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What The Hell Happened To You?

12 March 2012 43 Comments

Hurricane by portlandpaste on Unseen Portland

February 2012 is possibly the worst month I have experienced in nearly 32 years of existence.

To sum it up quickly it involved a bar fight, motorbike accident, sprained ankle, infected knee, searing pain and bouts of unconsciousness, emergency surgery, four-day hospital stay, enough antibiotic to sterilize a Thai strip club, eating at least my weight in oranges, and questioning/confirming every decision I made that brought me to February 2012.

The longer version (and it is long, sorry!) goes a little something like this…

At the beginning of the month, I watched my friend get into a motorbike accident as we were heading to dinner and gasped in horror. Crashing metal and plastic, people tumbling and flying, helmets bouncing off asphalt…it was terrifying.

Less the 30 minutes after another friend and I confirmed our busted up friend was home and ok, we were driving down a side street to Jalan Legian on his motorbike, on our way to dinner yet again.

I can barely describe the next 20 seconds because in my mind the entire scene plays out in simultaneous slow motion and like I’m blinking. I saw the motorbike in the opposite lane of the road pull directly into our lane to pass stopped traffic and I knew that there was no way we would be able to avoid him. My friend screamed and then I felt the hit. Jolted hard, we bounced backwards and sideways and began to spin out.

Like the accident I had just watched a half hour ago, I heard the crashing of metal and plastic, felt my friend throw his arm around me to try to push me away from the ground and out of traffic as we tumbled and flew, and scraped my helmet and right side of my body along the asphalt of the street.

Instinctively, I curled in a ball and tried to go limp in a tuck and roll move that I think I once saw in a Smokey and the Bandit movie.

Dazed, I felt a group of locals grab me under the arms and pull me back off the street. My friend came running over to make sure I was ok while another group of people brought his bike over to us. I started shaking and crying as one of the locals grabbed my friend and told him to bring me to the apotek (pharmacy/clinic) immediately as I was bleeding excessively from the road rash on my right shoulder.

Once we got to the apotek and met up with another friend, I called Dan in tears and told him we had just gotten hit head-on by another motorbike. As the pharmacist poured a bactine-like antiseptic over all my cuts and bruises I alternated between deep breathes and cries of anguish as the dirt and puss washed out of me with a horrible sting.

The rest of the night was a mish-moshing of texts to confirm everyone was doing alright, picking dirt out of my abrasions and pouring more of the bactine-like antiseptic over it, and crying randomly as bursts of adrenaline came and went from my body.

I spent the next two weeks tending my sprained ankle, twisted knee, and road rash on my shoulder that easily tore off at least 2-3 layers of my skin. Things seemed to be progressing well as I tried to fall asleep and not have flashes of hitting the road and my bloody shoulder and sobbing in the clinic infiltrate my dreams as they were the last things I saw on the back of my eyelids each night.

As I began to feel better, I started venturing out to different places that I had been countless times before. My ankle swelling went down and my shoulder worked at growing new layers of skin. My knee felt funny, but having never been in a motorbike accident that twisted my knee before, I assumed the feeling was normal (given the circumstances).

I went out to lunch with Dan & Ian (my bosses, in case you didn’t get that part of the story), walked to the ATM to learn that my debit card was “no longer in use”, met up with them at the supermarket to buy bottled water, and wandered back to the house. Stepping off the curb onto our street I felt something in my knee pop or snap. This most definitely could not be good.

Ten hours later I was laying in my bed writhing in agonizing pain as my knee swelled and throbbed. Whatever I had done to twist it just got bammed up another 20 degrees. For the next three days I lay in bed, alternating between consciousness where I was pleading with whatever spirits or deities wanted to listen and fever-induced bouts of unconsciousness that lasted 4-5 hours a piece.

Not wanting to let anyone know how bad it really was I toughed it out with as much of a smile as I could muster and continued posting and emailing and working. The guys rose to the occasion of my bed-ridden state and checked in throughout the day to take care of anything I needed. All I wanted was oranges. I couldn’t eat enough oranges.

Then Sunday night/Monday morning I was changing the bandage on the abrasion on my knee at about 12:30 AM. As I took off the gauze and released whatever pressure had unknowingly been building inside my knee, the scab broke open and a pinkish-reddish bloody liquid erupted from my leg. When I say erupted, I mean it looked like someone had been murdered in my bed. Shaking I reached over to pick up my phone and call Dan. “I think I’m ready to go to the hospital now. I was just changing my bandage and something happened and now there’s blood everywhere.”

Knowing I had to hold in the volcano that my knee had become, I looked around my room. Grabbing a package of women’s maxi pads I wrapped them around my leg and held them in place with an ace bandage. Hey, those things are made to absorb liquid, right?!

We tore to a hospital in Bali known for emergency situations. As I was wheeled into the ER about 5 nurses leapt to their feet to chase me into the exam room. They unbandaged my knee, took one look and told me “You have a massive infection in your leg. We need to do surgery immediately to drain the liquid from your leg, clean out your knee to find what is causing the infection, and you will have to stay in the hospital because we need to give you high-dose antibiotics through an IV.”

My brain and body went numb.

I was told to wait for the orthopedic surgeon to arrive at the hospital to do a full assessment. Dan went back to the house to call other hospitals and see what they could offer. I laid in the examination room by myself fighting back tears and cursing myself for being stupid enough to let this happen. I laid out the entire course of events of stupid decisions in my mind that brought me to this exact stupid moment in time. How this entire situation was, in my mind, 100% my own ridiculous fault.

After meeting with the orthopedic surgeon (which involved him coming into the exam room, poking the abscess that had formed on my knee to re-start the volcano twice, muttering something in Indonesian to the nurse with him, and then looking at me and saying “Yes, I will need to do major surgery on your knee”)  I determined I did not want treatment at this particular hospital.

Hobbling to another taxi we made our way down to Kasih Ibu hospital, based on the recommendation of friends and a call to their ER for information. I was admitted to Kasih Ibu at 4:15 AM according to my medical bracelet and by 9:30 AM I was being wheeled into pre-OP to meet my surgeon (Dr. Yoga – I cannot explain how happy I was with the Universe in that moment) and my anesthesiologist (one of the most attractive Asian men I have encountered on this Balinese adventure, sporting a glistening band of gold around his ring finger).

There they explained that they were going to make 2-3 incisions in the sides of my knee to drain the liquid that had formed as a result of the infection. Then he was going to make an incision in the top of my knee to clean out my wound as that was most likely the cause of the infection. Overall the procedure was set to take two hours. I tried not to focus on the fact that this was my first surgical procedure ever or the fact that people kept saying to me “Just say the word and we’ll get on a plane to Singapore to go to a real hospital.” Mostly I focused on the fact that putting any weight on my leg was so painful I almost passed out walking to the taxi 12 hours before.

I told my anesthesiologist that I wanted to be loopy for the procedure, but I didn’t want to be put out. I had enough wits about me to know I didn’t want to go under in a foreign country. And boy did he make me loopy. I have vague memories of the surgery, hearing the machine they used to suck out the infected liquid, discussing with the anesthesiologist who sat near my head the whole time my adventures thus far in Bali, and the blood pressure cuff squeezing my arm every few minutes.

After they wheeled me into a post-OP room to sleep and be pumped with mass amounts of morphine. Eventually, when I came to and confirmed that I was not in pain they brought me back to my room. For the next 3 days I slept, ate bad hospital food, and was wheeled in and out of the operation room for further care of the incisions and continued draining of my leg. Because I have tiny little veins in my hands and wrists, I went through three different IV locations for my antibiotic. Including one very painful burst vein.

Fortunately I had a good group of friends that ventured down to the hospital daily to visit and keep me in good spirits in spite of the situation. Though scared to death of what each day would bring, with my spirit crumpled up and tossed thoughtlessly to the floor, I continued the smiling and laughing to make sure that everyone else was ok with my situation. Even if I wasn’t, there was no reason that they should have to endure a similar angst.

Then, on Wednesday night they pulled back all the bandages to show me my stitched up knee which had a drainage tube sewn into it. Well I *say* it was my knee. It actually had no shape or semblance, a bruised and swollen mass of skin with blue plastic stitches strewn across like a character from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I immediately started crying and hyperventilating at the same time, which is a difficult task. Nurses rushed around to get me water, lay me flat in my bed, and do guided breathing inches from my face. My doctor just held my hand and smiled at me, telling me it would get better and that everything would be ok. I accepted that finally I had hit my breaking point.

(Note – you can see my knee (a little less scary two weeks later) by clicking this link – but don’t say I didn’t warn you)

I texted Dan and asked him to come back to the hospital if he was still in the area, I couldn’t face being alone after they had bandaged me back up. I picked up the box of tissues the nurse had given me and proceeded to cry myself through about half of it. By the time Dan got my hospital room (toting ice cream, Sprite, and a movie about blogging – I have great friends here in Bali!) there was a mini-mountain of tear-stained kleenex on my meal tray.

“Sorry,” I told him. “I think I finally lost it.”

I was released from the hospital the next day, and sent home to tend my wounds and practice bending my knee, a difficult task with over 40 stitches in it. I dutifully did as I was told, took my medicine at exactly spaced intervals, ate my weight at least in oranges (Vitamin C baby…and man was I still craving them!), elevated my leg whenever I was not hobbling around on crutches (except when I was sitting and working on bending my knee), and tried not to make any major life decisions in my current state of mind.

I called my parents as soon as I got home, they did not know I had been rushed to the hospital. I figured, like the guys visiting me at the hospital, I didn’t want to worry them unless there was something to worry about. They couldn’t get to Bali before I would have been released so there was nothing they could have done but freak out. That isn’t fair to impose on someone!

I told my Dad, sniffling and fighting back tears that were ready to stream down my face “I don’t know if I want to stay here.”

My Dad told me a story of a bike-a-thon we did together when I was 10 or so. Apparently as we were pedal-biking a huge RV went by close to me and I fell over. Scraped up and bleeding and hurting I whined at him that I wanted to stop. He wouldn’t let me, he told me I had started this and I was going to finish it. And I did. (It is important to note that my Dad is one of the sweetest most teddy bear huggable humans on the planet so I was half expecting/hoping he would support my desire to chicken out and run home)

That story has now stuck in my brain for the past two weeks as I stayed with friends to recover (awesomely amazingly wonderful friends who not only took care of me while I was all hobbley but took the time to be my friend and hang out and be supportive which mattered even more. Oh, and they brought me brownies practically daily!).

Between their super care and my over-achieving Type-A driven spirit (which I had now picked up from it’s crumpled mass on the floor to begin straightening out and putting together) I have been healing up at super speeds. As my friend Nate said “You can’t even heal your knee without doing it in an epic way.” This was after my doctor told my friend who had come with me to the hospital that my healing at 2 weeks is where most of his patients are at 3-4 weeks.

Stitches came out Friday and I’m down to one crutch to walk around the house (two if I go out just to be safe). Started swimming in the pool today, meaning I cling to a floatie while treading water around whomever is in the pool with me for an hour. Still working on the bending thing, doing some ridiculously painful physical therapy exercises (real killers like “Lift your leg 5 inches off the bed”), and only occasionally taking the pain pills my doctor prescribed if it got to be too much. He calls every few days (yes, I have my doctor’s cell phone number (my surgeon, not the hot anesthesiologist (hey, a girl can wish!))) to see how I am and give me new instructions in my care. My shoulder is healing, though the new skin remains a bright pink color, indicating that there are still some new layers to be added.

Dan told me while I was in the hospital that I was one tough girl. At the time I smiled at him, thinking I was anything but.

With just a couple weeks under my belt, looking back, I’m beginning to believe him.

Photo Credit: Unseen Portland

43 Responses to “What The Hell Happened To You?”

  1. Patti Fousek says:

    Jeez Louise, Elisa! Glad you’re ok after all that. I love the story of your dad telling you not to give up. Things can only get better from hear on out and you have the greatest friends in Bali to see you through. Aspen and Lucy send lots of kisses and hugs. 

  2. Darryl S. says:

    Holy Daleks, you are tough! Most people would have given up by now (I for one would be curled up in a ball thinking “I don’t want to be on this planet anymore”). The Universe (or someone up/down there) has you under the gun and you just won’t go away. I imagine it’s thinking to itself “The Force is strong in this one” as it pursues you down the battle station trench. You are inspiring legions of people back here in the States. You have courage beyond words to go into the Unknown and stay with it. Hang tough, my friend! 🙂

    • You’d be amazed what you are capable of when you are pushed! You, my friend, are braver than so many I know. I admire the hell out of you for it. I’ll continue pushing through. Thanks!

  3. Linda says:

    I think I would have flown home and burrow into my bed in the States and not come out for  a week or so. You are strong!

  4. Cmarie1006 says:

    I am SO GLAD you are okay and recovering like a rockstar!!  Take care of yourself and enjoy your journey! 
    “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

  5. Dude…goodness. Glad you’re okay. How much longer is your term out there?

    • Yes, okay and getting better daily. My “term” is only about 90 days I think, up to 6 months. But it is a very fluid contract, and Dan & Ian are great and have told me multiple times that I am absolutely not required to be here if I want to go home because of this. Nor do I have to leave after 6 months if I want to stay. Lots of options and choices and decisions to make in the next couple months!

  6. Darceymaegan says:

    You are tough and so very brave! Take care of yourself!

  7. Erin says:

    Oh lord, you are a trooper! Heal up and take it easy.

  8. sameve says:

    Holy wow! What a crazy few weeks it’s been for you. You should be so proud of yourself for not giving up. It’s scary when to get sick or hurt in a foreign country, far away from family and friends. (I had a parasite in France, it was horrible). Give yourself credit for pushing through. Hope you get better soon, and know that we’re thinking of you over here. xo

    • It was very scary being sick/hurt in a foreign country. Honestly, the friends I’ve made here and the support system that I’ve managed to discover are a big part of what pulled me through. One can live a life that is pretty independent and self-sufficient for themselves, but once something like this happens it makes it so much easier to have people who care. It helps to know that people care from across the globe as well. I’m a very fortunate girl.  🙂

  9. Being sick or injured in a foreign country is one of the toughest things I can think of!  You are definitely a tough girl, as Dan said! 

  10. Oh Elisa, so happy you are doing okay now. My heart hurt reading this. My friend in Jakarta has told me of the absolute insanity of the motorbikes. You are one tough woman.

    • Yeah, the traffic situation here is a bit crazy. I should note that I have lots of friends here who have never been in a situation anything close to what I experienced, so it is possible to get around on motorbikes without such scary repercussions.

  11. Susan says:

    How frightening! So sorry you’ve had to go through all of this, Elisa, I can’t even imagine…but I’m so glad that you have the support you do there, just as you do here, and that you’re healing up both physically and in spirit. Much love.

    • That’s it precisely Susan! Knowing that you have friends and family that care and are pulling for you is an amazing boost to spirit and healing. It really makes all the difference.  🙂

  12. TMFproject says:

    Jesus!!! I read every single word of this – how is it possible that even while recounting a harrowing story, you still do it with such grace?!

    Doucette! Christ! I can’t get over this! I clicked on the image (of course I did – do we know me?!) and that is some CRAZY KNEE!!!!!!!! Stitches! Holy smokes!

    All I can say is that I’m thrilled that the anesthesiologist was hot. 😉   

    • Aw, thanks! That’s good to know. Cause if I ever write a book you can bet that this part will be in it!  😉

      The pic is generally way worse than people are expecting (even though I try to prepare them (I would totally click the link too)). I think the blue thread beside the bruising and swelling really create the optical illusion of super badness rather than just kind of badness.

      And yes, he was hot, and my day got better every time he came to my hospital room to check on me or do something. Now, if only *I* was looking hot and not like I just had intensive emergency knee surgery and was only a hot mess!

  13. Dmbosstone says:

    Ridiculous. I’m now officially afraid to leave the US.

    • Haha, my accident is a cautionary tale but also in the .05% chance of happening in SE Asia. As I said, most everyone I know here is amazed that I went through all this (before my first 60 days!) because they’ve never had it happen. So you should be safe to go, unless you are someone like me who lives her life like it is a movie script!

  14. You’ve always been a tough gal (or as long as I’ve known you) sweet and tough.  I’m sorry that you’ve had this crazy adventure but I am glad that you are healing up.  Hang in there, I know you will come out of this stronger than ever.  Your dad sounds a lot like mine, with the don’t give up story.  I hope the healing continues to go well.

    • Aw, thanks! Sweet and tough…it is good to know that I really am able to embody both those characteristics for people.  🙂  Good Dads are great to have, especially in the life lesson department. Thanks for the kind wishes!

  15. Tina Burnell says:

    Oh my gosh, Elisa. I WISH I COULD HUG YOU! 

  16. Um.. holy crap. I didn’t realize the extent of your knee surgery and that all of this other stuff happened! It sounds like you are feeling positive though and I’m so glad you have people around you for support. Take care and speedy recovery!

    • Yeah, it was a doozy.  🙂  I’m very lucky in my recovery and support. Only thing now is physical therapy. And soon enough I’ll be able to hit up the beach again, so can’t WAIT for that!

  17. Grace Boyle says:

    Ahhhh. I’ve been following the story via tweets and Facebook, I am so happy to hear you’re doing better. You are one tough cookie. It isn’t easy being abroad and having emergencies like that, far from the comforts of home we know. Sending you lots of love and healing energy xo

    • Haha, yes, I’ve been keeping people informed and up-to-date on all social media outlets. Tackling the epic monster that I knew was going to be explaining “What The Hell Happened To You” was gonna be a lot more of an undertaking! Thanks for the love and healing energy, I’m pretty sure that all the combined good vibes going out to the Universe and in to my knee are in part what is helping with such a speedy recovery!

  18. Cringed and cringed as I read this and cringed some more when I saw the pics. Such a scary experience to go through! Good luck on your continued recovery!!

    • Haha, sorry! I tried to warn folks before clicking the picture link. That was two weeks healed, too. The hysterical sobbing in the hospital bed makes a lot more sense now, huh?  🙂  Thanks for the well wishes – recovery is going great.

  19. Ryan says:

    Wow. What a story, and your recovery too. I really admire you for going through all of this and then sticking it out… that thing with your Dad was inspiring. Keep recovering well and here’s to more adventures (though of the less hospital / injury kind) ! 🙂

    • My Dad is a pretty inspirational dude, he doles out wisdom like Tic-Tacs and always with the greatest of intentions and care.  🙂

      It was a lot to go through in my first couple months here, but it is a great story and will make my resolve that much stronger. Thanks for the more adventures wish, I’m with you on that one. Especially the less hospital / injury kind! Hope you are enjoying your epic adventures as well, though try to avoid the hospital / injury kind yourself!

  20. […] do so well at this one at first. Landing myself in the hospital for nearly a week with a massive leg infection and emergency knee surgery after a motorbike accident, I kind of fell off the radar and people noticed. Upon returning to the […]

  21. Clare Bear says:

    I have been off the blog grid for awhile and was so sad but inspired to read this. Glad you’re doing better!

  22. Davide Nastri says:

    That’s a story!


    Be glad you’re here to tell it…

    I’m coming to bali in a few days and I’m really scared (by your story and) the earthquake news :/

    • My story is totally a “could happen” not a “this often happens” – that being said I won’t lie, traffic accidents are easily one of the top dangerous situations of SE Asia.

      As for the earthquake, the world over there is shaking and quaking all the time. It is scary, but again, getting hurt is a “could happen” not a “this often happens.”

      Be smart and safe and like 95% of travelers you will most likely make it in and out happy and unscathed. 🙂

  23. Wow Elisa, have I been there! Glad to hear you are doing better now.

    Me and my girlfriend wiped out on an oil slick in Jimbaran on the motorbike in October of 2012. We lived in Bali for 5 months and know all about the whole going into your lane to pass traffic bit. I landed chest and shoulder first, lost deep layers on skin on my shoulder and I could not sleep for 4 days due to the excruciating pain in my lungs and back.

    I lost my wind for a full 30 seconds and believed that I was dying. Scary, scary moment.

    Thanks for sharing!

  24. […] It’s a justified fear, I think – I’ve had a family member severely handicapped on a scooter, a friend in the Navy paralyzed when he crashed his motorcycle, and another friend with a serious infection from laying down her scooter in Bali. […]

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