I ambulated a fair bit in the hospital the last few days. As I strolled up and down the perpendicular hallways one day, stooped over, carrying my box of blood connected to my left lung by a tube (what my doctor referred to as my "tail"), and grinning at all the docs, nurses, fellow patients and visitors beneath my halo of unwashed, stringy hair like some benevolent bayou witch, my male nurse kindly fetched me a second hospital gown.
"A robe" he offered. But not for my comfort.
Apparently, it's not polite to smile, then turn and flash your backside at others while ambulating.
Speaking to my eldest boy Berto on the phone the day of the car accident, he said, "You broke all your ribs? And you didn't pass out? Wow, Mama..."
I couldn't laugh outright at the time, but I chuckled inwardly. The only thing the trauma doc wrote of my supreme be-in-the-moment spirit was patient denied loss of consciousness. Not all my ribs were broken, actually, but most on my left were fractured. (The doctors wouldn't give us a precise number, simply repeating dismissively, "almost all your ribs", as if to say, what's the difference?) No matter how many exactly, the fact that I didn't lose consciousness won me major points in my son's book.
I probably lost those points, though, when I came home from the hospital, regressed emotionally, and began sleeping with a teddy bear I named Michael nestled against those cracked ribs. I forfeited more, no doubt, when that teddy bear got lost, and, desperate to find my missing friend, I offered five dollars to any kid who could find him for me. The kids tore apart the house in their quest, and Berto found him and demanded his reward, having no mercy for his mother's childish sensibilities.
The head trauma surgeon came in with a whole gaggle of student surgeons. I gazed around at all the new faces crowding my bed.
"Sorry," the jovial, gray-haired doctor said, waving his hand toward his circle of protégés. "Learning experience."
"That's alright," I replied. "I've given birth when it was a learning experience."
My husband has watched Dual Survival on Netflix the past few nights. Ah, the memories! After returning home from the hospital last year, when the recliner was my bed and the bed was impossible, I often fell asleep to Dual Survival. One night after my glorious-and-long-awaited shower, I distinctly remember fiddling with my left ear. A large ball of wax was stuck in it. It caused me some embarrassment, because I was sure others could see it residing there. This particular evening, I finally dislodged the nuisance and extracted, not a buildup of wax as I thought it to be, but a shard of car window that had been lodged in my ear since the wreck. I was vindicated - racoonish eye circles, crooked nose and large, unladylike pours I may have, but waxy ears? Never!
Six weeks post-hospital I called the trauma line, wanting answers to nagging questions before our family ventured on a long road trip through higher altitudes.
I had a lingering fear that my lung could re-collapse at any moment, suddenly saying as we climbed through some mountainous terrain, I've had enough of this carp! and going phhhhuut!
A wonderful physician's assistant assured me that the lung repairs itself quickly, and once repaired, is good as new. Relieved, I had one more question out of curiosity.
I knew which naughty rib had punctured my lung, so I asked, "How did you guys get that sixth rib out of there anyway?"
There was a pause and the beginnings of laughter, hastily repressed.
"We don't do anything," she assured me. "The lung pushes it back as it heals."
Ah....I was picturing a whistling trauma surgeon wielding a tiny crane, carefully looping string and a hook, using a hand crank to haul out the rib, pasting it back into place with super glue - all while working through the tiny chest-tube incision in my side.
I never again worried about my lovely miraculous lungs, but those ribs! For nearly a year I've slept on my back to humor them, and I also have a chronic condition called Pre-Menstrual-Aching-Rib Syndrome. I'd call the trauma line to ask why my ribs have joined forces with my manipulative hormones, but I'm guessing it's a phenomenon no trauma doc, or physician's assistant, could ever explain.