The Day the Running Stopped Part Four: They Were Right
Spoiler alert: the paramedic was right.
I was rushed into the hospital ER, whisked off to X Ray not that long after I explained my totally implausible story (“I hurt myself running a 5K”. “Did you fall?” “No.” “A marathon?” “No, a 5K.”). It was probably less than an hour after I arrived that the attending doctor confirmed the paramedic’s speculation about a broken hip.
Even now, eight weeks later, I can’t even believe it. It made absolutely no sense. Over and over, the nurse, the doctor, the x ray techs: “Did you fall?” “That must have been a nasty fall.” “What did you hit when you fell?” But I didn’t. I just ran. A very normal distance on a very easy course. I lay on the table in disbelief.
More blood, more tests before I was admitted and put on the wait list for surgery the following day. The break, at the very top of my femur where it meets the hip, was clear across the whole top of the bone, and the top piece was “unstable”, meaning it had separated from the rest of the femur. It would need to be surgically put back together with a rod and multiple screws.
I asked if I had injured the bone more by walking on it for three days, ready to beat myself up severely for my irresponsible medical decisions. The doctor told me that while I had definitely displaced the bone and made the injury more significant by doing so, I would have needed surgery regardless, even if I’d gone to the doctor on Sunday. The diagnosis would have been the same as would have the surgery. Just my pain and recovery time were now going to be much greater. Awesome.
It took nearly 24 hours before they found a surgical opening for me, and a surgeon. There was some back and forth with my husband about who to choose from the available options (“I don’t really want a hand surgeon operating on my wife’s hip”). I was given an internal reduction (closing the wide open fracture) and fixation (holding it together with screws until it heals itself back together). Apparently my surgery was “tricky” and “more complicated” than the surgeon realized just from looking at the scans. Again, the disbelief. How did I get such a tricky injury, such a severe fracture, just by running (and then walking on it for three days).
But disbelief had become reality. It was all true, and each moment that the dream didn’t dissolve meant this was real, and it was happening.
I spent four days in the hospital. I was given a walker to use. It was a major challenge just to get out of bed and into the bedside chair. Everything that you take for granted about living your life: walking, showering, dressing, using the bathroom: all of it was taken from me. I needed help with absolutely every single personal care task. I could feed myself but needed the food close enough to me to reach it.
The final day I was in the hospital was the day of the 5K I organize. The previous year, I’d run it triumphantly, savoring every moment out on the course. Watching people enjoy everything I’d helped pull together. This time, I sat in my hospital bed, furiously checking my phone for updates. Everything went off brilliantly. I was proud and overwhelmingly sad. My race has always represented how far I’d come: someone who had never run, never been athletic, never felt like I’d fit in with those types of people had learned how to run, despite its challenges, despite my challenges, and learned to love it. Learned to love it so much that I decided to take on the task of organizing a race. And along the way I’d met wonderful, amazing people who loved running too.
And now here I was, missing it because I couldn’t even walk. Couldn’t even get out of bed without help. I had no idea how long the recovery would take, how painful it would be, how much my life would be altered. I wanted to be one of those people that would see this moment as a wake up call, to take back my health, to claw my way back, to return stronger and braver and healthier than ever. But in that moment, all I could feel was overwhelming loss and sadness.
That was eight weeks ago. Eight weeks that feel like a lifetime and then some.