|Selfie from Valley Baptist, Room 1237|
When I tried to get out of the car, a man stopped me: "Don't try to move, sir!" I couldn't move anyway, getting no cooperation from my right leg.
"Nena, I've had an accident, but I'm ok," I spoke into my cell phone. "I'm waiting for the ambulance to get here." Nena started crying as I hung up, promising to call her later.
The paramedic approached me on the driver's side. "Can you walk?" he asked. I told him I could not. Seeing my bent, twisted right leg, he said: "We have to straighten this out. I can't leave your leg that way." I screamed as he pulled my leg semi-straight. As if he didn't want to get too close to my smoldering, still-running Volkswagen Beetle, he extended his hand and told me to hop toward him on my left leg and helped me onto the gurney.
Wincing with every bump of the wooden stretcher, I imagined some sort of misting system to cool off the injured as they entered the ambulance. "We'll get you out of this rain as soon as we can, sir," spoke a voice.
Once inside the ambulance, a cop was asking for my name, age and address. I handed him my wallet. "My drivers license is in there. My insurance papers are in the glove compartment," I told the cop. "Thanks," he responded.
The ambulance driver radioed ahead to Valley Baptist that he was transporting an accident victim with an ETA of "5-10 minutes." In my mind, I visualized traveling down Boca Chica, turning left on Central Boulevard, then again on Jefferson Street, but I never opened my eyes to see if that was correct. Once down the ramp, I was left on the wooden stretcher, more than grateful they didn't try to move me to another bed. I guess they have more stretchers, I thought to myself.
A heavyset security guard sat in a metal chair, just outside the room, but I was not an escape risk. The guard heard me cry out for pain medication several times before telling me: "The nurse knows and will be back soon."
Two girls tried to x-ray my right knee, asking me to turn on my left side and hold my right leg just off the bed. I told them: "Hell, no! I can't do that." They said they would try another way. Twenty minutes later, they were back, explaining that the "pictures weren't good." This time I suggested they x-ray the upper thigh, the area that was really hurting.
In Room 1237 after a painful transfer to my hospital bed, I got a visit from Dr. Christopher Olson, who explained that I had a broken femur bone and would be operated on noon Saturday. The gruff Anglo was all business, not in a mood for my jokes. "We're going to connect your femur back together with a titanium rod," Dr. Olson explained.
"My insurance probably only pays for rebar," I responded.
"I make those decisions," countered Dr. Olson.
I Googled Dr. Olson after he left the room, finding that the orthopedic surgeon was originally from Minnesota. I read his patient reviews before going to sleep, remembering that he said he'd "done many, many of these."
At 11:45 AM Saturday two staffers arrived to transport me to the operating room. One was a girl from India named Dipa. She said the name meant light. I made a feeble joke about how much that must save the hospital on electricity. I remember being worried that traction might precede anesthesia, but, allaying that fear, the smooth anesthesiologist said he was giving me something that would "relax me and make me comfortable."
I told him: "Nice spin."
Some nurses are grossly underpaid. Ana, the swing shift nurse, took care of everything before you realized it was a need. She saw me shivering under the AC and added another blanket. She turned Valley Baptist into a 5-star hotel at 7:00 PM.
Dr. Olson came by Sunday and then again on Monday. I gave him no back talk. "You can go home tomorrow if you like," he declared. "An operation like you had usually justifies a longer stay, but I like to preserve my record."
"I didn't just knock physical therapy out of the park," I replied.
"You had a serious operation," replied Olson. "Give it time."