Monday, January 3, 2011

One Small Step for Man

You have to wonder what it would have been like in 1969 had Neil Armstrong done a face plant stepping off of the first lunar lander. It certainly would have put a a comic turn to the whole event, so long as he wasn't hurt and didn't puncture his spacesuit. "One giant, OOPS!!!!

Well, we arrived at Cambridge Beaches, checked into our lovely room (where we spent our honeymoon), and freshened up to go to the "Manager's Reception for Returning Guests".

We went down to the room, which is a cozy little bar where, five years ago, one of our guests, Brian, was entertaining everyone singing Irish drinking songs. A very fun place. We were very tired and thought about leaving early, but we were the first couple introduced by the manager, Richard Quinn.

We met a lot of returning guests, including a couple who was returning for something around the 25th time. We had one drink and then headed out of the building. I led the way and stumbled down the step outside the entrance (which was abrupt, broken and ill-lit), and I started saying "Karen, be careful of the step * * *." It was a little too late, as Karen, while holding a glass of ice water, took the same step and ended up doing a full frontal into the ground.

Fortunately, the glass went free, but Karen hit the ground hard. A group quickly gathered and we were all asking how she felt and if we should call an EMT. Karen was embarrassed, but got up, brushed herself off and went to the bathroom to freshen up, thinking that she would be fine.

We walked back up to the room and I put Karen into bed, giving her some ibuprofen and getting some ice for her right knee, which she had hit the hardest. We thought things would be fine, but within a short time her knee started and continued to swell.

There is some dispute as to exactly how large Karen's knee ultimately got, but it was clearly the size of a major fruit, something from the melon family. This was not a plum or peach swelling, it was something with a lot more body, possibly a little South of a watermelon, but not much. This was accompanied by a huge amount of pain, which Karen has later described as more than any pain she had ever felt before, including childbirth. At the time, detailed comparisons to prior experiences were not particularly apropos and the basic message was, "do something, now!!!!"

We got the EMTs to the room and they were great, but basically said, "get this girl to the hospital," so that's what we did.

Karen rode in the back of the ambulance and I was in the front. If you've never been to Bermuda, it is an incredibly scenic and small group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, with no major highways, all of the streets are small and winding country roads, with rock walls or cliffs on one side or the other, which vary in size from (i) "just wide enough to take two cars going opposite directions with side mirrors, so long as neither driver sneezes or becomes distracted", (ii) "not wide enough to take two cars going opposite directions with side mirrors regardless of the driver", to, (iii) "if you see someone coming the other direction, think about putting your car in reverse".

Our ambulance driver had flashing lights and occasionally used his siren, not so much as a continuous warning, but more of an informative nudge. He drove between 50 and 60 miles an hour. Given Bermuda's roads, this is the equivalent of entering your garage at 50 miles an hour and executing a turn before parking. It was like being an extra in Death Race 2000. I was terrified and impressed at the same time.

We made it, without further injury, to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

I have always thought that there is a direct correlation between the amount of pain and the amount of time it takes someone to do something about it. The inmates at this particular institution had this down to a science. We waited and waited, for more than an hour.

At some point, with Karen's urging, I stressed that we needed something right away to relieve the pain and someone needed to look at the still expanding knee. The nurse muttered something about morphine, which I thought was a good idea (for both of us).

This is one of the few points where Karen and I have differing views. I think an illness is something to be fought with blazing guns, attacking with a combination of multiple doses of medicine, chased down by whatever highest proof is available. Karen tends to avoid medicines, generally taking half or less of what the doctor might suggest. We compromised. Karen tried one of the lighter medicines, then stepped up to the stronger dose when the first one didn't take. There wasn't enough left for me. Of course, Karen had an allergic reaction to the morphine which actually got the nurse's attention. They had to add another IV with anti-histamine to fight the morphine which was fighting the pain.

The ER command nurse could probably do the role of Big Nurse in Cuckoo's Nest, only not quite as friendly. Our doctor, also was a bit on the odd side. He was either "quiet and reflective" or "a stone who couldn't communicate", we lean towards the latter. His nurse obviously didn't get along with him and we found ourselves siding with her. When he started muttering something about surgery being possible, Karen and I exchanged one of those, "not in this lifetime anywhere near here" looks.

We eventually were allowed to check out, Karen's knee wrapped, sitting in a wheel chair and waiting for a taxi back to our hotel. The taxi driver, Jay, was outstanding! He had a delightful bass voice, a lot of opinions about the World, and helped me carry Karen up the stairs to our room. In saying he "helped", I am being polite about the ability of a man in his late fifties (even a loving husband) vs. a young Bermudian who is in shape and about 6'3". Let's say, I attended.

We made it back, around 2:30 a.m. (after the 20+ hour plane rides to Bermuda and a day and a half with almost no sleep), exhausted.

At this point, we were also able to check out what other parts Karen had managed to scrape, cut, bruise or otherwise injure. It was pretty much everywhere. The right knee was the worst, but Karen managed to scrape and bruise her right arm, her left hand, and her left ankle and leg. We have since found additional places she bruised in the fall. It is hard to believe that a single tumble did all this. Basically, she looked like we had run her through a rock polisher.

Karen has been working at moving around on crutches.

Long John Silver always made it look so easy!! Perhaps because he didn't have the risk of hitting his bad foot on anything. It is a lot more difficult that it looks. On top of being unstable, they hurt the user's underarms. All around, it is hard to tell whether they are really tools for the handicap or elaborate torture devices. Maybe if I get Karen a parrot and an eye patch, it will be easier.

Since then, we have altered our original vacation plans, which had included a trip down to Florida and Key West. The concept of multiple plane rides, an extended car ride down the Keys and checking in and out of various hotels kind of loses its allure when a lot of pain and crutches are involved.

We opted to stay in Bermuda, propped up with pillows overlooking the ocean, with all-day room service to suffer through.

It has been tough, but we are surviving.

All the Best from Gilligan and a crippled Mary Ann!!!!!

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