Unfamiliar whirling, humming, and buzzing sounds fill my ears.
My eyelids feel weighted, as if they are glued together. It takes every ounce of strength to flutter one of them open. The brief bright light stings and instinctively, my lid clamps back shut.
Again, I hear the strange noises. I try again. This time, I can open both of them to small slits. My head pounds angrily, so I make my movements very small and slow.
It’s hard to peek through the small openings of my eyelids, but I am able to focus my eyes a bit, and now I can see a few things.
The walls are sparse white. A TV is on a built-in cabinet at the end of the bed. Where am I? Stubbornly, I try to move my head to get a better view of my surroundings. I can’t hold back the moan that escapes my lips from the pain.
“Aunt Nikki, you’re awake!” The voice is buzzing with excitement, but I don’t dare move my head again. I’m not in any particular hurry to feel that pain again.
“Rachel?” I try to ask, but my words sound more like a scratchy grunt than any actual words.
“Don’t try to talk. You have a tube down your throat.”
Panic. Why the hell do I have a tube down my throat? Flashes of snow and a spinning out of control car … oh and headlights ... Oh, my god, we were in an accident last night.
My niece must see the panic and shock on my face. “It’s okay Auntie, you’re ok. Let me call a nurse.” She lets go of my hand and pushes a call button on the back of the wall.
All of the whirling and buzzing makes sense now, but this thing down my throat is awful. Was it really that necessary for one night? I keep trying to swallow, but it’s beyond uncomfortable. Every time I try, it burns my throat like someone is sliding sandpaper over my esophagus.
“How can I be of … oh, look who’s awake.” A nurse wearing fluorescent pink scrubs walks in, her smile widening when she sees me. My eyes scan over my niece with a glowing bright smile, and then they flash back to the nurse, wearing a similar smile.
Why are they so happy? And where is everyone else? I have a million questions, but I know I won’t be asking any of them until someone … anyone pulls this damn tube out of my throat. The nurse is looking over the equipment, pushing buttons, but I wave my left hand around to get her attention. When I know I have her attention, I point at the tube.
“Oh, don’t you worry sweetie. We’ll be getting that thing out in a jiffy.” I nod in acknowledgment, but a jiffy doesn’t seem quite soon enough.
“Aunt Nikki, I’m so excited you’re finally awake. I need to let everyone know.” Rachel steps away, and then I watch as the nurse turns and walks out, feeling aggravated—she didn’t rip this damn thing out.
Rachel keeps babbling, but with my head having its own throbbing heartbeat it’s hard to follow her conversation. “They’re all at my Mom’s house celebrating Lexie’s birthday.”
Did I just hear her right? My Lexie’s birthday? My eyes follow my niece pacing back and forth around the room. Impossible. Lexie’s birthday isn’t until May 1st. I was just at that party last night, and it was being held on February … February, crap what date was that fundraiser on? Anyway, it was still impossible. Maybe she meant to say someone else.
Rachel’s phone rings, adding another sharp pain in my head. “Yes Mom, she’s awake. No, she can’t talk right now. She still has that tube thing down her throat. Yeah, hurry up.” She clicks off her phone. “She’s coming Aunt Nikki. Everyone’s so excited.” She says exuberantly, then bounces harder on the end of my bed than I would have liked. “I knew you would wake up on my shift.” Her statement is bizarre and leaves me more confused than I was before. How many shifts did they have to take in a twenty-four hour period?
“Well, Mrs. Cooper you finally decided to join us.” Another woman with a friendly face enters my room. “I bet you’re fixin’ to get that darn thing out.” I nod.
Rachel jumps off the end of my bed grinning from ear to ear. “Yay,” she claps. I guess I can’t complain about her excitement. I’m pretty excited to get this darn thing out too.
“I hate to say this, but this is no peaches n’ cream, darlin’. It’s an uncomfortable feel’n.” I breathe heavy. Anxious as to how this is going to feel. I knew in the back of my mind that this probably is going to—suck, bad.
“What I’m fixin’ to do is count to three and then I’ll begin to pull. While I’m pull’n, I’d like you to cough out. Okay?”
I’m sure she can see the worry in my eyes, “you’ll be okay. Are you ready?” one quick nod and she begins her count; One. Two. Three. The raw ripping sensation is ten times worse than I could have imagined … and it goes on forever. I cough and hack while it glides up, and when I can no longer feel a foreign object invading my throat, I cough hard and uncontrollably.
“Your throat is goi’n to be a little scratchy and raw, but it’ll feel a lot better now with that thing gone.”
“Thank you,” I rasp, as she hands me a cup of ice chips.
I go to lift my right hand to grab the cup, but nothing happens. I try again. Still nothing, my arm just hangs loosely by my side. “My arm,” I look down at it trying over and over to make it move. “It’s not working.”
The nurse bends over and grabs my hand. “Can you try to give me a squeeze?” I try with all my might to close my fingers to grab her—nothing. She moves down to the end of the bed and uncovers my legs. “Ok, can you wiggle your toes?” I wiggle my toes and to my astonishment, only the toes on the left are moving.
“I don’t want you to be scared, but we couldn’t be exactly sure how everything was goi’n to work. You sustained a lot of injury to your brain in the accident.”
“What?” This is too much. I had brain trauma? Full blown panic hits me—hard. I use my one good arm to leverage myself up a little. I need to assess myself. My arms look fine besides one of them not moving. My feet look okay as well, but I see a large cast covering the lower half of my right leg. “Is it broken?” I expected to see scratches and bruises covering my body, remembering the horrific sound of the metal crunching but seeing a broken leg shocks me. It doesn’t hurt. Wouldn’t a broken leg hurt?
The nurse nods her head at me, “Yes honey it was broken when a piece of metal embedded into your leg.” Whoa, now that’s some crazy news. They must have me on some serious drugs for it to not be throbbing. “I think the Doctor was talking about taking the cast off in the next couple of days?” That doesn’t make any sense. He must have to reset it or something—no one—can heal that fast. I shake my head in confusion.
The nurse must read my expression as frustration, “We’re very hopeful with physical therapy. You’ll be back to ship-shape in no time.” Her smile is sincere, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’m in the depths of despair.
“Are you sure?” I rasp.
“Time will tell.”
I lay back down, feeling exhausted. I shouldn’t be this tired if I’ve been asleep since yesterday, but I’m wiped, and I find myself dozing off again.