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The Twists and Turns

***Written by production manager Jane Mellema***

A weekend in Delhi can change your life forever. Or for at least a very long time!

“Good evening,” the doctor kindly said to me.  “How are you doing?“  He took my right hand in his hands and began to explain what would happen. “The tendon is like a rubber band pulled tight. When it breaks, it snaps back. So we have to go in, find it, and pull it back together.” As he spoke, he traced the plan on my hand, using its bones and tendons as an illustration. Strangely, his gentleness set my heart at ease. 

I was suddenly thrust into a series of firsts. These firsts seemed scary. My first Achilles tendon burst, my first MRI, my first surgery, my first CONSCIOUS surgery, and my first overnight hospital stay. However, this compassionate doctor calmed my fears. The restoration of my Achilles tendon was in his hands. He seemed confident. This was his field of expertise. This was his opportunity to practice his art. I would be okay. 

The doctor walked away, and I was left in the surgery prep room. All I could do was watch the clock or the activities of the nurses bustling about and socializing together. Me and the clock.

Finally around 8:45 pm, I was wheeled into the operating room. Five to six nurses were there. The room looked sterile and cold. They shifted me onto the surgery table and began to prepare me for the procedure. Dressed in a thin hospital gown in a 63-degree room, my body began to shake. One nurse inserted a painful needle into my hand for the IV. I was relieved to find that the needle used to inject the anesthesia into my back was innocuous in comparison. Nurses tied my two arms down, attached the IV tube, put on the heart monitor, and applied an oxygen mask to my face. I tried to relax as my body continued to shiver uncontrollably. “She is cold, put another sheet on her!” someone said. I was slightly groggy and felt my legs get heavier and heavier. 

The door opened and the surgeons walked in.  “Why is she on her back?” the doctor questioned.  “She is supposed to be on her stomach.  This was supposed to be ready at 7:30.”  He was irritated.  A commotion ensued. 

“No one told us she was supposed to be on her stomach!” 

“Turn her over,” The doctor demanded and left the room. Five to six nurses gathered around me and stared. They were dumbfounded. They stood there for a while contemplating what should be done.  I was chuckling inside; I was dead weight. I could do absolutely nothing to help them flip me over.  In my adventure challenge education experience, this seemed like the ultimate team building task. Finally they reached a consensus and rolled up another stretcher. They put some foam blocks on it to ease the transition. Six sets of hands gently picked me up, shifted me to the side, and turned me over onto the stretcher. Then they slid me back onto the operating table face down in the correct position. 

After I had been reattached to most of the machines (except oxygen), the doctor re-entered, and the surgery began.  Though I was numb, I could feel tugging in my leg. I was surprised at 9:45 when they said it was finished. It was incredible to me that this type of procedure, with multiple holes in the skin and weaving a steel wire in and out could be accomplished so quickly! 

I was left in the recovery room for an hour and dozed off. They wheeled me back to my room to join my roommate and a couple of friends who were waiting to see the outcome of the surgery. 

My first night was sleepless after the anesthesia wore off. A nurse had informed me that they only give pain medication if the pain is unbearable. What is unbearable? After not being able to sleep, I decided to ask for pain medication. Though medicine was given, it was too late to sleep. I eagerly greeted the sun around 5:30 am, anxious for human interaction and an end to one long night.  

As one friend said, my one weekend in Delhi on the way home from vacation turned into six weeks in Delhi. We never know what a day holds in store or how quickly our plans can change. 

In this experience were nice surprises. Sometimes difficult and unexpected circumstances in life allow others to step into a role in our lives that they have not had the opportunity to play. These trials can also bring people together. I was incredibly touched by the attentiveness of my hospital roommate’s family, friends who came to visit or care for me, and the hospital staff. I saw gentleness and compassion expressed in remarkable ways. In my humbled and incapacitated state, my needs were met with kindness.

Nice surprises. But now I'm ready to get out of Delhi!

Photo credit: Jane Mellema

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