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When you don't take a break, but a break is given

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

A good friend had been telling me she thought I needed a "3 month break" for a while. Well, in December 2022 I fell while rollerskating and fractured my left hip. For me, this "hip break" was the femoral neck, a complete separation right at the acetabulum and some fragmentation along the neck. Needless to say, the hip fracturing wasn't the break I was asking for. But, it did necessitate 3 months off work to recover enough to return to work, and eventually some time to re-evaluate how I was expending my energy.

Phone Home

The night of the fall, I was skating around feeling blissful and full of gratitude. It was a hobby I picked up in the pandemic and something that gave me a mood boost like nothing else. I loved being able to flow through the air, with good music and like minded people. It felt fun and free coming out of the isolation and restrictions (closures of public spaces, social distancing etc.) of the pandemic. After the fall, the gratitude continued, though simultaneously I felt disappointment for not being able to skate the rest of the session. I was grateful for the skaters at the rink who tried to help me up, grateful for the EMTs and firefighters who lifted me up gingerly and got me into an ambulance, grateful for my skate buddy who held my hand until 3am in the hallway of the emergency department, grateful to the medical staff who respected my level of pain and were willing to make minute and frequent adjustments to the pillows and blankets supporting my femur, I was grateful to the radiology techs who took images as quickly as possible. I didn't stop being grateful even as the pain escalated and things got harder. I had to be transferred to a different hospital for emergency surgery. "The bad news is, this is really going to hurt," the EMTs who were transferring me warned.

One of the most physically painful things one can experience is to be moved from gurney to stretcher with a broken hip. Up until that point, I was able to tolerate the pain with the help of many pain killers. Being moved is when the tears flowed. Wincing, breathing, groaning, dissociating were no longer available or effective options in that moment. By the time I arrived at the other hospital I was pleading to be put under before being put through their imaging process and moved from stretcher to gurney, again. Nope, they couldn't use the images taken at the previous hospital. Nope, they couldn't put me under, because they needed me conscious for the imaging, though I can't remember why. I had no other choice but to be with the pain, my pain, and surrender to it. I felt so utterly defeated and felt myself being enveloped by fear. Then I heard my name called in recognition. "Vanessa!!!" In walked the nurse practitioner on duty who happened to be a former patient of mine. She had seen my x-rays and I heard her telling the multitude of people in the ER that it was very bad and my pain was very severe. I felt so much relief that someone was there who knew me, and that I was truly being seen and heard. Such grace!

I was grateful for my angel NP, the ER staff. I was grateful for pain medication, for warm blankets, grateful to my surgeon for putting me back together, so grateful to the nurses who took care of me, to the physical therapists, grateful to the friends, patients and family who visited me in the hospital and at home once I

Incisions were made. More than originally advertised.

was discharged, grateful for the gifts of chapstick, socks, and yummy non-hospital food.

I've heard over and over; "You're young, you'll heal fast" from doctors, nurses, friends, strangers. When you're "young" and you break a hip, it's strategic to avoid a hip replacement because they last 30 years. And I probably have more than 30 years left in me. So I had a titanium plate and 5 screws put in to secure my femoral neck to the little ball acetabulum that rotates inside the hip socket. This is a much harder, painful, longer recovery than a hip replacement I am told. I thought I'd be fully recovered by 3 months. I didn't know at the time, that was just enough time to be walking with mobility aids and to start a gradual return to work. A complete recovery is closer to a year. When well meaning people say they wish me a speedy recovery, it stings a little bit. There's nothing quick about this. And that is ok. I'm willing to allow my body as much time as needed to heal as best it can from this traumatic injury.

I've realized in a weird way the impact that my work has. And to be on the receiving end of such caring is very illuminating. My work has woven some sort of blanket of community that I'm used to covering people with, but to be covered with it myself is a beautiful thing. I've also realized that with support, you can get through basically anything. I've practiced surrender as a powerful anxiolytic to the circumstances beyond my control.

I may need to have one of the screws removed at some point.

Excited to get my hair washed after a long 11 days.

Feeling like Frida Kahlo. Grateful to be outside of my hospital room.

As of last week, I am able to walk without the help of mobility aids. This was the big one as far as markers of progress go. I found that keeping a tab of little markers of progress was extremely helpful and also, yet another source of gratitude. I was grateful for things like being able to wash my hair, getting the IVs out of my hands and arms, grateful to be able to get out of and back into a bed, grateful to be able to wash my hair and body, grateful for the stitches to come out, grateful to stop using painkillers, grateful for the bruises from the IVs and incisions to finally heal, grateful to graduate from walker to crutches to walking stick, grateful to stand long enough to cook myself something, grateful to get my dog back and be able to walk her.

My dog

This week marks 4 months since my fall and 4 years since I started my practice. I am grateful for the work I am able to (still) do with my patients and grateful for their support, patience and understanding. We are all healing together.

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1 Comment

This is so beautiful and one of the reasons I felt connected to you. Your inner strength and positivity is such an amazing gift. I’m looking forward to the day I’m able to come see you again. I’m going to take notes from you and start writing down and keeping track of even the smallest of achievements. Thank you for sharing your story.


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