Say you’re in your mid-30′s out for a drive one morning on a curvy mountain road after visiting friends. Maybe you’re driving a little bit faster than you should be. Maybe you’re sleepy and not paying attention to your speed. Maybe something in your system is affecting your reflexes. Suddenly you hit a curve faster than you should and slide, so you overcorrect and then lose control. The next thing you know you’re falling backward and then you know nothing at all.
You spend the next 24 hours lying beside your car. You can’t feel your legs. Your chest hurts. You can’t call out because the pain from your broken ribs is so severe, and your hemopneumothorax doesn’t allow you to get a full breath. Maybe you’re awake the whole time. Maybe you’re in and out of consciousness. Maybe you don’t even realize when the night has come, and you face the dark alone while occasionally a car passes along the road 120 feet above you.
The sun rises the next morning and at some point you hear the barking of a dog. Soon people come and help you out. You want to scream and yell because you’ve been found, but the realization of your injuries suddenly becomes forefront as you and those who help you realize your lower extremities aren’t moving. So you hyperventilate and cry out, “Please tell me I’m not going to be in a wheelchair.”
I am ready for you having heard the scanner and EMS radio report. We have warm fluids, an x-ray tech, lab techs, and many others standing at the bedside awaiting your arrival. You’re quickly assessed, labs drawn, films taken, BairHugger, chest tube tray at the ready. I quickly review the chest x-ray, confirm the cause of the decreased breath sounds, and see the injury that will change the rest of your life.
I talk to your significant other and family. I talk to the accepting physician at the trauma center where they are more capable of taking care of your injuries. Those are easy. But how do I tell you, the patient that survived 24 hours exposed to the elements after a 120 foot drop, that you will never walk again; never feel anything below your waist, never be able to be without a foley and might possibly need a colostomy. Where do I find the words?