Sprawled out in the “unloading only” lane, I realized I’d fallen, and I can’t get up! There was nothing beneath my feet when I stepped down. I know there had been a yellow painted railing to my left marking the gutter, but I stepped to the right of that.
OMG, I’m wearing a sundress with NO bra. Horrified and consumed by panic, an image flashed before my eyes of me sitting in the middle of the road, exposing myself to God and all of his creations, cruise passengers, and Port Authority employees. I quickly glanced down to thankfully find I was still intact – at least there. My next thought was of my ankles, which I expected to look like those of a busted up soccer player. When I finally got the courage to peek, I was pleasantly surprised they weren’t completely deformed.
Security immediately jumped into action, and moved me out of the path of oncoming traffic (good thinking). Then total confusion ensued while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. The alarm was sounded, and a swarm of Port Authority “suits” came down from upstairs to investigate. No one wanted to talk to me; in fact, most of them ignored me. They would quietly converse with Security, go look at the curb, and then whispered some more.
One “suit” did speak to me. “I hear that you tripped and fell, poor thing,” she insincerely said while openly placing the blame on me. “No, this was not my fault,” I replied assertively, and then responded with, “That curb is dangerous, and needs to be marked accordingly.” It was the truth, but she turned away and left the scene.
My niece proceeded to give me a pep talk. “Aunt Lee Lee, you were so graceful when you fell, very ladylike.” My nephew looked bored. My sister was on the phone with my mom catching her up on all the gory details.
Over thirty minutes later, my $500 dollar ride finally arrived. Three paramedics evaluated me, took some funny selfies, and loaded me up into the ambulance.
My sister was in the front with the driver, while my niece, nephew, two paramedics, and my broken ole self were in the back. We were having a good time, considering the situation, making jokes, sarcastically yelling at the driver for hitting every bump on the five mile ride to the hospital, and yet still positive I would be going on my vacation. We had paid for early boarding, so we still had several hours before we were to depart. The cruise line was aware of my situation, and they were being as helpful as possible. I looked out the back window of the ambulance and saw my ship. Quickly, I took a picture, and realized I was going in the wrong direction.
After meeting with the doctor, Radiology took me to get x-rays. Behind the imaging machine, the wall was draped with a poster of a Caribbean beach scene. After they finished taking the films, I asked them to take a few more images for me. Posing as if I was laying on the beach, I had the nurses laughing while taking pictures with my phone. I figured with the way things were going, this would be the closest exotic location I’d be getting to anytime soon.
“Broken. Your ankles have mirror image breaks of the tibia. We have to check and see if we need to do emergency surgery. I’m going to give you some Lidocaine in both ankles, and take you back for more images,” my doctor announced. “Just so you know, Lidocaine doesn’t work on me,” I informed him. Not believing me, he instructed that he would still give me some. I thought the needle in both ankle joints was painful, that was until I had the x-rays.
Lying on the x-ray machine, my doctor detailed the procedure about to take place. “Basically, we have to check ligament stability, and we do that by pulling your broken ankle as far out as possible under the imaging machine while it captures pictures,” he said. Having a high pain tolerance, I didn’t think much of his words until he began. Not only was I freaking out in pain, my doctor was panicking as well. He’d finally realized I hadn’t lied; Lidocaine really doesn’t work on me. Somehow this made me feel better, that we were both in pain, and we’d get through it together. When I arrived back in my room, my family looked shaken. They had heard me screaming from the other side of the hospital, and were in their own pain right along with me and the doctor.
We had less than an hour before the ship cast off, when my doctor entered to inform us that I would not be having surgery at this point, and I would NOT be going on a cruise either. I kissed my niece and nephew goodbye so they could hurry to catch the ship, and held on to my sister as we both cried. This was one of the worst moments of all, and the nurses felt so bad they cried right along with us. As I watched my family disappear from sight, I lay there waiting for my legs to be cast. I called my mom, who lives three hours away, to please come get me, called the pig sitter to let her know I wasn’t going anywhere; and lastly, I called my best friend.
My best friend (BF) owned a private home health care agency. He was a highly intelligent, assertive professional, with a wealth of knowledge and connections in the medical field. After I recounted the last six hours of my life to him, he insisted the importance of me not to be discharged from the hospital. I relayed the news that they were already in the process, and my mother should be arriving very shortly.
“You can’t put any weight on either foot; how are they possibly going to discharge you?” he questioned. “A wheelchair is being delivered to the house, and I have a walker and I have crutches too,” I rallied. Honestly, I didn’t know how in the world I was going to be able to pull this one off, but I preferred to be home, in my own bed, with Officer (my mini pig) and Uncle Put (my cat). Then again, before discharge, the social worker went over all the important stuff with me, like…
“So Ms. Volpe, will you have someone helping you when you return home?” the social worker inquired. “My BF owns a home health care agency, and is already working with my mother on setting up round the clock nurses,” I explained. “Until you have home care help, how are you going to get out of bed and transfer to your wheelchair once it arrives?” she tested. “I will have the chair parallel to my bed, scooch over to the side, get into a sitting position, and then transfer to the wheelchair. Done.” I proudly answered. “And what will you do if there is a fire?” she countered back. What? WTF? “I don’t know. I have a pig and a cat, and I’d have to get them out, but…,” I trailed off in stunned horror. “You will crawl,” she said in an apathetic tone. Seriously? I’m not going to crawl. I have two broken ankles. I’m going to die.
This whole “fire scenario” was to be the plot for many of my future nightmares.
“We can’t let you leave until you empty your bladder. You can use the toilet, or you can go in a bed pan,” the nurse explained. “Noooooo, I’ll use the toilet if it’s all the same,” I nearly shouted at the poor lady. Using the toilet, only 6 feet away from me, was to be an incredible undertaking even I couldn’t have foreseen. I have no feet, they are throbbing with pain anytime my leg/foot moves, and I have the added weight of casts on top of that.
Two nurses, crutches, a walker, my mother, and the eagle had landed, but I couldn’t pee. So I sat there, and the nurses went to go figure out how the girl with two broken ankles was going to miraculously walk. When they returned, they had news. I did too. I peed! I thought their news was less impressive. They had spoken with the doctor, who was in the process of admitting me to the hospital.
Now they want to admit me?! Not a chance. They’ve had all day to make that call, yet never did, and now that I’ve sent the pig sitter home and mentally prepared to go, they want me to stay? “You can’t even get to the toilet WITH help, what are you going to do at home alone?” the nurses drilled. “Crawl,” was my reply.
Around this time, one of the Port Authority employees delivered my suitcase to me in the hospital…with two broken wheels. Not funny!
With the help of my walker, two nurses, and my mother, they got me into the car. See, simple. Getting out of the car with only my mother and walker was not so simple. As soon as I was able to reach my front door, my mom got me into a rolling chair, pushed me to my room, and deposited me in bed.
After I was able to get as relaxed as possible, I wondered where Officer was. Uncle Put had already made himself comfortable next to me, and was finishing up with a zealous bath. But where was Officer? It wasn’t like him to not immediately greet me.
“Mom, can you find Officer for me?” I shouted to my mother in the other room. She found him alright, or at least the obese version of himself. She also found piles and piles of uneaten treats all over the house. Good God, that’s really not like him. He would never leave uneaten treats no matter how full he was. Pigs don’t have a hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that tells them when they’re full.
With all the excitement, Officer left the office to join me in the bedroom. When I saw the size of him, my heart broke. He was in pain. The wonderful pet sitter I hired, who was only there for six hours, overfed Officer to a dangerous degree. And with that, Officer started vomiting ridiculous piles of treats. I was always told that it’s not natural for pigs to vomit like it is for cats and dogs, and I now understood. This was serious, continuing for hours, and I couldn’t do anything to help. My house suddenly began to take on the look and smell of a frat party during hazing week.