Hospital Stay, Part 1

On the evening of Friday, June 1, 2012, I was at an Owls’ Baseball game at McNair Field in Forest City. During the course of the game, several people chased down foul balls, and I made up my mind to chase one down myself.

Had I known the outcome, I probably would have abstained.

At last my chance arrived. Late in the seventh inning, one of the Owls’ power hitters socked a foul ball over the back fence of the ballpark, directly behind my seat in the stands by the third-base line. Deciding that this was my chance, I vaulted the fence behind the stands, dropped down from the catwalk behind it, and dashed across the concrete to the fence beyond. It was nearly seven feet high, but I leaped as high as I could and pulled myself up with my arms. As I hopped over the top, my toes caught the top of the fence, and I lost my balance and tumbled to the ground. I landed on my hands and my body swung down to land on my right knee.

Immediately, I felt something pop, but I ignored it and strove to arise. My right knee, seeing that the pathway to the brain had been shut down, took direct action, clamped itself to my left knee, and refused to move. I remember distinctly thinking, Move, move, come on, MOVE…but nothing happened. At last it began to dawn on me that I might have done some serious harm to myself when I fell. Pain from my hip began to insinuate its way past the cloud of adrenaline surrounding my head, and as more and more slipped by, I flopped to the ground on my side, finally understanding that I was not getting up under my own power for quite a while. Fans flocked to the other side of the fence, and I heard a jumble of questions and statements floating about in the cool night air. “Are you ok?” “I think he’s hurt…” “Is he by himself?” “Somebody call 911…” Above it all I could hear Andrea’s anxious voice as she shouted, “David?! David, what’s wrong?!” Not wanting her to worry, I called out, “I’m ok, Andrea, please don’t freak out!”

As I lay still, the paramedics arrived and began an on-the-spot examination of me. Ray Johnson was the first one to me, but he moved over and made room for one guy everybody there respectfully called, “Cap’n” (that’s just Southern for Captain). Cap’n was my constant companion as the medics gently poked and prodded me, shone lights in my eyes, and took temperature, blood pressure, and pulse rate readings. Suddenly, I felt as though I was swimming upward through ice-cold water toward a voice that was saying repeatedly, “Hey…hey…hey…hey” As I came to, Cap’n gently shook me again and said, “Say sompthin’, bud….Hey, nonono stay with me…that’s right. Ok now, say sompthin’ to me….” “I’m ok,” I said, shaking my head to clear the fog, “I’m ok.” The medics were talking in low tones, in speech heavily laden with medical jargon, but I managed to pick up enough of what they said to piece together a little bit of what was wrong. “We have a possible posterior femoral displacement…there’s no question, guys, this boy’s in non-ambulatory condition…plus, he’s hypo-tensive.” In other words, my hip was out of joint, I was definitely going to the hospital, and my blood pressure was lower than it should have been.

Maybe you think I’m crazy, but I remember nearly every word they said on that chilly spring evening.

Finally, the conference broke up, and Cap’n again became the spokesperson as five willing medics stepped forward. “Ok son, we’re gonna have to move you, and it’s gonna hurt. We’ve gotta get you to the truck (in all my run-ins with the emergency medical service, I’ve never once met an EMT who refers to an ambulance as anything other than ‘the truck’).”Suddenly, there was complete silence except for Cap’n growling instructions in an undertone. “Sumbody grab his arms (to me) sonny, fold your arms ‘cross yore chest. Sumbody grab his feet and keep them stay-bull (stable), don’t let ‘em flop about….allright, good. Sumbody else….ah, you two grab him along the body there, lift real gentle and don’t jaw-gull  (joggle) his hip. Ok, everybody on three…One, two, three-ee!”

Carefully, they bundled me from the ground to the stretcher and then loaded me into an ambulance. Tracey and Sonny, the two medics who would accompany me on the journey, began arguing quietly. As far as I could tell, they were quibbling about where to take me.. “Well, he’s awake and conscious,” said Sonny at last, “Let’s ask him.” “OK,” Tracey replied, “Which hospital would you normally use, hon?” “We usually go to Cleveland,” I replied in what I thought was a strong, clear voice. What came out must have been weak, because Tracey asked from the front of the ambulance, “What’d he say?” Sonny translated my answer, and she muttered to herself for a few moments, then called back, “Well, Rutherford’s closer, but it’s your call.” With it being my choice, I made the first sensible decision of that crazy night and said, “Cleveland.” Away we went. No lights, no sirens, but I could tell from the way the truck swayed and bumped that we were “skint back” (going pretty fast).

As Tracey drove, Sonny checked my blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. I distinctly remember him asking, “What time is it, anyway…about ten?” I glanced down at my watch, surprised to see it still on my wrist, and told him, “No…Five til eleven.” He grinned a little, “Thanks kid,” and went to writing figures on a clipboard. I must have looked at him funny, because he chuckled again and said, in answer to my unspoken question, “No, I don’t wear a watch…some people I deal with would rip it offa me.” He went back to his clipboard; and, as he wrote, I asked him, “So how long have you been a paramedic?” “This is my first day,” he deadpanned, watching my face for a reaction. Seeing none, he chuckled and went on, “Just pickin, kid…I’ve been a paramedic for six months.” “So tell me honestly, Sonny….what do you guys think I did to myself?”

The levity evaporated from his face; he leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “Well, it looks like you either dislocated your hip, or broke your pelvis. Either way, it’s a big injury. You hang tight, bud…As soon as your blood pressure stabilizes, we’re gonna give you something for the pain.” True to his word, as soon as my blood pressure reached 110/80, Sonny administered 4 mg. of morphine to take the edge off. About five minutes later, as we went over a particularly rough bump, he asked me, “How’s the pain now?” “It’s OK,” I told him, “I’m sorry for being a wimp.”

His eyes widened, and he shook his head. “Dude…you are the first person I’ve ever had in my ambulance who wasn’t clawing me for the whole 10 mg. You’re a tough kid.” When we reached Cleveland, they gave me another 10 mg. of morphine, took several x-rays, and determined that I had a dislocated hip as well as a fracture. This being the case, they also determined that the best thing to do was send me to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Someone made a call, and the EMTs headed over to transport me the 50 miles to Charlotte.

By now I was referring to my watch almost continuously, clinging to the one constant thing in the whirling change that had become my world. I had called my mom a few minutes before to let her know what was going on, and she had passed word on to my sister Andrea, who was almost panicking by now because she thought we had gone to the Rutherford hospital. Imagine her distress when the receptionist told her that I was resting comfortably, but she couldn’t go back because the hospital had received three critical cases in the last five minutes.

Andrea would later tell me that her thought process was something like, “David is having another blood pressure drop and going into shock and there’s nothing I could do and he’s going to die!” Thankfully, Mom texted her right then to let her know that I’d been taken to Cleveland, and that I was ok, minus the pain and a dislocated hip. Within minutes, she arrived at the ER in Cleveland, apologizing for the misunderstanding even though it wasn’t her fault.

I called Mom again, letting her know that Andrea had arrived safely and that the doctors thought it best to take me to Charlotte for immediate treatment. At exactly one-thirty on Saturday morning, as I hung up the phone, Kyle and Bryan walked into my room at Cleveland, declaring that they were the transport team who was taking me to the Charlotte hospital. As he walked over to my bed, Kyle looked at me from behind a purposely indifferent face and asked, “So what did you do?” I told him I fell while chasing a foul ball over a fence. He didn’t blink, but his voice showed some surprise when he went on, “Why?” I shrugged. “I was bein’ dumb, I reckon.” He smirked noncommittally, then said, “Ok, let’s get him outta here.” The nurse shoved some papers at them, and Kyle yanked a pen from his pocket and signed them swiftly. Then they lifted me onto the stretcher, wheeled me through the corridors and into the ambulance.

When we finally arrived at Charlotte, I was given priority status, and a trauma team immediately swarmed into the exam room with me. Within moments, I was surrounded by a dozen people doing a dozen different things at once. Some checked my vital signs. Another auscultated my lungs and heart. Still others checked my extremities for feeling and reflexes. Within twenty minutes of my arrival, they had determined that I should be anaesthetized while they reduced the hip and ran a CT scan. One of the nurses called Mom for me one more time so I could let her know what was going on and tell her that I was all right…for now. An anesthesiologist arrived and smiled down at me as he promised that I wouldn’t feel a thing. Then he gave me an oxygen mask and instructed his assistant to administer the drugs.

Three hours later, I awoke in recovery, where yet another nurse helped me and answered my questions before escorting me to my room. Here I finally reunited with my sister Andrea, who had waited anxiously for nearly three hours in various waiting rooms while I was undergoing the reduction.

At first the doctors thought they would operate Saturday night, so I was not allowed to eat or drink anything for several hours. By the time they decided to postpone my operation a bit longer, I felt as though I could have eaten a whole cow. At last, I was given permission to eat and drink, and began at once to drink vast quantities of water to make up for lost time.

Saturday afternoon my pastor and his wife came to visit, and Mom arrived later that evening and spent a few hours with us. After she left, we both collapsed for some much-needed rest. We spent most of Sunday relaxing and napping, and Dad and Abigail came to visit for a few hours in the afternoon.

About six AM Monday morning, someone came to my room and took me to pre-op to prepare me for the operation, which was scheduled for seven AM. The surgery was fairly major, as they had to locate the socket fragment, put it back in place, and insert a metal plate and some screws to hold it in place while the bone heals.

For those who have prayed, I thank you for your prayers. The doctors were able to locate the bone piece quickly, which minimized trauma to the muscles, and shortened time in surgery: instead of the three to four hours they had predicted, they sewed me back up within two. Everything went smoothly, and there have been no complications so far. I am currently at home, recovering under the watchful care of my mother, who stood by me through prayer during this difficult time. It’s going to take a while until I’m completely recovered, but I’m thankful for the little steps I see each day along that road.


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