I had no intention of marking the 6 month anniversary, yet here I am at San Jose International Airport, unavoidably wallowing in the memories of the day that changed the course of my life.
This morning I had a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon. Dr Matityahu wear Dockers with sneakers, and looks like Ben Stiller. The walls of his exam room are covered with pictures of him watching BMX riders crash their motorcycles. When he enters a room, his cold blue eyes connect with mine in a way that seems far more practiced than authentic.
“Wanna see your x-rays?” he asks brightly, momentarily filling me with hopefulness. Then continuing in the same bouncy tone of voice, “Look, here, all the major cracks across the bone are still wide open, like they haven’t healed at all. And see this wispy bit here? That should all be thick and solid, but your bone just isn’t growing back. How much calcium are you taking? You should probably talk to your ObGyn about osteoporosis. And get your thyroid checked. Make no mistake, this was a really major injury, and you’re an old lady, so you better start managing your health like one…”
“Look, I realize you went to medical school, head the orthopedic department of two hospitals, and are a published leader in your field, but my friend’s Pilates instructor says that I should be going to physical therapy 3 times a week.”
“Oh My God! You’re right!” he said, “How could I possibly have overlooked that. It’s a good thing your friend mentioned your case to her Pilates instructor, or you might never have walked again.” Then he wrote me a prescription for physical therapy and said to come back in 3 months.
A few hours later, I rounded the curve of Terminal A and passed through the ill-fated crosswalk where 6 months to the day – and nearly to the hour - an 82-year old woman driving a 2000 Honda Civic failed to see the flashing lights warning to watch for pedestrians and struck me just as I planted my full weight sending me cartwheeling into the air wailing in pain and breaking my left leg just below the knee. I wish the next few hours were a blur, but I retained full consciousness for several hours, until I was finally pumped with enough morphine, dilaudid, and codeine to put me to something resembling sleep.
And so I remember every bump and bruise of being strapped onto a board and lifted into an ambulance, every question and comment from the med tech with horrible halitosis, every stop and start of the rush-hour ride to Regional Medical Center, every humorless joke and half-hearted apology from the ER nurses who finally brought me ice chips, and every scream and curse as I was wrestled in and out of CT scanners.
Yet all of that pales in comparison to the cumulative pain that lead to the even bigger break that occurred 3 months later, but that is a story for another time.
Here in the present, things really aren’t quite as dire as cheery Dr Matityahu would make it seem. I make progress every few days – then I slide backwards for a day or two. I can walk several hundred yards without my crutches, but I look like a drunk toddler. I have been out and about on my new bicycle – and oh but that feels like freedom! – but then I have to lay on the couch for a day to recover. I am excited about the future, even though I am forced to take life one day at a time for now…at least for the next 3 months.