Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bike ride, interrupted

Last week a disconnect occurred in my life. One moment I was riding my bike to a Petaluma Progressives meeting and the next--actually a whole universe away--I was observing the inside of an ambulance from a supine position.My first thought: I'd better remember what this is like, in case I want to write something about it. My second: Whaaaah....?

I asked a question. Where are we going? The paramedic's answer was, "We're taking you to the trauma center at Memorial Hospital, because you have a head injury. Otherwise you wouldn't have asked this question five times.

"He asked me various questions about who I was, where I lived, how old and the like, all of which I answered correctly. For my own research purposes, I wiggled my toes and turned my head. Everything seemed to be linked up. I felt strangely optimistic and relaxed.My clothes had been scissored off--brand new union-made t-shirt!--and I had been hooked up to all the things that trauma patients get hooked up to.Later, it took me a couple of days to find and remove all the adhesive pads with electrode leads from various parts of my body.

At the hospital I gave them Steve's phone number and they called him, but failed to inform him that I was conscious and stable, so Steve had an anxious 40-minute drive from Napa. I knew he had arrived when I heard him make some sort of quip outside my cubicle, followed by an outburst of laughter from the entire emergency staff. Humor is wonderful for stress.

I was given CT scans and X-rays, which revealed that my head was fine (hurray for helmets) and I had a hairline crack in my collarbone. My left shoulder and right hip were also pretty banged up, making me a sort of temporary "tri-plegic."The condition continues today. Moving any of those three limbs is discouragingly painful. Getting out of bed--or just sitting up in bed--is the hardest part.

No, actually, the hardest part is the pain medication. Thoughts ooze from my mind like drops of blackstrap molasses, and frequently drip onto the floor rather than into whatever logical maneuver I'm attempting to make. This is like my normal state on steroids. It is one thing to go into a room and forget why you went in there and have to go back where the thought began to remember it. It is quite another to hobble painfully in a particular direction and forget where you were going and have to hobble to all rooms to see if one of them jogs your memory. Or you give up and ease yourself painfully onto a chair, arrange your limbs for the least stress, and THEN remember the important task you must get up and perform. Just making small talk to my two wonderful attendants is nearly beyond my compass. I will never be a good pain-pill addict. Deliberately making myself feel really stupid is not my idea of a recreational high. I'll leave that sort of thing to Rush Limbaugh.

Steve has been my constant nurse and unflappable companion. Then Nina came up on the 4th, since Petaluma is one of the few municipalities that still allow fireworks. She also brought three movies, which we watched on my laptop, until it was dark enough to light fireworks. We drove to the school--yes, that's a first for me at one-half block from my home--and lit them off on the asphalt playground. We got to enjoy the fireworks of several other groups that had the same idea. Steve started off shaking his head over the idea of anyone wanting to light fireworks while over a thousand wildfires were burning out of control in California, but I think he got into the spirit of it.

Yesterday Nina drove me to the police department to pick up my bicycle, which had not a scratch on it. I was relieved. I think I would have grieved more if my bicycle was destroyed and I got off scot-free. They don't make bikes like mine anymore.I WILL need to get a new helmet.



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