My Chaos Theory
I am a self-improvement junkie. That is funny and pathetic, as I never seem to improve anything, let alone my SELF. Anyway, I had just listened to “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins and was trying my best to obey: as soon as you hear the morning alarm, count down 5-4-3-2-1 and GET UP, YOU WORTHLESS HUMAN! Do not hit SNOOZE. Do not laze around reviewing your sorry life. ARISE! PLAN! ACT!
Then came the grimly positive follow-up book I thought would kick me out of my post-hip-surgery slump: “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. Set your alarm for an hour ahead of sanity, jump up and do the following, but only after brushing your teeth and throwing freezing cold water on your face: S: solitude, in other words, meditate; A: affirmations, repeat the ridiculous resolutions you kind of think you will achieve but probably never will; V: visualize what you want, like yourself at 110 lbs with no wrinkles and a table of published books and at least $50,000 to your name; E: exercise, yes, move, move, move, even if you haven’t had a cup of coffee or a second of consciousness and your dog is whining and your man wants breakfast; Scribe, a very clever word for write, so the whole sentence spells SAVES. How clever, don’t you think?
And I was trying, I really was. The rocket launch, the writing, the meditating. Okay, I didn’t always do it in order. Okay, I considered walking the dog, when I got around to it, as exercise. Okay, so reading took up a LOT of time, and meditating took as little as my shortest pre-set INSIGHT meditation (the Dance of St Francis at six beautiful minutes). And writing was more like moaning about my life and trying to find three things to be grateful for before I could think of all the things I didn’t want to do that day.
Well, the morning of my literal downfall, my husband had disturbed my painful miracle morning rotation. I was mad that he had, although I should have been grateful. So instead of being mad, I thought I’d be my better SELF and actually go make him breakfast. And the damn dog was nipping at my heels and, really, I was angry about the whole Miracle Morning shit and my ability to be sucked into all this self-improvement idiocy when all my body wanted to do was sleep and heal. So I reached down QUICKLY AND RATHER VIOLENTLY for the dog’s water bowl, which had slid under a stool, twisting as I reached down, and heard a huge CRACK. And fell to the ground. And yelled, “Help, I’ve dislocated my hip!” Not, “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” although my perverted mind could still perceive that as funny and, if less shaken by atrocious pain, I would have chosen it instead.
The pain was the worst I have ever felt. I mean it when I say I would rather have had all five of my kids on the same day than a hip dislocation. At least there is a pause between contractions, and a baby or five at the end. My husband came running out of the shower, naked, saying, “Oh my god, oh my god, are you sure?” No, I am lying on the tile floor unable to move and screaming cause I am wondering what happened. Please call 911! And put some damn clothes on!
The Fire Truck came within minutes with the first responders, those adrenaline junkies we should all be thankful for. I think one was named Butch. Or was it Mitch. One may have been Junior. The woman had a lot of tattoos, but I missed her name in the turmoil. All of them were cute, and quick with the drugs. “We are giving you fentanyl,” said the nameless lady. “No, No! That’s the one everyone in Ohio is addicted to!” I yelled (actually, whispered hoarsely). “I’m from California! I want morphine!” Mitch, or Butch, or Junior, laughed. “This is what fentanyl is meant for,“ tattoo-chick said calmly, while observing my shortened right leg and my hip at a bizarre angle from my body. “But this looks pretty bad. We’ll give you both.”
She kept asking me what my pain was on a scale of 1-10. 10! 12! 15! I wanted to beg her to knock me out with a hammer to stop the pain. Just kill me now. No matter how much they gave me, the pain was still a 10. And when the ambulance came and they moved me off the floor onto a stretcher, I tried to screech 20! 20! 20! But nothing came out.
They took me to the Emergency Room at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz. Now, before you judge me, let me say that everyone there was about as nice as nice can be. And they tried. Boy, did they try. But here is the real story.
I came in at about 8am. Luckily, I was wearing my exercise clothes, as I had Miracle-Morninged myself into planning a trip to the gym to strengthen that weak hip. After I was hooked up and pumped with more drugs to dull the agony of being moved to a bed from a stretcher, and after noticing that my right hip now looked huge in its dislocated glory and almost fainting at the sight, and after wishing again that I were dead, they told me no orthopedist was on call until noon but it would be easy to pop me back into place. It was such a “routine” procedure.
There was one nurse I particularly liked. She had a weird name I was in no shape to remember, but it sounded kind of like Ayahuasca, which I wished I were taking right then and there. Anyway, Ayahausca was a very big girl, with tattoos and long black hair. She told me she weighed 280 pounds and held the world record for dead lifts. “Don’t worry, honey. I can push that hip right back in for you. No problem!”
The best thing about Ayahuasca was that she kept putting more and more drugs into my IV and smiling a lot while I shivered and shook uncontrollably from pain. She made me want to try Ayahuasca some day.
Then they started their “closed reduction” attempts. That’s when they give you propofol so you don’t remember how hard they push and pull and twist and torture you until they think they’ve put you back in place. Ayahuasca, I was told, even sat on me. She apologized later in case she left bruises, as if bruising were on the top of my list of horrors. (Wait, it kind of is, now that I think about it. And there were lots of bruises!)
Michael Jackson had propofol in him, a ton of it, when he died. The good thing is that when it wears off, you remember nothing at all. One dose is supposed to last for five minutes. I have no idea how many doses they gave me, but after each x-ray, they would say, “We’re gonna try again. Okay?” Like I had a choice in the matter.
My husband took a video during one of their inept attempts, and I am screaming and moaning like a lunatic. I have no memory of it, thank goodness, but I still feel embarrassed, having always prided myself on my pain tolerance and self-control.
They tried four times, I think, (but who was counting?), over a period of a few hours and after the fourth failure, a bit after noon, the orthopedist, who never bothered to come see me, spoke on the phone to the sweet ER doctor, and suggested they send me back to the Institute for Joint Replacement in Fremont, where Dr. Dearborn had done my revision. Really? Was it his lunch hour? Those poor doctors and nurses had been responsible for doing an orthopedic maneuver they had no training for, and the orthopedist on call couldn’t be bothered to supervise?
So now I had to wait for out-of-county transport, only they were out of rooms, so they wheeled me and my dangling leg into the hallway of an Emergency Room fraught with the horrors of the ill, the wounded, the crazies and the drugged, along with the frenzy of nurses and doctors reaching desperately beyond their promises and abilities. Since I could barely wiggle my toes or whisper a complaint, I was a safe bet for hallway parking.
One guy who rushed by me on a stretcher threatened to kill everyone, his bright blue eyes electric with fury. Luckily, he ended up in my now empty cubicle where Ayahuasca pinned him and gave him a shot until he calmed the hell down. Good old Ayahuasca.
In the room right in front of me, door wide open, was a young woman in her twenties who maintained she had forgotten her diabetes meds back home in the Valley somewhere and had gone into a coma. She had two big red sores on her face and her eyes kept closing. The doctor believed her, never asking about meth or heroin. I wanted to scream, “She’s a drug addict, dude! Can’t you see, or do you not care?” Finally, a social worker sat down with her and asked, “Honey, I know you forgot your meds but how much heroin did you do this morning? I’m not a cop. You can tell me.” The girls’ eyes slid open a second and she whispered, “Just a little.”
Just a little. I wanted just a lot. PLEASE. I’ll even take heroin! Give me a lot of drugs so I can at least close my eyes and stop shivering.
Instead, late in the afternoon, after four hours in the hallway, they moved me into another ambulance and brought me over bumpy congested Highway 17 to Washington Hospital in Fremont. I said I wanted to wait and see my doctor. They said he would not be there until morning, and they would prep me for surgery. The frosty nurse gave me some very ineffective pills to swallow with so little water that I almost choked. Where was Ayahuasca when I needed her?
The ER doctor on duty, who, in my incoherent state, reminded me of a very young Asian Humpty Dumpty, said he was sure he could put my hip back in. I said I didn’t want to try, but he insisted, in his arrogant way, sure that he would be the hero. I wondered if young doctors use the ER as a training ground, knowing they may never see the patients again. Once again, my Miracle Morning, Be Nice, Try Harder, Stop Whining, 5-4-3-2-1, Just Do It, snapped in, and I mumbled “Okay, then. If that’s what you need to do.”
One more round of propofol. One more blackout. One more failure.
They had actually cut off my favorite pair of lace panties in Santa Cruz to place me on a damn bedpan, and I was still mad. In my helpless state, I needed a reason to feel in control, so I now refused the bedpan. No way I’d be shoved around and endure more pain just to pee! I was the boss of me! “I want that little needle you push in. Please. Please!” Begging for drugs is one thing, but how far have you fallen when you plead for a catheter? Since they had failed, and they now insisted that surgery was the only option for me, a catheter was part of the preparation. No revolt needed, no victory won. My SELF felt deflated.
At 6:30 the following morning, after an excruciating sleepless night, 24 hours after my hip dislocated, Dr. Dearborn, before his scheduled surgeries, came in with a big smile. The nurse told me when I came to that he relocated my hip in about two seconds.
The self-help gurus say you should take everything that happens to you as a lesson, a way for you to become wiser and better. Here is my chaos theory: life can flip from order to disaster in a second so don’t be too cocky or sure you will be spared. Something will get you when you least expect it, no matter how “prepared” you think you are, and no Miracle Morning or 5-second rule can save you.
You can only hope that a kind Amazon like Ayahuasca will be there to smile and medicate you, no questions asked. You can only hope that you will have the guts to demand proper care instead of enduring 24 hours of torture like Little Miss Nice did.
And if that fails, you can only hope you will eventually see the humor, if not the cosmic lesson, in your ordeal.