This post is selfish. It is about me. I didn’t get hit by an SUV. I have two legs. I poop out my bum bum. Writing this is for me, to help me make sense of what has happened over the past six months. It will also serve as a good written record of what has happened from my lens. Initially I did not want to publish it, but I think making it public is healthy for me. I acknowledge that this is a selfish post, but it is something I think I should do and it feels right to me. So if you don’t like the idea of that, please stop reading right now.
*Also I’m going to use swear words. So if you’re under the age of consent in the jurisdiction you currently reside, be sure to go ask Mom or Dad.
**Sorry Meema. I know you say you’ve heard swear words but it just feels weird if you read this and I don’t apologize to you for swearing.
Someone I love experienced major trauma on February 16, 2019. I was laying in bed feeling sorry for myself at the time. We did not sleep in the same bed the night before because I had a particularly bad case of food poisoning and I spent my February 15th puking and shitting on every flat surface in my bedroom. I was still puking that morning when there was a knock on my door.
God damn security system sales people <or insert other annoying person that knocks on doors>
But this knock was different. It was more persistent. I looked out my window sneakily, saw a plain vehicle with a man sitting in it on his phone. He came back to the door and knocked again.
I still was not interested in putting on pants.
Then my phone rang. It was the guy. The plain clothes detective informed me that Alicia had been in an accident and I needed to go to the hospital ASAP. He offered a ride, which I accepted. I threw the dog in the kennel, grabbed a phone charger and a bag to puke in, should the need arise, and away we went. Little did I know, that was the last night I would spend at home for a long time.
He was a nice guy. Very calming, he had little information about the accident but he knew Alicia had been hit by a car after getting out of hers. The Whitemud was closed because of the accident, yet he decided to take me on that route to get to the hospital. A 15 minute torturous ride turned into a 45 minute torturous ride and I got to ride past the accident scene. Thanks Detective. I do appreciate your work, but I hope that’s a lesson learnt.
I got to the hospital and was immediately ushered through doors that say “Authorized Access Only” to the depths of the trauma bay. This was not looking good. I was brought to a room in a hallway and told to sit down, the doctor was going to come talk to me.
A knock on the door and a lady walked in accompanied by someone who was clearly a patient. “Hey this room is booked. You need to leave.” Sweet. So I stood outside that door legs shaking, waiting for a doc to come by and give me some sort of news.
After what was likely 5 minutes but seemed like an eternity, a trauma surgeon and a nurse brought me into a nursing station to give me the news. He gave me the laundry list of injuries Alicia had sustained and between each injury he said, “She is very sick, but I think she will live.” He must have said that 6 times. They asked me questions about her medical history and then ushered me off saying that she was in surgery and she would be in the ICU following that.
I went and sat in the cafeteria by myself and cried my fucking eyes out while family mobilized to the hospital. I’ve never cried that hard in my life. And there we all sat. Waiting to hear the extent to which our lives would be turned upside down.
Eventually we got ushered up to a family room on the intensive care unit where we waited for Alicia to come out of surgery. A trauma surgeon and a nurse knocked on the door after several hours and started explaining the situation to us. Let’s make one thing very clear: when the list of injuries takes >5 minutes to describe, things are not good. We received no promises on Alicia surviving. It would be days before we had someone say she was “out of the woods,” but she was going to make it out of the first surgery.
I don’t remember seeing her for the first time. I just don’t. I can not pin point it. I know exactly what she looked like, I know every detail of every line and tube she was hooked up to, but I do not remember the moment I went into the ICU room and saw her. I vaguely remember squeezing her hand, which was roughly 3x the size of her regular hand, and getting no response of any kind.
And then that became my life.
I lived in the little family room in the ICU. A dear friend of ours brought me a sleeping mat and a sleeping bag. I shared the room with various people overnight and during the day- family and friends. People brought food and comforting items. People brought things to hang up in Alicia’s room, which was more for us than for Alicia.
I think I lived there for about ten days. My state of existence was going to see Alicia and spending time bedside, asking questions of nurses and specialists, updating people looking for updates, and seeing visitors. I slept for 2 hours at a time, and during the night I would be back and forth between this little family room and Alicia’s bed side. Eventually, as the likelihood that Alicia would survive became higher, I moved into the outpatient residence- which I technically should not have been allowed to do- but with some white lies and compassion, I got to stay close.
Side note to the hospital staff working the night shift: I was that psycho half sprinting from my outpatient residence room, to the ICU, timing myself at 2:00AM, so I knew that if I received news from the unit, it would only take me 3 minutes to get there. That includes pants and shirt, humble brag. I was the unshaven guy who had lost 25 lbs. I looked homeless. It is a miracle I did not get tackled by security while attempting this.
Anyways back to the point. After many surgeries, extubation, and slow improvement, Alicia got moved to the trauma unit and after a month there she moved to the Glenrose for rehab. She is doing amazingly well. If you don’t believe me, find her on instagram @Alicialikepatricia.
Now that the synopsis is done, these are the lessons I have learnt, and would like to share, over the last 6 months. I hope no one else has to learn these lessons in the way I have.
- I will never repay the debt of love and compassion that has been given to me over the past 6 months. I just can’t. There is no possible way that I have enough kind gestures in me that I can break even. I am amazed by the continued outpouring of love.
- Our medical system fucking rocks. Of all the clinicians I met, I can think of 3 that are complete donkeys, and the rest (probably close to 100), were unbelievable. I am grateful that the 3 donkeys weren’t surgeons or intensivists.
- Caregiver burnout is a very real thing.
- The human body can survive on 100g of beef jerky a day for the span of atleast a month.
- You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
- Compassion as a healthcare provider is only second in importance to competency, but if you don’t have both, you aren’t very good at your job.
- Alicia is a super hero. There’s no getting around it. Spiderman got bit by a spider, Alicia got hit by an SUV. Just picture when she walks into the Stollery and is treating a patient with an amputation, and she rolls up her pant leg. That’s super powerful shit. Find me a bigger asset to that hospital than Alicia, who is trained both as a physio and a trauma patient. She has been in their shoe(s) … bad amputee joke…couldn’t help myself.