Saturday, February 11, 2006

Gemini vs. Taurus

Like I was saying about what one can and can't count on.

On January 23, before dawn, I was crossing at a reasonably well-lit intersection, in the crosswalk, with the signal, when a royal blue Ford Taurus turning left failed to stop and hit me. The bumper struck my left knee and I rolled up onto the hood before rolling off onto the pavement. Screaming my fool head off the entire way.

If we accept the basic premise of being hit by a car, then after that I'm about as lucky as it gets. As soon as I landed I realized [1] not dead, which is good, and [2] pain in the left leg but nothing else. Everything was basically functioning, even the injured leg, and nothing else hurt. I was conscious for the entire ride and remembered every excruciating detail.

It seemed like a big crowd gathered around pretty quickly, perhaps attributable to my singer's lungs. Folks helped me get comfortable, directed traffic around me, called 911, and talked amongst themselves about the license number of the car because, indeed, the miscreant drove off.

Seattle police, fire and paramedics are really second to none in the quality of their response. I got treated to a ride, with lights and siren, to the Level 1 trauma center at Harborview Medical Center, where I also can't say enough good things about the entire staff of the ER, radiology, CT, and whatever other departments I passed through. Especially the one with the morphine.

The thoroughness of a Level 1 trauma center is also impressive. They weren't going to take my word for any of my injuries, so I had at least 100 radiographs taken of my entire spine, both legs, and my left wrist, as well as multiple CT scans of my abdomen (including one with the funky dye in the IV that makes your blood vessels glow on the scan) and also CTs of my injured leg to get a closer look at what turned out to be a grade V tibial plateau fracture. Funny how things hurt more when you know they're broken than they did when you were thinking soft-tissue injury....

I had surgery the next day to repair the fracture with a whole mess of titanium plates and screws and composite bone graft material and whatever it is they fix a torn meniscus with. Fortunately, because I have plenty of "tissue" (read: fat) around my knees, they were able to take care of everything with a single immediate surgery, rather than the medieval external fixator which involves rods and screws through the skin and into the bone while waiting for the swelling to diminish.

I spent the next two days relaxing in the orthopedic trauma ward while decidedly foul dark goopy stuff drained out of a tube inserted into my knee. Apparently it's better to have the goop sucked out than to leave it where it is. Once the drain came out (imagine a 6-inch tube being pulled out of your insides, eeew), the atmosphere changed from spa-like and heavily medicated to plenty more work, and physical therapy began. I slacked at first, but it's amazing how the threat of a roommate (public hospital, you know) can motivate one to haul oneself to a real bathroom with a door that closes.

Now I'm home, and the parts of the house that I can get to look like a medical supply store. I've got a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine on the sofa, which I can lie in all day having my knee bent and stretched for me (strangely, this is not torture at all and is in fact quite comfy). I've got a thigh-to-ankle brace that I wear most of the time, except in the CPM. I've got a walker, crutches, a shower chair, and of course an orthopedic potty seat. Mom picked up barstools for the kitchen and the bathroom, which make it possible for me to brush my teeth at the sink instead of into a bowl in bed.

One regains one's dignity slowly, one hygienic function at a time.

There's a diminishing but stubborn list of things I can't do for myself at home, which so far has meant babysitters every day, evening, and overnight. It kinda comes down to not being able to carry anything while walking with crutches or a walker: cooking, feeding the cat, and general fetching just don't work. We think with some advance planning I'll be able to manage this well enough to fly solo during the day starting next week.

Work has been great and accommodating so far.

The cops located the miscreant registered owner of the Taurus, but he denies being the driver. It's pretty obvious he's lying and has enlisted some friends to lie for him, but without a solid witness placing him behind the wheel, there won't be enough proof to prosecute. Liability? Uninsured, of course. Lawsuit? Sufficiently lower standard of proof, but probably more expensive to pursue than any award I'd ever hope to see. Looks like there will be co-pays and deductibles in my future, but still investigating options there.

I think my at-home PT exercises are going well, and I like my range of motion already, but I suspect there'll be a rude awakening when I start the formal PT sessions next week.

Three weeks down, nine to go until I'm weight-bearing and stick-shift-driving again.

If there was something else I was planning on doing in late winter and early spring 2006, I sure can't remember now what it was.