Daily update: Period came. No pregnancy. I go on. Yesterday a local puppet theater came to our neighborhood as part of their "driveway tour." Lots of families and kids and great fun. If Iris ends up being our only child I am consoled partly with the fact that she definitely not deprived of a healthy social life.
OK. Dave and Jenny's wedding. As I said, we dressed up and attended and had a great time, although I was starting to get a sore throat.
The wedding was beautiful and reminded me very much of my own. Many enthusiastic friends and family donning exquisitely eccentric clothing under a beautiful blue sky. A good time was had by all. The next morning the cold I had been putting off made a stronger mark and lapsed me into exhaustion and irritability. Getting dressed for the day-after wedding party produced a laughable “good enough” costume of a comfortable yet slightly flamenco black skirt I got at a Mexican market and a purple halter top I have had for years and years and wear when I want to be comfortable yet a bit sexy. My throat was sore. We were heading out to the party early so as to be able to exit early and get home to rest, feel sick and sleep. We got all of us into the car after I grabbed a bottle of wine from our kitchen counter for a contribution to the festivities.
We pulled up in front of my friends’ house who live two doors down from the newlyweds and got out of the car. It was getting dark already at 8:00pm, it being early October in Minneapolis. I wanted to show Robert and Iris the work Phillip had done on his house in the back. He had just finished putting in a solarium he had bought for a song from an old now razed university building on the back of their Victorian house. I walk through the front gate and to the left side of their house to follow the cement path that will take me to the rear of the house. Robert and Iris are behind me a ways as I am rushing so as to move all the events of the evening on and get me back home and in bed. I am just making the turn to the side of the house when I trip over a little plastic mesh garden fence my friends had strung over the path to keep their new puppy in the yard. “Damn, the garden fence!” I think while I am in the air. I hear the bottle of wine break. It sounds behind me somehow. “Damn, the bottle broke!” I think, still in mid air. Then I am on all fours on the cement path thinking, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.” I look at my right hand and see that it is lying in a pile of shattered bottle glass. I say to myself, “Oh, I might be hurt.” I pick my hand up and see that it is covered with a dark liquid and I, “Either that’s wine, or it’s blood.” I get to my feet and walk to the friend’s side porch which has a light and I get very scared. Blood is pouring out of a long wound in the palm of my hand like a faucet.
I try to catch the blood with my left hand by holding it under my right. I yell to Robert who is still somewhere behind me with my daughter, “Robert, I think I hurt my hand really badly.” My pinkie finger is sliced at the base so that I can see a long gash exposing yellow body fat. I can’t move it. I lurch back and forth not knowing what to do or where to go. My friends are not at home, but my friend’s brother is staying with them. He’s from Holland and does not speak English very well. Robert knocks frantically on the side door and the brother comes. I don’t want to go in the house. All I can think is I can’t get blood all over their house. Robert and the brother convince me to run for the bathroom just across the room. Robert is with me. My hand is over the sink. It has several bleeding gashes. Robert is holding the long gushing gash in my palm with his thumb yelling at the brother to call 911. I look at my hand. My pinkie lies dormant with the body fat winking at me. Blood spews from underneath Robert’s thumb as he tries to compress the cut artery. The brother runs to the party for help while Robert is on the phone with 911. I hear him order an ambulance then answer a series of questions “Yes, she is conscious,” “Yes, she is standing,” etc. I am yelling at each reply, “Yes I AM CONSCIOUS! SEND A GODDAMN AMBULANCE!!” not realizing that one has already been dispatched. I hear “Mommy??!!” to my right. I look and see my 4 ½ year old daughter standing on a kitchen chair. Blood is spattered wildly all over the floor around her. She is pale, shaky and scared. I say in the calmest voice I can muster, “Oh honey, I’m okay. It’s going to be alright.” A friend of mine, the newlywed, comes on the scene with his best man, who happens to be a volunteer fireman and is wearing his fireman t-shirt. Robert and I initially mistake him for the real EMTs coming in the ambulance. My friend thoughtfully grabs Iris and whisks her away taking her outside and away from the bloody frenetic horror show.
Minutes which seem like hours go by as Robert is doing his best to staunch the flow of blood from the many gashes in my hand. Debates are going on about whether they should tourniquet my upper arm. I stare at my gaping ugly wounds and the blood chanting, “Oh, my god, oh my god,” over and over.
The real EMTs arrive at the scene. I see them. They are next to me in that small bathroom. This is real. I start to collapse. My knees just won’t hold me any longer. I sink to the floor and my vision starts to get cloudy. “Stay with me,” orders the handsome muscular black EMT. “I can’t,” I say, “I just need to sit down.” Robert still grasps my hand (or is the EMT now?) I am on the floor in front of the toilet and suddenly I am vomiting. My hand is raised as the EMTs wrap it and I vomit more. They wrap and wrap and my hand feels tight. This is reassuring. Finally they ask if I can walk to the ambulance or do they need to bring in a stretcher. Yes, I can walk.
I am shaky. I walk through the kitchen that is spattered heavily with my blood as the EMT keeps his iron grip on my hand. I walk around the house, following the trail of blood to the garden fence. I see the broken glass. I am in front of the house and look up and see several people from the party two doors down in the driveway to see me off. My friend is holding Iris. I give her the best smile I can muster and say, “I’m alright sweetie,” and step into the ambulance. They give me a saline IV. I throw up again. They do some more wrapping on my hand. Robert will meet me at the hospital. Once they define me as stable, we start. No lights, no siren, no fanfare. “You’re not dyin’!” the EMTs laugh. We chat on the way. “It’s starting to hurt.” “Oh, it’ll hurt.” “Will I lose my finger?” “I don’t think so.” “Do you know someone named Matt Spector? He’s training to be an EMT.” “No, don’t know him.” I vomit. They give me oxygen. They ask me if I had been drinking or doing drugs. “I had a glass of wine with dinner. I am not drunk.” “So you weren’t able to drink the wine before the bottle broke?” “No, it was a gift.” “Too bad!” Ha ha.
We get to the emergency room at Hennepin County Medical Center. I am wheeled through the double doors on a gurney. Doctors come out to look while I am still in the hallway. One wants to take off the bandages and see for himself the damage to my hand. The EMT says, “No, you don’t want to do that, it’s a gusher.” That doctor also asks me if I have been drinking. I am wheeled to a room. I am still vomiting. I have blood coagulating in streams down my legs. I am exhausted and scared I am losing my hand. Once the EMTs had given the duty of putting gross pressure on my hand to the ER nurses, they exit and I never see them again. “Thank you” I call back at them. They barely respond. All in a day’s work.
The ER staff are young and unsmiling. I am given morphine which immediately makes me vomit some more. We wait and wait for hours it seems for an orthopedic specialist to come in who will inspect my hand and advise the next move. No stitches are even put in yet. The morphine makes me quiet and I want to close my eyes. I still feel the painful twitches in my hand and the pressure from the grip of the ER nurse, but I can rest a little. Robert arrives (before the morphine?). He has Iris with him. He brings her in to see that I am alright then realizes that this is no place for a small child. My friends whose house this happened at call and Robert asks them to come pick up Iris. So he waits with her in the family room. Once she is gone he comes to be with me and begins to clean the dried blood off my legs and feet with a damp towel. Finally the specialist arrives. “Can you feel this?” “How about this?” “Can you bend this finger?” “Can you straighten it?” To my amazement I can bend all my fingers, but can’t straighten my pinkie or ring finger. I can’t feel my pinkie or the inside of my index finger and middle finger. I have cut tendons and nerves the specialist tells me. And because of the particular tendons I have cut and their location on the inside of my hand, he is not able to repair them in the ER, and I will have to come back for surgery.
Once he leaves, the ER staff begins to try to find the sliced artery to repair it. They tourniquet my arm between my elbow and my shoulder to cease the blood flow to my hand. Once the blood flow is staunched, they unwrap the hand from its many layers of gauze, and attempt to investigate the long gaping wound in my palm to look for the cut artery. The pressure in my hand and arm becomes unbearable. I start yelling at them to take off the tourniquet. Screaming. They seem annoyed at my outburst. “How much morphine did you give her?” says the head nurse to another nurse. “One something,” says the other. “Give her another one!” she barks. They take of the tourniquet until the morphine is given and I calm down. I vomit again. They put the tourniquet back on and dig some more in my hand. Sometime I watch other times I keep my eyes closed and try to meditate. The pressure is still unbearable, but somehow I am able put it aside. After several minutes, they cannot find the damaged artery so proceed to stitch the wound to create, as they explain, a hematoma under the skin that will stop the bleeding with vast amounts of pressure.
They re-tourniquet my arm and shoot my hand full of Novocain. I try to remain outside of myself. Deep breaths. They put about 50 stitches (it seems) in the inch long gash in my palm. They take off the tourniquet. Blood seeps through the stitches. “Not yet,” they say and put back on the tourniquet. This happens a couple of more times. Finally no blood seeps out. Once that wound is contained, they go to work stitching up the other six wounds in my hand: the one at the base of my pinkie, one at the base of my ring finger, one small one at the base of my middle finger, one on my thumb, one on the left side of my palm, and one at the base of my palm. By the time we are told we can leave leave, it is 1:00am.
Suddenly Robert and I are the only ones in the room where I have been for the last 4 1/2 hours. “Are you sure we can just go?” No one offers me a gurney to the car, or a wheelchair. I am weak and in a morphine haze. We walk out in the street. I am clutching Robert’s arm feeling as though I will collapse any moment. My vision starts going black. I am afraid I am going to pass out on the sidewalk. If the car hadn’t been where it was I would have done so. I sink into the passenger seat. We arrive home and I fall into the living room couch not having the energy to walk up the stairs to my bedroom. I fall into a morphine dreamless stupor until morning.
I am on Vicodin. On Sunday I call my family, my work, some friends to tell them about my hand. My parents say they will come to Minneapolis to help out. Bless them. My friends whose house I bled all over come to visit. They can barely look me in the eye. I feel for them. My hand is bandaged into a white mitt and I have to keep it elevated. I barely move from the living room couch all day. One time I go to the bathroom and while sitting on the toilet I let my hand drop for a moment and I felt this painful surging burping pulse from my hand that nearly makes me pass out it hurts so badly. I stumble back to the couch hoping I won’t vomit on the way and slink back in, elevate my hand and pass out.