It’s early morning on March 18, day eight since your spinal assault. You squirm restlessly, waiting for the orderly to bring a bedpan, still half asleep. You can do next to nothing without assistance; your fiercely independent, petulant teen self is on duty. You press the call button for the nurse, but no one answers. Just as you think you will burst, Cute Orderly announces himself. “Good morning, beautiful. Can you raise your hips up just a little for me? Good, I’ll be back in a jiffy.” True to his word, he’s back quickly with the wash basin. You don’t know how to appreciate how lucky you are. Your cast is in two pieces, which when it’s time to turn, are buckled together with heavy straps to roll you over onto your stomach. He respectfully looks away as he covers your breasts, then gently washes you from abdomen down, taking a few extra minutes to massage your feet. Nice. He lets you take control of the things you can do; you brush your own teeth, you wash your face and pits. The warm water feels good, the soap smells fresh. It’s time for your pain meds, though you don’t need them as much, nor as often, as you did a few days ago.
The new patient in the bed on the other side of the curtain, moaning and crying all night in her sleep, is still at it, and all you can think about is getting out of this miserable prison. You hear the familiar clack-clack in the hallway, and the woman you always thought didn’t love you comes in with a thermos of strong, hot coffee (made with love by Dad for his favorite/only daughter), as she has each morning before going to work at 9:00 am. Everyone knows she is here outside of visiting hours, but no one says anything to the loving mom who brings their little patient hot coffee in the morning and daiquiri ice at night. The surgeon will be in shortly and your mom wants to know your progress. All you want to know is when the hell can you go home?
Cute Orderly comes back, trailing a terrifyingly large nurse. She’s new to the orthopedics ward and already she wears a deep frown. She towers over your 5’ tall mom and is nearly as tall as the cute orderly, though easily three times his girth. It’s time to turn. Cute Orderly starts to explain to her how the roll is done to avoid putting undue pressure on the spine and hip, and more important, to avoid pain. She cuts him short. “I’m the nurse here, and I don’t need you to tell me how to do my job.” He throws you an apologetic glance and prepares for the roll. She buckles the two sides together loosely. You know it’s too loose and so does he. He tries to tell her they need to be more secure; she glares at him and he stops talking. Mom stands off to the side waiting. Once you’re turned and the top half of the cast removed, she will wash your back, being careful not to touch your stitches, brush your hair out and rebraid it.
Despite the loose buckle warning, Frowning Nurse grabs the straps and flips you over. You scream in pain as your body is jarred on the bottom side and the top abrades your back. In her loud, raspy voice, she tells you to be quiet and stop being so dramatic. No sooner are the words out of her mouth than Might Mom shoves her aside and tells Cute Orderly to go find the surgeon, who should, by now, be on the unit. She turns back to Frowning Nurse and through gritted teeth, growls at her to leave this room and never touch her daughter again. Your eyes are bugging out of your head; you are in so much pain you can say nothing. You turn your head away; you can barely think.
Your surgeon is in the hallway and he is not a happy man. He will, from the sound of things, see to it that the terrifyingly large nurse will not be back on the ortho floor anytime soon. He enters your room and stalks over to the bedside. “I’m so sorry. I can assure you that will not happen again. Have you had your pain medication this morning?” You grunt a “no” and he sends the orderly for the charge nurse. He examines your stitches, the eight inches up your spine and the six inches on your hip. He tells your mother that you are healing well and that as soon as you have stopped taking pain meds, you can go home. You want to tell him to skip the pain meds this morning, but you hurt too much. You resolve that this will be your last dose. The charge nurse comes with your meds and he says his goodbyes.
Mom pours you a cup of rich Colombian coffee, puts your glass straw in and helps you raise yourself up enough to take that first fabulous sip. She finishes braiding and pinning your hair up, then looks out into the hall for Cute Orderly to remind him that your half hour is up and it’s time to turn again. This time, the charge nurse accompanies him; they strap you in tightly and roll you over gently. The pain meds have started to kick in, and now you just want to go to sleep. Your mother who you thought never loved you bends over, kisses your forehead and says, “I have to get to work. Dad will be up later, and I’ll be back after work. I love you.” You hear yourself say, “Okay, thanks for the coffee. Love you, too,” as you drift dreamily off to your drug-induced stupor.