I know I promised to write on a more cheery health topic this month, but I’m yearning for the cathartic relief that chronicling the aftermath of the hit and run will hopefully engender. This has been quite a journey into the netherworld. So please indulge me in a little navel-grazing about my prolonged sojourn in hell with the pain devil.
My Unexpectedly Painful Road to Recovery
Until I lived through this trauma, I was naïve about how intense pain can be. No more. As it turned out, I had to face the full-force of the searing pain unassisted by pharmaceuticals. My body responded to Percodan by transforming my office into a nauseating amusement park ride that I never wanted take. A weaker opioid only served to cast a shroud over me to the point that I was nodding off during my 15 minute commute to the office. The fog persisted until mid-afternoon and then exhaustion set in.
Within a few days, the all-encompassing nature of the pain became as undeniable as the fact that bad things sometimes happen to good people. I used to think that the persistent ache of my rotator cuff pain was bad, but a deep ankle laceration, in combination with extensive areas of raw skin wounds, presented a dimension of agony I had never experienced in my 67 years.
Without getting overly dramatic, the level of unrelenting, all-consuming acute pain I experienced prevented me from holding a cogent thought. The only short respites occurred when I did my coaching and was forced to focus on another human being for half an hour.
I found it interesting to observe that the shoulder pain that has been the bane of my existence, seemed to go into remission because the leg pain trumped it temporarily. This syndrome of your brain only being able to focus on the most severe pain is one of nature’s gifts.
While I definitely felt the need for a reward for the undeserved agony, my indulgence of choice, a massage, was not feasible. Any normal person living with the shock and distress of this horrible episode would have stopped into Paris Baguette™, which happens to be on my daily walking route, and binged on delectable treats. But, since I’m not normal, that did not tempt me. Instead, I abused coffee as much as I could. And since I’m caffeine immune, the over-indulgence didn’t even make me an Energizer bunny.
Keeping my extensive wounds clean, protected, and moist became quite a project. We set up wound care central in our kitchen and stocked it with silicone tape, non-stick pads, steri strips, and a myriad of shapes and sizes of bandages. As my husband exhausted the supplies at one drug store, he hunted down other CVS™ locations.
I will probably be tagged on Amazon for abusing their return policy given how many shoe styles in various lengths and widths I ordered and returned trying to find one that would accommodate my bulging feet which looked like sausages ready to burst their casings.
Top 10 Lessons Learned From the Pain Devil
Since I tend to be introspective, I want to share the top ten lessons I’ve learned from living in Hades.
1. I Became a Self-Absorbed Taker.
Coping with this level of agony does not leave any room for thoughts about other people except to the extent that they can help you. There is no room for relationships when you are in that place.
2. I Hate Being Dependent.
As most of you know, I am very self-reliant and like to do everything myself. Suddenly having to lean on my husband for both physical and emotional succor did not sit well with my independent streak.
3. My Whole Body Was In an Upheaval.
The insult was not confined to the left leg that was crushed under the car tire. Surprisingly, my whole body swelled up. The fluid build-up was confirmed by 6 extra pounds when I weighed myself. My GI system felt like the inside of the nutribullet constantly churning a smoothie. I turned into a gasping mouth-breather.
4. 15 Minute Chunks Are the Way to Go.
My best strategy for getting through the day was to take it in 15 minute chunks. That approach prevented me from engaging in endless crying jags and over-indulging my “What did I do the deserve this?” feeling.
5. Brain Distraction Helps Tremendously.
It never even occurred to me to stay home, lounge around and feel sorry for myself. I chose to drag myself into work looking like James Stewart in the movie “Rear Window.” Of course, my appearance required me to tell my sorry tale to each client. But doing my job gave me purpose and a temporary pain respite.
6. Mental Health Matters Too.
For decades I have started each day with a strenuous workout. This habit is so long-standing that if I miss a day, I walk around mimicking the affect of the pitiful Charley Brown. Maintaining some semblance of moving my body felt non-negotiable. So I found ways to keep up with my daily workouts, but had to ratchet them down to lame, faker workouts.
7. I Reach Out When Wounded.
I found myself attempting to elicit support from any anyone who might be willing to express sympathy, even observant strangers who noticed my copious bandages. I refused to suffer in silence. I want the world to know my pain and will greedily soak up any solicitude that comes my way.
8. Mini-Pity Parties Help.
I permitted myself a daily mini-pity party. That kept me from being constantly self-absorbed and weepy. Because I would not be deterred from my shopping center loop walking route, I had to revisit the scene of the crime daily. I selected a sidewalk stretch on the way back to my office for a one-minute cry. It helped relieve the built-up angst and kept random tearing to a minimum.
9. Pain Can Fall Off a Cliff.
I endured level 20 (on a scale of 1-10) pain for three weeks straight with no relief in sight. The worst part of the day was the transition from lying in bed to standing up. The first attempts at weight bearing hurt so much that It was all I could do not to howl like a mortally wounded animal. Then one day when I tenderly tried to stand upright, the level of pain was significantly less to the point where I could almost contemplate immediately descending the staircase to get to my beloved coffee, rather than practicing walking for five minutes upstairs before gingerly hopping downstairs clutching the banister for dear life.
10. The Smell of Lymph is Nauseating
The production of white blood cells called lymph fluid is the body’s way of healing wounds. It’s a good thing. For several weeks the wounds were leaching such copious amounts that I felt like a leaky faucet. This fluid had a definite stench to it. After several days of wound care and extensive bandage replacement, I came to dread that nasty stench just as much as the pain of ripping off the stained coverings.
Now I Have Another Job
Healing aside, I have a brand new job that will probably my require time and attention for the next year. Now I get to wrangle with two insurers and Medicare to get my bills paid and obtain some compensation for this misadventure.
After finally wresting a copy of the police report out of the Irvine P.D., I discovered that the hit-and-runner only had $10,000 of liability coverage because she qualified for a low income, low-limits policy. That won’t go far. So I have to exhaust that policy and then haggle with my insurance company to prove entitlement under the under-insured motorist’s coverage. And finally, I have the privilege of dealing with the government bureaucracy called Medicare.
It will be a long and winding road navigating this laborious claims process and I will likely not feel fully recompensed at the end. Many have advised me to sue, but I don’t see any percentage in going that route. I have no desire to relive the experience in court, plus and the hit-and-runner is an 80-year old with no money. There’s no point in obtaining an uncollectible judgment. The best I can hope for is that the imposition of a point on her license and being kicked out of the low-limits program will make it prohibitively expensive for her to continue to be a danger on the road.
Take-Away from Pain Experience
Constant searing pain is debilitating, physically and mentally. It is so consuming that it’s darn near impossible to entertain cognitive thought. If I’m ever in this much pain again, I want to be taken out-back and shot immediately. Perhaps I can add an Addendum to my Advance Health Directive? Kidding, not kidding…