I went to get my bandages off last week. I asked the doctor if I could go skiing again now that I could fit a glove and coat over my hand.
“No, hold off on that for a month,” he told me. “I want you to get some more stability in that wrist first.”
Naturally, two days later, I rammed my glove on over my sexy new wrist brace and took the plunge down the intermediates at Loveland (all they have open right now, alas). I skied more wussily than normal–intellectually, I know that with a titanium plate in it and a stiff brace over it, that wrist is as protected as it’s ever going to be. On the other hand (ha), I also know intellectually and every other way that if I fall on that arm, it’s going to hurt like hell.
Still, it felt so good to get out there, breathe fresh air, and get the ol’ respiratory system working double again. So I considered myself physically prepared for a visit with my boyfriend’s stepfather (hereafter referred to as my “father-in-link,” courtesy of my editor at We Love Cult). We would all go up to Loveland, get him and his sister discounted lift tickets, and spend the day skiing.
This was to be the last stage in a fun but still clusterfuck-prone weekend. I continue to maintain that even if we hadn’t seen the midnight showing of Die Hard at the Esquire the night before, we would still have gone into it exhausted. After all, there was the holiday party with my high school friends before the movie, and we’d gone skiing with my cousin that day. Sunday would have been a great day to sleep until noon.
But no. Even though we were both tired to the point of physical illness when we got up at 7:30, Ethan insisted that we couldn’t cancel.
“If I feel better in two hours, I’ll spend the rest of the day feeling guilty,” he declared. “Besides, he and my mom will give me hell.”
“You sure you can’t tell them about the migraine? I’ll totally back you up,” I somehow managed through my fatigued lips.
“They’ll think I’m faking it.”
“What if I have a diabetic emergency?”
He grimaced. “Then my mom will call repeatedly to make sure you’re doing all right.”
All thoughts of sleep exited my mind as I rushed to don my long underwear.
Loading the car was a silent affair, as was most of the drive up, much to my dismay. Usually I’ll handle the drive up to the ski area just fine, not thinking about pulling over to take a nap until the way back.
This time, however, the mountains looked blurred around the edges, and the blue sky begged me to drift off into it forever. I continually slapped my cheeks to try and resist.
When it occurred to me to think about it, I started getting nervous. Injuries occur most frequently when you’re tired, and I was already down most of an extremity from a day in which I had been appropriately energetic.
But I sure as hell wasn’t getting that far up in the mountains just to turn around. I told myself I could cut out before Ethan and his relatives if necessary so I could get a nap in. And with that reluctant resolve, I pulled into the parking lot.
We’d decided for expediency’s sake to skip breakfast in Denver and get it at Loveland’s cafeteria. It would save the ungodly amount of time it takes to make coffee, and that way we’d already be on the mountain and primed to go when Ethan’s family arrived.
We sat down to our huge, carb-heavy breakfasts. Carbs are good things to avoid as much as possible when you’re a diabetic, but I figured I could use the boost for skiing. Besides, my trusty insulin pump would be able to compensate.
I’d just finished the last of my toast when Ethan’s phone rang. They were in the parking lot, gearing up. I threw my trash away and went to the bathroom.
A high-pitched noise followed me. I’d heard it when I started eating it, but since we were right near the cash registers and kitchen, I figured it must be a malfunctioning piece of equipment that Loveland needed to fix.
It was a malfunctioning device, but it was all on me to fix. As soon as I was alone in the stall, I recognized the sound of my insulin pump telling me it had stopped insulin delivery. Two days before it was supposed to.
I rushed out without remembering to pee. “We’ve got problems,” I told Ethan.
I explained that the insulin pump decided to crap out on me and that I had–well, no time at all, actually, before my blood sugar went off the rails.
“I can do a couple runs, maybe,” I said mournfully, “but I’ll probably need to stop to puke and pee after each one.”
“So we’ve got to get back to Denver.”
I nodded, pretty sure I could already feel the toast and potatoes hitting my bloodstream. My stomach stirred angrily.
Ethan buried his face in his hands. He let out a burst of laughter that sounded like the last cry of a Death Row inmate.
“I mean, if they’re willing to drop you off, you can stay up here and ski,” I suggested.
He shook his head, a strange gleam in his eye. “Nah. You’ll probably need me to drive, right?”
“Well, no, I mean, I’ve driven while totally high before–” Then I remembered how excited Ethan got at any prospect of talking to his parents for five minutes on the phone, much less spending a day with them. “Actually, yeah. I do think it would be best if I had a backup driver. Just in case.”
Ethan’s stepfather was appropriately concerned by the news. After making inquiries as to my immediate health, he wasted no time in making sure we could still get them discounted tickets with our passes. We stayed just long enough to help them save eleven bucks, then headed back down the mountain, our skis untouched on the rack.
The drive back was uneventful, and though I was almost literally green around the gills by the time we got back to our apartment, I successfully fixed my pump and hit the sack while my blood sugar leveled out. We have yet to hear how the skiing was, although there hasn’t been any new snow in a while and the open terrain was pretty slim. If we had to miss a day, we couldn’t have picked a better one (although I did tell Ethan that I would have gleefully gone the whole day, barfing and urination be damned, if there had been fresh powder).
And by the way, Loveland Ski Area makes a damn fine breakfast. They better have, considering I drove two hours just for that meal.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, I broke my wrist. The next day, following the advice of Rose Medical Center, I scheduled a follow-up appointment with a hand surgeon to get the stupid thing put in a cast or something. The options were pretty vague to me, since the hospital gave me a prescription for Vicodin along with a few sample pills to get me started.
Ethan drove me to the doctor’s office and offered to come in with me when I got called back. I waved him off, which was really stupid in retrospect. I’d decided just before getting in the car that one Vicodin wasn’t enough, so I took two. I was now higher than most layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and thinking that the uncomfortable-looking table would make a great place to take a nap.
The doctor came in and frowned over my x-rays. He explained what was going on there. I nodded and made note of the pretty colors.
“We’ve got three options,” he said. “We can either leave it in that splint and see if it heals up on its own, we can put it in a cast, or we can do some surgery. You’ll regain more use of your hand right after the surgery.”
“I like option # 3 the best,” I said to him, or at least, to one of him. He left and got his assistant to schedule me for surgery.
On Sunday, the Vicodin wore off and I panicked over what I’d agreed to. I was convinced that I would be among the incredibly minuscule minority of patients to die on the operating table, and since I don’t believe in an afterlife or anything like it, I was not okay with that.
Naturally, I didn’t sleep so great the night before the surgery. Of course, that could also have had something to do with not taking Vicodin at all, knowing I would need to get up at 4:30 for my insanely early surgery.
Ethan somehow managed to direct the car to the surgery center without hitting any old ladies in wheelchairs, and I got directed to the back, where I got to answer all kinds of completely non-privacy invasive questions such as, “What medications are you on?” (one of ’em: birth control) and, “When was the date of your last menstruation?” (the answer: “Just finished it.”).
The nurse said, “We need to give you a pregnancy test.”
So in addition to the upcoming pokes, proddings, and possible death, I would also need to pee in a cup one-handed. Excellent.
They got me set up in a bed and brought Ethan back to keep me company and receive some post-op care instructions. I don’t know what would have happened if he’d decided he couldn’t handle the stress. I can only assume I would’ve needed to dig up a responsible adult on Craigslist.
He got himself settled in. “Guess what,” I asked proudly.
“I’m not pregnant!”
He nodded. “Too bad. That would’ve been a hell of a lawsuit against the birth control company.”
Soon the anesthesiologist came in. He was a confident, friendly man with a great bedside manner, and my fears of death by intravenous injection were quickly assuaged. I didn’t start to worry again until the surgeon came in, had me sign a consent form, and then took out a pen and held it against my bad arm.
As my cousins and I discussed later, it was both uninspiring and reassuring at the same time. Sure, he had all the paperwork and the splint to prove that it was my right wrist in need of a metal plate, but hey, screw-ups happen. It was probably just as well he made a note of the correct arm, especially if he’s still at the same stage I am of needing to make an L with his thumbs and forefingers to identify sides correctly.
They wheeled me into the OR. I squinted at the anesthesiologist.
“Did you already put some knockout drugs in my IV?”
“I sure did,” he said.
“That would explain why the ceiling’s moving,” I said.
Suddenly, I was in another room. “What else do they have to do?” I asked the nurse, alarmed.
“Nothing. You’re done,” she said brightly.
“I didn’t even get to count back from 100!” I marveled.
Ethan took me home, where I spent the rest of the day sleeping. I told my dad about my experience, or lack thereof, on the operating table the next night.
“They think patients under general anesthesia can be used as models for what death is like,” he said. “If there is something going on there, there sure aren’t any brain waves registering.”
“Well, I can tell you there wasn’t anything going on up there yesterday,” I responded. Both he and Ethan resisted the urge to make jokes about this usually being the case.
So if that was my first taste of death, it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, either. It just…wasn’t.
In the meantime, I can type two-handed again, albeit slowly and somewhat painstakingly with the thick bandage wrapped around my wrist. That should come off on Monday. Since I can’t get my ski glove or parka sleeve on over the cast, I’ve been unable to indulge in my favorite hobby of skiing, and my ass is not-so-slowly growing in size, hastening that hopefully distant day when I get to taste death for real.
Have a bright and happy weekend, everyone!