How are you defined?

Today has not been a good one for me.  I was doing my step ups which is literally up and down one step, with one leg leading and then the other.  It makes my knees creak, the sound of arthritis and it can make me puff if I do it quickly.  Since I had felt “off” yesterday, I was taking it slowly.

In the morning I exercise on the landing in the middle of our stairs (I have a step platform for the evening workout).  My goal has been to try and strengthen my legs to protect my arthritic knees and avoid knee replacement surgery at this time. The exercises were prescribed by my physio.  This morning I got really hot and felt breathless. I sat on the stairs till I felt better.  It was apparently not long enough.  As I reached the top of the stairs I couldn’t work out where vertical was and weaved down the hall toward our bedroom. Sadly bouncing off the hall walls. On reaching the bedroom I passed out, hitting the floor hard.

Skipping the gory and somewhat lengthy details, I ended up in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.  Let me tell you, the frigging Feilding to Palmerston North road the ambulance took seriously sucks. Even with sucking on the Entonox pain killer, the pain I was already in was magnified with the bouncing.  Not a great 20 minutes.

I ended up in the hospital for the entire day, with my poor hubby at my side.  I had 12 xrays, focussing on my left side because of the stronger pain on that side and a snapped finger nail to indicate I fell more heavily on that side (I just don’t remember how I fell and I had crawled around the floor and down the stairs to get to my phone to ring for help and to let the ambulance crew in).  12 xrays is a lot and it frigging hurt with all the positioning.

The pain of being stabbed for bloods was stronger than the xray positioning torment.  It felt exactly like that, a sharp hard stab to my right inner arm.  I think I covered my instant swearing response.  I am really hoping the nurse couldn’t read my mind (or facial expression) because when she stabbed me I visualised a rather lethal end to her.  It just hurt that much, on top of a lot of hurts.  I also had an ECG – to check my heart out.


I had lost any notion of dignity at this stage, being in my pajamas’s, no bra or kickers.  Hair not brushed and sweaty from the temperature I had. What made me laugh is that everything came up good, bar soft tissue damage, except a hairline fracture in my left ankle.  I laughed because it was about the only place on my left side that didn’t hurt.

There were three key moments in this long day.

The first was when I was attended to by a nurse I had trained with years ago.  She asked what I was doing now and I simply said, I had a Master of Arts: Media Studies and was now a writer.  I felt no qualms, felt no need to define or defend myself.  It was simply what I am doing in this moment in my life.  I love that I have regained my enjoyment in writing, that written expression is helping me find myself and define myself.

The second key moment was during the extensive head to toe examination.  The doctor replied when I said I had PTSD, that she was sorry and asked me if it was managed.  It felt normal, the same feel of the discussion about my fibromyalgia.

There was no sharp demarcation in the discussion of my physical and mental illnesses.

I was comfortable (well as much as you can be in a pretty open, busy emergency department, with curtains as the visual and aural barriers) in discussing either, which is the first time ever for me.  I am normally hiding something, but no more.

The third was sad.  A lady in the cubicle next to me (again simply a curtain divider) was obviously disoriented, she was elderly and awaiting discharge to her rest home.  The nurse was a little obvious in her frustration at having to watch her and keep on doing other duties.  The woman was walking a lot.  Pacing the same steps back and forward.  I talked to her, because I have deep respect for the elderly and she remarked that she wished someone would tell her what to do (sadly, they had, repeatedly).

She said she wandered to make up for not knowing what to do.

She quietly said that no one had come with her, no family visited and suddenly she seemed even smaller and fragile.  She said that she was a wanderer and that this was all she was.  I do not think that she was just a wanderer, she had a gentle spirit and a strong, erect gait.  She spoke softly.  I was saddened that at her age (probably over 60), that all she could grasp of her life was that she wandered and thus could claim being a wanderer.

It was her self proclaimed tether to a world that was lonely and unfamiliar, without even her memories to accompany her.

I was still in pain and a little muddled in my thinking but hubby had been by my side all day, leaving his work to be with me.  My brother of choice, A had talked with me till someone arrived at my house so I wasn’t alone.  My cousin texted, as did my parents.  Mum and dad would have come to the hospital if I had asked. Throughout this day I never felt alone or disconnected from the reality of what was happening to me.  I had choices, I could ask questions, I had my nursing past to rely on and help me interpret my results.

This woman, was alone.  Alone in her understanding of where she was (she asked me why the hospital was here) and her own condition.  She had no support person and it was a little obvious that the staff has spent much of the day monitoring her and trying to contain her safely.  She knew that her family was not present but not where they were.  Her dejection was stark.

Her usefulness as a woman had been stripped from her. Until the only definition that she could relate to was “wanderer”.

It was a long traumatic day but I learnt more about myself and that is all I can ask of any day.

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