A Promise to A Stanger-Part One

May 21, 2010
First, there were whispers. Then, I could hear the monitors around me, constantly beeping. Gradually, I became conscious of being awake, alive. I slowly opened my eyes to a bright light, an unfamiliar room. I saw a nurse pick up the blood pressure cuff, and I automatically raised my arm for the band. Meanwhile, another nurse placed a thermometer in my mouth and a warm blanket over me as I shivered and looked around. I knew of my surroundings now; the holding room on the fourth floor of the hospital. I shivered again, not from the cold, but the daunting memories of this room. I now remembered the beginning of the operation, a surgeon holding my hand as I cried. Telling me it would be alright, placing a mask over my mouth. The nurse asked me the same question that they always asked, but I just nodded wearily. The pain never went away. Sometimes the pain drifted, from better to worse, even bringing me out of reality, but it was always there. I shut my eyes once again, trying not to remember when it had all started…

I remember the day very clearly: It was August 31st, the last day of summer. It was a perfect day; the warm wind blew softly, lifting the hair of my neck as I ran on. I looked sideways at my running partner, Harley. She smiled back, almost lazily, as if we hadn’t already run two of the three miles we planned to run. We nodded at each other and began to sprint. This was a little game we played; we would see who could reach the end of the field first. I pushed myself harder, and passed Harley. I grinned, my hand stretching out for the goalpost which signaled the end of the field. Suddenly, my vision went fuzzy, and my right leg buckled underneath me so I frantically clutched Harley’s arm as she caught up to me. I held onto her arm as my vision gradually refocused. She looked at me, concern apparent in her eyes.
“Woah. You alright, El?”
“Yeah, yeah. I bet you it’s just a cramp. You keep going. I’ll catch up.” I jogged over to the side of the field and stretched my legs. My coach, Mr. Nemec came over and asked how I was. I laughed, telling him it was just a cramp. I began to jog again, at a slower pace, keeping my eye on Harley’s back, making it my goal. The pain I experienced was gone, so I sped up again. I gasped sharply as the stabbing pain shot up my leg. It’s just a cramp, just a cramp, I thought to myself. The placebo effect seemed to work; the pain dulled to a throbbing sting in both knees. Mr. Nemec blew his whistle, our cue to start cooling down. I bit down on my lip and ran harder. My only thought was that I hadn’t completed my goal of three miles.
The next morning, I awoke a split second before my alarm went off. Groaning, I swung my legs over the side of my bunk bed, ignoring the slight protest in my right leg. I jumped, being careful to absorb the impact with the balls of my feet, but it still stung a little. Frowning, I grabbed my school bag. I had a soccer game the upcoming weekend that I couldn’t miss. We were going to kill with our new offensive formation. Plus, I had cross country practice today. I headed downstairs, focusing on the day ahead, or anything to get my mind off of the ache in my knee.
By the end of the day, I was climbing into my mom’s car, running shoes in my hand. I glared out the windshield.
“I don’t see why I have to miss practice,” I said angrily.
“Ellie!” My mom rolled her eyes, exasperated. “Your knee is almost twice its normal size. And you’re limping!”
“So? How I am supposed to play this weekend if I sit around like a bum all day?!” My mom didn’t say anything, but I continued to glare out the window as a few members of the cross country team ran by, as if to mock me.
Five hours later, I was ungratefully shoving my crutches into the back of our minivan. I was so mad at myself; I had torn a ligament, and I had a huge soccer game this weekend! I doubt my mom would let me play, but I was going to. Just let her watch. I was tough; an athlete. A torn ligament would be no problem, just a minor setback. Determined, I tightened a strap on the brace tentatively stepped forward. Pain rushed up my leg and I half gasped, half screamed. It felt as though the muscles were ripping, lit on fire, and plunged into ice water all at the same time. Crumpling into the chair, I felt the wetness of tears slide down my face, and at that moment, my subconscious told me that my injury was far more severe than a torn ligament.
The next day, my mom and dad were frantically scrambling around the house, getting ready to drive to the hospital. I lay on the couch, gazing at the ceiling. My brain registered that something was beeping, but it was almost a full thirty seconds before I realized the thermometer in my mouth had gone off. I groaned loudly and rolled onto my good leg as I tried to focus on the tiny screen. I frowned at the thermometer. 105.4 degrees. Was that possible? I didn’t have to energy to remember what the normal temperature was, so I went back to staring at the ceiling.
Eventually, my mom and dad got me into the car. I reclined in my seat, trying to keep my leg in one place. I was so delirious that I had no idea why we were going to Duluth or why there was pain so unbearable that it seemed like it would never go away. I vaguely remembered asking my parents questions about soccer and why we had to go to Duluth. All I knew was that I wanted to get to Duluth because I would be safe there, but I didn’t know why. I blacked out for awhile, and I was awakened when a cold blast of air hit my face. We made our way into the emergency room, were a nurse helped me into a wheelchair. The last thing I remember was a white stretcher and the smell of antiseptic filling my nose.
Five days later, I was slightly more aware of what was happening, but my brain seemed all fuzzy. A few days ago, a doctor had explained to me what MRSA was. It seemed unreal that a week ago, I had been tackling my friends at soccer practice. I heard my mom explaining what MRSA was to another visitor. I caught a few words: Staph infection, antibiotic resistant. Bone, tissue, joint. Although the words themselves didn’t make sense, I understood them all the same. I had a staph infection in my bone, tissue, and joint. It was immune to regular medicines. I had to have my third surgery tomorrow. Not wanting to hear anymore, I looked over to see where my mom was standing when I saw a familiar face. Although it took me a second to register who it was, I soon recognized my best friend Cameron, who was on my soccer team and ran cross country with me as well.
“Cameron!” I called, my voice cracking. “I…your shirt….is…”I managed to half-grimace, half- smile, hoping she would understand.
“You like my shirt?” She asked, confused, but understanding. Nodding, I reached for the button on the side of my bed and felt the bed rise to a sitting position. I struggled to sit upright, but settled for pulling the covers to my chin.
“Cool!” Cameron exclaimed. “I want one! Ooh, I brought you a present!” She grabbed a bag by her feet and grabbed a jersey out of it. “Oh, my gosh…” I said under my breath. The jersey was covered in caring notes from my entire cross country team, a total of over forty kids. I read them carefully, one by one, not wanting to miss anything. Cameron cleared her throat, wanting me to see the next object. She held up a soccer ball. My throat tightened. It too, was covered in messages. My soccer team also bade me good health. These messages were longer, more personal. Each girl had something special to say, usually ending with a “Luv ya!” I wished I could tell them all that I missed them, too. A nurse came in after awhile and changed my IV. I looked away as she pulled the old needle out, and covered it with gauze. I let her take my other hand and felt a sting, but when I looked back the IV was already in place. I let her give me morphine, the strongest painkiller I could have. I felt the burning shoot through my arm and grimaced, but I knew it would get worse before it got better. Cameron stayed for awhile longer, but the morphine knocked me out before I could say goodbye.
The next morning, I woke up hungry. It was almost an unfamiliar feeling. A nurse came into the room to do the usual routine. He asked me to wiggle my toes and looked at the bandage over my knee. He left shortly and my mom asked me if I needed anything. I wanted food, but she quietly reminded me that I couldn’t eat before surgery. Groaning, I leaned back into my pillow. It was already late in the morning, so there was no point in going back to sleep. I suspected a doctor would come in and visit me about an hour before my surgery to tell about the upcoming operation, and then the movers would take me to the waiting room until the surgeon was ready for me. Staring out the window, I suddenly had an urge to go outside. I told my mom my wish, and she looked at me sympathetically and nodded.
Lying in bed, I thought about what my friends were doing at the time being. I couldn’t wait to see everyone at school. Reality seemed altered; was it really only two weeks ago that I was playing soccer and joking with my friends? Although I didn’t know it then, just going to the movies with friends would be a huge workout, even after weeks on the mend. I suddenly realized that it could be weeks before I could even go to school, or have a sleepover with my friends. I would even be happy to run the agonizing laps in gym that everyone else despised so much. Jerking myself back to reality, I sternly reminded myself that I needed to walk before I could run.

Minutes later, the movers (Yes-they’re actually called that. Their job is literally to take people to Point A to Point B. I’m pretty sure that’s all they do.) came to take me downstairs again. They wheeled my bed down a winding hallway, into an abnormally large elevator and into the waiting room. The waiting room is actually one large room with curtains and glass doors separating it into sections, almost like you see in the movies. It’s constantly cold down there, and I had to ask for heated blankets every time I’ve been down. By the time we got down, there were still about forty-five minutes until operation time. I rolled onto my side and shut my eyes. That way, no one would try to talk to me. The next thing I knew, there was a surgeon in our “room”. Darn. Fell asleep again. I stifled a yawn as the surgeon explained the process, and the movers took me down the long, winding hallway to one of the many operating rooms.





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