On my way home from The Malibu Times office last month, I stop at Whole Foods Market to stock up on organic produce. I put my bags in the car and return my cart to the rack.
Now, I’m not a cynic, but the phrase, “No good deed goes unpunished,” comes to mind.
I walk briskly back to the car, having first looked both ways. Only a stationary green sedan waits for a parking slot to open up.
Next thing, wham on my left leg and I am momentarily airborne. I land on my right hip with a thud that surely registered at Cal Tech. It’s okay, Lucy Jones. It’s just me, deeply embedded in the asphalt. I am sprawled at right angles to the green sedan. It’s backup lights are now on, and it’s moving toward me. For an instant, I think, Oh, God, it’s going to run over me. Someone yells at the driver to stop. Brake lights on. Backup lights off. Whew!
The driver is hovering over me. He’s so sorry. Me too. Are you okay? Well, not really. He says, don’t move. I say I’ve got to get upright. The asphalt is searing my flesh and I’m in denial about the “F” word. No, not that one. I probably said that one at the moment of impact.
The store manager appears with an electric cart. He and the driver help me up, into the cart and into the air-conditioned store. Someone has called paramedics. Three nicely pressed dark blue suits appear. They ask a lot of questions. An ambulance is on the way, they say. For the 30 minutes it takes to get to West Hills Hospital, the nice paramedics take my vital signs and ask more questions. I’ve absolutely no clue what I said, besides, I can’t believe this is happening to me.
I get my cell phone out of my purse and call my daughter, Susan. She’ll have her husband drive her to Woodland Hills so he can take my car home. She thinks of everything. She finds me in the Kaiser emergency room after being told first that I’m not there and second that she can’t see me. Wrong and wrong again.
More vital signs, more questions. Gurney ride down the hall to X-ray. Can you get over onto the table? I assumed they would lift me by the sheet, one, two, three. Guess not.
Carefully, wriggling, lifting my leg with my hands. I’m losing my sense of humor. Straighten your leg. Hold your breath. Now turn on your side. I don’t think so. They make do with a partial shift to the left. All I can muster. Back on the gurney with no help. Oww.
Back in the ER, someone looks at the X-rays. Looks like something’s going on in there, he says. We must wait for a doctor. And wait. And no, I can’t have anything to eat. About six hours into this little drama, an orthopedist appears, all smiles. He looks at my hip shots, shows them to Susan, pointing at two ominous lines.
It’s broken. I must have surgery. Why won’t it just heal? You’d never walk again. I’m ready to cry. Susan is reassuring. There are three options: repair the fracture with pins, a partial replacement or a full replac ement. He’s opting for a partial. Fewer complications. The surgery will be tomorrow afternoon. He leaves, still smiling.
It’s the middle of the night. I’m in a double room. Susan gets me something to eat. The nurse tries to evict her. She can’t stay because there’s someone else in the room, they say. She’s staying, in the waiting room if necessary. The head nurse gives her a pillow and a blanket.
Day Two. My breakfast is in an IV drip. Surgery is scheduled for 3 p.m. It’s nearly 5 p.m. when I’m wheeled downstairs. Finally, I see the anesthesiologist. As usual, he doesn’t take seriously that I have horrible reactions to lidocaine; I know they’ll give it to me anyway. Then I’m curled in a fetal position, a spinal block numbs my lower parts. I hear voices. I want to tell them to shut up. I’ve seen way too many episodes of ER. In post op the drug reaction sets in. I shake violently for more than an hour. They bring hot blankets that feel good but don’t stop the tremors. It’s 9 p.m. before I’m in a private room, so Susan can stay. They even bring her a reclining chair. She brings me applesauce, juice and crackers. I’m given a shot of morphine in the IV. I’m drifting off. A nurse wakes me to see if I want anything. She takes my blood pressure. Every hour through the night I’m roused from slumber by nurses checking this and that.
Day Three. At 5 a.m. a lab tech draws blood. Soon a new shift comes on and the whole thing starts again. I guess I’m not supposed to sleep. The surgeon pops his head in the door to say everything went well. He’s still smiling.
Breakfast is three doughy pancakes and a mummified sausage patty. Pass. The morphine has dropped my blood pressure to 77 over 35. I decide to tough it out with a single Vicodin tablet.
Then things get better. My sister, whose six ankle surgeries I’ve attended, arrives with my Sonicare toothbrush, crossword puzzles, trail mix, chocolate meringues, fresh plums. My friend, whom I saw through a quadruple bypass, shows up and says my favorite columnist Al Martinez sends his best and says to keep laughing. Then he makes a mercy run to Whole Foods for yogurt, vegan jello, bananas, a newspaper. I’m saved. I can reject the dinner tray: mystery meat with dark gravy, watery carrots and potatoes that could pass for library paste. Pass the trail mix. Editor Laura Tate brings a gorgeous box of flowers from Cosentino’s and a card signed by the Times staff. Two very nice physical therapists trot me up and down the hall with a walker and show me how to do step aerobics. Good one up first, bad one down first. Think of heaven and hell, she says. You’ll do fine.
The surgeon steps in and yanks the drain from my incision. I can go home tomorrow, if I have help, or I can stay two days more in hospital, or I can go to a nursing home. Not on your life will I do that.
My other daughter, Betty, whom I saw through ACL knee surgery and childbirth, has arrived from Bozeman. She will drive me home and get me through the first week, so Susan can go back to work.
Day Four. I’m outta here. Well, not quite. First, a man with a clipboard comes in and apologetically hits me up for $800. Changes to the Medicare law, he says. Then the surgeon says I must have a blood transfusion. Why? I moan. Because you can have a heart attack if you don’t. And, yes, he lays that one on me with a smile. So much for positive thinking.
Next: On my own again, sort of.