|As someone on Facebook commented, the lion and I have the same hair.|
Last week we learned a few different medical procedures in preparation for our third year in the hospitals while on medical rotations. As I learned about why and how to insert a nasogastric tube into a patient, a few memories came back and things that I had experienced in the past started to make sense.
I have been told my family and friends that immediately after my accident, I had a multitude of tubes attached to my body. As I awoke but was still in a daze, I kept trying to pull the tubes out, so the nurses strapped my arms down and severely tightened the mask on my face. The scars that the mask left were visible on my face for over a year. One of my good friends said that I seemed very uncomfortable being strapped to a bed, so she told me that she would loosen them up as long as I didn’t try to remove my tubes or make it obvious that she had liberated me when the nurses were around. Although I didn’t know what I was doing or how I agreed, I obeyed her guidelines after she loosened the straps for me.
After I was moved to the Shepherd Center, I finally regained conscious awareness of my surroundings. Why were all these tubes in my mouth and nose? I had no idea. I remember the medical team took out a few of the tubes fairly early. They removed the last tube after a few days. I believe one of them was a nasogastric tube—a tube that is inserted through the nose and ends at the top of the stomach for feeding purposes. Removing that was not a pleasant experience.
I can’t remember if it was before the tube was removed or after that I had tape on my nose. I remember seeing it in the mirror after I regained consciousness and thinking that my nose had broken in the accident, too. “It’s okay, I’ll just get plastic surgery,” I told my mom and my friends. They had no idea what I was talking about. I remember thinking I looked like a chicken. I kept picturing a strange cartoon chicken with a white puffy nose. It only recently occurred to me as I remembered that period that what I had mistaken for a “chicken nose” was probably just tape that was there to secure one of the tubes.
While we were learning these procedures last week, I also thought about how I wasn’t able to breathe properly during the initial weeks of regaining consciousness. My punctured lungs as well as possible irritation due to the tubes made my voice raspy and I was only able to speak a couple of words at a time before I would have to take deep breaths to breathe properly. “I sound like the Dark Knight,” I kept telling my friends, referring to Batman’s hoarse voice in The Dark Knight. Later on, my friend told me that because I sometimes had to take breaths between each word, he thought I sounded like Stevie, the asthmatic boy from Malcolm in the Middle, instead. I still tried to make all my visitors in the hospital feel welcome and talked to them as much as I could when they would come by because I appreciated their thoughtfulness.
After the tubes were taken out from my mouth and nose, the next things to be removed from my body were the staples from my neck. The staples that had been put in to close off gaping lacerations in my lower head and neck pulled on my skin and hurt me whenever I slept. I woke up every morning with blood on the pillow. I asked my nurses when they would be taken out and they were surprised that I still had them in me. This went on for about a week. The morning the staples were to be removed, a nurse applied a local anesthetic that would take effect in one hour. By the time the doctor got around to seeing me, it was already sometime in the mid to late afternoon. The anesthetic had worn off. I held my cousin’s hand tightly as I explicitly felt the doctor remove each staple. For this reason, I became wary of anyone coming close to my neck and I got in the habit of cutting my own hair, which I still do.
I still had the neck brace and the chest brace that had to be removed. They dug into my skin throughout the day and gave me a lot of pain, no matter if I was moving or sitting still. But it would take another month and a half to two months before I was allowed to remove those.
I am not sure why I remembered these things all of a sudden. It’s been a while since I thought about them. But as I said in an earlier post, I think it’s good to not forget these in order to gain perspective.