A Promise to A Stranger-Part Two

May 21, 2010
As we entered, I looked around at the almost familiar room. It was so sterile it seemed alien. The movers pulled my bed up next to the long, metal operating table in the middle of the room. I felt the air around me stir as the doctors, surgeons, and movers shuffled around the room. A surgeon reached into a cabinet on the side of the room, and I saw him grab what looked like a pair of scissors, but what I knew weren’t. I looked away quickly, not wanting to see anymore. My eyes came level with a pair of crisp, white scrubs. I followed the line up until I came level with a young, caring set of eyes. A surgeon’s assistant. He told me how long the surgery would take and what they would do to my knee. He hesitated for a second, then looked me in the eye and whispered, “We’re going to get you through this okay, Ellie? We’ll do whatever it takes, I promise.” It was so sincere, I believed him. He held my hand as they shifted me onto the operating table. Thinking about his words, I realized that they were important because they were words of promise, even if I was a complete stranger to him. A promise to a stranger. I was suddenly overwhelmed by his abrupt kindness. I felt another tear slide down my cheek, but it almost could’ve been a tear of joy. Smiling for almost the first time in a week, I got ready to be put to sleep.
I cringed as a surgeon placed a gas mask over my head, speaking calming words that I didn’t bother to listen to. He told me to take ten slow, deep breaths. I knew I would be knocked out before I hit seven. My last thoughts were of the stranger who had promised me my life.

Upon waking up, I felt a slight pull in my leg; ripping the covers of my leg back, I found a pale red tube resting next to it. My heart accelerated as I followed the tube under the gauze coverings. Feeling sick to my stomach, I laid back down. There was a tube inside me. Shuddering at the thought, I tried not to think about what it would feel like when they took it out. I grimaced at the thought and reached for the Call button on my bed. I needed morphine after just thinking about the tube.
The next day, I had physical therapy. A therapist helped me move to a standing position. Cringing, I realized that I probably hadn’t stood for a week. The thought was almost irrational; I should be out playing soccer or running at this time of day. The therapist placed a walker in front of me. Slightly insulted, I asked her why I couldn’t use crutches.
“Your new IV line.” She explained. “It goes farther in than the old one. If we use crutches, it could hurt the line.” Irrationally, I glared at her. Of course, it wasn’t her fault that I had to use a walker, but she was talking to me like I was a two year old. “Now, try to take a step, but don’t use your right leg, because it might hurt.” She enunciated every syllable very clearly and used hand motions to show how I should step. Staring at her, I wondered if someone had told her I was deaf. Deciding I didn’t like her, I carefully stepped onto my left leg. The burning, ripping sensation came back worse than ever as my leg swung forward a few inches. I couldn’t help it. My left leg began to shake, and tears rushed down my face. I crumpled onto my bed as my vision became blurry around the edges. Trying to calm myself, I put my head into my hands and took a deep breath. I heard the therapist telling me that ‘Ellie, you really should try harder than this. You’ve got to get better. Now let’s try again.’ I ignored her but stood up nevertheless. I would show her I could get better, I went five steps, and then turned around, not able to take the pain anymore. I laid in bed for a few minutes, and let the tears wet my pillow. I knew I shouldn’t have gone that far, but I wanted to prove the therapist wrong. The agony was unbearable.
“Mom,” I whispered urgently, “I need morphine. Now. Please, mom please, I need morphine!” She hushed me worriedly and went to find a nurse. I grabbed a stuffed dog that I had received from my parents and knotted my fingers into its short hair. I squeezed it until my fingernails dug into my palm, hoping that I could channel the pain elsewhere. The wet, tear-soaked dog served as an ongoing reminder of my failure to keep my emotions in check. I felt relief as soon as I saw the nurse with the morphine in hand. Appreciating the burn the morphine gave my arm, I waited for my world to black out, because it meant that relief was closer than ever.
I was awakened the next morning by a loud beeping noise. Looking to my side, I realized that my IV medicine, Vacomycin, had run out. I moaned and pulled the covers over my head, trying to block the noise. It stopped for a minute or two. Then, just as I thought I might be able to sleep awhile longer, it went of again. Na-na-na. Na-na-na. Over and over again. It was the single most annoying sound I had ever heard. I slammed my hand onto the call button on my bed and seconds later, a nurse came and unhooked the IV line and the beeping immediately ceased. Whispering my thanks, I shut my eyes once again.
Before I could even begin to think about sleeping, another, older perky looking nurse came into my room, followed by two more nurses. Slightly annoyed, I wondered how many nurses they could possibly have. I didn’t even know what they wanted; I already knew that I had surgery today.
“Okay Ellie, How are you today? I’m actually not too shabby today myself! So, today we’re going to have to take out the drain in your leg. I promise, it will only feel like a little bee sting. Now, won’t this be fun!” I just looked at her, wondering if she might be clinically insane. Fun?! Having a tube ripped out of your leg? Sure, this was going to be fun. Being careful not to move my leg too much, I pulled the covers of my right side, exposing my swollen knee and the gauze coverings.
“Okay, honey, now I’m just going to unwrap you knee here, you see? Now, I’m sure this won’t hurt a bit, just a little bee sting, just a little sting.” She babbled on and I winced as she uncovered the site of my drain. Despite her annoying personality, she had a gentle touch, but I still had to bite my lip in order not to cry out. “Ok, on the count of three, I’m going to pull okay?” I nodded as one nurse put a hand on my shoulder, and the other placed a hand on either side of my knee. I braced myself, but I didn’t expect much pain. Looking out the window, I pictured myself playing soccer, and tried to erase the smell of antiseptic from my nose and replace it with the smell of fresh grass. Suddenly, my peaceful thoughts were interrupted by a horrible, earsplitting scream. The pain came a second later, and it was worse than I would have ever anticipated. The burning pain was nothing compared to this; this was the burning magnified by ten and concentrated in one spot. I felt a sliding, pulling sensation, and I registered that the tube was on its way out.
“There! All done!” The nurse looked at my leg triumphantly as the third nurse covered my leg with a new layer of gauze that soon turned a pale red. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Glowering at her, I concentrated on breathing steadily, in and out, in and out. Staring at the ceiling, I tried to fall asleep. Dreamland was the only place that was safe.

Three weeks, and a total of seven surgeries later, I was on my way to recovery. Pulling myself up to my walker, I smiled. Today I was going to go to school for half a day. I was a little worried. After all, it would only be my third day as a seventh grader. As we arrived at school, I took a deep breath as my mom pushed my wheelchair through the doors to the seventh grade wing. I knew that not many people would be expecting me, and that I looked way differently. After all, I lost 20 pounds, and I was almost white from being in the hospital for three weeks. Suddenly, I was being hugged by at least three girls. I heard a few people whisper excitedly, “Hey there’s Ellie!” or “Ellie? Is that Ellie?” I finally made my way to my locker and unloaded my books. As my mom pushed me into the cafeteria, I saw several people point and a few people stand up to get a better view of me, the cripple. I blushed at the attention, but smiled all the same. Looking for my friends, I glanced around the cafeteria. I smiled as they all stood up calling out
“Ellie!! Sit over here! Right here!” I wheeled myself over to the table, and they all began to chatter at once. Looking around the cafeteria, I tried to find some my friends that I didn’t sit with. From behind me, I heard my name being called and suddenly was being hugged again. I turned around to see even more friends. I couldn’t stop grinning as they filled me in with all the drama that happened while I was gone. I hardly ate any lunch because everyone keep asking about my infection, and I was asking them about school. A few of the boys laughed at me, calling me a cripple. But I didn’t care because even if I was a cripple, I was alive, and I had my leg. The other boys, my friends, just gaped at me, because I, Ellie, the athlete, the courageous girl, was in a wheelchair.
After lunch, a few of my friends stood up to go outside.
“Hey, Ellie! Want to come outside?” they asked on their way out.
“I…um…I don’t…Well, okay I guess I’m coming!” I finished as someone or another grabbed my wheelchair and began to push me outside. Once we were outside, I sat quietly, listening to them complain about their chores, parents, or teachers. They joked with me, saying that maybe they should get hurt, too, so then they don’t have to do their chores. Frowning, I tried to imagine never being able to do chores again. My chores were a routine, something I could count on, unlike the chaotic schedule at the hospital. I was suddenly irritated at that thought. If the girls couldn’t be thankful for being able to walk, how would they have handled being at the hospital? As soon as I woke up, I went to the living room and ate all my meals there. Then I went back into the guest room. Every day, I repeated this cycle of monotony that had become my life. The more I listened to them talk (more or less complaining), the more I realized how much I had missed out on. They didn’t think twice about dying, or losing a leg, or worrying about a potentially deadly disease. I was very grateful that I had gotten MRSA in my leg. If I had gotten it in my heart, lungs, or brain I could’ve died even with as many surgeries as I had. Each step that I made, I silently thanked the nameless surgeons assistant who had promised me my life.

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