Nichole the.. Patient.

I feel like its hard to write the rest of my hospital stay in the correct order, most days blended or felt like they didn’t exist at all. I remember when my surgeon came in a told me I would be able to get the blue towel unstapled from my leg, I was so excited, until they pulled the staples out. There were quite a few in my leg but only one was mangled and pulled my thigh in many directions as the nurse fought with it to get it out. After they were done taking it off they told me I would have this yellow patch of gauze on my leg until my scab had healed for the most part. Now, it was time to see my hand. I wasn’t ready, prepared, however you want to say it. It wasn’t my hand anymore, or just my hand, it was a mixture of a piece of my thigh mixed with stitches. I was told not to move it because he had put the graft over the knuckle of my index finger, even though he and I discussed before the surgery that he wouldn’t. I don’t know why but I felt a little betrayed when I saw that, but what the fuck was I gonna do now? I was told over the next few days I would have this crazy plastic contraption attached to my hand/arm until my graft was a little more healed. But, I wasn’t ready to put away this new hand of mine.077D42CA-F018-42F8-98AC-91AA6888D52C_L0_001

I had a lot of emotions that I didn’t know how to express so I went back to telling jokes. The surgeon told me he scored my graft so that it would heal better. As soon as I heard the word score and saw the tiny lines throughout it I thought of all the dough I had scored in my career. My little knife that I called “greenie” and wondered if the knife he used was similar. I don’t remember getting the giant plastic contraption put back on my arm but I do remember accidentally hitting myself in the head with it a few times and also being terrified that I would scrape my newly scraped thigh. I was alone quite a bit during the day when my mom would have to go home and I would be waiting for my boyfriend. One of the few times is when my case manager came in to introduce herself. She told me she was the liaison between myself and the workmen’s comp insurance, she was on my side.. our first meeting didn’t feel like that. After she introduced herself to me she asked why I spilled hot oil on my hand. If I were able to throat punch her, I would have at that very moment. I had to explain to her how the accident happened in detail. Explain to her how I might never be able to do what I loved again. Explain to her that she better not approach me like that ever again. She left. The only food I remember ordering was chicken tortilla soup.. I ended up getting chicken broth with overcooked tortellini. I typically love pasta, but that was horrible. I was stuck there, I was stuck taking slow steps to the bathroom, stuck hearing other people’s conversations near by, stuck waiting for my family and friends to reach out or my boyfriend to come over after work. It felt like an endless cycle. I couldn’t even sleep well, every night when my boyfriend stayed on the fold out chair I would watch him sleep. It turned into this thing where I would get anxiety if I couldn’t watch him sleep because I was irrationally afraid he would die. I didn’t poop for five days because of the pain meds they gave me right after my surgery. My stomach started bloating and hurting and nothing was helping, no food was sounding good and I was silently falling into my own depression. I kept telling joke, I kept smiling and acting like I was ok. When I couldn’t sleep I’d put sounds of the ocean on and close my eyes to act like I was in front of an ocean, until I would move and have to readjust everything just to make sure that my blanket didn’t go over my thigh while simultaneously making sure that I didn’t hit myself with the giant plastic contraption. I remember the day they released me. I remember being terrified. The last time I had been sent home I basically did a turn around trip because of the infection. The feeling of “oh, fuck” was amazingly overwhelming. But, I missed home. I missed my own comfort, I missed sharing a bed with my love. It was time to go and the last nurse that helped me was Frieda, the one that had helped me that first night I was ever in the hospital. I took it as a good sign. My boyfriend pulled my car around and I was wheeled down to the front of the hospital. I remember getting out of the wheel chair babying every limb on the right side of my body, I was terrified to close the door, I was terrified to go over bumps, on the freeway, really, anything. I just wanted to get some carne asada nachos and be home.

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Nichole the… Burn Victim Part 3

It was May 7, 2018. It was around 3:00 PM. I didn’t have to wait as long to get a room in the burn unit, luckily. I was immediately put on antibiotics and told that I probably won’t have surgery until the next day so I should eat something. My mom got me baker’s since it was down the street, my favorite grilled cheese, fries and a chocolate shake. I didn’t know that would be the best meal I would eat over the next few days. She sat with me while I text my boyfriend, he was at work, that I was admitted and having surgery the next day. There is something peaceful when you are in a bad moment in your life and you can see your mom. She wasn’t even doing anything special, she was just there, and it was the best. I met my new nurses, and told them I guess we all need to be friends now cause I’ll be here for a while. I had a new room, no roommate, again. This time I was right in front of the nurses station, I could see and hear a lot of conversations. I feel like this day was the easiest, I did nothing and I had other people that knew what they were doing washing my infected wound. The nurse offered me a shower, she said that because I am having surgery the next day I wouldn’t be having a proper one for while. So, she wheeled me in my bed to the shower room. I didn’t even know what to expect it to look like but I wasn’t expecting that. You know in scary movies where people are taken to a medical room that is completely white, tile and everything, that’s what it reminded me of. They told me they could help me if I needed it. It took a minute for me to remember how awful the shower the night before was, so I put my pride aside and asked for help. Because of how swollen my hand was I couldn’t even get the oversized gown off of me. I felt like I needed to distract them from the task at hand and kept throwing jokes at every way. Even up until the time my nurse was wheeling me back to my room, I dont remember what I was joking about but I remember her stopping the bed because she was about to pee her pants while simultaneously almost running me into a wall. Like I said, that day was easy. My mom left and I was alone, I had my iPad to watch movies on and everyone else’s business on social media to keep me distracted until my boyfriend got there. It was dark and late, and I couldnt sleep. He got there about 10 pm and the night nurse made him a bed on the pull out chair. My boyfriend kissed me goodnight and slept. I watched him, ya, I sound like a creep, but I couldnt help it. I had this growing fear that he would disappear, that he would stop breathing, or that he just wouldnt be there. So, I couldnt sleep. Around three am the nurse came in and told me I really should get some rest, I took her advice, turned in my bed towards the part of the room my boyfriend was sleeping, watched his chest rise up and down and closed my eyes. I woke up to him getting ready to go home and get ready for work. Dammit, I love this man. He told me that he would be in contact with my mom and that the surgery will be just fine and he’ll be back after work. He left, I cried. My mom came in a little while after, then the doctor and the anethesiologist came to tell me about my surgery and as soon as they have the room we are going. I took a breathe. They told me they would be taking skin from my right thigh and tranfserring it to my hand. I had questions, the first one, will the hair from my thigh end up on my hand and I’ll have a hairy hand?… The looks I got, no, we dont go that deep under your skin. Second question.. will my cellulite transfer to my hand and I’ll have a fat hand?.. Those looks continued with a little bit of laughter, thankfully, the answer was no once again. Alright, lets do this, I can do this, you guys know what you are doing. Waiting and waiting. I could see all the nurses and my surgeon talking by the nurses station, I dont think I took my eyes off them for a good hour. I got word I was going in, I saw my mom’s face with worry, concern and love. A different anethesiologist came in this time, she looked young and like she waas having the worst day. Her scrub hat was on crooked covering only half her head, the case she was holding looked like things were about to fall out and she asked me if I was ready to go… In my head I thought to myself, oh fuck, she is gonna kill me. Yes, sure, lets do this.  They wheeled me down a different hall and my mom walked with me for as far as she could go and we said I love you. The surgical room was intriguing, there was the nurse I had asked to over see my surgery since she was a student, I told her I wanted her to learn. The doctor that had originally scraped the skin off my hands, the med students that had been following my surgeon around the room. It felt like a really weird reunion and also very calming. I made it to the surgery table and they gave the anaesthesia, count backyards they said, I dont think I had the chance. I woke up in this room where there were some kind of colorful curtains surrounding me and a nurse looking at me, everything was blurry and oh fuck the pain! what the fuck, I was screaming so loud and I went to move my leg and there was something pulling from the top of my thigh across to the lower part of the stomach. There was a staple and I asked the nurse why it was there in between screams and she looked horrifed. Shesaid she didnt know and pulled it out immedicately. For a second I was ok and then that pain came back again, but now on top of my thigh and I looked an there it was a blue towel stapled over my donor site. And its burning, the type of burn you get when you skin your knee as a kid on hot gravel but on top of my thigh and so unexpected. The nurse went to grab help because I was so overwhelmed and kept losing my breathe and passing out. She found nurse Robyn, my hero. She was a burn unit nurse and she explained everything that I was going through and helped me understand what I was feeling and calmed me down. She told me that I need to remind myself that the burn was traumatic and I had a long recovery ahead of me physically and mentally. I think I blacked out after that, I felt peace. I woke up and saw my mom, she told me the surgery took longer then expected. But, I was back in my room with part of my thigh missing and a giant white plastic cast thing on my hand. The day went by quickly and my boyfriend was back and he checked out my thigh and gave me kisses and hugs and told me about the outside world while telling me how strong I was. I just wanted to go home and be held. Now, how do I get up to go pee with a blue towel stapled to my thigh that everytime I step pulls in every direction and burns and tears and hurts? Persistence. 

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