was too heavy and too much of a pain to fire up in my state(amp, cords, pedals, etc.). The acoustic I ordered was perfect for my condition, and provided hours of escape. The Speedo was sheerly for shock value. It was summer, I had nothing to do, so I figured I might as well get the best tan of my life (above the knees and right elbow at least). I used to greet people wearing the light blue and green, tie-dye, banana hammock and just watch their face twist. If nothing else, it drew attention away from my condition, presented a disturbing, if not hilarious, visual that most people hadn't seen before(and may never see again)... It was also strangely liberating and comfortable.
So that's how it went on the countdown to surgery... Lumpy, Monsieur Urinal, Speedo, Guitar, Slick, Ol' Blue, Stunt Show, Frankentoilet, Tanning, Slick, Lumpy... And Drips was in there somewhere if I was getting stinky.
I will forgo typing the details of the second visit to the hospital and the surgeries as there was nothing entertaining about them. It was hell. The surgeries were done two days apart from each other because they were both complicated and time consuming. They essentially peeled the skin off my heels like popping the meat out of an avocado, drilled the bone in numerous places, and sewed it all back up. Not a pleasant experience... Except for one shining moment(or two) in the surgery prep and recovery room.
By the time the second surgery rolled around I was really having trouble deflecting pain with humor as is my nature. I was tired and the fact that my completed left leg felt a zillion times worse than when I came in was making me low on patience. A young nurse was trying to set up an I.V. to deliver the knockout juice for the second surgery. She poked my hand three or four times, unable to hit the vein.
"Get someone who knows what the hell they are doing!" I normally would have been much more polite, but I was not myself. She left, obviously ashamed that she couldn't get the job done, and I quickly felt the presence of someone else over the top of me. I opened my eyes. What I saw was... uh... disturbing. A scruffy guy that looked like he just got done collecting cans was standing over me wearing scrubs. A Kiss concert T was visible through the papery front of the hospital get up.
"Can I help you?" I said impatiently.
"No, but I can help you." He grabbed the I.V. and pushed it painlessly into my hand. Then got right in my face.
"You're in bad shape dude, that surgery has you in pain... angry... sick of this place huh?"
"Well, here's the deal, I'm gonna help you... Pain is controlled in many ways, but my way is the best." he said while turning a few knobs on a piece of apparatus next to me.
"Low, Medium, High... or Jerry Garcia?" he asked.
"Give me Jerry." - First smile in a day or two.
"Jerry it is my friend, now count backwards from ten to one."
"Ten, nine, eight..."
"Drivin' that train, high on cocaine..." He sang in a "dream sequency" kind of voice. Again he got right down in my face.
"He bro, can I tell you a secret?" He interrupted my counting.
He pulled down his mask revealing a mess of bushy beard hair and, again, in the same spooky voice said, "No one ever makes it to five." He was right.
I woke up in serious pain, groaning, feeling like someone had smashed my foot with a sledgehammer. It was the right foot that they had labored on, and the extra damage and extra work meant extra pain. The drugs they were giving me to suppress the agony were not working as well as they did after the first surgery... and it was completely unbearable. The pain woke me up, but it took me another minute to realize what was going on. I'm in the recovery room... again and the same nurse who couldn't get the I.V. done was waiting for me to stir.
"How are you feeling?" she said quietly.
"Lots of pain."
"OK, I'll be right back." I hoped she had a solution, because I was going to start screaming in a minute. I opened my eyes to see Kiss guy about six inches from my face. It made me jump, and I forgot about the pain for just a moment.
"See this giant needle?" He said, holding up a... well... a giant needle.
"Well, I'm not only a drug dealer, but I'm also a magician... I'm going to stick this sucker in your butt cheek, dig around for a second, and make your leg disappear! Cool?" He pushed me onto my side. "This is gonna hurt like hell, but not as bad as your leg." It did hurt, but like he said, not as bad as my destroyed foot.
"C'mon, c'mon... There it is!" All of my pain disappeared... It was incredible. He got a few inches from my face again and said, "Told ya."
He walked away humming "Casey Jones" and I never saw him again. I don't know if guys are allowed to have a "Knight in shining armor", but if they are, he was mine... only in scrubs and a Kiss shirt.
I was later told that what he did was called a "nerve block". It didn't last forever, but it did the job when I really needed it. "Magician!" Heh... heh... What a cool guy.
The second homecoming was not as jovial as the first, and it took almost three weeks just to get back to the point I was at when I left, but I did get there, and quickly got back to...
Lumpy, Monsieur Urinal, Speedo, Slick, Ol' Blue, Stunt Practice, etc, etc.